Christmas abroad

Christmas Abroad 

Chritsmas is getting closer and closer, but with that also the application deadline for studying abroad for the year 2022/2023. We would like to help you out with some tips and tricks you can read below. To make sure you get into the Christmas spirit while reading these and to get to know a few different cultures, we also included five experience stories from students who are currently abroad in Italy, Latvia, Scotland, and Mexico. To shift perspectives a bit more, an Erasmus student also shared her experience of being in the Netherlands. Enjoy reading about the different pre-christmas experiences in these countries. 

Studying abroad - Tips and tricks 

  1. Join the CANVAS page BMS Study Abroad 

  2. Apply before the deadline on the 31st of January 2022, starting the 17th of January 2022

  3. Check the universities and pay special attention to which courses you can study there, also in which language the courses are offered 

  4. In your top 6, only select the ones you actually would like to go to. Be aware that it is very likely that you get your 5th or 6th choice 

  5. Before applying, check what else you need to organize for your country of choice: for example visa/stay permit, quarantine regulations, travel regulations, which countries are part of Erasmus, etc. 

  6. Besides choosing university courses, do not forget to research the household, rent, living costs, etc. for the countries that interest you 

  7. Make sure to also look into some fun travel and cultural experiences typical for your countries of choice 

  8. Contact people who are in the country you would like to go or did their stay abroad there to get more in depth information about your preferred country 

  9. Do not hesitate to approach the contact persons if you have any more questions

  10. Make sure to be flexible and open to any changes (especially regarding the COVID situation in different countries) 

Marie in Trento, Italy

Already in November the Italians started to put up Christmas lights and decorations all over the city centers. On the first advent they lit them up and all the Christmas markets opened. There really are so many cute Christmas markets and most small towns have their own filled with food stands and mulled wine! The beautiful decorations really lighten up the streets when the sun sets early behind the mountains of the surroundings. 

A tradition that was very new to me is the Feast of Immaculate Conception: A public holiday on the 8th of December where the Italians celebrate the sinless life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Before this, on the night from the 5th to the 6th of December, the Krampuslauf takes place in northern Italy. The Krampus is a devilish creature (or a woman/man in such a costume) that scares and chases the visitors and blackens their skin with coal. Traditionally it is believed that the Krampus punishes the naughty children while Saint Nicholas gives presents to the good children. Nowadays, it includes a parade and lots of hot and alcoholic beverages. 

Christmas in (Trento) Italy can be a bit over the top with many interesting celebrations and all the decorations. But it certainly is a wonderful experience that puts everyone into the Christmas spirit!

Janna in Riga, Latvia

Did you know that Latvians are claiming that they have invented and decorated the first Christmas tree ever? According to Latvian archives, the first Christmas tree was decorated in Riga in 1510, on a market square, next to one of the most famous tourist attractions in Riga, the House of Blackheads. Back then, the tree was decorated with whatever the people had by hand, for example dried berries, nuts and apples, but also flowers or handmade ornaments. Of course Latvians are proud of this part of their history, and therefore was a small, bronzen Christmas tree placed next to the House of Blackheads.

During Christmas time, the city center and old town of Latvian cities are decorated with big Christmas trees and a lot of lights, which you can also see in the pictures. In addition with all the snow, which covers the country since the beginning of December, it looks like a winter wonderland, especially as soon as the sun goes down.

Latvian people celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts on Christmas eve, whereas some families have a tradition that in order to receive a gift, you have to stand in front of the tree and reciprocate a little poem. During dinner, nine food items are placed on the table, each symbolizing something good that should happen for the next year. For example grey pears, so that there will not be any tears, fish to wish for money as well as bread, salt and candles to bless the family. 

Christine in Glasgow, Scotland

Christmas time in Scotland, at least in the city, is very sparkly and bright. There’s Christmas lights everywhere, outside and inside shops, supermarkets and in parks. A tradition that has made its way across the water all the way to Scotland is Christmas markets. The big Christmas market in Glasgow was unfortunately canceled this year but the one in Edinburgh has been open since mid-November. There you can completely dive into the world of Christmas, from a Christmas tree maze, to visiting Santa and his elves, going ice skating, or simply drinking some Glühwein and eating a crepe. A plus of having a German roommate is that making an Advent calendar for the flat is done with no questions asked. But here it really feels like Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year.

Jenna in Cancun, Mexico


Here in Cancun, Mexico, the pre-Christmas time definitely feels different, because of the warm climate. Bars, restaurants and malls started to light up in different colors and they mostly use decorations that make reference to Jesus' birth such as displaying the crib. However, Mexican families also have Christmas trees in their homes, and decorate their houses quite similarly to the European way. In Mexico people also celebrate so-called Posadas. Posadas are gatherings of friends and family to celebrate the pathway that Joseph and Mary went up until Bethlehem to find shelter. Usually kids wear angel costumes or disguise themselves as Jospeh and Mary and walk up the streets. The festivity ends with a lot of drinks and the hitting of a pinata, which symbolizes the star over Bethlehem. I am looking forward to my first posada, as they usually start from the 16th December!

Natalia in Enschede, Netherlands

Being in the Netherlands at this time of the year has been a lovely experience. The weather and how early the sun sets can be a mood killer for me, however it’s completely uplifted when I see all the decorations and lights in people’s houses. Also in the center of Enschede, I can’t get enough of the lit up trees! 

Since being here I’ve also been able to learn about Sinterklass, which was the 5th of December, and some of the traditions that go along with it, for example the chocolate letters. One of the things that I’m hoping to be able to do before I go back to my home country is visit a Christmas market. Being part of the University of Twente community and Dimensie has also been great to lift up my Christmas spirit since they have organized activities such as secret Santa and a gingerbread house bake-off. I will admit it has been difficult being away from my family at this time of the year since it’s the first time I’m not with them during the Christmas season. However, I am happy to be able to join them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and spend the rest of this time continuing to learn about the culture here!

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