As an international student, I’m often amazed by the multi-cultural atmosphere in Edinburgh. Especially during the cold month of December, a season of Christmas celebrations brimming with dazzling lights, vibrant decorations and family-friendly activities. Coming from a country where Christmas celebrations aren’t as common, I found that staying in Edinburgh over my winter break was perhaps the best decision I made! I got to decorate my own tree, drink hot chocolate with friends and experience this lively period in Scotland.
The Christmas spirit began early in November with the University of Edinburgh Christmas lights turn-on at Teviot. There was lots of delicious food and snacks, carol singers, a special appearance by Santa and his elves and even a real reindeer!
The Edinburgh Christmas Market is a not-to-be-missed experience with festive food from local Scottish delicacy as well as mulled wine, crepes, and hot chocolate. Stunning views of the capital city and the Christmas market below could be seen from the Big Wheel alongside a variety of other thrilling rides which had my friends and I screaming our heads off! Not to mention my very first ice-skating experience which consisted of more screaming, slipping, and falling over – all as part of the fun. The Christmas Market is truly a wonderful way to soak up the festive spirit.
Being an international student and watching your friends travelling back home is bound to make you homesick, but that doesn’t mean your time here has to be any less special. I spent Christmas with international friends who were also staying in Edinburgh and together, we toured around the city: Princess Street, the Royal Mile, the Old Town, Victoria Street, you name it, we could not get enough of the razzle-dazzle! In our accommodation, I had my first attempt at decorating a Christmas tree, made Christmas dinner, watched festive movies, exchanged gifts through a Secret Santa and watched the stunning fireworks on New Years’ Eve. Although it was wonderful to spend time with my university friends, I made sure I called my loved ones back home too. I shared the beauty of Edinburgh with them and caught up on the plans my friends were making back home. Through the small screen, it made me feel like I was actually by their side!
With so much time on our hands during the winter break, my friends and I often got together to play games, visit new places around the city and even wandered around the silent University campus. I really recommend visiting your University when it isn’t swarming with students, because for me, I got to enjoy the peaceful George square and our library without the bustling crowd or deadlines to meet. Another highlight was shopping and treating ourselves during the irresistible winter sales and discounts. I also picked up my hobby of reading again and found a new one, knitting. I cannot wait to flaunt my very first self-knitted scarf very soon!
With everything fairly close by and Edinburgh being a well-connected city, it is very easy to visit adjacent locations which is another perk of spending the winter break in Edinburgh. Almost all of Scotland’s cities are decked out for Christmas with lights and markets which gave me an excuse to check off travelling to Glasgow and St Andrews (making full use of our bus pass!). My friends and I also planned to visit the highlands in January as a final refresher before the semester started.
Though I missed visiting my family over the winter break, there was practically no time to experience homesickness in Edinburgh because there’s just so much to do! Despite being miles away from my family, this city has truly become a home away from home for me.
Bipsita Lohani is an MA (Hons) Business with Human Resource Management student.