Columnist Katherina Riesner, like people all across the world, is travelling home for the holidays. Whether this is the best idea? She isn’t entirely sure.
Christmas is the time of year you want to spend with your loved ones, preferably just like you have been spending it since you were a child because the holiday season is all about tradition and family. When the subject of Christmas came up, there was no question on where to spend it. Back home, of course.
While a lot of exchange students from overseas reach the end of their studies in Lund and are leaving Sweden for good, many degree-seeking students from all over Europe will be taking advantage of winter break and driving or flying back to their home countries to spend two or three weeks in their childhood surroundings. The perfect chance to reconnect with relatives and friends at home. Simultaneously it involves leaving Lund, just when you feel that you have finally arrived.
A friend of mine and I have extensively discussed the ambiguous feelings that Christmas break brings up for us. There is no question that we are both very excited and happy to see our families and cannot wait to taste our favorite holiday food from our home countries. On the other hand, we are also leaving our new life, our new routines behind and come back as temporary visitors. We are not going to our old apartments that we had been living in before coming to Sweden. Instead, we are visiting our parents’ places where possessions are stashed away in moving boxes, clearly indicating the status as ‘guest’. All this will be a big adjustment from the independent, self-determined life we are leading here.
Equally important are the problems this visit might create at the start of January, when it will be time to return to what you now know to be ‘real’ life. Settling back into the daily schedule in Lund, filled with classes and deadlines of term papers looming over you, might very well lead to a miserable period – for many reminiscent of the first few weeks in Sweden. Nevertheless, there is a big difference to the feelings of four months ago: You do not have to start from scratch. You know the city and have a social network; you know your classes and can prepare for them; you are a member of clubs or student organizations and have obligations to fulfill there. Staying busy when coming back is probably a useful mechanism to counter the impending post-holiday depression.
At the end of the day, however, not visiting family isn’t a viable option for many, simply because the good seems to outweigh the bad. Missing them during the holidays has to be worse than feeling a little lost when returning to Sweden. So travel safely, enjoy the time you are given and above all, Merry Christmas!