Written by Maja Kušćer

A year abroad is amazing, from my experience. Meeting new people, gaining new knowledge and visiting unknown places motivated me to study in France. However, spending time away from your family and friends isn’t so easy, especially when the most special time of the year is approaching.

I remember how last year I couldn’t wait to go home to celebrate Christmas with my family. Until now, I haven’t missed any Christmas celebration with my family. I enjoy them because me, my sister, parents and grandparents gather together. We use this time of the year to remember past times and to wish the best to each other. Therefore, I couldn’t miss it, even though, I was spending a year in France. Furthermore, France and Croatia are only a two hours flight apart.

Before coming to France, I had already booked flights so that I could be home by Christmas lunch and enjoy giving and opening presents. Most of the other international students from my university did the same. Only those coming from Asia or Latin America stayed in Lille during Christmas time. Because of that, me and my friends decided to have two Christmas celebrations! One at home and one in France! Our Christmas celebration lasted one whole week. We took advantage of everything that the city had to offer us.

First, we did an excellent Christmas shopping. In Lille, many of the shops were having sales and we could buy great gifts for our loved ones. There was a wide offer for food, clothes, and accessories at affordable prices. I bought so many things that I could barely put them in my luggage, but it was worth it when I saw the happy faces of my family and friends in Croatia.

In the Christmas market in Lille we enjoyed drinking hot wine and strolling through the old town which was decorated with Christmas lights and other holiday ornaments. When you pass by all these beautiful decorations, you can’t avoid getting a good vibe. You feel like you are living in a fairytale and forget your worries – at least for some hours. It is an opportunity to spend an incredible time with your friends because they will share with you their experiences, like their last Christmas.

The day before flying back home to celebrate Christmas, we all gathered at my friend’s place. For that special occasion, we bought ingredients to prepare food. Maybe, it wasn’t a traditional Christmas meal, but it was very delicious. We also decorated the kitchen with Christmas decorations to make it more special. It was one of the best celebrations I had with my friends. We laughed, made funny jokes and played social games.

Remembering these incredible times makes me want to relive the experience. I hope that I will be able to do that soon.