Living away from home while studying or working abroad is an exciting, and sometimes life-changing experience.
It opens you up to new worlds, cultures, languages and ways of life.
At the same time, during holidays of which you may be unfamilar, spending too much time alone may uproot feelings of regret in regards to deciding to move away from home. Everyone should be surrounded by friends and family during the holiday seasons, regardless of where they may happen to be.
As a prime example, I was invited to my friends home in Incheon, about 2 hours from Seoul, to celebrate 추석 (Chuseok), the Korean Harvest Festival. It is a 3 day festival, that is usually celebrated starting on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, although it varies year-to-year.
As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans typically celebrate with a feast, as well as spend quality time together making 송편 (Traditional Korean Rice Cake). During the Chuseok holidays, Koreans also take the time to visit their ancestral hometowns. This holiday is similar to Thanksgiving Day, which is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general.
So, if you are away from home, it is my hope that you will have the chance to celebrate the holidays with close friends or family you may have met, or, maybe a professor or fellow co-worker will invite you and others to share a casual lunch with their family (such as one of mine did). If those options are out of the question, try to locate others who may be in the same situation, and throw your own dinner or celebration!
It is not my personal suggestion to travel during this time, considering this may be a once in a lifetime experience. It would be to your benefit to spend the holiday learning as much about the culture, the holiday and the tradition surrounding it. Although, if you choose to travel, be prepared to pay a little bit more and expect long wait times. In specific, travel time in Korea (by car and train) was more than doubled due to the high number of people traveling to their homes during the national holiday.
No matter where you may find yourself during the holidays while you’re living abroad, make sure you spend the time learning as much as you can about the culture and tradition, and surround yourself with the people who make you feel most at home.