Coming home for Christmas is a joy in any circumstances – but when you’re returning from your first extended period abroad, it’s even more special.
Shauna Moran, from Clonbur, has been on Erasmus in Toulouse since August, coming home only once for a quick trip during mid-term.
BY MARTHA BRENNAN
“I’m so excited to come home for Christmas, my brothers have been sending me pictures of the snow; home looks lovely at the moment”.
In contrast, the weather in Toulouse is quite mild at the moment, but the NUIG law student says that it doesn’t slow down any festivities in the French city.
“There is a huge Christmas market here and a massive tree, they turned the lights on Saturday which is a little later than home but the build-up is really exciting here”.
Shauna says that spending December in a city for the first time is different to her normal experience at home. “Everything is so much bigger but I think the spirit of Christmas seems quite similar here”.
Even though Shauna will only get two weeks at home for Christmas, she says that she could never imagine being away for it.
“I love it here but I do miss the comforts of home, especially my family and friends,” she says.
“I never thought about staying for Christmas, I’d be lonely here on my own and I can’t imagine missing Christmas. I can’t wait to see my little brothers and for Christmas dinner, you don’t realise how much you miss Irish food until you can’t have it!”
Brigid Fox from Athlone has been studying in Northern Spain for the past semester and says that while she loves the culture and the experience – she’s excited to return to NUIG after Christmas.
“I really prefer going to college in Galway but the build-up to Christmas is amazing to see here. It’s quite intense actually. Spain is a very religious country so Christmas especially is a very important time for them.
“The streets and shopping centres are covered in gorgeous lights depicting both the commercial and religious elements of Christmas; we even had the day off on the 8th!”
Luke Palmer, a third year journalism student with Brigid, will be returning to his hometown of Rosscahill soon from Southern Spain, where he says he loves his independence… but longs for mammy’s cooking.
“It’s beautiful here but I miss the craic of Galway. The spirit just isn’t the same,” he says.
“Christmas is also a bit different; the sixth was the big day for children but there’s a great atmosphere and a small market by my house which I love because it reminds me of home”.
While Luke says that it’s amazing to be immersed in a different culture, he can’t wait to see his family at the airport. “That’s what I’m mainly looking forward to about coming home, but Christmas dinner is a close second”.
Ruth Kelliher, also a third year in NUI Galway, has been in Groningen in the Netherlands for the past three months and explains how different Christmas is where she is studying.
“There’s no turkey or presents like we have on the 25th, instead they celebrate Sinterklass in early December where people dress up in soot and Saint Nicholas gives children presents”.
“The Christmas markets are amazing and there is beautiful snow at the moment, the Dutch are very into tradition here and celebrations are a lot more civilised. They go for one mulled wine or a rich beer and call it a night unlike Irish Christmas nights”.
Ruth says that she would love to spend Christmas in the Netherlands because of the scenery but only if her family were there. “I’m so excited to be going home; things you wouldn’t think twice about last year are so exciting now. I can’t wait to go back to Galway”.
“I also can’t wait to not have to cycle everywhere”.
Even though students can’t wait to return for Christmas, most are already planning the trip back.
“As much as I miss Galway sometimes, I’m really settled here and I’m looking forward to the New year when even more Galway students will be coming out- we’re really going to make the most of it” says Ruth.
As for Shauna: “I’m really happy that I’m coming back, I love it here. There are a lot of Irish students and we all sort of found each other. I’d hate to be coming home for good this week because it took a while to get settled so I’m really just enjoying the experience now”.
She jokingly adds: “And my French could do with getting a lot better too!”