Blog: My first Christmas in the UK

Written by Student Content Shaper Nataliia Chubenko

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Christmas is truly a time of miracles. It’s when everyone spends time with their family and friends, decorates their homes with magical decorations, cooks delicious meals such as the famous Christmas dinner and, of course, expects Santa to come climbing down the chimney to deliver gifts! 

However, sometimes, Christmas can be different. And as an international student from Ukraine, I can relate. 

My name is Nataliia, and I am in my second year studying English and Creative Writing. Coming to the UK means having so many amazing opportunities to learn in the heart of Birmingham but it also means I know first-hand that sometimes, as international students, we aren’t able to go home to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, and this can be a lonely feeling.  

While there’s support available if you need it, if you’re looking for ways to make your Christmas break even more special, I’m here to share my story of my first-ever Christmas in Birmingham! 

Watch our campus transform into a Winter Wonderland  

During my first year at UoB when I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas, I discovered that when it snows our campus looks like its very own Winter Wonderland! 

snowy campus

While campus is definitely quieter over the Christmas period, I suggest choosing a day during the holidays to take advantage of this and take a stroll around the campus to enjoy its winter beauty. How beautiful is Old Joe in the snow? 

Explore Brum 

Another activity I would suggest is to explore Birmingham a little bit, especially during Christmas. The city really transforms, and my personal favourite is to pay a visit to Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market in the city centre, right near Bullring.  

I’ve visited the German Market with my friends, and to this day, it remains one of my favourite memories in Birmingham. Its atmosphere is incredible; the gorgeous decorations, the gigantic Christmas tree, delicious foods, in particular, Bratwurst (German sausage) and yummy desserts, as well as unique, handmade souvenirs. Plus, the Fun Fair will set your mood right just in time for Christmas!

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Cook your own traditional Christmas dinner  

Food plays an important part during the holidays. During my first year of celebrating Christmas in the UK, my friends and I cooked a delicious Christmas meal ourselves. 

We didn’t have a big group for dinner, and we weren’t by any means professional cooks, yet the process of cooking (or learning how to cook some dishes) together, was enjoyable. For example, we cooked multiple canapes for starters, roast pork belly, mashed potatoes, different salads and pancakes! My favourite part was sharing it, finishing it with a dessert, enjoying each other’s company, and laughing at each other’s jokes, which are very dear memories to me, and made my Christmas even more special. It’s an activity to be enjoyed by all, so I definitely recommend it!

Look after yourself 

Lastly, if you’re feeling very homesick, and find that this feeling isn’t going away, then I’d suggest not ignoring it. Bottling up your feelings can do more harm than good and will remain even if you ignore them. Personally, I understand how hard they can be. It's completely normal to experience these feelings.

If you miss your family and home, why not organise a video call with them to catch up on all the recent updates in your lives? Even a call can lift your spirits up, and you can also check out more activities to do by visiting our ‘An international Christmas’ intranet page.   

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with feeling homesick during the festive season. If you’re really struggling, then UoB are here to listen. Visit our Time to Talk? page for more details.  

I really hope that each one of you reading this experiences the magic of Christmas and looks back on the festive period with fond memories!  

Stay informed about campus celebrations during our Countdown to Christmas by checking our intranet pages.


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