Student Profile: Lukas Kübek
Life after Zoom

Experiencing the Holiday Season Abroad

Experiencing the Holiday Season Abroad

By Kaylee McCarthy (AYF 21-22, Michigan State University)

In December, I got to experience my first snow in Germany. Every year, I look forward to the first snowfall of the year, but it felt especially magical this time. Even though the Christmas market has been shut down, Freiburg still feels festive with its string lights and red paper stars hanging along the streets, and seeing snow settle on the trees of the Black Forest made me feel like it was finally winter. This time of year, it can be a difficult time to be away from home, especially as the cold weather limits outdoor gatherings, and the days get shorter.

But I feel so lucky that I am able to be a part of the AYF community because of the support we receive from staff and each other. By taking all possible precautions and adhering to mask mandates and 3G and 2G+ rules, we have been able to continue gathering as a community. Being around people who are sharing my experiences is helpful, and I’m so grateful for the friends I’ve made here.

One weekend, I worked as a camp counselor at Longbridge, an English immersion camp in Aargau, Switzerland. The weekend was holiday themed, and we made paper stockings and gingerbread houses with the kids. Decorating and singing Christmas songs made me feel like I was at home while participating in something I wouldn’t have gotten to experience in the US.

As much as I enjoy sharing my own culture, what I’ve really loved about being here is experiencing what’s different and learning from the people I meet. It’s been a lot of fun to see the dozens of different Advent calendars arrive in grocery stores, and it’s beautiful to watch the Menorahs downtown be lit. I’ve enjoyed celebrating St. Nicholas Day with my roommates, hearing about their holiday traditions, and watching Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel together.

We’ve decorated our WG, and my roommates made sure we had a nice tree for my parents and me to put our presents under on Christmas when they come to visit.

Even though classes and adjusting to life abroad has been difficult, the connections I’ve made and opportunities I’ve had here have made the holiday season still feel warm. It’s exciting to learn new traditions, see new things, and celebrate Christmas in a new place, and it’s even more exciting for that new place to start feeling like home.