How does an international student experience Christmastime in Germany?
The CAU is home to over two thousand international students. A lot of them come from countries where Christmas is no popular holiday or is not celebrated at all. How do these students experience ‘the most wonderful time of the year’? To find some answers, we talked to Ariba from India. You might know her as @enroutekiel on Instagram, where she shows her daily struggles and successes as an international student in Kiel.
‘All you would see is a single Christmas tree in a mall.’
Ariba arrives exactly on time to our date and says with a smile, ‘I’m a German now.’ When we go inside the Campus Suite, it is nice and cozy and smells like cake and cinnamon. We order coffee and muffins. Ariba says that she would never have thought of this as lunch back in India, but now she orders it all the time. She seems to have acclimated well to the student life in Kiel. But what about Christmas? After all, it is the holiday in Germany.
In India, Christmas is not really a thing, Ariba tells us. Some people celebrate it, but it is mostly young people looking for an excuse to party. ‘You would definitely find some Christmas decorations and Christmas offers because that’s consumer-friendly and how you make money. But the majority does not celebrate it.’ That is why Ariba was especially excited for December before coming to Germany. But have her expectations been met?
The loneliest time of the year?
Ariba would have had to pay more than €1,000 for flights to India and back so that she could visit her family around the 24th of December. Last year she did that, but this year she will probably not. That means she is going to experience an empty city and an even emptier campus with most of the people gone for the holidays. ‘I am really dreading this season because I do not really know what I will do from the 20th of December to the beginning of January. It will be dark and cold and gloomy. I am thinking of picking up a hobby so that I have something to look forward to.’
Luckily, there is something else Ariba can hopefully look forward to. She has applied for CAU’s Christmas Host Family Program called ‘Begegnungen unter’m Tannenbaum’. International students that register for the program get matched with a host family to spend the Christmas days with. Ariba sounds excited when she tells us, ‘I am looking forward to spending Christmas with a family. I get to know about the culture and how they celebrate. My knowledge of Christmas is what I see in the media and in movies. It is the American way of Christmas; I do not really know the German way yet.’ Sure enough, she already has plans to take a traditional cookie recipe back to India. Ariba wants to bake Christmas biscuits with her family and take some of the spirit back home.
This year, Ariba went to a Christmas market for the first time. Even though she had an important presentation the next day, she made sure to visit the market right when it started. ‘I really liked it. It is a fun place to hang out with your friends and it is also warm and cozy. I really like to try out all the different things, like the spiral potato and roasted hazelnuts.’ She also tells us about how all the lights reminded her of Diwali, the festival of lights in India. It is very beautiful that she can find a little bit of home in German traditions.
By now, you are probably all wondering the same thing: Does she like Glühwein? Of course, we asked the most important question of all. Ariba’s response: ‘To be honest, the first time I got to know about Glühwein, I thought: What, hot wine? No, I’m not going to like it. But when I tried it last Christmas, I actually did like it a lot. I think it is the best thing to have at the Christmas market.’ Ariba is definitely embracing the German Christmas spirit this year: Glühwein, biscuits and the possibility of spending the holiday with a host family. DER ALBRECHT hopes she will be able to enjoy the Season and has a cozy Christmas.
Mira ist 22 Jahre alt und studiert seit dem WiSe 2020/21 Soziologie und Deutsch an der CAU. Sie ist seit November 2020 Teil der ALBRECHT-Redaktion und leitete ab Februar 2021 für ein Jahr das Ressort Hochschule. Ab Februar 2022 war sie für ein Jahr die stellvertretende Chefredakteurin.