Christmas Through the Eyes of an International Fresher

This year is my first ever Christmas in the UK and it’s only been two months since I was fresh off the boat (I guess then that no one is fresher than me). I’m from a country where people don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, so spending the holidays in the UK where people do celebrate is something I have been very much looking forward to.

In my imagination Christmas is holy, joyful and something like this:

Yes, a huge feast with family. The aroma of food filling the kitchen and whole house. I also imagine it like this:

Children eagerly but clumsily unwrapping their gifts. Wrapping paper all around with Christmas songs playing softly in the background.


Everything I’ve dreamed about Christmas is more like a fairy tale.


For me, the reality will probably be more like this:


Or this:

As international students who are unable to return to home countries during the holiday, you probably think that your Christmas will be staying indoors eating crisps and popcorn while watching sitcoms or films.

However, there are in fact many different events coming up around us. If you think Christmas starts in December, you are very much wrong.

Christmas Light Up

Christmas Light Up on Commercial Road was in early November! A stage was set up for dancing and singing performances by children who dressed up in Christmas colours. It was heartwarming that loads of people flooded the street and counted down together for the Christmas lights to be switched on.

Christmas Fairs and Market

Christmas fairs and markets start in the UK in November. You are able to enjoy yourself on the ice ring with Christmas songs floating around. It was peaceful and calm enough for me to stand far on the stairs in front of city hall and just watch. On Commercial Road, there are handmade souvenirs and Christmas ornaments stalls to shop around.

The International Office ran a coach trip to Bath Christmas Market. I was there soaking up a truly impressive Christmas shopping experience and festival atmosphere. People were able to get their Christmas gift list ticked off with many special pieces from hundreds of stalls. The best thing was the food: Mulled wine, various kinds of cheeses and pies were far beyond my imagination.


This is the most unforgettable thing to happen in my life here so far. Students are welcome to book for a one-day, weekend or Christmas visit with a host family. I registered and spent one weekend with my host. It was a time that I was immersed in a totally British environment. They told me about Christmas traditions and we were together to decorate the house, go to a Christmas market, shop for presents and prepare traditional British food.

Christmas Event on Campus

There will be a ‘Taste of Christmas’ event on 13th December on campus. The International Office staff and student ambassadors will prepare free festive food from around the world. If you are a fresher like me and want to ‘taste’ Christmas, come and join!

Events out of the City

Portsmouth is in a very convenient location where trains can take you to London in 90 minutes. If you buy train tickets in advance, the super off-peak return tickets will only cost you around 12 pounds with a student card. There are so many things coming up in London which you can see and experience during the holiday. Spectacular shows in theatres, shopping centres with great discounts, enchanting Christmas lights on Oxford Street……I will go to see Les Miserables on the 26th December and see how London looks during the festive season.

Please always keep in mind these couple tips:

  • Don’t stay at home all day long. That’s not the reason you came to the UK
  • Write a balanced budget. Hopefully you will get through the holiday without going broke!

Happy Christmas and I hope you all survive the finals before the holiday!