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Celebrating Holidays While Studying Abroad in Australia

December 20, 2023
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

It's Christmas Time in the City

Santa is coming to Sydney! Being away from home for the holiday season can be difficult for anyone, especially when you're across the world. Much to my surprise, Sydney is a welcoming and lovely place during the Christmas season. With all of the Christmas spirit from the city and the community, it made it a lot more exciting and something to look forward to. 

Christmas themed ferris wheel

Christmas Tree at the Darling Harbour Ferris Wheel

Growing up and living in western Pennsylvania, the cold weather and snow goes hand in hand with the holiday season, especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Holiday decorations are up, winter coats are put on, and hot cocoa is made in the kitchen. One of my favorite things is the first snow of winter—where a white sheet coats the ground and I sit down to watch a Christmas movie with friends and family.

However, the colder it gets back home, the warmer it gets here in Australia! Instead of the pine trees, the palm trees are the ones decorated with lights, and instead of winter boots, people are getting out their thongs (what Aussies call flip-flops)! Although it looks a little bit different here, Christmas is still all around. So how do people celebrate here in Australia?

giant ornament

Giant Ornament in Darling Harbour

holiday decorations in front of a church

Nativity Scene outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral


One of the most shocking features was how many decorations are put up… everywhere. Christmas tree after Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, you name it. It lights up the city and makes me feel more at home and helps put me in the holiday spirit. Not only does the city itself have decoration but restaurants, coffee shops, malls, and family homes are all decked out as well. It’s quite different listening to “White Christmas” while soaking up the sun at Bondi Beach or enjoying a refreshing drink outside the Opera House, but the Christmas spirit is here nonetheless.

a Christmas themed coffee cup

Coffee cups at a local coffee shop


The events here start early in Sydney! I already have heard Christmas carolers, been to Christmas markets, and bought Christmas gifts for my family and friends. I will never shy away from a good Christmas cookie (or in this case, Christmas ice cream). There are singers that line the streets singing Christmas music and they even have special events such as the showing of Love Actually in one of the event centers.

a group of people singing under a tall Christmas tree

Christmas Carolers outside the Town Hall Christmas Tree


One of the features that make it feel most like home here during Thanksgiving and Christmas time is the friends I met along the way. We created an environment where everyone feels welcome and comforted. The holiday season is about appreciating the people in your life who support you, and that applies especially while studying abroad. Everyone is undergoing being away from family and missing holiday traditions so it's truly a bonding experience being around my newfound friends. Recognizing the importance of the friendships and bonds we made while studying abroad in a new country is something I will be most thankful for during this holiday season.

town hall at sunset

Christmas Tree at Town Hall

Regardless of where you are in the world, what religion you practice, or how you celebrate, the holiday season is a time to be surrounded with the ones you love. Sydney made it feel more like home by honoring the Christmas spirit.


Eliza Drohan was a Finance and Human Resources Management major at the University of Pittsburgh who studied abroad with CEA CAPA in Sydney, Australia, in Fall 2022. Outside of school and work, she loves traveling, meeting new people, and embracing different cultures. 


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