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Holiday Alternatives for College Students

If you've exhausted your options — the Grinch has stolen your Christmas and there are no planes, trains, or automobiles to get you home in time for the holidays, here are some suggestions:

Check-Out Holiday Programs

Most large universities have holiday alternatives for students who can't make it home to spend time with their family. If your school doesn't already have one, look into organizing your own holiday celebration. You won't be the only student staying behind this Christmas. Use it as an opportunity to connect with other students and build new friendships.

Give Back to the Community

'Tis the season to give. One of the most rewarding things that you can do to get into the spirit this holiday season is to participate in some of your community's service programs for the less fortunate. You may not be able to give gifts to your parents in person but you can give to someone near you who will appreciate your kindness just as much. There are a few great programs that provide gifts for needy children. If you enjoy the process of choosing and wrapping gifts, a program like this would be a great opportunity for you.

Decorate the Dorm

Just because you aren't going home doesn't mean you can't have a Christmas tree, menorah or other holiday decor. Decorate your dorm or apartment with your roommates even if they aren't planning on staying on campus through the holidays. It may also be fun to organize a decorating party. Make some appetizers, pick up some sparkling cider, and toss the tinsel. Students are usually more than willing to participate in events like this — they just don't want to take the initiative and plan them on their own.

Organize a Holiday Celebration

If your university doesn't already have a holiday itinerary, create one. Plan a movie or game night with other students or a shopping trip to the nearest city. There is an endless list of holiday alternatives; you just have to choose one. Also, theatres are typically open on Thanksgiving and Christmas so it could be fun to share a holiday meal with other students and then check out a new flick.

Spend the Holidays With a Friend's Family

If you've made a few friends at school who live locally, see what their plans are for the holidays. They might not know that you're planning to spend Christmas on campus — let them know because you may receive an invitation to a holiday dinner. No one wants to see a friend spend the holidays alone and as long as you bring a dish to pass you'll be as welcome as any family member. If your university has a good size commuter population you may want to organize an "Adopt a College Kid" program for this holiday season. This gives local students the opportunity to open their homes to classmates.

Local Festivities

Local festivities can be tons of fun. Churches and community centers often sponsor such events. Just be sure to find out early what the dates are.

Gift Exchange

Before the other students head for their homes, organize a gift exchange the week before break. This can be a fun way of meeting other students in your dorm. Out of cash? Make it a white elephant exchange or set a $5 gift limit.

Work Extra

If you're stranded on campus for the holidays, get in some extra hours at work. By all means, enjoy your holiday break, but this free time can be a good opportunity for you to put some money in the bank. If you couldn't afford air or train fare home, you might be able to after a couple weeks of scrupulous saving. Reward yourself with a long weekend home sometime in January or February.

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