Students celebrate New Year's abroad

While thousands of college students across America popped champagne and watched the ball drop in New York City at midnight, biosystems engineering junior Rob Kraemer celebrated 2013’s arrival in a completely different way — sitting on a beach with about 30 strangers in Costa Rica.

Instead of observing Times Square on TV with close friends, he gazed at the ocean from his spot around a campfire on a beach.

“It was nice that people came together for that moment,” Kraemer said. “It was (better) to be in nature than in the city … It was just a beautiful place to be.”

Kraemer was among 114 other students who studied abroad in seven different countries during winter break, according to Cindy Chalou, the associate director of operations for the Office of Study Abroad. He had the opportunity to experience traditions that differ drastically from those in the U.S. on New Year’s Eve.

Since winter break study abroad programs overlap the holidays, Chalou said the timing can pose challenges for students who aren’t used to celebrating without family and close friends.

Despite the challenges, Chalou said the timing works well for students who plan on doing internships or working in the U.S. during the summer.

“We do find that students choose to participate in winter break study abroad programs because often it enables them to have study abroad experiences when they may not be able to do it any (other) time of the year,” Chalou said.

Kraemer said counting down to 2013 with strangers was somewhat disappointing, but he embraced celebrating the holiday the Costa Rican way with new people.

“Of course I missed friends from back home,” Kraemer said. “But (being on the beach) was a good way to send in the new year — being right on the ocean and being able to go swimming at midnight.”

While some students, including Kraemer, had unfamiliar experiences, some international students who went home for the holidays said their celebrations captured the traditions they sometimes miss in the U.S.

Graduate student Lorena Valmori rang in 2013 in her hometown of Modena, Italy. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, which she sees as an American tradition, Valmori took a different approach to reflecting on her year.

“We call (New Year’s resolutions) ‘i buoni propositi’ — something along the line of the good plans — but we don’t share them with other people for (New Year’s) Eve,” Valmori said. “(Instead) we wrote something bad that happened in the year and we burnt the piece of paper. It is a sort of tradition in Italy.”

Although her celebration also was different from the typical American countdown, celebrating the holidays in Italy is a tradition for her.

“Other people prefer to go to a disco (or nightclub) and go out to a restaurant … but I prefer having dinner at a (friend’s) house and cooking together,” Valmori said in an email.
“It is more fun and also more intimate. I think it is (better to start) the new year with friends and not in the middle of unknown people.”

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