By Caribbean Network | John Samson
December is a sad period for several Caribbean students abroad, because the nostalgia for the islands flares up again. How can you best deal with that? Two former students share their ‘golden tips’ to all young students and their parents.
Former student Claudio Fray speaks from experience. “I cried,” he says. “I celebrated it alone the first time Christmas in the Netherlands. That was very confrontational.”
“If you’re nowhere on Christmas Day, what does that even mean? You can be angry and sad, but from now on you can also decide: I’m going to build a network of people and friends in the Netherlands that I like! That mindset has brought me a lot.”
Fray (28) is now a growth hacker at Sprints & Sneakers. He helps entrepreneurs develop in the field of leadership and how companies can expand their network.
Sadness is the price we pay for love
“The worst thing you can do is suppress your feelings,” he says. “Go and cry. It is a transition period, you have to build your life in the Netherlands. But at the same time see this as an ultimate opportunity to get to know new people and new cultures. And that is really something to look forward to, because it will make you grow as a person.”
“Of course it’s definitely not a nice feeling that you’re sad because your loved ones and the island are missing,” says Fray. “That is the price of love. It is sometimes good to realize how beautiful that actually is. And therein lies a Christmas spirit: gratitude.”
Solange didn’t celebrate Christmas on her island for 10 years
Solange Wilson (32) has not celebrated Christmas on Saba for ten years. She has left her beloved island to study Communication Sciences; today she is a team leader at an international company. “The most important lesson I learned: you can decide for yourself where home is. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. It really depends on your mindset.
“What has stayed with me from my time as a student is that many of our students rely on parents and relatives to pay for our expensive tickets. Parents would rather not have their child have a part-time job, like other international students. For many young people, this is bad for their development. In addition, the question arises: is it really that smart to go to the Caribbean, while you have exams at the beginning of January?”
“Parents think they are helping their child abroad by easing their pain. But you can really wonder if this is the way to get a young adult to become independent. Why would you make your parents pay double for tickets? With that money you might be able to have real quality time with them in the summer.”
“What I’m saying all sounds harsh to a lot of young people and parents,” says Wilson. “But this world is also hard. The greatest gift you can give yourself this Christmas is to decide from the bottom of your heart that you will become self-reliant. Being more self-confident, being able to control your emotions and solving problems better.”
“Ask for that one family recipe!”
For the holidays, Wilson makes all kinds of Caribbean snacks, such as Johnny Cakes. “I turn on music, we will dance and laugh! Wherever you are in the world: take care of the Caribbean atmosphere at home.”
“I understand very well that you want to be with family around Christmas. But,” she laughs, “that was only difficult ten years ago. In these modern times you can easily have real quality time with your loved ones via video calling.”
“My golden tip: finally ask for that one family recipe. Get the ingredients and make a video call with them so that you can finally make that Johnny cake, pastechi, black cake or something else yourself. This way you become more independent and you make memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life.”
“This is an instructive question to ask now”
Not lonely? ”You can now make a difference for someone else”, says Claudio Fray. “At my work we ask each other: how do you actually celebrate Christmas? It is so instructive to ask that question, because that way you learn not to lose sight of people at important moments.”
“You don’t have to be alone at Christmas. Realize that people really want to mean something to others at Christmas. Think of fellow students and people at work.”
Solange Wilson wholeheartedly agrees. “If you’re wondering if someone might be alone around the holidays, just check it out. Read between the lines.”
“If I say last minute to some people tonight: hey, this person is celebrating Christmas alone. Can they come too? They would immediately say ‘yes, of course!’. People want to help each other, but you have to dare to raise your hand.”