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Celebrating American Holidays While You Live Abroad

Posted by Cherish Germaine on 11/3/16 4:04 PM

Teaching in Ukraine with ILP

When living abroad, you'll probably notice that some of your favorite holidays aren't really celebrated in other countries. That doesn't mean you can't celebrate them anyways! Here are some holidays that our past ILP groups have had a blast celebrating. 

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International Language Programs (ILP) sends volunteers abroad to make a difference in many countries around the world. When you travel abroad with ILP, your ILP group soon becomes your second family. One way to bring your group together and have a fun time making memories is by celebrating holidays. 

  • 4th of July 
  • Birthdays
  • Christmas
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Halloween 
  • Thanksgiving 

4th of July 

These summer volunteer programs means you'll be living abroad for the 4th of July, which is a different experience. There may not be any fireworks, but you can still take the day to celebrate the USA's Independence!

Some ways you can celebrate are by making your ILP lesson plans all about the holiday. Have American themed lessons that day, make statue of liberty crowns and have a parade, and quiz some of the older students on the US states. 

ILP Thailand


You probably won't end up having all of your group member's birthdays happen while spending four months abroad, but you if you do, be sure to celebrate! Have everyone sign a birthday card, head to their favorite restaurant for a special dinner or see if you can find a cake and really celebrate in style.

We're even big fans of celebrating half birthdays during a semester abroad — why not, right??  

ILP China


All ILP semesters end before Christmas, so you will be back home during this holiday, but you can always celebrate with your group a little early. A lot of countries around the world celebrate this holiday so it may be fun to plan some winter themed activities at school. A lot of school even ask groups to plan a Christmas/end of year performance so you may get to teach your students some Christmas songs to sing for their parents (which is as cute as it sounds, trust me!).

Maybe exchange a few inexpensive gifts with your group members or plan a day where you go to the market to buy Christmas presents to bring home to your family — and enjoy the way the country you're in gears up for Christmas. If you're volunteering in Europe, most major cities put up some really magical decorations, so head downtown, grab some hot chocolate, and soak up your last days of the semester.

ILP Russia

Cinco de Mayo

I probably don't need to give you a reason to eat some yummy Mexican food, because hello ... it's Mexican food, but celebrate Cinco de Mayo by eating some delicious tacos and salsa! Now, unless you are actually volunteering in Mexico, it might be a little harder to find a Mexican restaurant. Don't fret, you can always make your own salsa and tacos with food from the local grocery store. An ILP group was able to celebrate this holiday, by doing just that! 

"We made homemade salsa, HUGE bowls of it. Made mustaches and wore costumes, had a photo booth and one of the other girls MADE a dragon piñata out of cardboard boxes and construction paper. We played Mexican music, hung it in a tree and all got to swing at it... It was so fun and gave us something to look forward too! SO MANY funny/embarrassing pictures came from it.


Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, so clearly my group and I decided to throw a huge Halloween party for our kids. If you want to throw a Halloween party, make sure you talk to your Local ILP Coordinator and get it approved by the school you are working at.

Once we got it approved, our Local Coordinator spread the word to all of our kid's parents, and the kids came dressed up in costumes. We had a blast playing a few different games; fishing, musical chairs, making pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and face painting. And of course, before the party even started, we made and put up a ton of Halloween decorations. 

ILP China

ILP Russia


Here's what one ILP volunteer said: "My ILP group, and many other ILP groups have loved making a Thanksgiving meal together. Of course this isn't a international holiday so it may just seem like any other typical day while you're living abroad, but that doesn't mean you and your group can't make it special. My group and I went to the local market and bought carrots, potatoes, all sorts of different types of fruit, corn and rolls. Making due with what we had easily accessible, we then went to McDonald's and KFC and bought some chicken nuggets and chicken legs and thighs to be our main meat.

We all worked together to make an "almost" traditional Thanksgiving meal. Other groups have also splurged and went to their favorite pizza place or restaurant in town. Don't forget to make a few decorations and talk about what you are grateful for! Click here for another Thanksgiving story abroad."

Another group spread out and had a huge dinner all together, while watching the sunset (and those palm trees). Love that!

Volunteering in the Dominican Republic  

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Want to learn more about how you can teach and serve children abroad with International Language Programs (go you!)? Click the button below to speak with an ILP representative. 

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Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering

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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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