Holidays are great! Families and friends come together, it’s the perfect time to relax, eat too much and take naps between all those (exhausting) activities.

But it’s not always that easy to visit home when having a few days off: Your family might not be in the same city or even the same state, finals are just around the corner, and traveling costs money and takes time.

Spending the holidays alone? A terrifying thought. But sometimes you might not have a choice and it can actually be a great experience. Look on the bright side: You will not have to listen to your aunt saying that you might want to think of the “Freshmen 15” right when you reach for the last piece of pie. You will not have to defend your new haircut  (yes, the one that will grow out eventually) or that you just want to sleep in because your roommate always gets up at 6am, even on weekends.

The biggest problem will be the expectations we all have: Holidays are supposed to “be” a certain way; it’s a special time full of traditions. The (slightly difficult) trick is to ignore these expectations as much as possible and maybe even find some new traditions; your very own traditions.

So when spending the holidays without your family, you will have two choices: You either ignore the festivities or find a “temporary” family, throw a party and basically just “relocate” your usual holiday activities to your new home.

If you want to ignore the holidays: Enjoy your “me”-time! Do all the things you’ve always wanted to do but never had time and most importantly, only do things that make you happy. It will help to plan ahead, know exactly what you want to do and when. Plan your meals, look up recipes or find out what restaurants are open. Usually “time off” should not have a schedule but it will help to have a few ideas and not have too much down time. Plans will make it easier and are exciting to look forward to  – and they make the alone time less scary.

Remember that even though you decided to ignore the holidays, other people probably won’t, so there will be calls, texts or just general holiday cheer that will remind you that “’tis the season.” Be prepared that you might get a little sad and feel down – it’s completely normal. Just don’t wallow in sorrow for too long.

If you decide to celebrate the holidays the way most people do, you can throw your own party with friends who couldn’t go home either. Being with people who are “in the same boat” will make everything easier. You can also volunteer or tag along to a friend’s family. However, if you do this, be prepared to explain why you are not with your own family – think of a good and short answer beforehand so you won’t suddenly burst into tears when being reminded how much you miss them. You might feel a bit out of place and “their” traditions might not seem “right”. Just be open-minded, always say thank you and yes, take that extra piece of pie. The “Freshman 15” are off for the holidays as well.

Isabelle Mitchell is from Switzerland (not Sweden). She loves coffee and chocolate and she can talk about movies and the weather for a very long time. Isabelle went to Film School in Denmark and Canada and is a Sound Designer, but she’s currently working on getting her BS in Advertising at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (Online Division). She’s planning on slowly taking over the advertising world one tagline at a time. When she’s not doing homework or studying, she works as a Marketing Assistant. You can find her on Twitter @isabellesagt or if you have a longer attention span, her blog.