Category Archives: Exchange Students

The Expat Guide to Celebrating Christmas in Puerto Rico

The malls are packed, the parrandas are in full swing, and giant inflatable Frosty the Snowmen grace the front yards. Yes, it’s Christmas time again and as the current slogan goes, Puerto Rico does it better. If this is your first Christmas season in Puerto Rico you are in for a real treat! There may not be snow on the ground, but it isn’t necessary. Here in the Isla del Encanto you are encouraged to get out your best holiday attire, get a haircut, and find your dancing shoes. Plan to party the night away by eating, drinking, singing, and dancing at any number of corporate-sponsored or house parties.

Although traditionally Puerto Ricans celebrated Three Kings Day (January 6th) instead of Christmas, the close ties to the United States have increased sales of Christmas merchandise, increasing the interest in celebrating both days. So what should you expect from your first Christmas in Puerto Rico? Read on to find out!

  • The malls will be packed! Shop early to avoid the crowds from Black Friday until January 9th. Parking is at a premium and stores are crowded, making shopping uncomfortable for many.
  • Grocery stores will sell out of many products. Particularly in the expat communities where baking supplies and holiday ingredients can be found, you’ll want to buy ingredients in advance. Also, recognize that some things simply don’t exist here. Plan ahead so a friend can ship them or order them online if they are that important to you.
  • Lechón, lechón, y más lechón! Roasted pig carved from the spit is incredibly popular during this time of year. Usually it is accompanied by rice with pigeon peas, blood sausage, a marinated banana salad, and pasteles. Desserts include tembleque, arroz con dulce, and flan. These are likely not the standard holiday foods made in your home country, but give them a try!
  • Drink and be merry! Puerto Rico is known for its rum so many drinks served during the holidays, like coquito, sangria, or pitorro, include rum. Whether you are accustomed to having a few drinks or rarely imbibe, take a sip of these drinks before downing them quickly. They are usually homemade and very strong, but don’t let that keep you from trying them.
  • Parrandear into the night! Mobile singing parties have long been a staple of the Puerto Rican Christmas. Groups usually gather near a home where they will sing and play local instruments until the home owners open their doors and welcome the “carolers” inside. Owners provide food and drink until the group moves on to the next home, continuing the parranda until at least 3AM! Nowadays, owners typically know that a group is coming so that they can be prepared, but that was not always the case.
  • Remember the Three Kings! Traditionally boxes of hay are left under children’s beds on the night of January 5th. The hay is meant to feed the three king’s camels in exchange for a gift. Gifts are left in the boxes much like is done with stockings in North American and some European cultures.
To register for your FREE copy of the upcoming DVD “Getting Your Feet Wet: Top Ten Tips for Adjusting to Puerto Rico,” go right now to Global Perceptions on Facebook. 

Top Stressors Experienced by First Year College Students

The first year of college is filled with excitement, anxiety, and challenges. What are some of the stressors that you may experience during this time? How can you manage them effectively? Read on to find out!

Money management: Armed with your first-ever credit card and an account stuffed with student loan money, it may be tempting to buy whatever you see and pay for it later. But when it comes time to pay, will you have the money to cover the bill? Incurring debt so early in life makes it very difficult to better your credit rating later on, preventing you from buying a car, renting an apartment, or applying for a business loan. Keep track of your expenses and stay on top of your finances. Being financially responsible now will pay dividends in college and beyond.

Time management: Being 100% responsible for getting up on time, attending classes, completing assignments and projects, sleeping regularly, and eating right requires good time management skills. Using an agenda book and sticking to a regular schedule will help you manage your time more effectively. Include time to study, relax, eat, and sleep. Plan ahead so that you aren’t bombarded with projects and exams all at once. Doing so will limit the stress you experience.

Academic success: Staying on top of your studies is important to achieving academic success. First, attend class. Copying a friend’s notes does not take the place of physically being in class. You are also now responsible for motivating yourself to study. Review each of the syllabi for your classes and plot out a reasonable plan for accomplishing all that needs to be done. Services are available across campus if you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Homesickness: Being completely on your own is both exciting and terrifying. The increased freedom is appreciated by some while others fear that same freedom. It’s natural to feel a little of both in your first year. If you begin to feel increasingly lonely and miss the comforts of home, reach out to family and friends. When possible, take a trip home. Meet new people and get involved at your school. Keeping your mind engaged in other activities will help ease the stress of homesickness.

Making friends: If you are feeling isolated and are struggling to make friends, don’t worry. It takes time to develop lasting friendships. Start by joining an organization on campus that supports a cause that you believe in. Ask your roommate if you can hang out with her/his friends. Try something you’ve never done before to meet people who are different from you. You’ll find that friendships start to blossom and you’ll have the support you need when life does get stressful.

Roommate conflicts: Getting used to a roommate requires effective communication skills and an interest in keeping the peace. Speak with your roommate from the beginning to establish a set of rules that you will each abide by. Be honest and open in this conversation, but be willing to compromise too. Revisit these rules from time to time to see if they need adjustment. If there is a serious problem, examine your own behaviors first and then work to communicate with your roommate and discuss options. If this doesn’t work, consider speaking with your Resident Advisor to act as an intermediary. Don’t continue to live in an uncomfortable situation. Work with school staff to find a reasonable alternative.

For more tips on how to smoothly transition from high school to college, and to register for your FREE COPY of the forthcoming book “Surviving and Thriving during Your First Year of College,” visit Global Perceptions on Facebook.

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