Staying at university over the winter break

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

If you are staying at university for the duration of the end of term break, making some plans in advance will help to ensure it is as good an experience as possible.

Your university is likely to be quieter over the break. At least some university buildings are likely to be closed for part of the time and most staff will be taking a well-earned rest from work. It may also be that there are fewer students around and less to do with your time.

In addition, if you normally celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, it can be easy to feel worried or upset at the prospect of spending it alone or away from your family.

While these worries are perfectly normal, there are things you can do to increase your enjoyment of the break. Taking control of your time proactively can help you to get the most out of the break and feel more positive.

Keep busy

Maintaining a daily structure and keeping active will help to maintain your mood and energy levels. A lack of structure and vegging out can be fine for a day or two, but over time it leaves us feeling sluggish and down.

Having a plan for each day can help you to stay active. You may want to think about socialising with friends who are still around; spring cleaning your room, getting regular exercise or studying for next term. This will help you to feel you are achieving something each day.


Volunteering is an excellent way of keeping busy and doing something positive, and at Christmas charities need extra help. Volunteering to help others is also good for us and it can help to build up your CV.

Your university, Students’ Union or Guild may have some volunteering opportunities or you can explore what opportunities there are through local and national charities such as CharityJob.

Volunteering will also help you by putting you in touch with other people and giving you a sense of purpose.


Try to maintain social contact with as many people as possible. Not all students will go home for the whole of the break. Find out when your friends are going to be around and plan meet ups with them. If there are periods where your friends aren’t around, try to schedule regular calls and video calls with friends and family elsewhere.

You could also use the Student Union forums to keep in contact with other students who will still be here over the break. This could be an opportunity to make new friends.


It can be tempting in December to stay indoors where it’s warm but you should make sure you are getting outside and exercising each day. Sunlight and exercise improves mood and will help you feel better physically as well.

Try to see the positives

For many people spending time alone may be preferable. If you are going to be alone you will have complete control over your own time, you can do what you want when you want, without pressure to please anyone else.


Give yourself rewards over the winter break. These don’t have to cost a lot of money but, if you can, treat yourself to something special. You could, for example, cook yourself a nice meal or just set aside time to watch a movie or read a book.

Christmas can be a really difficult time for many students for a wide range of reasons and that’s okay; make sure to give yourself a break, it can be more helpful to you in the long run.

Seek support

If you are worried about how you will feel during the break it may help to talk to someone beforehand.

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Page last reviewed: November 2022