11/23/2012 10:50 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2013

5 Ways The Holidays Are Different Now That I'm In College

As much as I love going to school at NYU, I'm thrilled to go home to Boston for Thanksgiving. A full week of family, traditions, and delicious pumpkin pie is exactly what this stressed-out student needs. But one of the best parts of Thanksgiving at home is actually going home. Prior to starting college last fall, I hadn't considered how different the holidays would feel once I started school. I found five major changes between celebrating the holidays in high school and in college:

1. Some traditions matter less...

On two holidays this year, I've unexpectedly ended up skipping out my planned celebrations at school and taking the bus home to Boston -- once on Halloween due to Hurricane Sandy and once on Passover due to a metaphorical hurricane in my personal life. On both occasions, I made it back home hours after the festivities had ended. Instead of feeling bitter about missing out on the traditional celebrations, I was thankful to be with my family.

2. ... and some traditions matter a whole lot more.

College life is fantastic, but it doesn't quite feel like home. When I can participate in my favorite traditions, I want to go all out. I was never gung ho about big family dinners before college, but now I'm insisting on Thanksgiving dinner with as many relatives as possible. Now that I see family only a few times a year, I want to make those occasions count!

3. New traditions develop.

During my first few months of college, I had the bizarre realization that I could celebrate the holidays any way I wanted to, including starting traditions of my own. I began celebrating the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) with a distant second cousin I hadn't known so well before college, and my Catholic boyfriend rebranded Hannukah as Hannah-kah when he celebrated the Jewish holiday for the first time. My new traditions aren't yet as ingrained as my old ones are, but it's comforting to have a sense of continuity to look forward to.

4. It's harder to find time to shop for gifts.

You might think holiday shopping is easy once you're in college -- you have so much time outside of class, right? Not quite. Holiday shopping oh-so-conveniently coincides with final exams, which might explain why I found myself rushing from store to store the night before winter break last year with an hour left before everything closed for the holidays. This year, I'm trying to get a head start by shopping early. (Two gifts down, several more to go...)

5. Traveling is far more stressful on your own.

Growing up, traveling for holidays meant hopping into my parents' car and zoning out while they dealt with directions and tried not to get lost. Now that I'm traveling by myself, I'm suddenly responsible for things like tickets and timing and maps -- crazy, right? I've traveled from school to home and vice versa a dozen times by now, but the trip still stresses me out every time. I've found the best ways for me to feel comfortable is to have copies of my tickets and reservation numbers, know exactly where to go (not just the name of the airport or station, but the precise location within the building), and allow for plenty of extra time.

If you're in college, how has the way you celebrate changed over the years? If you're in high school, what do you expect to change after graduation? Let us know in the comments below or tweet @HuffPostTeen!