10+ Meaningful Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

Welcome, December! Winter is almost here and it’s time to snuggle up near the fire, get cozy, and spend time with those who matter most. Now that we have made it through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the other spending-based days, you still have bit of time left to get something special for your loved ones. And with the consumerism-fueled spending sprees of U.S. Thanksgiving weekend behind us, we at Melibee Global think it is a perfect opportunity to take some time to consider less commercial/materialistic opportunities for gift-giving this holiday season. Here are some of our ideas for the international educators, intercultural specialists, and global sojourners in your life:

1.  Map / Globe / Atlas

Aspiring “global citizens” tend to be lovers of geography, and for good reason! Play to their curiosity about the world by giving them a thoughtful map. For instance, rather than the Euro- and North America- centric standard everyone knows from elementary school, how about an alternative projection, such as Gall-Peters or Hobo-Dyer, to really challenge normative views of the world? Naturally, a globe also serves the same purpose and has the advantage of an extra dimension. And if you really want to explore this idea, consider an atlas with a varied collection of maps.

2. Language learning apps / software

Many who have been bitten by the culture or travel bug have developed a love of languages. (And sadly, many others recognize the importance of language learning, but consider themselves to not “have the gift”…for them, Benny Lewis can help!) A thoughtful gift for both the linguistically inclined, and the linguistically, challenged, could be the purchase of language learning software or apps. You could even buy for both yourself and a partner to hold each other accountable and have fun learning together!

Book Cover: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

3. Books

For those of us in the international education space, books are (and probably—no, hopefully—always will be!) one of the key ways to learn about our world and its people. Even if the next journey across borders sometimes feels a bit too far in the future, books present a special kind of journey all their own. Amazon is full of reading lists, both fiction and on-fiction, on fascinating topics like intercultural communication, cultural anthropology, global education, and international relations. In fact, there is so much out there that it can feel a bit overwhelming! If you’re looking for a great place to start, check out The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, newly released by Melibee Global’s own Michael W. Twitty.

4. Time zone clocks

Anyone who has friends and family around the world knows the importance of keeping track of different time zones in order to stay in touch! A clock (or set of clocks) showing multiple time zones will help your gift recipient not only avoid waking their friends up in the wee hours of the night, but also to hopefully feel closer to them as well.

5. Music

What better way to explore another culture than through its music? In fact, it just so happens to be this writer’s favorite lens into culture! If someone you know is missing a particular country, you could find out new popular music from there and buy a digital album of mp3s for them. Another option would be a subscription to a streaming music service with regional or World Music channels/playlists. Melibee is also a big fan of Putumayo World Music,

6. Cookbook

As with music, cuisine offers unique insight into a culture. Sadly, when outside the home country of a particular culture, it can be difficult to find “authentic” (note: this is a loaded term!) versions of favorite dishes. Sometimes they are made very differently in restaurants in another country/area, they might taste dissimilar or worse, or they may simply be unavailable altogether. In these cases, why not try cooking them at home? Cookbooks featuring various international cuisines make a fantastic gift for someone with a penchant for cooking and a heart yearning for familiar beloved tastes. Want to support a global educator who is also a chef – consider one of Gabriella Ganugi’s cookbooks such as CHEESE.  (My mouth is watering already!).

7. Luggage

International sojourners place a premium on the ability to pack up and travel or move across and around continents when the opportunity arises. Unfortunately, the more often they do so, the more beat up their luggage gets. Put a smile on their face with new, good quality luggage.  If the sojourner in your life already has great luggage, perhaps this fun photo identifier that you can use to easily locate your luggage will make a great gift!

8. Professional development opportunities

For international education professionals, staying current with the latest developments in our field is both a passion and a necessity. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available for us to do so, but, less fortunately, some of them are not exactly free. While we would love to take advantage of all of them, and although many are not overly expensive, we still have to make choices regarding which we decide to invest in versus which we must pass on. A really impactful gift this holiday season would increase the amount of opportunities we can say yes to! Potential ideas include:

●     Certified online courses, such as MOOCs, on relevant topics

●      Melibee Global Cultural Tools, which are available on our website. Exciting possibilities include Beyond Abroad: Innovative Re-entry Exercises; Practical and The Decolonization of Education Abroad with Dr Anthony Ogden.

●     Key texts and books from the international education literature – many are available at NAFSA.

  •  The Melibee hive considers journaling a tool that not only develops the personal, but the professional too. We LOVE Journal Junky journals for more reasons that we can count.  Check them out here.

9. For the kids 😊

Of course, the vast majority of gifts we purchase around the holidays tend to be for children. Since our little ones possess the most beautiful innocence and an ability to truly see the world with new eyes, they are fascinated by the world around them and eager to learn as much as possible. What better time to expose them to new cultures and languages, teach them tolerance and acceptance, and start their global citizenship journeys? There are countless fun ideas for the kids, but here are some of our favorites:

●     Letter blocks in various scripts / alphabets

●     Multi-ethnic faces memory game

●     Children’s clothing inspired by different cultures around the world

10. Charitable giving

Perhaps most importantly, as we have all been taught but may too easily forget this time of year, giving can come in many different forms. Charitable giving and volunteering are very much in keeping with the spirit we aim to foster here at Melibee Global. In this vein, Kiva loans are a popular choice to help small scale entrepreneurs around the world grow their businesses and build up their communities. Similarly, scholarship support for study abroad students is another great way to pay your international education benefits forward—as option to consider, we offer The Jane Gluckmann and Carol Rausch Go Global Scholarship to fund meaningful study travel for undergraduate students. Finally, challenge yourself to donate not just your money, but perhaps also your time and energy to those in need. One idea that couple be especially powerful given today’s anti-immigration political climate would be to check with your local refugee/asylee resettlement services agencies to see what kind of assistance they need in help making sure our newest and most vulnerable arrivals feel safe and welcome.

What other meaningful and ethical gift ideas do you have to share?  Please comment!