Internationals cope with being away from home during Christmas


Yanhua Huang/Iowa State Daily

For international groups, students usually gather together to celebrate holidays such as Christmas. A group of 10 Chinese students living in University Village get to together to have a Christmas dinner cooked by themselves.  

Katharina Gruenewald

Some international students don’t get to go home and see their families for Christmas. They will have to spend their break in Ames. 

Rocio Aviles, sophomore in industrial engineering and international student from Guatemala could not imagine doing that. She said she wants to go home at least every Christmas.

“I don’t know what I would do when I would stay here, spending Christmas without my family,” said Aviles.

The students who don’t have a choice, have to deal with homesickness and possibly loneliness.

“I was home for last Christmas, but this year I couldn’t go, so I miss my parents.” said Katerzyna Krzystolik, international student from Poland and student in the Intensive English and Orientation Program, IEOP.

She said everything on Christmas is totally different here and that it is difficult to get presents to her family back in Poland. To cope with that, Krzystolik will Skype with her parents on Christmas Eve and make traditional polish food, called pierogi.

She will go into winter break trying to maintain a positive attitude.

“This is my first time here at Christmas. So I am happy I will see something new,” said Krzystolik.

Kevin Yan, junior in industrial engineering and international student from Mauritius said that he can cope with being away from his parents for Christmas.

“Of course I miss my parents and I feel sad that I can’t see them. But I am still fine,” said Yan. “Even though I hate snow and when I think back home where it is summer right [now], I think how I could have been at the beach.”

Yan will spend winter break at his uncle’s house in San Francisco, California, so he is still able to enjoy a much lighter climate and visit some relatives.

If international students have relatives in the United States, it is very likely that they will go and visit them over winter break said Kyungjoon Chung, senior in management and international student from South Korea.

“A lot of them are staying in the US, since it is only three weeks of vacation and international flights are expensive,”said Chung.

Four of Iowa State’s 19 residence halls are open over winter break. International students who are not living in Wilson, Wallace, Linden or Buchanan have to leave campus.

“A lot of internationals go to their American friends’ houses to experience the way Christmas is celebrated in the U.S., or they spend the time at other international’s places,” Chung said.

Chung, who is not going home for Christmas, is sure that international students will find fun things to do even if are staying in Ames.

“I do the same celebrations here with my Korean friends, as I would back home,” Chung said. He said that helps him deal with all the talk about Christmas.

“When I try to watch some show or even the news, they all talk about Christmas. That kind of makes [me] think back to Christmas in Korea, but it isn’t a strong feeling,” Chung said.

In his opinion these three free weeks can also be beneficial for students.

“For many international students especially when they are junior and senior year it is a good time for them to prepare for their classes next semester and look to their future career,” Chung said.