International students find fun during break

Tong Lin

Ningyuan Zhang had mixed emotions about going home to China for winter break. 

Zhang is one of about 11 percent of international students at Iowa State returning to their home country for winter break, according the International Student and Scholars Office.

“I will go back to China during winter break and spend time with my family,” Zhang, freshman in computer engineering, said. “I have complicated emotion about going back home.”

Zhang said he is excited to go home and wants to have a good break, but this time was more for necessity than luxury.

“I had a few problems with my visa and I-94 form because of the early arriving in July,” Zhang said. “These problems made me go back to China so that I will be able to redo the immigration status.”

Of the 3,980 international students at Iowa State, about 400-500 are returning to their home countries, said James Dorsett, director of the International Students and Scholars Office.

The International Students and Scholars Office has been working on students’ I-20 forms these past two weeks.

“We had about 250 International students get their I-20 signed,” Dorsett said. 

Being far away from home has made a number of international students homesick. A few students have already booked their airplanes tickets and started packing their suitcases.

Sun Hee Park, junior in journalism and mass communication, is from Korea and plans on returning for break to celebrate Christmas.

“We do celebrate Christmas in Korea, and I will go to my country Korea and have a good time with my boyfriend,” Park said. “Christmas is a big holiday in Korea. Students will have winter break and the schools will be closed during that period of time.”

About 10 to 20 percent of international students who aren’t going home are leaving Ames.

“These students have opportunities to visit friends in other countries, or they have relatives getting together in another country that is not their own, or many they are choosing to visit that country and they will get their visa there,” Dorsett said.

Zhou Wang, an exchange student from China in engineering specials, said she was excited for her trip to Hawaii.

“This is my first winter break in the USA,” she said. “I think traveling is the best way, however, people usually stay at home or have dinner with relatives in China during our new year, which is called ‘Spring Festival.’ During the winter break, the most important that we do must be family sitting together and have a big dinner on New Year’s Eve.”

Not every country has a winter break. One country that does not have winter break is Malaysia, a tropical country south of Thailand.

Malaysia is mostly a Muslim country, said Hayley Yong, sophomore in elementary education, so there aren’t many big events for the Christmas season.

“My sister [and I] are going to Minnesota and Chicago for the winter break,” Yong said. “Back home, my family celebrates Christmas because we are Christians. However, Malaysia does not have big events for Christmas because it is a Muslim country. We have a holiday but not like a celebratory one.”

Some other information of traveling during the winter break is provided by the International Students and Scholars Office.

“We in general don’t do any special trip with our students because we found that they mostly have made their own arrangements,” Dorsett said of winter break. “We are willing to provide some information to students if they want to get together to some places.”