Finding home at Laurier for the holidays

Laurier international students must decide on whether or not to go home for the holiday break

Laurier international students must decide on whether or not to go home for the holiday break

Laurier international students must decide on whether or not to go home for the holiday break | Graphic by Fani Hsieh

For international students, holidays are not an easy time of year. It requires paperwork, expenses and above all, timeless planning.

With many students not finishing until December 23 this year, the holiday break only lasts 11 days before students must return to the university.

“[Holidays are] only two weeks off from school, it’s not really worth it to spend that much money to fly half way around the world to go back home,” said Zach Pang, a third-year international student at Laurier.

According to Pang, if he plans on going home to China, he will have to plan two to three months ahead so he can get the best price on plane tickets.

For students who need to renew study permits and acquire visas so they can re-enter Canada after going home, they need to plan at least four to five months in advance.

“More of them end up spending time here than I think want to … We definitely have a handful of students every year who could travel but can’t because of the visa issues,” said Anna Done Choudhury, senior international student advisor.

Exams also influence what international students are able to do for the holidays.

“The exams are the worst … they release the exam schedule really late, which makes it impossible to make any plans before hand,” said Ivy Xu, a second-year international student.

Homesickness is also very common among first-year international students who may not be accustomed to different traditions.

“Chinese students some of them, they’re missing Spring Festival [in January] … [Christmas] emphasizes the fact that they’re not going to be with their family for the most important holiday of the year for them,” said Choudhury.

International students may not travel because of financial issues as well, making it hard for them to go back and forth between home and school.

“They’ll tell their parents they don’t want to come or they’re too busy, but it’s really because they’re trying to save their parents the [financial] burden,” Choudhury explained.

Fortunately, there are solutions for students to connect with their families if travelling is not an option. Pang said he can Skype his family and they would eat in front of the camera to eat with him.

To get students into the holiday spirit, Laurier International has been running holiday-themed activities throughout December, including ornament and tree decorating.

For students who plan on staying in Waterloo, Laurier International is organizing activities for international students to engage in, though domestic students who are alone for the holidays are also invited to participate.

For its third year, Laurier International will be running the Holiday Host Program where two or more students are matched with Laurier faculty or staff who host them for a meal.

The goal is to show international students how the holidays are celebrated in Canada.

“[It’s] just getting people into groups so they’re not isolated or feeling lonely around this time,” said Candace Stewart-Smith, an international student academic transition advisor.

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