Rockefeller Center in New York City.
There may be no place like home for the holidays, but many international college students studying in the U.S. have found a home away from home.
According to a report in USA TODAY last month, nearly 820,000 international students currently attend U.S. colleges and universities, the largest amount ever. Some students are looking to colleges and universities for an answer on what to do during winter break besides going home.
“Most international students, when the school year starts, start making plans… for winter break,” Marty Takimoto, director of communication and marketing at residential and student services programs at the University of California, Berkeley. Takimoto has received more questions about winter break over the last couple of years from international students.
A myriad of reasons keep international students in the U.S. during winter break, which lasts anywhere between three and six weeks at most colleges and universities.
For many students, the costs of going home are too expensive.
“I had to stay in the U.S. over winter break because the traveling costs to go back to Bosnia are really high,” says Biljana Novakovic, a freshman at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.
Other students hope to take advantage of classes taught in January.
“One reason I’m staying on campus is I am thinking of taking Spanish, a very useful language in the United States,” says Nkwate Ebenezer, a freshman at MIT, which offers language classes during its Independent Activities Period, which occurs in January.
Other international students stay in the U.S. to get more of a taste for the culture, not possible for many students during classes.
“There are a significant amount of students who stay in the United States during winter break… some simply want to travel and see the United States,” says Mike A. Brzezinski, dean of international programs at Purdue University, says.
Purdue is one of many colleges beginning to offer special programs for students who stay over the break.
Between Christmas and New Years, 125 international Purdue students are being hosted by 75 volunteers for various holiday events.
Purdue also created a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. for students staying over the break.
In addition to trip to Big Bear for skiing and snowboarding, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) also offers the Winter Break on the Hill program for students who stay on campus. //Do they only offer this to international students? ALL STUDENTS The program includes events students can go to such as a “Chipotle Holiday Dinner” and “Pizza, Karaoke, and YouTube.”
“There is a ‘Stay-Through Programming Committee’ that several student affairs offices sit on and lead by the Office of Residential Life (ORL) to come up with activities and plans for the students who stay over break (including domestic students who don’t go home or don’t have a home to go to),” Jennie J. Weingarten, assistant director of programs at the Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars (DCISS) at UCLA, writes in an email.
Last year, about 200 students signed up for the Winter Break on the Hill program.
Other students look outside their colleges and universities for programs.
One such program is the Christmas International House, which runs under the Atlanta Ministry with International Students. The program began in 1965 in West Virginia. The program gives students housing in either private homes or group housing. Communities who participate plan events for students.
Since then, there have been programs in 24 states and approximately 40,000 students have been hosted by families and churches.
The program is open to all students regardless of race, nationality, religious background or marital status.
“The really fun part is when our students come to Atlanta… It’s like having a little United Nations,” Majoros says.
While many international students will not be able to go home for the holidays, at least they will be less homesick with many of the programs offered.
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