How international students spend their holidays when not at home

Michael Naish, Associate News Editor

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Thanksgiving break has come and gone, and college students across the nation have entered into the painful three weeks of classes and finals before winter break sends them home again this time for a solid month. For many, the holidays are a time of celebrations, thanks and family. But this is not the case for everyone.

Many students at Tulane, especially international students who live thousands of miles from home, find themselves still on campus during holiday breaks living in a ghost town.

Serin Park

Courtesy of Serin Park

With five percent of its incoming freshman coming from outside the U.S., the population of international students at Tulane is growing. Serin Park is an sophomore international student from Seoul who stayed over winter break last year and says she plans to again this year.

“I like it because it is quiet,” Park said. “There’s not that many people who stay on campus.”

The difficulty for Park and the other students who remain at Tulane during break is the lack of resources available. Bruff Commons, for example, closed last week from Nov. 20-25 for Thanksgiving break.

Over winter break, Bruff will close along with the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life, Reily Student Recreation Center and the regular dorms. Students who live on campus and cannot go home have to apply for winter break housing, which costs a flat rate of $400.

This can make it frustrating and even put a damper on the holidays. But Park said she does not mind it.

“A lot of school offices close, so that’s a little bit of a disadvantage, but for the price of $400 for the entire month, I think it’s worth it,” Park said.

But even when international students have the opportunity to go home over winter break, they sometimes end up celebrating their own holidays while school is in session.

Raphael Maharmi is a Jewish international student from Switzerland. He said one of the holiday traditions he is most looking forward to is Gluhwein, literally “glowing wine.” This warm wine-based beverage is sold on every street corner in Switzerland on Christmas Eve, and involves boiling red wine with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices.

Maharmi said he’ll be home to take a part in that tradition. Hanukkah, however, falls on Dec. 2-10 this year. Maharmi and most Jewish students, international or domestic, will have to stay at Tulane during the holiday.

For some, the holidays have already passed. Amogh Nath is a freshman from Mumbai who says though Christmas isn’t celebrated widely in India, the biggest holiday of the season is Diwali, which fell on Nov. 5 this year.

“It’s basically like a festival of lights,” Nath said. “There’s a bunch of ceremonies and stuff where families gather, we eat traditional indian sweets, we pray to Rama — because the festival is about that — and we burst crackers and light up Godios.”

Tulane does make some effort to support these students left at the university over the breaks, as well as the ones missing their holidays. Last week, The Office of International Students and Scholars held the annual Fall Harvest and Potluck Dinner at the LBC on Nov. 20 for students that stayed on campus during break.

Nath said though he missed out on the celebration in India, he was still able to go the temple with his friends for the festivities.

“They were kind enough to have a Diwali celebration here, and there was a huge gathering of people,” Nath said.