Internationals plan for holidays away from home

With the semester coming to a close and the holidays fast approaching, many students are preparing to pack up their cars to go spend time with family.

Some, however, are a little farther away from the places they call home. Because international students aren’t always able to travel those distances frequently, they find other ways to spend their breaks.

Though sophomore economics major Pablo Mena won’t be going the 4,000 miles to his home in Spain for Thanksgiving, he will have a piece of home here with him. His mother, father and younger sister are traveling to visit him for the holiday break.

The trip will be the family’s first to Texas, and his dad and sister’s first visit to the United States.

“They can’t wait,” Mena said. “My sister’s status on Skype is ‘Going to the U.S.’ with a little flag.”

While they’re here, Mena plans to take his family to San Antonio, watch a Baylor football game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium and maybe do some shopping. But first he wants to show them around the campus so they can get a feel for his life in Belton.

Sophomore computer science major Evan Guo researches attractions he hopes to see when he visits San Fransisco over Christmas break. This is Guo’s first semester in America. Photo by Lauren Jones.

“I want them to meet the people I interact with here — my friends,” Mena said.

They will celebrate Thanksgiving day together at the home of what Mena calls his

“American family.”

“It’s a friend’s family which has really become my family,” Mena said. “I started going on the weekends to their house, and eventually I started going a lot more.”

Last year was Mena’s first time celebrating the American holiday, and he said it reminded him of being in Spain.

“I loved the food, and I loved the family atmosphere because we do that a lot,” he said. “I live really close to my aunties and uncles in Spain, so we get together as a family, and I really love it.”

Though there are many similarities between his home country and America, Mena has noticed some differences in the ways the two celebrate holiday seasons.

“People here in the States, they’re all about themes in the holidays. They like to decorate a lot, and they take it very seriously,” he said.

While he enjoys both, Mena is looking forward to being able to travel home for the Christmas break.

“Spain and the U.S. are two very different countries,” he said. “I love the U.S., but it’s a different culture. I can’t wait to see my family and my friends and be back at home.”

Unlike Mena, many of the Chinese students on campus will not be traveling overseas for the Christmas break.

Sophomore computer science major Evan Guo will visit his aunt in San Francisco.

This being Guo’s first semester in the U.S., the culture is still new to him, and he wants to experience more than just Belton.

“I want to see a big city in America,” he said.

Because of his love for technology, Guo hopes to visit the Apple Inc. headquarters and the home of  founder Steve Jobs while in California. But there is one thing about his trip he looks forward to the most.

“I miss Chinese food a lot,” Guo said. “There are a lot of Asian people there, so I can have some good Chinese food.”

Several other Chinese students will be traveling north for the break to see New York City.

Graduate student Chris Zhang will be among those taking the trip, hoping to experience in person the holiday he has seen so often portrayed in the media.

“In movies, Christmas in New York is very beautiful,” he said.

Though he will not be able to see his family until summer, Zhang said he will not miss home too much during the break.

“It’s OK because I was living in another city in China for four years, so I’m getting used to it,” he said.

Graduate student Li Yu plans to travel with Zhang.

“I have been to California and the West Coast, and I want to go to the East Coast,” she said. “New York is very different, and I think it’s a beautiful state to visit.”

She looks forward to experiencing American holiday traditions.

The students said that in China, Christmas is not commonly celebrated, though it has gained some prevalence among the country’s youth.

“Young people have begun to celebrate Christmas because it’s popular worldwide,” Yu said.

Because they have only been in the country for about four months, the students also want to visit other popular tourist cities on the trip, like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and intend to take a tour of the northeast.

Zhang said, “America is a huge country, and there are many interesting things to look at and get to know.”


Author: JC Jones

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