-Alexis Rodgers, Contributing Writer
As the much-appreciated Thanksgiving break approaches, many students prepare to go back home to their families and celebrate the holiday surrounded by familiar loved ones. Just as the rest of the school will be ready for the departure of students, dorms will shut down, the cafeteria will be closed, and the Commons will lock its doors.
While most MC students will be at home, sitting at a table while Dad carves the turkey, there are some students who do not have the option of going home because home is more than ten hours away overseas.
During the break where do the international students go? Mississippi College is home to 384 international students, most of them from the countries of China, Saudi Arabia, and India. Of that 384, 40 international students are part of the school’s Intensive English Program(IEP). For those who do not know, the purpose of the Intensive English program is to teach international students, who qualify for the program, the English language.
During the Fall Break holiday, many of these students had the chance to stay in the dorms, but during the upcoming Thanksgiving break, the dorms will be closed off to all students.Most international students learn creative ways to spend their time off from school.
“For the first break[Fall Break] I travelled to Houston, TX,” said Chinese international student, Qiming Lui, who came to America as a communications major.
A small group of IEP students organized their own trip to Los Angeles, Calif. for their Turkey Day break. “Well, a lot of them like to travel,” states Christina Bach, Global Office of Education Program Coordinator. Bach is in charge of planning events like the Celebration of Culture, getting grants for the program, and setting up international students with conversation partners and host families. “Disney World is a big trip they like to take. Different people like to see different parts of the country, visit relatives that might be in the other parts of the country. They just want to travel and see different sites in the couple of weeks they have in Christmas.” While travelling is very popular for the international students to do during the breaks it is not always an option.
“A lot of students don’t travel the whole three weeks [of Christmas], they may travel one or two weeks, but don’t have enough money to travel,” said Bach. “And so they need somewhere to stay that extra week or two because the dorms are closed. So we spend extra attention with the first year students that they might have someone to stay with…Basically at the beginning of summer, we start asking host families, or current host families if any of them are willing to host someone in their house for the holiday.”
While it seems exciting to travel all over the country, a lot of international students do not mind enjoying a more relaxed holiday. Chinese IEP student Musa expressed her feelings on the matter of holidays. “Well I’m going to LA for Thanksgiving, but I’m really jealous of Destiny. Actually a lot of us are jealous of her because she gets to spend Thanksgiving like an American with her conversation partner.”
Host families are required to share at least one holiday with their host student. Some host families only do that one holiday. For most IEP students that only stay one semester this is not much of a problem, but for the other 344 international students sharing the MC campus for more than a year, finding a place to spend the school break is not as easy.
In regard to international students travelling versus staying with a host family or anyone familiar in America, Bach said, “I think it’ll be great if everyone [international students] could stay with someone for the holidays. Part of being here, part of experiencing the United States is getting to know people from here and when international students just hang out with each other, they don’t always have that experience. It’s nice to spend the holidays with someone from a different culture.”
Maybe while the dorms are closed during the next holiday, more of MC’s American students can open their homes to their international classmates. If interested in hosting an international student during the holidays, contact the Office of Global Education.