By Bailey Neal
Simon Yammouni needs a break.
Like many international students, Yammouni, freshman from Monagas, Venezuela, doesn’t make it home often. That’s why, he said, he is looking forward to a long Christmas holiday.
“I’m going home for the first time since March to be with my family,” Yammouni said.
Not all international students have the same opportunity Yammouni does, though. Meiqi Zhang, a junior from northeastern China, has lived with a host family in Abilene since 2007. She said it’s fun to be part of a big family during the holidays, having spent three Christmases with her hosts.
“There are three sons that are all grown-up and married, and [my host family] has six grandchildren,” Zhang said. “They all come the week before Christmas and eat a big meal and open all the gifts.”
Although this Christmas will be her fourth in Abilene, Zhang said this one will be different. Her mother is traveling from China to visit, her first trip to the United States.
“My dad has been [to America] without me, but it was a long time ago for a business trip,” Zhang said.
While Zhang has become well-versed in traditional American Christmas events, it will be a new experience for her mother.
“In China, we don’t celebrate Christmas,” Zhang said. “We have Chinese New Year, and that’s the big holiday.”
Carolle Ranaivoarivelo has lived in the United States for five years. She hasn’t visited her hometown of Antananarivo, Madagascar, for a year.
In previous years, Ranaivoarivelo has spent the holiday with her host family, but this Christmas, she will travel to New York City with her boyfriend.
She said she looking forward to doing something different this year; her plans include Broadway shows and watching the ball fall in Madison Square Garden during the New Year’s celebration. Like Zhang, Ranaivoarvelo said the celebration of a new year is most exciting in her home country.
“We do have Christmas. We do exchange gifts,” Ranaivoarvelo said. “Here you have lots of decorations, people dress in Christmas colors … People really take Christmas to heart in America.”