Students travel all over Texas, across the nation and around the world to share time with their families over the holidays, but for international students, it can be more difficult to spend time with family during Thanksgiving and Christmas break.
Douglas Sierra, senior information systems major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, went home last year but decided it wasn’t worth it this year because he only has three weeks before the College of Business Administration’s leadership summit. Instead, Sierra plans to visit family in Atlanta over the break.
Another obstacle foreign students face is the cost to go home.
“If we’re lucky, we get a ticket for around $1,200,” said Yam Saowatarnpong, junior advertising and public relations major from Chiang Mai, Thailand. “It also takes at least two days to travel and we’re in the air for at least 18 hours.”
Lucy Dawson, ACU’s immigration specialist, said that about 25 percent of international students go home or leave the U.S. for break. Another 40 percent either visit friends or relatives, and they celebrate Christmas in America, but few actually attend a Christmas program.
Some students, on the other hand, stay in Abilene over the holidays.
“About 35 percent of the international students remain in Abilene and have small gatherings with their friends,” Dawson said.
Saowatarnpong said she and her sister Butter, senior marketing and management major, are planning to visit friends in Minnesota and Dallas during this year’s winter break.
“I don’t know what we are going to do yet,” Saowatarnpong said. “Probably chill out with friends.”
Ansley Blume, senior elementary education major from Porto Alegre, Brazil, said she usually gets to go home over Christmas break unless her family is in the states.
“I get to go home on December 14th, the Monday after finals,” Blume said. “I will be spending lots of family time, since I haven’t been home or seen my five siblings or parents in a year.”
Despite the fact that some students don’t get to go home, other students from the United States have the opportunity to show hospitality this season to friends from out of the country.
“We would like to encourage students, staff and faculty who have relationships with international students to reach out and see what their plans are for the break,” Dawson said.