As students pack up their cars and head back home for the holidays, some students are left behind because they cannot go home.
International students who stay in Abilene for Christmas and summer break have to find housing, because the dorms completely shut down during breaks for safety reasons.
Barabra Talamas is from Mexico, and had to spend her Thanksgiving break in the dorms, but her friends, who offered her a place to say, also had a “friendsgiving” together.
“Being here as an international student has been challenging to cope with,” said Talamas, a sophomore biology major. “But living here and meeting new people is a good experience.”
Veronica Whitt, coordinator of international student services, works closely with students from abroad and helps them find places to stay, however, Whitt said students usually stay with friends they make around campus.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of connecting them to other people who have approached me and have a spare bedroom,” Whitt said. “It really goes both ways – the students coming to me and people who come to me who can provide for the need.”
Daniel Garcia, director of multicultural enrollment and former international student from Mexico, said students who are not from America have a unique experience transitioning to college life.
“They are coming from a different country,” Garcia said. “They are having to learn a new culture and a new way of doing things.”
While students can stay at University Park with a short-term lease if they do not want to stay at someone else’s house, Whitt said one of her long-term goals is to have designated houses or dorms specifically for students who cannot go home.
Whitt has been in her role for two years and said that so far, someone is always willing to take in a student in need of a place to call home for the holidays. She also invites people to her house, not only during the breaks, but just for a meal.
“Anytime I see the opportunity, that is something I like to do,” Whitt said. “I grew up in the Philippines, and that was definitely a big part of the Filipino culture. You always open your home to anybody who comes by.”