As part of its Home for The Holidays program, Ontarians are being asked to host international students over a period when they are often overlooked.
While international students strive for their best to get to places like Canada, the UK, the US and Australia to study, often, it means that a trip home over the holidays is unlikely to be an option.
Therefore, multiple universities, including Brock, initiate programs like Home for the Holidays to make sure international students feel welcome in the country over the period, allowing them to enjoy the festivities despite the inability to get home to their families.
Brian Chan, a Brock international student, told the university that he was unable to travel to see his family during last year’s winter break – and was welcomed into the program.
“The experience made me feel like I was part of a warm community,” Chan said.
Some 1,000 miles south in Houston, Texas, another program of such kind is also being offered.
Rice University closes its residential colleges over the festive period. In turn, an unfortunate cohort of international students find themselves without somewhere to stay over the fortnight – and thus need support from the university.
The institution’s International Holiday Hospitality Help Program assists with finding its overseas students low-to-no cost accommodation, meals, and even gift cards and cash to tide them over, and make them feel welcome.
“When the decision was made for the dorms to close over the break, we started getting inquiries from undergraduate students who couldn’t travel and were not sure what to do,” said Adria Baker, associate VP for international education and executive director of OISS-International Connections – the providers of the program.
“What we came up with was to share the love by seeing if the Rice community would like to participate.
“We started getting inquiries from undergraduate students who couldn’t travel and were not sure what to do”
“Since international students are far away from home, this gives them an opportunity to receive support from Rice community. This also gives the Rice community, who is always so welcoming, generous and hospitable, an opportunity to better interact with our international students. It’s a win-win for everybody,” she declared.
While universities often set up programs like this, it’s not always the case that international students are able to receive that help.
Talking to Warwick’s branch of HER Campus, a UK-wide female-led university publication, a student from Botswana studying at Warwick shared his own views about how much there might be to do; and how not everyone’s experience staying at university over the period is the same.
“Going home is a bit too expensive… in terms of Christmas and Easter, I don’t really feel anything in particular as I need to focus on studying for exams in January and April – but I would usually be at a heap of family events if I were at home,” Howard Adam said.
“Welcoming international students into our home to celebrate made the holiday special”
“The “Warwick Presents” has some events to offer. For example, I remember last year we could watch the new Spider Man at the cinema over Christmas. Maybe I didn’t look into it enough, but I don’t know many other things that they do. Maybe it’s because everyone has to go home at some point!” he mused.
The UK’s Chevening Scholars have even been asked to “look out for each other over the Christmas period”, with Chevening’s website offering resources to safeguard their mental health and activities to do in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, back at Brock, the associate director for student affairs urged people to come onto the program to help international students by sharing his own experience – calling it a “rewarding” opportunity.
“Welcoming international students into our home to celebrate made the holiday special.
“Sharing a meal and a few laughs around our table with a traditional holiday dinner made the students feel a little less distant from family and their home traditions,” he said.