Home away from home for the holidays

Joy TaMar Moorer

Holiday break is something students can look forward to. Between tough midterms and preparing for finals; students begin to count down the days until they can go home for relaxation and fun with their families. However, for some international students, spending time with family is merely a wish. Going home to their countries isn’t possible. So instead, they stay on campus or spend the holidays with their friends or family from the States.

Ruth Lietzow, junior fashion merchandising major from Hamburg, Germany, spends her holidays with friends. Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that is celebrated in her country.

“During Thanksgiving break I usually go to my family’s friend in Columbus and she has a big Thanksgiving dinner with lots of family members,” Lietzow said. “On Black Friday then I meet up with friends to check good deals in the malls and stores.

However they choose to spend the holidays here, international students make sure to remember and celebrate the holiday traditions from home.

Bharat Chaturvedi, public health graduate and president of the Kent Indian Association, celebrates holidays from his country, India, with friends who didn’t have the chance to go home for the holidays.

“I have lots of friends from my college, from my work place and even from India, we go out at night have dinner and drinks and sometimes stay home and cook our regional food,” Chaturvedi said.  

He said it’s important for international students to remember and celebrate the holidays that are a part of their heritage.

“I think it’s important for all of us to keep attach to our roots in some way or other,” he said. “Celebrating our holidays keeps us close to our culture and traditions even when we are so far away from home.”

Lietzow celebrates a different holiday at the end of November and the beginning of December, since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Germany.

 “If you are raised in a Christian household you might give thanks in church, but other than that there is no such thing as having a break with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and things like that,” she said.

Instead, Lietzow celebrates a holiday that falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, known at the Advent. The length of the season of Advent is between 22 and 28 days, beginning on the Sunday nearest to St. Andrews Day.

“In Germany we do celebrate the advent time and light a candle every Sunday four weeks before Christmas,” Lietzow said. “If you are a child you also have an advent calendar filled with little treats or presents hidden behind little paper doors that you can open in the month of December until Christmas Eve which is the 24th in Germany.”

Chaturvedi said there aren’t any holidays like Thanksgiving in India, but he celebrates the Diwali Festival. The festival otherwise known at the Festival of Lights is celebrated for five days, the third day being the main day of the festival.

“Diwali usually falls in the week of November, being the president of Kent Indian Association I organized the event where more than 200 people came together and we had dinner, games and dance performances,” he said.

During the holiday break, Lietzow and Chaturvedi both make sure to talk to their family members. Even though they can’t be with them physically, they still make sure they talk to them, by calling or skyping them. For Lietzow, talking to her family helps her feel better during the time apart.

“During holiday time I usually skype them. I haven’t been home during holiday times for three years now, which is really emotional sometimes.” Lietzow said. “During these times I get really sad because I can’t be with my family and not only that they are also 6 hours ahead of time which makes it hard … but these are some of the sacrifices you take being an international student.”

Even though being away from home can be an emotional experience, international students on campus have organizations such as the Kent Indian Association and others, who have celebrations where they can spend time with each other and celebrate the holidays. Even students who aren’t from the states who are still on campus are invited to these events. Chaturvedi said these events allow for other students to learn about different cultures, “I think it’s important for people to learn more about our culture from these events and it’ll give them another perspective of our Country and people.”

Having the chance to learn about different cultures during the holidays give Lietzow the opportunity to create new traditions of her own while learning about others.

“I do exchange cultural differences because I think it is good to know about different kind of cultures to adapt and be open- minded and to know boundaries in different countries.” Lietzow said.

The holiday season for students means going home to be with family and upholding family traditions. International students have the ability not only to remember their own traditions but create and share new ones with others on campus; their home away from home.

Contact Joy TaMar Moorer at [email protected].