International students get into the spirit of the season
A home for the holidays
By Megan Jackman
Student Al-Amin Baksh celebrated the holiday season with a family in Pouch Cove.
While the majority of students anticipate a Christmas holiday spent with family, many international students spend their winter break miles away from home. These students are certainly not forgotten during the holidays, however. The International Student Advising (ISA) Office, along with MUN faculty and student societies, makes sure that international students don’t feel alone during the winter break.
Yvonne Collett, housing coordinator and programming assistant with the ISA Office, outlined the holiday events organized through ISA. One of its main programs is the Holiday Hosting Program through which international students get the opportunity to spend an evening with a local family.
“We recruit families for this program we do personal interviews with the families over the telephone and then we match students with the host families,” explained Ms. Collett. “We usually send two students to each home and our program is flexible. The main idea is for the student to have dinner with the family but last year we had two students go to Placentia to spend the weekend. If a family is interested in a certain country, like Russia maybe, they can request someone who comes from that part of the world.”
Rob Crosbie, a MUN Business graduate, and his wife, Liz Crosbie, participated in the Holiday Hosting Program last year.
“We had a wonderful evening. All the young people were outgoing and willing to share ideas. We served traditional turkey and ham with all the trimmings as well as vegetarian dishes,” said Ms Crosbie. “I would strongly recommend this program to everyone.”
Madusha Cooray, a fourth-year engineering student from Colombo, Sri Lanka, has spent the last four Christmas seasons away from home. He and his brother spent a festive evening at a friend’s home two years ago and remember it fondly.
“They were very warm people. It was nice to get gifts from people who I just met.”
Rowan Huang, a master’s student in women’s studies, spent some time with a family in Placentia and said, “It was very fun. I had Jigg’s dinner, it was a big meal. I had to starve for two days to consume the calories I got that day!”
Ms Huang explained that the holidays are not a lonely time and that spending winter break in Newfoundland is a valuable cultural experience.
In addition to the initiatives of ISA, many professors invite international students to their homes during the holiday and many student groups and societies organize activities for students spending the break in town.
MUN Christian Fellowship (MUNCF) organizes International Christmas, an event which runs for five days prior to Christmas Day. During this time, students prepare foods from their native cultures and spend time with others who aren’t going home for the holidays. Students also experience traditional Christmas activities such as carol singing, and cutting down and decorating a tree.
“It takes place at Burry Heights (a camp outside of St. John’s) and is basically to provide Christmas for those international students who won’t be going home for the holidays,” said Daniel McKelvie, president of MUNCF. International Christmas has been held in previous years and is a well known success amongst those who have participated.
Mr. McKelvie said that volunteer support is invaluable to this event as the number of participants is limited only by the number of volunteers. For more information on the International Christmas event held by MUNCF, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ISA Office will host a Christmas party on Dec. 16 with Christmas card-making, a visit from Santa, and some mummers. And the Social Room, located in Corte Real, will also be open from Dec. 27 through Jan. 3 with organized activities such as movies.
“We are also planning a New Year’s party”, said Ms Collett. “We will likely gather at Corte Real, have a potluck or something like that and then we’ll go downtown to watch the fireworks.” ISA also posts various holiday events taking place in the city through the international students’ list-serv.
If you are an international student and you would like to sign up for the Holiday Hosting Program or learn about other events taking place during the winter break, contact the ISA office at email@example.com.
ISA is still seeking hosts for the 2005 Holiday Hosting program. If you would like to open your home to international students this season, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Ms Collett at 737-8895. As well, ISA is always happy to have experienced student volunteers for their Welcome Program which helps orientate international students upon their arrival in St. John’s.