(Away from) home for the holidays: An international student experience

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 at 6:00 PM
(Away from) home for the holidays: An international student experience by Hannah McDonald
Graphic: Shelby Kirk

The smell of gravy and turkey wafting through grandma’s house while cousins catch up with one another. Aunts chat and everyone shares what they are thankful for while cutting pie and pouring coffee after dinner. These are memories that many Americans share surrounding Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, started by the first European settlers in New England. Over the centuries, it has become a critical part of American culture, serving as a day to give thanks, eat food and be with family. In addition to this, it is the start of the holiday season for both individuals and Christmas shoppers.

Most college students go home for Thanksgiving break, which is often from Wednesday to the following Sunday. International students, on the other hand, can hail from thousands of miles away from the university they study at. So for them, going home for this short break is often impossible, or near to.

“I need to learn English and get a degree [at a] university in the U.S. because I would like to work at [an] animation studio in the U.S.,” said Asuka Kato, on why she came to Edinboro all the way from Japan.

Kato is a senior studying in the university’s animation program. Over Thanksgiving break, when most students go home for the week, Kato stays in Edinboro.

A challenge, Kato said, of staying in Edinboro over Thanksgiving when less people are here, is that she does not drive or have a vehicle. The lack of transportation limits her options of activities.

So while extracurriculars are sparse, Kato focuses on school and spends her Thanksgiving break keeping up with the rigorous workload of a college senior. “I have tons of animation work that I have to [do] before the end of break,” she explained.

“My favorite part [about staying in Edinboro] is I chill out without worrying about time.”

Some international students spend Thanksgiving break doing more recreational activities in Erie and the surrounding area.

“I’ll go shopping on Black Friday every [year]. Also I go to a Chinese professor’s house to have dinner,” Shun Konoma, also from Japan, said. “Asian students and some professors usually come there too.”

Konoma is an economic major. He started his education in California, where he lived for three years, but decided to come to the east coast where the tuition proved to be more affordable.

Konoma visits Japan once every year or two. The 15-hour-long flight is the main reason that Konoma stays in Edinboro mostly.

His favorite part is the American shopping deals. “Almost every store is on sale! I don’t buy clothes on other days,” he said.

Tatiana Batalla, an international business and marketing major at Edinboro came here from Barcelona, Spain to study. She was offered a scholarship to play tennis for the university. Because of that and the full day of travel required to get home, Batalla also stays in Edinboro during Thanksgiving.

In order to get back to Spain to visit her immediate family, Batalla must take three flights, so she only goes home on summer and winter breaks.

To avoid pricey travel to see family, Batalla instead goes to see her uncle who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I like Thanksgiving because [it] is a week that at least I can see part of my family and I enjoy it,” Batalla said.

From family time to shopping deals and homework, international students at Edinboro make the most of being abroad during the start of the holiday season. They find ways to keep busy while other students go away for the week, while then looking forward to making the journey home for winter break with the rest of the student body.

Hannah McDonald is the News Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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