The end of the semester is approaching, which means exams are coming, but it also means the holidays are just around the corner. Everyone is looking forward to going home for the break to spend time with their families, but when staying in Fredericton is your only option, your holiday experience may be very different.
A great number of international students from different parts of the world face this issue, mainly because plane tickets are expensive.
This is the case for Giao Quynch Dang, a Vietnamese student.
“My country is too far away and the air ticket is very expensive. My parents wanted me to go back home and visit them, but I said, ‘No, better save your money,’” she said.
“So, I decided I would stay here for Christmas.”
For Quynh Dang, Christmas is a brand new holiday because it’s not celebrated in her country. A Korean friend of hers who lives off-campus invited her over for Christmas and they’re planning to do some travelling during the break, which she is very excited about.
“When in Rome, act like Romans. I enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving, so I think I’ll celebrate Christmas,” she said.
One thing many international students miss most is eating traditional food with their loved ones.
“What I’ll miss most is spending time with my family because I haven’t seen them in a couple of months, and I may not see them for an additional four months,” said Dane Rose, a first-year from Jamaica.
“Cooking together, eating, having fun and all that, I’m sure I’m going to miss that.”
Rose plans to get some work done during his free time while he’s on campus. So far he doesn’t have plans for Christmas, but he wants to stay active since it’s his first time not seeing his family over the holidays.
“The thing in life is you have to make sacrifices, but it’s for a good cause,” he said.
“This is not the only holiday. You will have other opportunities to see your family. You can always call them,” he said. “Just try to make the best out of the time you have here because at the end of the day it will be all worth it.”
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Ethiopia, the holidays are also a time when family comes together. Ruth Hadgu of Ethiopia said the Habesha people fast 40 days before Christmas, but when the day arrives the whole family sits down at the table to eat a meal together.
In an attempt to recreate the holiday experience she had at home, Hadgu found a Habesha family in Fredericton who invited her over for Christmas dinner and a lady from the cafeteria also invited her home for dinner, which she was very moved by. Hadgu is confident she will reunite with her family again during the holidays sometime in the future.
In the end, it’s all about tradition. Victoria Narváez, a second-year off-campus student from Ecuador, said each year on Christmas her whole family gathers to bake cookies at her grandma’s house. This year she’s staying in Fredericton to work, but she will be spending Christmas with her boyfriend and his family.
“There’s always someone around so don’t be afraid to reach out,” said Narváez.
For Sylenah Beckford, another first-year student from Jamaica, the holidays are about sharing Christmas joy with her loved ones, spending quality time with her friends and family and giving back to the community.
She’s upset she won’t be going home, not only because she won’t see her parents but also because in her home country she volunteered to serve food to the homeless and elderly people over the holidays. Nevertheless, she’s planning to get together with friends who are staying in Fredericton as well.
“Myself and the other Jamaicans will be attending a Christmas dinner in December along with some other Caribbean people here in Fredericton,” she said.
Beckford’s advice for students who are staying in Fredericton is to find a friend to celebrate your cultural traditions. You may learn about a different culture and get to be with someone during the holidays.
Hanif Brown, first-year student also from Jamaica, explained Jamaicans from all over the world return to their home country during the holidays to get together with their families to eat traditional food and play dominoes.
Brown believes it’s a matter of perspective when it comes to spending the holidays apart from your family. You can either look at spending Christmas in Fredericton as something very sad, or rather as something to make you grow as a person. He plans to stay with a host family, who will welcome him into their home for the holidays.
“I want to experience my first Christmas in Canada. I know what Christmas in Jamaica is [like] already,” he said.
“It’s going to snow, so it’s going to be fun [and] I’ll probably start watching Netflix again, I haven’t watched Netflix in a very long time.”
Brown is confident experiencing Christmas in another culture will enrich his mind.
“Everything happens for a reason. Embrace it, take the positive side of it, and do whatever you want,” he said. “Have fun!”