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Tis the season for sharing and hospitality

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but when your family is halfway around the world, somewhere else will often just have to suffice.

“If I have a ticket to Korea, I want to go [home for Christmas break],” said Eun Young Jeon, a student in the Korean Nurse Program, “but I think I can’t get the ticket.”

Sophomore Rachel Fox, whose family currently resides in Thailand, is one of the lucky students who will get to go home this Christmas. This will be her third trip since the beginning of her college career. “I just bought a plane ticket and I’m terribly excited,” she said. Referring to her home, Fox went on to say, “I always miss it, but sometimes it hurts more than other times. Life behind me feels like a dream.”

In contrast, Lisa Joo, also a KNP student, expressed the fact that she won’t get to go home for the entire 16 months that she will stay at Eastern. While American students are eating turkey with their families, she, Jeon and several others have made plans to go to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Kathy will help me find a homestay over winter break,” she said.

Kathy Kautz de Arango, coordinator of international student services, estimates that there are 140 international students currently attending Eastern. Of those, the St. Davids campus houses 20 international undergraduates in the arts and sciences as well as 60 Korean nurses.

According to Arango, many of those students will be unable to go home for their winter break. “Some will have an invitation by their roommate or friends,” she said. “Generally about five [of the students] will come to me for a place to stay. We always seem to have somebody in our community who has the gift of hospitality who is willing to help out. I think that says something about Eastern.”

One of those people is Associate Professor of Marriage and Family at Palmer Seminary, Carol Schreck. She and her husband Peter, also a professor at the seminary, have made a point of opening their home to international students. “We realize that the holidays can be lonely,” she said. “Coming to know internationals and opening our home is enriching because we learn so much. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”

According to Schreck, an astonishing 80 percent of international students will never step inside of an American home during their time in the U.S. However, inviting an international student home for the holidays can help to change that.

For those who plan to open their homes, Schreck offers several bits of advice. “It’s very important to know about the countries from which they’ve come so that you can be conversant,” she said. “Ask them to speak about traditions. Be a good listener and let them talk about what they miss.” Schreck also suggests asking the student if there is a food that the host family might be able to get or let the student prepare as well as making arrangements for the student to call home.

When asked if there is one thing that might make an international student feel uncomfortable in an American home, Schreck immediately said, ” Our affluence. For internationals, it can be terribly hard to be in a home where food is falling off the table. [We’ve learned to] refocus our giving out to others.”

Those who are interested in hosting an international student during Christmas break should contact Arango at x5872 or at kkautz2@eastern.edu.

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