Holiday break means family, food, fun for international students

Fahad Albuainain is going home for the holidays. He has no set schedule for his visit home, but he knows he will get to eat a meal with his whole family and visit friends in surrounding cities.

It has been almost a year since Albuainain has seen his sister and his parents.  This is his first year at NKU and he is currently taking classes in the Extensive English Program where he is learning to speak English so he can start working on his degree in mechanical engineering.

“Slang is the hardest,” Albuainain said about learning to use the English language.

But he had no trouble explaining how he feels about going home for Christmas.

“I miss all of my family,” Albuainain said. “I will get one ticket per year to go home.”

Albuainain is not alone in missing his family.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is among the busiest long-distance travel period of the year. Long distance trips increase by 54 percent during the six-day Thanksgiving travel period and by 23 percent during the Christmas holidays.

Nayeli Giron, a biology student at NKU, said most of her family still lives in her home of Chiatas, Mexico and that she misses them a lot.

“I haven’t seen all of my family in 12 years,” Giron said. “I will have dinner with my family that is here-my parents, my sister, my uncle and my cousin for the holiday.”

Yasir Alotaibi, from the capital city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, is majoring in business at NKU. He said he is going to Miami, Fla. with his brother and some of his friends from NKU over the break.

“Some of my friends are going home to Saudi Arabia, some are staying here and some are traveling to other cities,” Alotaibi said. “Muslims do not celebrate Christmas.”

Alotaibi said he and friends from Saudi Arabia recently celebrated EID, the end of a month-long fasting period and a holiday similar to Christmas, where forgiveness, making amends and exchanging gifts of friendship are customary, followed by a large meal together.

Carole Beere, senior director of special projects in Academic Affairs at NKU knows about large meals.

For the last three years Beere has invited international students to join her and her family in her home for Thanksgiving.  Beere said she can have as many as 20 people for dinner.

“It is an incredibly enriching experience,” Beere said. “I would not have Thanksgiving without them.”

Beere said that at those holiday meals there is good conversation and a lot of sharing about each other’s culture.

“It is a way of connecting with people with other experiences and a chance to see the world through different eyes,” Beere said. “It gives us a chance to be ambassadors for our country.”

This year Beere said she had two firsts.

“It was the first time we had people from two different cultures-Asian and Muslim-and the first time one of the students was female,” Beere said.

Beere said their dinners usually start with hors d’oeuvres, then the traditional meal with turkey and dressing followed by pecan pie and ice cream for dessert.

“After the meal we play games and one year a guest brought a violin and we have a piano so we played music and sang,” Beere said. “You see a country differently when you are in someone’s home.”