Not at home for the holidays

What about those who stay after campus closes?

While most students are packing up to head home for the holidays, many out-of-province and international students who cannot afford the trip are staying right where they are.

According to Craig Engleson, TRU World activities, events and housing manager, about 70 per cent of TRU’s over 1,750 international students will not return home between fall and winter semester.

McGill On-Campus Housing owner Tammy Desrochers said staying on campus over the break can be “extremely isolating for those that celebrate Christmas.”

“In some parts of the world they don’t celebrate the way we do, so then [students from those countries] are kind of OK with it, but the ones that do, they have a bit tougher time,” she said.

Sheena Erhardt, residence life co-ordinator for the TRU Residence and Conference Centre, said she especially sees a difference in students in the last two weeks of December when TRU services are closed.

“[Some students] are typically extroverted people but they become very introverted, and a lot of the time it’s based on homesickness or the ability to feel at home, even in a building that you have to live in for the next four years because you’re so far away from home,” she said.

The TRU campus, including the TRU Residence and Conference Centre, is closed from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1, although Erhardt said resident advisors and staff will be available throughout the break to students who need assistance or support.

International student Hardee Kaur said she is going home this year for the first time in a year and a half. Last year, she remained in Canada over the winter break and took part in a co-op work experience.

“International students, we’re here for such a long time, and so you sort of build that routine,” she said.

The fourth-year student said she did miss her family last December, but added that she spent her time with friends.

According to Engleson, staying on campus for the holidays may not be as isolating as people assume. He said that, depending on their finances, many international students take this chance to try new activities once classes are done.

“While we do find that, yes, they’re not with family, the network is very small with our international students and a lot of them will go skiing on ski trips or they’ll go on some sort of travel experience and, if they’re not doing that, they’re with a pretty large group of friends and they do tend to have a lot of fun,” he said.

He also pointed out that students also use winter break to work.

Winter break events

Both residences have a list of events planned during the holidays. Events on the TRU Residence agenda include decoration making Dec. 23, a Christmas Eve movie marathon, Christmas Day potluck and snowman making, and a New Year’s Eve party.

McGill On-Campus Housing, on the other hand, has planned a spa night and ski trip to Harper Mountain. Desrochers added that she would try to accommodate any other activity suggestions that her residents mention.

On-Campus Housing will also host traditional turkey dinner Christmas day.

“There’s nothing I hate more than the thought of [students] sitting in their room on Christmas Day by themselves,” Desrochers said.

Other events on campus include the International Student Activity Program Christmas Tree Party Dec. 5 and the F.O.C.U.S Club Christmas dinner program, which matches registered students with families in Kamloops. The students are then transported to their host family’s home for a traditional Christmas dinner.

“On your own” holiday survival guide

The Omega spoke to Wellness Centre co-ordinator Chelsea Corsi on being away from home during the holidays. Via email, she sent us a list of tips for surviving a holiday season on your own:

  • First and foremost, being able to cope on your own over the holiday season really depends on your own resilience, independence and attitude. If you use the power of positive thinking, it will help you make the best of the situation.
  • If you like some alone time and need a rest after a busy semester, now is the time to capitalize on all the fun things you wanted to do when you were so busy with school. It could be catching up on your favorite shows, watching some Netflix movies, or reading a book for pleasure (one that wasn’t assigned). Don’t feel guilty if you put your feet up to relax a bit. Your body just might need a rest.
  • If you like to be social and participate in activities with others, find out who else is sticking around and make some plans to get together over the holidays. Do something active like cross country skiing or snowshoeing because Kamloops is a great place to have active winter fun. If you live in residence, find out if the advisors are organizing any activities for students who are staying around.
  • Stay connected to your family and friends with the technology you have. If you have access to Skype, Facetime or Facebook, you can pretty much stay digitally connected with anyone you wish to be with over the holidays.
  • Finally, feeling homesick or “peoplesick” is normal, but if you are feeling overly sad or even depressed, please contact someone that can help you. The TRU counselling department is open until 12 p.m., Dec.24, so you can book an appointment with one of our counsellors who can help you with personal issues.