Finding their “home” for the holidays


Hannah Nelson

International student and junior electronic media major Loukyee Songprasert holding the Thailand flag. This flag is something that she keeps to remind her of home.

Hannah Nelson, Entertainment Editor

It is known as the most wonderful time of the year. A time for family and friends to gather and celebrate. Classes end, the campus closes and students head home to their families. However,  many West Texas A&M University students  are not able to go home for the holidays. 

For many international students, it is hard to return to their home during the winter break. For senior Simon Sebbah, who is originally from Paris, France, this will be the first time he is unable to go home for the holiday. Simon has been in the U.S. for four years and came to WTAMU in 2016. He graduates this December and has applied for Optional Practical Training. OPT allows students with a F-1 status to work in their field for a year after receiving a degree in the U.S. Because his OPT acceptance is still pending, he does not want to risk going home and not being able to get back into the U.S. Sebbah’s mom wanted him to come home this year for his cousin’s wedding. However, he had to decide on whether to go home or stay in the U.S. 

“It was a hard time to tell my mom that I couldn’t come and that I couldn’t go home, but I have to make a choice between maybe a career in the U.S. or going for a wedding,” Sebbah said. 

Mechanical engineering major Hai Vu, whose family is in Vietnam, will not be traveling home for the break either. He has not gone home for three years because he does not want to risk anything happening and not being able to come back. For Vu being gone from home has caused him to miss a variety things with his family.

 “My grandfather passed away last year and I couldn’t even visit for the last moment, I couldn’t. My sister she got her son, I couldn’t enjoy anything,” Vu said. “My nephew, he is one year old now. So they are celebrating his very important moment of his life and he doesn’t even know who his uncle is.”

Vu spends most of his Thanksgiving break doing homework and getting ready for finals.  In the past, during the winter break, Vu has spent time traveling the U.S. and visiting his mother’s cousin in Dallas. Even though he still gets to see a little bit of family during the holidays, he misses a lot from home. 

“Vietnamese, we consider that time of the year a very important time, that’s the time for every family member to gather again after the busy days. So, I miss a lot, I also have my high school friends over there. I can’t enjoy any single thing with my family, with my high school friends, so it definitely makes me upset.” 

Differences in traditions also make the holidays hard for international students. Graduate student Mayara Nascimento, who  is originally from Brazil, says there are a variety of differences between the holidays here and her culture’s. Some of the biggest things she misses about not being home are her family’s traditions. One thing that she notes as very different is that in Brazil, Christmas is celebrated in the summer. 

“It is nice because it is summer, so it is hot, so we usually sit outside and eat outside, you know, and talk throughout the night,” Nascimento said.

Growing up, her family would start having dinner around 11 p.m. on Dec. 24. At midnight, her family got together and prayed then would start celebrating Christmas. 

“Here, you usually wake up and you open the presents on the 25. There, normally we wait on the 24 and then we start celebrating like right at 12,” Nascimento said. 

Nascimento enjoys getting to spend Christmas with her boyfriend and his family. She also enjoys cooking meals that help remind her of home. However, she misses getting to spend time and celebrate with her family. 

“Being there with the family, united. Usually they call me on Facetime and everybody is there, so it is just the hanging out experience of the holiday and hanging out with family,” Nascimento said.  The food too, you know, it is summer time there now. “The food that we eat around holidays is usually a little different too. So, I miss that for sure.”

Meals from home are something Sebbah also misses. Some of his favorite memories of the holidays involve him and his family having big meals together and getting to see everyone.

“Just the atmosphere is great, you can put all the problems on the side and just enjoy the time with your family and your friends,” Sebbah said. 

Even though these students are unable to go home, they still find things and people who make them feel more at home. For Sebbah, he enjoys getting to celebrate the holidays with people he knows here.

“My girlfriend, she is from the U.S. and usually I spend [the holidays] with her family. So I think first, for Thanksgiving, I’ll probably be with her family and Christmas probably with her family as well. So it is like I would say a second family,” Sebbah said.