As St. Michael’s students rush to finish final papers, cram for exams, throw clothes into suitcases, and hit the road home, the quiet campus is left behind .
Whether by train, bus, plane, or automobile, most students make the journey home for the holidays and take some time to unwind. But what about the students who live halfway across the world and do not have the resources to make the overseas trek?
Living the quiet life on campus
Junior Mohammad Angawi is an international student who hails from Saudi Arabia . Before this past summer, it had been about two-and-a-half years since he had returned home to visit family and friends, Angawi says.
With a 13 ½ hour flight and extremely expensive traveling prices, the trip is not worth it for the three-week break, Angawi says.
The past few years, Angawi has had family in the area, “so it wasn’t really lonely, even though the whole campus was empty,” he says.
This year, Angawi lives off-campus with his sister, who is a student at the Community College of Vermont.
Junior Mohammad Angawi, also from Saudi Arabia, misses not only family and friends, but also the temperate climate of his country.
(Photo by Cailey McDermott)
“What I miss most about home is the food,” Angawi says. “Alliot food sucks. I miss my friends, family, and my city, too.”
In addition to the food, the warm climate of his city is greatly missed as well, he says.
“The first year I was here, it was really pretty to see the snow,” Angawi says, “But now I see it and I get disgusted; I hate snow and the cold.”
Angawi, like many other international students, does not celebrate Christmas. The biggest holiday in Saudi Arabia is Eid Alfetar, which is a big feast day that is celebrated the day after Ramadan, he says.
However, when Dec. 25 arrives, some international students will gather together to cook a meal and party, Angawi says.
“But for me, I don’t really feel like it’s a celebration,” he says. “ It’s just like another normal day. ”
Aside from group dinners, the international students who remain on campus get together to go to the movies, play video games, and have parties. Nevertheless, it's oftentimes boring, Angawi says.
When everybody has left campus, it is “quiet, dark and cold,” Angawi says. “Noise, that’s what I miss most.”
Keeping busy when friends aren’t around
Junior Bassam Albin Hamad, an international student also from Saudi Arabia, will be spending his third winter break on campus, he says.
With over 24 immediate family members back home and none in the area, it can get quite lonely here, Albin Hamad says.
“I’ll keep busy with school work ,” Albin Hamad says.
When everybody has left campus, it is
“quiet, dark and cold.
Noise, that's what
I miss the most.”
- Mohammad Angawi,
He also will keep busy with a class on Muay Thai, a martial art that is similar to kickboxing.
In addition to Muay Thai, Albin Hamad is considering studying Japanese during the break because he is currently taking some Japanese language courses, he says.
Albin Hamad lives in the suites where he has access to his own kitchen for cooking.
“I’m not a good chef, but I can make eggs,” he says.
Like Angawi, food is what Albin Hamad misses most about his life in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s different; it’s healthier,” he says, “There is less fried food and more baked, with lots of vegetables and fruits.”
Albin Hamad is considering celebrating the New Year by traveling to either Boston or New York.
“I went to Boston last year and it was fun,” he says, “There were more fireworks than New York.”
However, traveling can only last for a few days because Albin Hamad wants to be back for when the students return to school, he says. After a couple of weeks without his friends close by, it will be nice to have them home, he says.
Providing comfort and a feeling of home
Rick Gamache, associate professor of Applied Linguistics, has been the academic adviser to international students for 30 years. He has always considered his relationship with the students to be “a good one,” he says.
“St. Michael’s becomes their home, so we try any way we can to help the students adjust to being in the United States,” Gamache says. “We want to help them feel comfortable and happy.”
Although the campus will be almost completely empty within the next few weeks, it is currently alive with Christmas decorations. This is all part of their cultural experience, Gamache says.
“Christmas is celebrated in lots of non-Christian countries, not so much as a religious holiday, but as more of a commercial holiday,” he says.
Associate professor Rick Gamache is both an academic adviser and friend to St. Michael's international students.
This winter break, there will only be about 10 to 15 international students remaining on campus, Gamache says.
Although there are no food services available on campus, the majority of students live in the suites where they are provided with a kitchen to cook, he says.
Throughout the break, most of the offices remain open and a number of professors are available in case of an emergency, Gamache says.
“I know that the international students appreciate being able to stay,” Gamache says. “If they can’t go home, or can’t stay here, what do they do?”
Staying on campus provides students with a home base, as many of them have traveling plans of their own, Gamache says.
“Quite honestly, it provides for an opportunity that many schools don’t,” Gamache says. “ St. Michael’s goes above and beyond.”