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International students celebrate holiday season

Christmas trees, warm food, and presents all set the scene for the annual AmeriStudent International Student Christmas party in the Jackie Johnson room, Dec. 8. Students sat around tables eating food from Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant and exchanged gifts as they prepared for the coming holiday.

Many of the international students on campus come from China and don’t recognize Christmas as a national holiday. Senior Calvin Kong marks Dec. 25 as a holiday but never celebrates it as seriously as America does. He observes the differences between a Chinese and American Christmas.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

International students dine on food from Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant during the AmeriStudent Christmas party, Dec. 8. For many international students, this is their first experience with Christmas.

“In China, we celebrate Christmas but not in school,” Kong said. “They don’t give us a Christmas break. Personally, I like celebrating Christmas. My favorite Christmas tradition is exchanging gifts with people and gathering together to eat. In China, businesses use Christmas as an excuse to make a sale, but in America, Christmas is celebrated as a tradition. I celebrate Christmas because I like to gather with my relatives and eat food.”

Coming to the U.S. from a foreign country is a frightening experience for some of the international students. AmeriStudent International student coordinator, Brooke Stobbe, aspires to make coming to a new country a little less daunting. Using international experience, Stobbe helps the students in celebrating Christmas and share the holiday that so many enjoy.

“Back in China, it is not a Christian country,” Stobbe said. “Christianity is not their national religion, so most of them don’t celebrate Christmas. If this is their first year in the United States this might be their first Christmas party. I threw this Christmas party because I wanted them to experience Christmas. We are having a Secret Santa gift exchange with a Christmas tree and all of their food.

“After college, I went to live in France,” Stobbe continued. “I taught English as a second language to students over there. While I was there, I was the international person so I know how hard it is to go abroad. I really want to help these students learn how to adapt using the experience that I have, however small that it is.”

While for many, Christmas is a foreign tradition, some international students have recognized Christmas as a holiday all their lives. Senior Trisha Cui came to the U.S. from China and celebrated Christmas there with her family. Cui has come to recognize the day not only as a day of giving but as the birth of Jesus.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Students were provided with Chinese food at the party.

“I’ve been here in America for four years,” Cui said. “I felt like there were better opportunities to study here. Where I live, we celebrate Christmas but not because it is the birth of Jesus. We celebrate because it is a holiday so we buy a Christmas tree and exchange gifts together. Here in America, people are celebrating Christmas because it is the birth of Jesus. It’s like a family reunion.”

The students participated in a gift exchange with a limit of $20.00 per gift. They picked names from a hat a week before and brought a wrapped present to their selected person.

Fresno Christian works with AmeriStudent International to “Provide a safe and enriching cultural experience for students studying abroad.” As international students experience holiday parties and gift exchanges, they catch a glimpse of Christmas in America.

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This author, Addison Schultz, can be reached via email.

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