Next week, many students living on campus will be loading their cars up with laundry, their favorite clothes and maybe even textbooks just to speed far away from SIUE. However, heading home to family over break is not an option for some, including many international students.
Sophomore industrial engineering major Burak Yakut, an international student from Turkey, is one of several international students planning to stay in Edwardsville over fall break due to long travel times.
Yakut said due to international student associations such as the Global Ambassador Program and Tandem, he has become good friends with students from all different areas of the world, and therefore he plans to spend much of the break enjoying their company.
“Almost all my friends are going to be here, so we are going to be meeting at night and going to bars or just [hanging out] at home,” Yakut said.
While Yakut will be in good company, he said the city of Edwardsville does not provide many opportunities for fun.
“I came here from a city of 20 million people, so Edwardsville is a nice place and the people are nice, but there are not a lot of things to do,” Yakut said. “There are a few things, but not a lot of things.”
Because Yakut lives in Cougar Village, he did not have to seek special accommodations to stay in his apartment over break, and the same goes for students living in Evergreen Hall.
According to Interim Director of University Housing Mallory Sidarous, Evergreen Hall will be locked over break, and those staying will have to swipe to get through both sets of doors.
“In Evergreen, the building is locked and the only ones who have access to enter the building are Evergreen Hall residents,” Sidarous said. “Since the building is open, the building doesn’t close over break, but it does limit the traffic in the building.”
However, residents of the freshmen dorms are under more restrictions. On Sunday, SIUE Housing took to Facebook to announce the freshmen residence halls of Bluff, Prairie and Woodland will close at 5 p.m. on Friday. The post continued to say the doors will reopen on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m.
According to Bluff Hall Community Director Jose Seiba, the front desk and doors close during break periods in all the freshmen residence halls, meaning the buildings themselves are locked. However, international students who cannot go home, can submit a request to stay.
“They can submit a request to stay over the break, and they have to get approval from the International Office as well basically stating the reason why they have to stay,” Seiba said. “Then they send that information to the Central Housing Office [and] they make sure the reason why they’re staying is correct. [They make sure] they’re not just staying because they want to, but actually because they can’t go home.”
Sidarous said housing considers multiple factors when deciding if they will let a student stay, including the student’s conduct standing with the university. She also said there are different rules over the breaks, so students that stay must be aware of those.
“We also generally are just looking at and making sure the student understands the building is closed,” Sidarous said. “So there are different policies in place, like they cannot have an overnight guest and what they need to do if they have any questions.”
Because smaller breaks, such as fall break, are usually filled with maintenance and the desks are not staffed, Seiba said community directors ask international students if they can stay with friends or family in the states during the week.
“In the shorter breaks we do try to see whether they can go somewhere, and another reason for that is usually over those periods we do maintenance in the building, so the power tends to go out for those reasons,” Seiba said. “But, for the longer breaks we do talk on a one-on-one basis.”
If a student cannot occupy their space due to maintenance needs, Sidarous said housing will typically assign them temporary living quarters in Cougar Village.
Even though Le Phong Tu, an international student from Vietnam majoring in mass communications, is a freshman, she was able to secure a spot in Cougar Village, allowing her to stay over break hassle-free. Tu was granted Cougar residency after reaching a certain level in English as a Second Language International and passing a corresponding test.
Staying in Edwardsville over both fall break and for the majority of winter break will allow Tu to celebrate the holidays in a completely different way than she would have back home in Vietnam.
“In Vietnam we don’t have Thanksgiving, so this is the first time I’ll be able to experience Thanksgiving, also Christmas!” Tu said. “We have Christmas, but we don’t celebrate it big like [it is celebrated here].”
Tu now has two opportunities to celebrate Thanksgiving: she was invited to her friend’s host family’s celebration as well as a gathering by the International Hospitality Program. Her ability to celebrate with friends parallels to what many are dubbing “Friendsgiving.”
For senior mass communications major Justin Nunn, of Shiloh, Illinois, this new spin on the traditional holiday showcases the value of friends.
“I think in regards to Friendsgiving that so many of us view our friends as like an extension of our family or as a different kind of family, and we want to experience the same sort of familial traditions with our friends as we do with our biological family,” Nunn said.