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Not all students go home for the holidays

Holiday breaks are a relief for most students who need time away from the college experience.

Switching gears to visit family and friends after a long semester can be a refreshing way to recharge. For most international students, however, visiting family during holiday breaks is not an option.

Holiday breaks are a relief for most students who need time away from the college experience. For most international students, however, visiting family during holiday breaks is not an option. (Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash)

NMSU international student Erlangga Pangetsu, also known as “Ang,” is an undergraduate student from Indonesia majoring in computer science who has been studying internationally since he was in high school.

Ang has been in the United States for four years and has only been back home three times. He hopes to see his family again after he graduates in 2024. The main reason he does not go home often is primarily because of the cost. Flights back to Indonesia are expensive, and the cost is often too high to only fly home for a few days or weeks.

Pangetsu says school breaks and the holiday season usually provoke feelings of being homesick. Because the campus and the city are empty during holiday and summer breaks, he feels a “sense of loneliness.”

During breaks, Ang likes to spend his time with friends and cook different Indonesian foods. He understands that the loneliness will not last forever, and takes comfort knowing he is not the only one doing this for his family.

“We’re all in the same boat. We are all chasing the American dream here.”

Another example of a student chasing the dream is Youssef Aly, an NMSU student from Egypt who is here to get his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering. As a doctoral student, Aly works through holiday breaks and remains on campus. He spends time with friends during his time off and is a member of the Muslim Student Association. Although being homesick does not happen often for Aly, he says he would like to visit home.

Erlangen Pangetsu poses for a photo at Aggie Memorial Stadium during a football game on Nov 12, 2022. (Photo by Juan Echeagaray/Kokopelli)

“Having fun with new friends is good and everything, but still home is nice. I’d like to see my friends and family and I’d like to eat the food that’s not here.”

International students at NMSU do come from diverse backgrounds and different home situations. For some, home is not so far away and getting there does not cost thousands of dollars.

“We’re all in the same boat. We are all chasing the American dream here.”

Sofia Ramirez is from Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, and is getting her graduate degree in music. Her home is 11 hours away by car and she usually spends breaks with her family. Taking a car, bus or flight can get her home relatively soon if needed.

Ramirez does not experience feeling homesick often because of the proximity to home, but she usually does start to miss home toward the end of the semester. She particularly misses spending some traditional holidays with her family that happen while she is away at school. 

“Two of [the holidays I miss] are celebrations of saints, and people in town prepare a specific dish to share with anyone who asks. I like that one because that specific dish is only made for those saints.”

Ramirez hopes to continue studying in the United States, but does not plan to live here permanently.

Holiday breaks impact everyone differently and international students are no exception. A simple hello can go a long way.

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