The number of yearly holidays varies across different countries. If this is the first time you have been in the U.S., you will likely notice a substantial difference in the holidays celebrated. Therefore, it is important that international students be informed of the schedule and the traditions involved for holiday and break periods so that they can plan accordingly.
This list of questions will help you organize your holidays and make a plan for your break.
1. What do people usually do on these days? This often comes across as a very interesting question. If you ask an American student, he or she will be very happy to tell you what holidays are about and what he or she likes to do to celebrate.
One of international students' favorite holidays is often Thanksgiving, when they get to enjoy loads of food and experience a family atmosphere. If you know that Thanksgiving is approaching, you can make plans for a homestay with an American family and experience their traditions, rather than trying to stay at school.
2. Will participating in holidays be awkward if it's my first time? This question is understandable, as many students are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zones, and worry that they might embarrass themselves by doing something that does not follow other people's traditions or what people usually do.
However, the answer is always no. People understand that you belong to a different culture, and your first exposure to a foreign tradition is always new and hard to adapt to. Therefore, there is no need to worry. You should ask as many questions about the tradition as possible, and be open-minded when people ask you to do something and to try something -- as long as it is legal -- that you have never experienced.
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3. Should I go home or should I stay in the U.S. to enjoy the holiday? Usually, my friends choose to stay in the U.S. to enjoy their break. They might also then spend vacation time traveling. This seems to be the best option because they are able to enjoy the unique atmosphere of the break and discover places that they have never been to.
However, if you feel overwhelmingly nostalgic, you should not force yourself to stay in the U.S. Even for American students, breaks are the time that they take their time off from college and go home with their family.
4. Are there special things that I need to have with me during my holiday? It is important to know that most schools do not offer meal plans during breaks, with the possible exception of those that have a lot of international students. Some do not even let international students stay on campus during holidays.
Therefore, you should plan to have at least a certain amount of money in your budget to afford food and entertainment. Going to an American friend's house or renting a apartment are two good options. You might also want to buy a decent camera to store all of those memories, since the majority of us will end up leaving the U.S. after a few years of our graduation.
Danh Pham, from Vietnam, is a sophomore and a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program at Providence College, where he majors in accounting.