BYU-Idaho had 585 international students enrolled as day students, for the Fall Semester of 2013, according to BYU-I statistics Web page. Many of these students cannot go back home, and find themselves away from their families, during the holidays.
“I didn’t really think about not being able to go home during the holidays when I first came to school,” said Kirsty Jubber, a junior studying wildlife biology, from Durban, South Africa. “But I slowly started to realize that, that was going to be the case.”
Jubber said she was sad at first, but as she got more comfortable in Rexburg, the sadness started to go away. She said that she had to accept her situation and that there wasn’t really anything she, or her family, could do with plane tickets being so expensive.
Eddy Ekpo, a sophomore studying architecture from Lagos, Nigeria said that he hasn’t been home since he came to Rexburg, but that if the circumstances would allow it, he would go home.
“Technology has made being away from home much easier,” said Benoni Sowah, a senior studying communication, from Accra, Ghana. “I get a message from a family member about everyday of the week. Technology has made it so you can be far away from someone, but still be close to them.”
Even though many international students are far away from home and their families, some of them are fortunate to have people in Rexburg that reach out to them during the holidays.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be alone. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and I kind of knew that someone was going
to invite me,” Jubber said. “I have a friend who lives in Idaho Falls, and I have been invited by her family to spend the Christmas holiday with them.”
Ekpo said that he has been invited by a friend of his to spend Christmas with his friend’s family in Washington state. He said that this will provide the family aspect of Christmas that he missed out on his first year when he spent Christmas in Rexburg away from his family.
Being away from home in the United States, and with families that are not their own, some international students experience a Christmas that they are not accustomed to.
“I’m excited to experience a non-South African Christmas,” Jubber said. “I’m used to it being sunny and blue skies during Christmas. We usually would eat as a family outside, be in the sun, and go swimming in the pool on Christmas.”
Jubber said that she is looking forward to a white Christmas, sitting in front of a fire, and drinking hot cocoa, all things she has yet to experience.
“Christmas was different in Ghana than it is here,” Sowah said. “Receiving gifts is a big deal here, but back home everyone was all about giving.”
Sowah said that he and his family would usually do acts of service around Christmas time. He and his family would prepare a large meal and give it to another family, and that he enjoys doing acts of charity during Christmas.
“Something my family and ward would always do was go to a hospital for the terminally ill and sing Christmas carols to them,” Jubber said. “We also always put together a package of food and we would give it to a family in need.”
Jubber said that she hopes that she can do acts of charity this Christmas, even though she is away from home. If it’s possible she would love to have a turducken, a chicken stuffed inside of a duck that is stuffed inside of a turkey, for Christmas.
“I’m grateful for the people here, my friends and the LDS community in general,” Jubber said. “They all make it feel like home. Regardless of the fact that I’ll be thousands of miles away from home, I know that I will be surrounded by people that love me.”