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When in Rome…

Can you feel it?

It’s close.

Well yeah, true, the end of the semester is close. But there’s something even closer.

It’s the most boisterously American of all the holidays in the world. Independence Day.

Yep. Sunshine, parties, barbecues, swimming, parades, fireworks, and streets (and people) plastered in red, white and blue. A day to celebrate America and what it means to be an American.

But what if you aren’t from the United States?

BYU-Idaho boasts a robust global online learning system in its Pathway Program, and the school’s website shows that it has hosted hundreds of international students on campus every semester since the conversion from Ricks College in 2000. There are over 1,200 students from countries outside of the United States on campus this semester.

Drew Chazen, a sophomore from South Africa studying accounting, celebrated his first Independence Day last year in Rexburg. He said he really enjoyed it and that it was noticeably different from any holiday in his country.

“It’s definitely bigger than anything we have back home,” Chazen said. “I was surprised at the level of patriotism. I really like that about the states.”

Taylor Low, who is from Scotland and a sophomore studying psychology, has celebrated Independence Day twice in the United States. The excitement people had for the holiday touched her.

How do International Students Celebrate the 4th of July

“My overall experience was that people were very open and welcoming and wanted others to be happy and celebrate their freedom,” Low said.

Inessa Edelveys, a sophomore from Russia studying Spanish education, said she has a profound respect for the celebration of American independence and all that it represents.

“I understand this holiday as a holiday of unity of the states, and the country and also of friends,” Edelveys said.

Low said that Scotland does not really have an exact equivalent holiday to Independence Day.

“We celebrate the big ones like Christmas and Easter,” Low said. “However, we also celebrate St. Andrews Day, which is pretty much an excuse for people who aren’t Mormon to drink all day.”

Chazen said that South Africa has Heritage Day (also known as Braai Day), a holiday with barbecues and family gatherings.

“It’s awesome, but it’s more with just family and friends,” Chazen said. “Whereas here it’s like, ‘Let’s all get together in a massive group and have fireworks and stuff.'”

Edelveys said that one of the biggest holidays in Russia is the Ninth of May, or Victory Day, to celebrate the end of World War II.

“We have big parades, no one works that day, all the people are in the streets marching in the ‘Eternal Army,'” Edelveys said. “They put pictures of their ancestors on a stick and they walk with them in the parade. It’s very spiritual.”

Chazen said that the only thing that could make Independence Day better is to make it longer.

“5th of July should be a holiday, the recovery day from 4th of July,” Chazen said. “Because you go from this awesome party day that goes late, and then you go straight into school and it kind of ruins the whole vibe. What’s a day of independence if you have to go straight back to work right afterwards?”

Edelveys said it’s important to remember the spirit of the holiday and to be grateful.

“America really has many freedoms, compared to Russia, like freedom of religion, freedom of speech and all of those are based on the Declaration of Independence,” Edelveys said. “When people say that America is bad in any way, I’m like, ‘Come on, you have such amazing laws and it’s all so great.’ I want to make a call to appreciate what you have.”



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