Westminster College students from Costa Rica, Namibia, Lebanon, Thailand among other counties gathered on Christmas Day for brunch and a chance to be together.
With school out of session for the winter break, many international students are unable to travel home due to visa restrictions, finances or work and internship responsibilities, according to Paola Protti-Nunez, a Fellow with the Multicultural Student Development Program. Protti-Nunez, a Costa Rica native, was a Westminster student who graduated in 2012.
She said many international students are single-entry visitors through their visas, meaning their current visas allow them into the U.S. once, and others cannot afford a round trip plane ticket that can cost up to $5,000. Some students, she added, find practical career experience through internships or make extra money by working.
While international students can battle homesickness, Protti-Nunez said as a student, her friends, professors and staff members at Westminster eventually felt like a second family. She added that international students build a "network of support" for each other because they understand what being away from home is like.
For Protti-Nunez, the "missing" feeling goes two ways.
"When I'm here I'm missing my family at home, but when I'm home I'm missing my family here (at Westminster)," she said.
On Christmas Eve, Protti-Nunez said she spent the holiday with her family through Skype. She talked with relatives and watched them open presents.
"It's like I'm there for a little bit," Protti-Nunez said. "I just don't get to eat the food."