Home for the holidays

The holidays are around the corner, the university will be closed and most of us know exactly how our time will be spent: opening gifts, gathering with family and friends, and over eating.

But what about the more than 2,200 international students at the U of S, many of who stay in Saskatoon? What do they get up to?

Derek Tannis, manager of the International Students and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC), said there are lots of options open to international students, but typically they organize their own activities.

"For a lot of students, it's a blessing to have this spare time to do work and focus on studies or spend some extra time with families," said Tannis. "Many students take it upon themselves to organize events over the holiday break. The India Students' Association, for example, is organizing a New Year's gathering this year."

The Global Connections Student Committee, he continued, has a very active Facebook page where all events are listed. "These events are organized but not necessarily because it's Christmas; many of our international students don't celebrate that."

But even if they do not celebrate Christmas, said Paul Sartison, they are in a culture that does. "The culture is saying it is a happy time," said Sartison, the multi-faith co-ordinator and Lutheran chaplain at the U of S. "There is a message saying you should be celebrating. Taking part is also part of the learning experience of being in Canada and taking in the culture."

To provide students with the chance to take in holiday festivities, the Multi-Faith Chaplains Association at the U of S finds host families for many international students. "This has been going on for a number of years," said Sartison. "We set up a student with a Canadian family for a holiday meal. It is a good way to make sure people aren't alone."

Sartison said they often hear back from the host families about "how much they enjoyed it and appreciated the cultural experience."

There is also a program offered by the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship called Christmas in the Woods, Tannis added. "It is a camp that has room for about 50 students and offers a number of Christmas activities to learn about the traditions of the time and to experience winter activities at a low cost."

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