As the holiday season approaches, many traditional Harding students take for granted living close enough to go home and see family and celebrate the traditions they always have. But many students at Harding come from all over the world, and do not have the luxury of going home for the holidays.
Junior Alexandra Regida from Omsk, Russia, located in Southwestern Siberia. She is able to return home to Russia for winter break for the first time in her Harding career, and will be going to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving break to stay with a friend she met while doing an internship this past summer. Last winter break and her first Thanksgiving break were spent in Illinois where she has distant family.
“It was kind of boring, but, I mean, that’s what people do,” Regida said. “You find friends or family and you go where you can.”
Regida has to return home this summer to renew her visa, but says she would much rather stay if she could, simply because of how expensive it is to fly home. Regida knows another girl from Russia at Harding who cannot afford to return home and is trying to find a place to stay for Thanksgiving because she lives on campus and cannot stay during breaks.
Maria Alonso is a junior from Chihuahua, Mexico. She experienced her first Thanksgiving in Minnesota, her second in Florida, and this year she is going to Arizona with her roommate who is a Native American. She is excited to meet different Native American tribes. She has loved being able to experience American Thanksgiving and the many traditions around it.
“And obviously shopping the next day – which I don’t think is really ethical. We give thanks for all we have, and the next day, ‘let’s spend money!’” Alonso said.
For Christmas, Alonso is able to go home. She will fly to El Paso, Texas, where her parents will pick her up for a four-hour drive back home to Chihuahua. She flies within the states because it is more affordable than flying over the border. She says she is very lucky to be able to go home at all over break because most of her friends who are international students are not able to go home.
Senior Alejandro Castillo is from Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala. He is going to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving break to stay with a family he met his sophomore year. He met a classmate who invited him to her home for Thanksgiving, and they have invited him back ever since. He loves the American holiday and looks forward to it. He has never been able to go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, but he stays with family he has in San Antonio.
Castillo said that American Christmas is very different from his Guatemalan Christmas. In his tradition they stay up on Christmas Eve until midnight and then exchange gifts and stay up as late as they can.
“Here, Christmas is this huge thing,” Castillo said. “People decorate their house and people go crazy. In Guatemala it’s not as much. Christmas is lovely and you put your tree up in your house and that’s about it.”
Castillo said he loves Christmas so he loves the way Americans go all out for the holiday.