Exchange students celebrate in the US

Many foreign K-State students take part in the festivities of the Chinese New Year, which was celebrated on February 19th. Foreign exchange students bring their favorite holidays to Manhattan to add to campus diversity. (Photo Illustration by Nicholas Cady | The Collegian)

When foreign exchange students decide to come to the U.S. to go to school, they are not only saying goodbye to their friends and family, but also their countrys’ holidays and traditions.

Nur Mardiyati, graduate student in human nutrition, said she enjoys celebrating Eid al-Fitr, one of the biggest Islamic holidays of the year. Based on the Arabic calendar, Eid al-Fitr marks the end of a monthlong fast, or sawm, for Ramadan.

Fasting for the month of Ramadan means that Muslims cannot eat or drink anything, including water, from sun up to sun down.

“In Manhattan, we go to the mosque and fast, and then on Eid we break our fast together,” Mardiyati said. “There is food from all different countries, so it’s not exactly like home.”

Mai Pham, senior in finance, said she gets excited to celebrate the Lunar New Year in her home country of Vietnam every year.

Based on the lunar calendar, the Lunar New Year focuses on gathering the family together to eat food and celebrate spring. The food is festively colored red and green and the animal zodiac of the year is colored red, gold and green.

Pham said that in Vietnam, everyone is given 10 days off of school and work to meet and visit with all of the friends and family they were not able to visit during their busy year. Children also receive money in a red envelope to wish them luck and good health.

Pham said she has noticed that celebrating Lunar New Year in U.S. is a little different than celebrating in Vietnam.

“Lunar New Year is around February; we still have to and go to school here in Kansas,” Pham said. “(The) Vietnamese community will pick the date that is convenient for everyone to bring food and wear traditional cloth to celebrate the new year that is based on the (Vietnamese) calendar.”

Pham also said the Vietnamese community in the U.S. has altered some of the traditions.

“When I first came, some elders gave me lucky money in a red envelope,” Pham said.

Youwei Yang, junior in agricultural economics, said he gets excited to celebrate the Spring Festival every year, which is the biggest festival in Chinese culture.

Celebrating the Spring Festival in Manhattan, however, is a little different than it is in China.

“In Manhattan, we don’t have holiday here; we just hang out, meet new friends and cook dumplings with friends,” Yang said. “This year, Spring Festival was on a Wednesday, so we all just got together on Saturday.”

In China, it is also common practice for everyone to gather around the TV and watch the parades and other happenings in China.

“The Chinese government hosts a ‘Spring Festival Gala’ every year,” Yang said. “We will watch that and the other performances and parades that occur on Spring Festival.”

Yang said the Spring Festival can make him feel a little homesick.

“Yeah, a little, bit especially when friends from high school post pictures on social media with their families,” Yang said.

Coming to a new country may require international students to celebrate differently, and may even make them fee homesick; however, these traditions and holidays help to illustrate the diversity at K-State and all the different cultures around campus.