International students stay on campus during Thanksgiving break

The International Buddy council serves a 'traditonal' Thanksgiving meal to foreign exchange students at Friendsgiving on Nov. 13, 2015. The organization welcomed over 100 students to the Thanksgiving dinner. (Renee Dick | The Collegian)

It is the time of the year where quarterly exams are rounding up and students are making the final push to get their projects and tests completed before they go home to see their families.

According to K-State’s Office of Planning and Analysis, close to 80 percent of K-State students are from Kansas. A great benefit to these students is the close drive to their respective hometowns. A big, fat turkey with lots of helpings and home-cooked side dishes await many students as they celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.

Not everyone, however, has the opportunity to pile on a little extra gravy on their mashed potatoes as they watch football gathered around a table.

There are many students at K-State who are not able to travel home this break. Most international students, as well as domestic students who live on the coasts, do not have the opportunity to relax at home next week because their families live too far away.

Saleh Zaila, graduate student in nuclear engineering and international student from Saudi Arabia, said he has become all too familiar with traveling the world while missing his family back home.

Zaila said he traveled abroad because of the quality of education.

“The U.S. has the best education in the world, especially by collegiate standards,” Zaila said.

Zaila and his family do not celebrate Thanksgiving back home, but whenever he is in America for the fourth Thursday of November, he said he likes to chow down.

“I like celebrating Thanksgiving,” Zaila said. “When I was in Chicago last year, I celebrated with my American friends. We ate a lot of delicious turkey. It was one of the unforgettable memories I had in Chicago. This year I will probably go to Denver with my friends to celebrate.”

Tendai Munyani, junior in management, is another of the roughly 8.5 percent of K-Staters who are international students, according to K-State International Admissions and Recruiting. Munyani, who was born in Zimbabwe, moved to London in 2007 with his family. After spending a significant amount of his teenage years in England, Munyani said he came to the U.S. by himself for college in the fall of 2013.

Munyani said his plans won’t change significantly over Thanksgiving break.

“As usual, I just stay on campus, eat food, watch television, play Xbox, prepare for finals and go to the rec to workout,” Munyani said.

Going for stretches of six or seven months without seeing family can present challenges for a young adult who is making the transition to life after high school and college.

“I have always traveled and it would be nice if home was closer, but me being away from (home) challenges me to be a better person,” Munyani said.

Local students who study abroad are also challenged with separation from their friends and family. Abigail Hammack, senior in public relations, spent the spring studying abroad in Italy. While there, Hammack said she felt the same anxiety that many international students feel here in America.

“I was definitely homesick while abroad,” Hammack said. “I love telling people that it’s not always easy because I think there is a really romanticized view of studying abroad. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely amazing, but especially in the beginning I was homesick, and at the end I was ready to come home because I missed my family and friends.”

Hammack said she missed out on a few important things while in Italy.

“During my trip to Italy I missed spring break, which usually serves as an opportunity for me to see my family and friends,” Hammack said. “I also missed my brother’s graduation and my own birthday with my family. It was hard to be away from my family when I knew they got to be together and were able to celebrate something so big.”

Hammack said there were still many benefits of traveling abroad, though.

“I knew I was having the time of my life at the same time,” Hammack said. “I wished I could’ve been with my family, but it was almost like I wished they were with me in Italy rather than me going home.”