Winter break plans of international students
C/O Yoohyun Park
How are international students staying connected with loved ones this winter break?
During August of 2021, Hamilton saw a massive influx of students returning to McMaster University, including a large number of international students who were finally able to return to Canada. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on previous years, this is the first semester many international students are able to attend university in person and live away from home for the first time.
Dipto Prasun Nath, a fourth-year business student, spoke about his experiences during the holidays as an international student and his plans for the upcoming winter break.
Over his winter breaks before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nath met up with his international friends from Bangladesh, whom he has been friends with for eighteen years. Although they’re all in Canada, they are separated by university so they have often picked a starting point to meet before travelling as a group.
“It’s nice to have your school friends around. When we move to Canada, it’s a new place where we don’t have any family. So whenever we get together with school friends we always have like, nostalgic feelings,” said Nath.
This year, Nath said he and his friends may be connecting through Whatsapp calls to keep in touch. Nath also commented on how each winter break has been a different experience for him. In his first year, Nath was invited by his roommate's family to stay over during the break.
“Every time it’s a new experience, right? I made really good friends at McMaster, I have to say that. One of my roommates, they were really nice to me. I had [the] experience of spending the winter break at a friend’s place,” said Nath.
Last year, Nath stayed in Bangladesh and continued classes online, keeping the apartment he had rented during the first half of his second year. This year, he will be in Canada once again for the winter break and for the first time, his family will be visiting him for the winter break in Canada. He says he is looking forward to the visit as he misses his parents.
“In Bangladesh the coldest we get is like 10 or 15 degrees . . . so we never got to experience snow,” said Nath.
Nath said he and his family are looking forward to visiting Vancouver and Montreal during the break.
Another international student, Cleon D’Souza, plans to return to Dubai this winter break to visit his family for the first time since 2018. He looks forward to being in Dubai to celebrate Christmas, his parents' anniversary and his father’s birthday.
“The thing I miss the most is my mom’s cooking because I have not had my mom’s cooking in so, so long. I can’t wait to spend time with my dad,” said D’Souza.
D’Souza also talked about meeting his friends during the holidays in person, instead of over the internet like he had during previous winter breaks.
“100 per cent I’m so excited . . . Usually every winter it’s [my friends] meeting and me just being virtually available in Canada. This time I can actually physically meet them, see them [and] spend lots of time with them,” said D’Souza.
Not only will D’Souza meet up with old friends, but he will also have the chance to reconnect with high school teachers and volunteers from his church that he hasn’t seen since he left to study in Canada.
“There’s also other events, like meeting my highschool teachers . . . a lot of them played a really important role in my life. I can’t wait to meet with them and discuss things that they’ve taught me that I use in my real life,” said D’Souza.
After so many lockdowns due to the pandemic, there is more catching up this winter break to be done than usual. Whether it’s through Whatsapp calls, flights home or visits with friends, international students are finding ways to stay connected to their friends and family this winter break.