Christmas far away from home

International students get taste of an American tradition

Val Vita | Collegio Reporter

Minh Bui was far away from home last Christmas. He and his family were separated by the Pacific Ocean. But Christmas wasn’t bad at all for Bui. Actually, he had a good time.
Bui, freshman in finance, is from Nha Trang, a big city in Vietnam where there are no holidays at the end of the year. So, for the first time, Bui experienced a traditional Christmas. His Pitt Pal, Evan Wilson, invited him to spend the holidays with his family.
“I thought it was a good idea because I knew that even the dining hall at PSU would be closed,” said Wilson, freshman in pre-pharmacy. “And there is not so much to do here on break.”
Wilson and Bui traveled to Hutchinson, where Bui stayed with Wilson’s family for two weeks.

Collin Joy, far left, freshman in automobile engineering, and Kojo Anain, middle right, senior in science technology, eat Christmas Eve Dinner at Butch and Leah Soo Hoo’s house in Pittsburg. Courtesy Photo

Collin Joy, far left, freshman in automobile engineering, and Kojo Anain, middle right, senior in science technology, eat Christmas Eve Dinner at Butch and Leah Soo Hoo’s house in Pittsburg. Courtesy Photo


“It was a new experience,” Bui said. “We decorated a tree, I received a lot of presents, met the entire family.”
When Bui called his parents on Skype and told them that he was spending winter break with an American family, they expressed appreciation toward Wilson’s parents. They talked to them on Skype, with Bui acting as translator.
Like Bui, a lot of other international students spent the holidays with American families of PSU students.
“Spending time with another family is better than being here, missing home,” said Brenda Hawkins, director of the Pitt Pal program.
Hawkins says that the program is designed to help new international students in their transition to PSU by pairing them with an American student.
Hawkins herself and her family celebrated the holidays with two students from China.
“My family loved to have somebody different,” Hawkins said. “It is a beautiful experience, not only for the international students, but the families are also blessed.”
Ali Blanchard, sophomore in biology, and Betty Deng, who graduated with a master’s in business, say they also experienced the benefits of the Pitt Pal program.
“I went to Ali’s house and we ate a lunch with her family,” Deng said. “In the afternoon we exchanged presents.”
Deng says she enjoyed her visit because it exposed her to a real American tradition.
Blanchard agreed with her that it is a positive experience.
“I really enjoyed getting to show her our culture and spend time together,” Blanchard said. “My family learned about her culture, too.”

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