The banks of the Red Cedar or traveling the U.S.? International students have options over winter break. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

As the 2012 fall semester comes to a close, students living in residence halls pack up their belongings and most make the journey home for the holidays. Some get on a plane and travel outside of Michigan, some students get picked up by their parents to take them back home, while others venture off to a family vacation. But the options for international students greatly differ.

“When an international student applies for the residence halls, there’s a question that says ‘will you need housing over the December break?’ If they answer yes to that, that’s why there is large numbers of international students in Hubbard Halls,” Director of Office for International Students and ScholarsnPeter Briggs said.

MSU is willing to make accommodations in advance for those who have signed up to live in their dorms over winter break, otherwise international students must move out.

“If you’re an international student, you have to go to the housing office and they will tell you that you can stay in the Kellogg, or in Hubbard,” intercultural aid Illami Martinez said.

The Kellogg is offered at $30 per night to students who are willing to pay if they hadn’t signed up for living on campus prior to enrollment. But international student Haofeng Li admits that he would rather travel the U.S. than visit home.

“If I stay in America, I would choose to travel probably to California or Las Vegas with some friends,” Li said.

But since his friends would rather visit home, he is going to make the long journey back to Beijing. Li also has friends in China he is going to visit during break. If he could make any suggestions for improvement, he would want international students to be able to stay in their own dorms.

“I don’t want them to have to spend more money, it’s a waste,” Li said. “I want MSU to give a chance to MSU international students to live in their dorms.”

In the past five years, the number of Chinese undergraduate students at MSU has increased tenfold from 43 to 2,845. With such increasing numbers, adjustments for residential housing over university-sanctioned breaks had to be made.

“Housing is doing a great thing by giving the opportunity for international students who are a long ways from home to be in the residence halls over the break here. The downside is it gets misinterpreted,” Briggs said.

People have begun to question why 400 of the scholars in Hubbard Hall are international students.

“The reason is they signed up for housing over break, and you think gosh, they are putting them in a Chinese ghetto,” Briggs said.

However, the criticism is really due to a lack of knowledge on the topic. Moving the international students to a couple of buildings provides an economically sound solution as well as better companionship.

“The international students will be here with other international students, to bond with each other, and get to know others around campus,” Martinez said.

The adjustment has sprung for a number of reasons.

“To them it’s a big sacrifice, but it’s worth it,” Martinez said. “They don’t get to go home, see their families, and most of them go four years straight without seeing their families.”

But many stick it out and either travel the U.S. or stay in East Lansing.

“Most of the international students travel to Chicago, New York and California because it’s cheaper to travel in the United States than back to China,” Martinez said.

The cause may call for future adjustments to be made.

“MSU has really shifted from being a graduate school for international students to a decidedly undergraduate school,” Briggs said.

More and more international students are admitted to MSU each year. It is uncertain as to which options provide better suitability for breaks including winter. Either way, international students have options when it comes to deciding how to spend their few weeks without class during the end of the year before spring semester arrives.

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