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How some international students at IU will spend winter break


The Office of International Student Services is on the second floor of the Poplars building, which is located at 400 E. Seventh St. Matt Begala Buy Photos

Winter break: the sweet conclusion the fall semester and an opportunity for many IU students to go home after being away for months. But for some of IU’s 7,861 international students, going home isn't realistic. 

Instead, some international students will still stay in their residence halls, making plans with their fellow residents and others will celebrate the holidays in their own homes with friends. And some will take the opportunity to get out of Bloomington and travel around the United States.

“Students, for the most part, are really self-sufficient,” said Mai-Lin Poon, associate director of international student life at the Office of International Services. 

Poon said OIS arranges different activities over breaks to get students out of their rooms, such as movie nights. OIS has also worked with IU Outdoor Adventures to take international students on short trips out of and around Indiana. 

Many international students like getting the chance to travel, she said, since classes and other commitments keep them from exploring the U.S., similar to domestic students. 

“While four years sounds like a lot of time, during those four years, you’re in class, you’re in school most of the year,” Poon said. 

Students also want to take advantage of more affordable travel costs in the U.S., she said. 

“It’s also more affordable than it would be flying to visit California than it would be if you’re coming from, say, Brazil,” Poon said. 

While not every international student celebrates Christmas, Poon said some of the students will celebrate with friends or former host families. She said volunteers from Bloomington Worldwide Friendship sometimes open up their homes for the holidays. The group matches international students with Bloomington residents so students can learn about the city and American culture through fun activities.

Suraj Chiplunkar is a graduate student from India studying human computer interaction in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. He said last year, he and his cohort of other international students decided to celebrate Christmas by making traditional dishes. He made a traditional Indian rice dish for the party. 

Due to an ACL injury in January, Chiplunkar spent the fall semester recovering. He said he plans to apply for internships and build his online portfolio over break. He said he plans to celebrate Christmas with other international students and the family of Cheryl Engel, SICE graduate recruitment and admissions manager. 

“We are thinking of celebrating it together,” Chiplunkar said. “Probably by making hot pot, which is a Chinese dish, and Indian food. At Cheryl’s place, we will probably have some ethnic food from the U.S.”

Chiplunkar said he and the other international students in his program are close because they spend so much time together. If he is feeling sick, another student will bring him oolong tea or food, and vice versa.   

“Any international student looks out for other international students,” Chiplunkar said. 

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