International students stuck in U.S. for Thanksgiving

By Emily Sokolik

Family and food brought most University students home for Thanksgiving. But for Jorge Marquez, one week wasn’t enough time to lure him back to his home in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Marquez, junior in LAS, is not alone. In 2005, the University enrolled 4,904 international students, according to the Office of International Student Affairs. Since home is more than just a car ride away for these students, many were not able to leave the University for Fall Break.

“I’m staying here to do school work, though I wish I could go home for familiar food and warm weather,” said Enrique Alberto Thayer, senior in LAS. However, Thayer will return home to Latin America for Christmas where he is looking forward to singing carols with his family and eating a holiday dinner complete with turkey and Venezuelan tamales.

Brett Lopez Handley, senior in LAS, said most of his international friends also stayed in Champaign for the break. Handley, however, was relieved to get away from the University to spend time with family.

“I’d probably be bored for the most part,” said Handley, from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. “I don’t have a car here so I can’t get out and around that easily.”

Marquez also ventured outside of Champaign for Thanksgiving. He traveled to Miami to visit relatives in an effort to escape the chilly weather of Central Illinois.

“I don’t know what I would do if I had to stay in this cold tundra alone,” he said. “Maybe go insane?”

Christmas in Puerto Rico is not all that different from the holiday in the United States, Marquez said. Christmas lights illuminate houses and trees and Santa Claus still pays a visit to the tropical island on Christmas Eve. Not all the traditions are the same, however.

“Our Christmas carols . aren’t your soft, soothing chorus music like you see in the movies,” he said. “It’s loud, with drums, maracas, and very festive. Most of the songs do have religious connotations.”

Alicia Biurrun Hernando, senior in Business, is studying at the University from Barcelona until the end of the semester. Over Thanksgiving, she took a 10-day road trip to California with friends. She said she would not have returned home to Spain for Thanksgiving because the holiday does not exist in her country. Hernando is ready for Christmas when she reunites with family and friends and participates in some familiar holiday customs.

“The day before Christmas is called ‘noche bueno’ (good night),” she said. “All families have dinner together and normally, we eat seafood. A lot of people go to church at midnight.”