International students use school breaks for travel


Zhaoru Chen, sophomore in Business, on her trip to Costa Rica on last year’s spring break.

By Jaini Shah

Some students travel over spring break, while others volunteer or work. Some stay at home, relaxing and watching TV or hanging out and catching up with family and friends. But for the nearly 10,000 international students at the University who may be thousands of miles from home, spring break offers a chance to explore the United States and destinations nearby.

Zhaoru Chen, a sophomore in Business who is originally from China, wrote in an email that she plans to travel to Los Angeles over spring break.

“I have been admiring the magnificence and prosperity of Los Angeles city ever since I was in middle school,” she said. “Not to mention the famous Hollywood landmarks, Santa Monica beach and the Getty Center.”

When asked what she thinks stands out in Los Angeles as opposed to other destinations, she said, “Los Angeles has . . . metropolitan areas and natural scenery. It is famous for numerous shopping centers and diversified restaurants.”

She also thought California’s warm weather made it a great destination in order to escape the frigid temperatures of Champaign.

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“I’m looking forward to enjoying the sunshine on the beach,” she said.

Chen said she will be traveling with her friends and fellow international students. She has already visited New York City, Las Vegas and Chicago during her time here at the University. Last spring break, she went to Costa Rica through a program in the College of Business.

Lingqi Xie, also a sophomore in Business and originally from China, is planning a trip to a warm destination, but one that is outside the United States: Cancun, Mexico.

“Some of my friends went to Cancun (over) Thanksgiving break,” he wrote in an email. “The stories and pictures are fantastic, (and that’s what) attracted me.”

Like Chen, Xie said he will also be traveling with friends who are international students.

“The beaches (in Cancun) are really wonderful. The sky is blue, (the) sunshine is great. It is actually (the) ideal place for a vacation.”

Xie said he has also taken advantage of past breaks by visiting Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. But by leaving the country this time, he hopes to “experience the life in Mexico and learn about (the) culture.”

Xie suggested student travelers use the technology company StudentUniverse to book flights, Expedia to book hotels and Yelp to look for good food while traveling.

According to Jennifer S. Avery, an International Advising Specialist from the office of International Student and Scholar Services, the University also offers advising and phone appointments for international students who are thinking of traveling over breaks.

As for her own advice, she said, “If you’re leaving the country, make sure that your immigration documents are in order, that they have an updated travel signature.”

She also stressed being careful, knowing the whereabouts and surroundings of where students will be visiting and notifying someone else of where they are going to be.

“Take phone numbers with, so that there is someone to contact in case there is an emergency. If (students) have any questions, they should feel free to call us before they leave,” she said.

Jaini can be reached at [email protected].