One USD professor has opened his home to international students who are unable to travel home for holiday breaks such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
K.C. Santosh, an assistant computer science professor and Nepalese faculty advisor, started the tradition three years ago.
Santosh said it’s nice to spend time with students, especially those who feel homesick over breaks.
“I always welcome them at my place,” Santosh said. “Even though the Thanksgiving celebration is not the same for those people coming from outside, they can celebrate in a way they can replicate some of the things they know and learn what Thanksgiving is about. No hierarchy, just the students and professors as friends.”
Far from home, but not alone
Santosh said the idea behind bringing students and professors together during the holidays was to celebrate diversity on campus.
“It’s just about making sure we take advantage of the holy day and learn something from people, have fun and you feel like you can finish the semester,” Santosh said. “Most of the time the students go to school, go to their apartment and come back to school. This is about taking those tiresome days out of the mind and start a new day with new energy, meet people, learn about a new culture.”
Santosh said he wants students to take a break to enjoy the festivities, and he enjoys being able to see students he doesn’t see very often.
“I’ve decided that it’s time to celebrate, so you don’t feel like work is always on the top of your head,” Santosh said. “Having this kind of celebration together, (students) learn about different cultures and when they go back to school, they become much more active.”
Senior Chandra Karki, a chemistry major and Nepalese Student Association president, is from Pokhara, Nepal. Karki has spent the last two Thanksgivings at Santosh’s house, and said he’s grateful to have Santosh’s support during the holidays.
“We are 9,000 miles away from home, family and friends,” Karki said. “K.C. has never let us feel alone. K.C. and his wife, Anju Dhoju, have been a role model to us and they are like parent figures. He welcomed us and served us roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, fruits and pumpkin pie. I’d like to thank K.C.’s family for the great support to the Nepalese community at USD.”
Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas have many cultural and religious traditions. Karki said he’s learned a lot about these holidays by spending them with Santosh and the other international students.
“What I’ve learned so far is Thanksgiving is one of the greatest festivals in the states,” Karki said. “It’s the same back home. Our greatest festivals are Dashain and Tihar. There are always some kind of festivals going on back home when we celebrate American festivals here.”
This year, Karki organized NSA’s celebration of Dashain, one of the holiday festivals in Nepal. Karki and the NSA are also organizing activities for winter break for students staying in the Vermillion area.
Karki said he enjoys the holidays because he can relax and hang out with friends.
“When you are surrounded by very good friends and get support and guidance from K.C.’s family, I don’t miss my family that often,” Karki said. “We want to feel like they are in home when they meet and see us around campus.”
Clare Xie, a sophomore physiology and business management double major and Australian foreign exchange student, said she’s found a place in USD’s international club and has spent the holidays traveling with friends.
Xie said Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Australia, so she’s enjoyed learning about the holiday.
“The whole holiday was definitely a new experience for me,” Xie said. “This year, I spent Thanksgiving break traveling in Vancouver and Honolulu, and will be touring the states over Christmas as well. It’s a little sad to be away from family, but it’s also fun to be able to spend holidays with some really close friends that I have made since I’ve been here.”
Xie said celebrating Christmas in the United States is similar to what she’s used to back home, except the weather here is much warmer.
“I love how festive everything is as soon as November hits,” Xie said. “We don’t really have decorations or anything like that until about mid to late November, so seeing the entire country begin to get excited about the holidays season is a lot of fun, especially as Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year.”