Dec 8, 2009

International students celebrate Christmas

by Kelly Marvel

The newly formed Nations United club held its first International Christmas Banquet Thursday night. Nations United formed to give international students the chance to create relationships and help each other become accustomed to living life in America.

The banquet featured a variety of international foods prepared by the students. The international hip-hop team performed, as well as a trio who sang “I Surrender All” in three different languages.
President of Nations United Ali Al-hada said he sparked the club because international students have such a hard time adjusting to living in America for a long period of time, especially during this time of year.

According to Al-hada, most international students stay in America during Christmas break. He attributes this to factors including time, money and transportation. Because of this, international students have to make plans in America for the holidays.

Some students, like Anna Chakashina from Russia, have family in the U.S. to celebrate Christmas with.

“My sister is living in Lynchburg and I’m spending Christmas with her, her husband and her husband’s family,” Chakashina said.

According to Chakashina, in Russia, Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7.

“I will celebrate here Dec. 25 and I think I will also celebrate Jan. 7 with my sister,” Chakashina said.

Jennifer Mshamma, who is from Tanzania, also has family in the U.S. and has brought part of her country’s celebration to America.
“So far we’ve brought our traditional dances, and we try to teach some people here on campus … We kind of celebrate it in a family way,” Mshamma said.

She also said that food is a large part of their celebration, and Al-hada, who lives in Yemen, agrees.

“I personally enjoy cooking, and food is one of things that people miss the most,” Al-hada said.

Some students like Benyam Abebe from Ethopia are lucky enough to get the chance to go home for Christmas. He said that Christmas for his family in Ethopia is very similar to Christmas in America.

“We basically do the Western-style Christmas. We have the tree, the cookies and milk,” Abebe said.

No matter where students are from, whether from America or across the world, the one thing that is common between Christmas traditions is family.

Al-hada said that one of his reasons for starting the Nations United club was to match students with host families so they can have somewhere to go during the holidays.

Since most international students stay in the U.S., many are given the opportunity to stay with host families. Al-hada’s host family is from Pennsylvania and he will be visiting with them over the break.
When international students graduate, Al-hada wants them to leave with a good impression of the country.

“(With host families, students) would say something like, ‘I’ve been in American homes and American people are really nice and kind to us.’ So I want them to have the best experience,” Al-hada said
Al-hada said that Nations United needs the help of students and staff to host international students. He said that host families do not have to be in the Lynchburg area. International students can be matched with homes all over as long as transportation is provided. Families interested in hosting or international students wanting more information about Nations United can e-mail

Contact Kelly Marvel at

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