Although many University of Dayton parents flooded the campus for Family Weekend, many international students were unable to see their families living thousands of miles away.
For the growing international student population on campus, families rarely visit because of complex visa policies, flight expenses and distance.
For graduate communication students Jiwen Li and Weiqi Hu, both from China, UD provided them their first experience in the U.S. when they arrived on campus two months ago to continue their higher education.
With families back in China, both students frequently communicate with their parents via a “Skype-like” video chat program, text messages and phone calls, Hu said. Although her family is 12 hours ahead, her family allocates time to talk to her.
“We do get homesick sometimes because we are so far away and wish our parents could visit,” Li said. “They can’t come for just a weekend’s time, like Family Weekend, because of ticket prices and visas. We just have to call
Although the graduate communication program at UD requires a two-year study, Hu said she is excited to go home next summer to see her family.
“It’s hard to be away from family for so long, even though I lived on my own in college which was a distance outside my hometown,” Hu said. “I didn’t know about Family Weekend at UD, but it would be nice to see my parents while
While many international students arrive at UD alone, Suzanne Richardt, a student advisor working in Intensive English Program, said international students’ extended family members often live locally to help support the students as they adjust.
“Some students involved in the program come for a time then bring their spouses or children over to the U.S.,” Richardt said. “I think sometimes having family members closer to them sometimes reduces the stress of living in a new country.”
At the Center for International Programs, associate director Tricia Barger said it is important to include international students in Family Weekend activities if students are willing.
“I know many U.S. students who have invited their international friends on campus back home with them over breaks,” Barger said. “It seems to help students who can’t always be with their families, get a little taste of some kind of home.”
For college students, in general, living alone requires independent decision making with little parental aid, Richardt said. Without physical support from family, many international students turn to CIP, IEP and friends to ease the process, according to Richardt.
While the center does not specifically offer assistance for homesickness, the counseling center is always a viable option to combat cultural struggles and stress,
Because UD embodies a communal atmosphere on campus, Barger explained that international students do not necessarily need immediate family members to feel
“It comes down to redefining what the word family actually means to us and our community,” Barger said. “It’s about students reaching out to international students who are sharing the same college experience. We have to welcome them into the UD family.”