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Internationals Make Campus Home
December 20, 2005

Calvin College is creating an atmosphere of celebration for its international students who can’t make it home for the holidays.

Almost 30 international students will hunker down in Calvin's Knollcrest East apartments from now until the campus re-opens for Interim on January 3, 2006.

There they will take part in the many holiday activities planned for them by Calvin's student life staff.

The students (from Korea, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Ghana, Hong Kong, Japan, Sudan, China, Singapore and the United Kingdom) are a fragment of Calvin's sizeable international student community: over 300 students representing 44 countries. In the latest Open Doors report, Calvin is rated seventh in the country among baccalaureate institutions for number of international students on campus.

The holiday programming is a necessity for a school with a sizeable international population, says Rick Zomer, Calvin's associate dean of residence life.

"When we bring students here, especially when they come from overseas, it's not realistic to think they will be able to go home. But even though they're not going to go home for Christmas, we're trying to ensure that they’ll still have an enjoyable time, even living away from their families."

The Knollcrest East holiday staff has planned Christmas and New Years parties, decorating parties, outings to see the Christmas lights at 5/3 Ballpark, ice skating and more.

The staff has also planned movie and game nights - and grocery runs because Calvin's dining halls will be closed during the holiday break.

"These students need to make their own meals," says Abby Norman, the community life coordinator for Knollcrest East (KE) apartments in charge of the holiday planning.

Norman, who has hired four resident assistants (RAs) to help her with the festivities, aims to create as homelike an environment as possible for the internationals at KE.

"We want to provide a place where they can be safe and comfortable and provide activities they can do," Norman says. "It's hard for me not to be around my family for the holidays, so I can't imagine what it would be like not to be around them for a couple of years."

Oyi (John) Eigege, one of the RAs who will be assisting Norman, knows what it's like to be far from home. A junior studying business and engineering at Calvin, Eigege has never returned to his native Nigeria for Christmas in the three years he's been at Calvin.

"It's a tough situation because I miss them and just miss the usually thing we do back home," Eigege says, "but I feel like coming here I was able to adapt. Before I even came I prepared myself for the situation where I couldn't be with my family when I want to."

The holiday season is a little harder for the internationals who stay at Calvin this year, he adds, because unlike previous years, they will be unable to work at their campus jobs during the break. This year for the first time, following the lead of its peer institutions around the country, Calvin is closing its campus for the week between Christmas and New Years.

From his previous Calvin holiday experiences, however, Eigege knows to expect a pretty good time.

"We usually just chill together and do stuff together," he says. "The group of people that stay for Christmas are very fun and interesting. Even if the weather adds to the melancholy, we always find ways to have fun around each other."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson