Homesickness During The Holidays

Normally, I write posts that are purely educational, a little bit of fun, offer advice, answer questions…you get the idea.

Today, I’m writing from a different perspective – my perspective – in hopes that it will offer international students who are contemplating leaving their home for higher education or who are already there, some comfort.

I’m not writing about personal details but am writing in a humanistic way to show you that those of us who work in the education sector have a lot of the same feelings that you do. It’s our job and responsibility to keep a poker face and talk about what you should or shouldn’t do to study abroad but we are also human too. In fact, we even go through some of the feelings that you, yourself are going through.

Today, that feeling is homesickness during the holidays.

I was originally thinking that I would write about all of the different cultural holidays around this time of year. There are many to talk about and many opinions people have of the other’s holiday.

Then I realized what good does that really do for anyone educationally? It’s a nice write-up that perhaps next year we can write about and have some fun with but this year, I want to write about the hardest part all students who approach me have: Leaving their families behind.

With all of that said, it’s pretty obvious by now that I am a foreigner working in Pakistan. I enjoy many of the things about this country such as the people, the culture, the dress, the history and much more. It’s a country filled with hospitality and kind-heartedness that you don’t see in every country and it’s amazing!

There are things that are hard to enjoy but I’m pretty sure that’s an all around, local feeling with people and not just because I’m a foreigner. Things like electricity outages, no water and the scary stuff that puts fear as a normalcy in our lives.

Regardless, as an American foreigner, I celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of which are the biggest holidays we celebrate back home – much like your Ramadan Eid and Bakra Eid. These are my huge holidays and the times I miss home the most.

During this time, it’s very hard not to think about all the fun my family and friends back home are having. The cozy, warm houses decorated with lights and smell of the cookies and cakes our parents are baking well in advance while the rest of us sit talking and drinking hot chocolate, sneaking hot cookies off the rack.

We have snow during our winters and always wish for it to fall on Christmas morning so that it looks picture perfect – just like it does in all of the Christmas movies we watch over and over.

We talk with each other about presents we’re getting, find the best hiding places where siblings and parents can’t find them and then brag which person got the best gift for their present receiver.

It’s the time of year that the biggest cultural customs kick in. They’re instilled in us from the moment we’re born. These are the moments we spend the rest of our lives with the earliest memories being these holidays and all the fun we’ve had. It’s what we’re familiar with and what we know…and it’s easily missed when far away from home.

Right now, as I write this, I think of my family who has put up the huge Christmas tree and have Christmas music playing while adding ornaments and tinsel to the tree while my dad tries to keep steady on a ladder to staple lights along the outside of the house.

During our free time, there’s lots of shopping done by us for our co-workers, friends and families because this is the holiday where we (hopefully, anyway) show our appreciation and love for others by not thinking of ourselves. We share stories of the hilarious mishaps of last year or our plans of how Christmas morning will play out this year.

It’s my culture and I miss it. While I love what I do over here, I can’t help but feel the homesickness hit the strongest until this time of year comes around.

What I can do is try to celebrate my holiday quietly during my time here. Christmas specifically, I travel to the stores that do sell Christmas items and fully decorate my house and make it look as cozy as possible.

I buy my colleagues and those I’m close with presents or teach them how to play Secret Santa so that I can fill my Christmas tree with presents underneath it. I try to find all the foods we have back home during the holiday and while that works out pretty well, someone here must love pumpkin pie more than I do because it’s always sold out!

But aside from the missing pumpkin pie, I carry on with my Christmas celebration. I have everyone over and we have a fantastic dinner and lots of great memories and times together. Those who’ve never seen these celebrations are intrigued and ask many questions which make me feel happy and proud inside to talk about my culture and home country.

The bottom line is, I can either lay in bed and cry all day or I can make it become the best experience as it can be during my time here! I’ve found that by staying completely engrossed in the holiday spirit with music on internet radios, decorations and preparation, I am happy and I know it’s only a temporary period of time until I see my family again.

Celebrating Christmas in a foreign country is a great experience to take back home with me and share with my family and friends. The kinds of friends and cultural twists having been made to my holiday make it all the more challenging, fun and give me some pretty awesome memories!

When it’s all said and done, I’m happy. I still miss my family deeply but I’m happy and satisfied that I was able to create new and unique memories to share with others. Christmas has gone by and the emotional time has been well spent on preparation, cooking, shopping and celebrating as it could have possibly been.

Homesickness is natural, it’s human and there’s nothing wrong with it. Just some advice from one foreigner to another (or soon-to-be other), enjoy your holiday – get creative and celebrate it to the fullest!

Then, of course, there’s New Years right after Christmas and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it doesn’t matter which country you’re in, there’s always a party somewhere! There isn’t often a feeling of homesickness as with other sentimental holidays so for that, I’m not even concerned about and am looking forward to another great time!

Until next year, 2012, for those of you here who do celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas and to everyone else, Happy upcoming New Year!

Posted in Cultural Holidays, Holidays, Homesickness, Students and Holidays, Studying in America | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our First Student Of The Week: Abdul Hayee

Just as a starter to our new series of posts, Student of the Month (or Week) isn’t just for those who have succeeded into becoming billionaires but rather, those who are working hard with a lot of determination. We would like to work as a huge, international team that can offer support to each other as well as commend and notice those who have been putting forth their full effort.

Without further ado:

Congratulations to Mr. Abdul Hayee who has been nominated as our Student of the Week!

Abdul has just finished up his DAE in Civil Engineering with 13 years of education in Pakistan and is looking towards the next move of traveling abroad for higher education. His future plans include majoring in Civil Engineering or Architectural Engineering, both great degrees to have!

Having just begun his process with the required paperwork needed for studying abroad, he could use a lot of support in walking through all of the hassles required from those who both know him as well as other international students outside of Pakistan who are right at the same place as he is.

Feel free to offer advice to Mr. Abdul Hayee whether you’re in the same boat or have already passed and are studying abroad now. There isn’t any better motivation than to help those going through the same situations as you are!

Abdul, remember to take one step, one day at a time! You’re doing a great job following through with your education and we look forward to seeing you go far in life!

From all of us at Stratford University, USA!

Posted in College Students, Student of the Month, Student of the Week, Study Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So You Think You Can Be Stratford University’s Student Of The Month?

With the New Year right around the corner (can you believe that it’s already that time AGAIN?), Stratford University, USA has decided what better way to connect with our international students as well as connecting all of you together than to start featuring our very own Student of the Month?

Locally, this has taken off quite fast but we’d like to hear from international students ALL over the world! Different cultures, educational systems, extracurricular activities and lots of other information you think would be interesting to share with those of us in different countries.

Until January 1, 2012, we will be doing this weekly so be prepared to see our first Student of the Week this Friday!

If you’d love to be a Student of the Month featured on both our international Facebook page as well as our international blog (and we know you would!), you can leave your email at the bottom in the comments section so I can reply to you with our mini-questionnaire or you can get in contact with me directly at slihn@stratford.edu!

See you soon!

Posted in College Fun, College Students, Stratford University, Student of the Month | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stress Can Make College Students Fat!

With these addictive graphs from Daily Infographic on the rise, sometimes a certain one just stands out, pulling you in, statistic-by-statistic and then somehow making you involve it in your day. Today, this awesome graph is one of those interesting, humorous and factual tellings of something every college student is struggling with: Stress!

Now, it’s not advisable for you to be reading this during class time or during work hours but when you have some good (non-stressful) time set aside for yourself, go through this chart and see how many points relate to you. It might even make you feel like the author creepily wrote it specifically entirely about each and every detail of what’s causing your personal stress factors!

Posted in College Fun, College Life, Critcal Thinking, Student Stress | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 Most Awesome Reasons To Study Abroad


  1. Studying abroad supplies you with more employment opportunities than you may have thought possible – Once you’ve gotten a valuable degree from a university in an English speaking country, you’ve just improved your resume by a million! A survey done by Penn State researchers showed that potential employers who find a candidate who has spent time studying abroad will rise up into the top three most important college experiences.
  2. Studying abroad gives you independence –As your years of education abroad continue on, so does your personal growth and independence! It may take a little adjustment in the beginning months but after adapting to your new culture and picking up on the language and accent, students will return home with a new sense of justifiable pride that shows self-confidence in what they have achieved, independently.
  3. Studying abroad gives you chance to make life-long friends – If you think about your grade school friends, middle school friends and even high school friends, chances are you can probably only count the people who are still friends on one hand. And even then, you probably don’t even remember but one person’s last name. Going to college abroad is such a life-changing experience that the friends you meet and make are people you’ll stay in touch with for the rest of your life. Not only that, they will become your network who will be able to help you out back in your home country when you’re running your own business or managing a top-of-the-line store.
  4. Studying abroad improves your new languages and proper accents – The first couple of weeks might make you a tad self-conscious but believe it or not, this is the fastest way anyone can learn a foreign language! Because you’ll want to blend in more and not stick out so noticeably, you’ll start actually listening to the accent with a new and more appreciative ear. Just to give you a little reassurance, 99% of all Americans are very happy with helping you learn how to pronounce words or learn English words so either way, you win!
  5. Studying abroad is affordable – While the way money and fees are taken care of differ from college to college, there are so many programs, scholarships, easy payment plans and low fees that are there to help international students have the full experience of an American college life. Even if you’re still struggling a bit financially, there are ways set up with the university you’re attending that will help you get some work based on whatever course you’re taking, i.e., OPT and CPT Training.
  6. Studying abroad requires you to use critical thinking, giving you your own mind – Traveling abroad is an educational and sometimes life-changing for many people. Studying abroad is a whole different category since the younger people who take part in this experience are much more open-minded and accepting of learning how to solve problems on their own.
  7. Studying abroad lets you appreciate your own heritage and culture with immense pride – As you’re accepting new foods, new styles and new languages/slang, you’re also missing family holidays, shaadis, home-cooked biryani and, of course, the power outages. Being away from home allows you to notice things about you and your family that you may not have realized or appreciated in the past.
  8. Studying abroad will literally change your life – Learning how to think on your own while being independent and walking around with your head held higher, you’ll start seeing the world from a brand new perspective! People become so accustomed to what the news is telling them in their part of the world that it’s quite surprising to many international students that the United States of America is a fantastic place to live – contrary to typical stereotypes – and an experience that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
  9. Studying abroad doesn’t mean you have to throw all of your credits out from your local college – Most American universities and colleges will take at least half of your credits if they are up to par with the American Education System. Other colleges might offer college credits from a series of different universities making dorm life not needed.
  10. Studying abroad is the one time in your life you’re allowed to have unsupervised fun – This is said in a responsible tone, not in a, ‘Go drink a pint of vodka’ tone. Obviously, your schooling comes first but there is always down time to be had. During these down times, try new foods, visit new stores and wear new styles, meet new people and discover brand new adventures! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s entirely up to you on how you choose to spend it.

 

Posted in College Life, Educational Opportunities, English Language, International Student Office, Top Ten Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Halloweeeeen!

Halloween is a favorite of millions to celebrate. Some may think of it as childish and leave the costumes and trick-or-treating to the kiddies around the neighborhood. In all actuality though, there are more college-aged students and adults that celebrate Halloween on a much larger scale than children ever do!

To keep up with the fun of Halloween, here are some costume suggestions for the guys:

And of course, let’s not forget the ladies:

College life has a way with have college parties of the century so ALWAYS remember that safety and responsibility come first! Don’t forget, though, to have a great time celebrating Halloween!

Sending off with a Halloween skit:

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Posted in College Dorms, College Fun, College Life, College Parties, Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Halal In North America

What Is Halal?

On the Eastern side of the hemisphere, most commonly in Muslim countries, halal food is the norm. While halal is certainly served and sold within countries such as the United States, Canada or even stretching out to Europe, the term itself isn’t always known to their natives.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, here is the definition of halal:

Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted but it is generally used in reference to food that fulfills Muslim dietary rules. It is similar to the Hebrew word kosher, which references food that is permissible to eat according to Jewish dietary standards.

Halal food doesn’t consist of or contain anything which is considered to be unlawful according to Islamic Law; it hasn’t been prepared, process, transported or stored using any appliance or facility that wasn’t free from anything unlawful according to Islamic Law; and it hasn’t been in direct contact with any food that is considered to be forbidden (haram).

In case you’d like some easy to understand examples, here are foods that are haram:

  • Swine/Pork and its by-products
  • Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
  • Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
  • Land animals without external ears
  • Blood and blood by-products

Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavors are questionable (mashbooh), because the origin of these ingredients is not known.

The Halal Misconception

Considering the fact that consuming halal foods are an essential way of life for many Muslims, this can add one more thing to the list of stresses international students fret about. Most students can adapt quite easily to American college life and culture shock when leaving their home country behind temporarily. Students may change their style of clothes, find new friends and hangouts and try brand new foods, for example.

These changes may sound great and exciting to many international college students but the thought of not being able to follow religious or ethical beliefs can make students wary and more commonly, parents who might be hesitant of sending their college-aged children off to American universities.

The reason for this train of thought is certainly valid but very easily follows the assumption that halal food isn’t served anywhere in the U.S. and, well, you know what assuming does to people!

There are 7 million Muslims that account for America’s population living in the most diverse country in the world which means you can bet your precious college penny there will be quite the selection of halal food Misconception proven FALSE!

The only problem college students might end up running across is the higher cost of halal food if you go to a non-ethnic restaurants that don’t typically serve halal.

Remember that in the Eastern part of the world, this is a way of life. In other countries where it’s not, it takes a little more work because this type of food is imported or the establishment must find a trained Muslim workforce that specializes in preparing halal foods – hence the higher price.

In America, even if it does cost a few extra bucks, halal food is ALWAYS available and well worth the price!

Finding Halal In The United States

The misconception of zero halal in the U.S. has actually stopped many Muslim students from putting their full effort into applying for student visas or following through with college applications.

Halal food has been around longer than most people think. In 1986, Stockton’s Islamic Meat & Poultry first opened their doors, to be exact. Since that time, there are now over 7,000 halal establishments countrywide in the U.S., meaning there is surely a place for you to dine in halal deliciousness!

If you’re heading off to start your higher education in America and are looking for a store or restaurant with halal,, here are just a few local places with halal food that’s been approved by the American Halal Association (AHA) or the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA):

  • Petra Grill – Potomac Mills (Virginia)
  • Rajaji Curry Grill
  • McDonald’s – Michigan
  • Chicken Cottage
  • Brown’s Chicken
  • Crown Fried Chicken
  • Kroger Supermarket
  • Big Boy Restaurant
  • Oakwood Hospital
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Chicking Fried Chicken
  • Tex-Med Beef Co. – Distributor
  • H.E.B. Grocery
  • Milano Pizza
  • Campbell’s halal-certified products – found in supermarkets

Aside from American restaurants and stores, there are many of desi restaurants in all major cities serving certified halal food meaning that you won’t have to go very far to find one!

Until you get familiar with your surroundings and landmarks, all you have to do is get a list from Google and you’ll be good to go!

If anything was left out that you feel is important to add, feel free to let us know!

Posted in College Life, Culture Shock, Study Abroad, Studying in America, Useful College Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment