Holiday Host Programs: Why AU Needs Its Own

With the Winter holidays just around the corner, most college students are trying to sort out their plans to go home over the Thanksgiving and Winter breaks. For many students, however- especially international students- going home just isn’t an option, and they end up stuck at school while their friends leave to spend time in their home towns.

Some colleges have begun to establish “Holiday Host Programs” within their International Student programs as a way to provide alternatives for students who can’t go home. NYU and Ohio Northern University are two schools which have prominent programs that have steadily been gaining interest over the past few years.

These programs are designed to allow international students the chance to spend time with local families over breaks, giving them an opportunity to celebrate with other people, or even just to spend time in a community outside of their school. They provide many international students new experiences within American culture, and they also give the people hosting those students the chance to connect with different people and culture, which fosters an extra sense of appeal for the hosts, too.

American University boasts that it is “home to more than 1,530 international students representing diverse cultures and viewpoints from nearly 126 countries,” an asset of the school that can foster a diverse and interesting atmosphere among students on campus. However, primarily because the Holiday Host idea is still somewhat new among schools, AU has yet to establish any kind of program that provides different breaks for its population of students who can’t get home as easily as others.

Combined with its location in DC and its proximity to many local families and alumni who stay in the city, AU could really lend itself toward incorporating a holiday program within the school. It’s successfully established an Alternative Breaks program through the Center for Community Engagement & Service, and while that’s a different type of program in itself, it still goes to show that AU is open and able to create different options for students to utilize over breaks.

International students are not the only ones who aren’t able to go home over breaks, though, considering the fact that AU’s geographical diversity includes students from 47 different states. NYU opened its program to any undergraduate students who can’t go home for the holidays back in 2015; AU students who can’t manage to make it home for shorter breaks like Thanksgiving could seriously benefit from establishing a similar type of program.

Schools and Universities are always looking for ways to improve, and Holiday Host programs are a great way to integrate students with the community surrounding their schools. Hopefully one day AU will create a similar program for our own school, maybe with the help of encouragement from the student body. For now, though, little steps are a good start; remember that not everyone gets to go home over breaks, and if you can, your roommate or friend who can’t go home might really appreciate it if you could offer to take them in for a few days!


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