International students seek new traditions


As the semester comes to an end, many look forward to spending their winter break with family and friends.

For some of Sheridan’s thousands of international students, winter break means something completely different.

Their high cost of tuition, compounded with expensive ticket prices for international flights, make visiting home completely unrealistic for some students.

Whether filling out visa and work permit applications, recreating holiday festivities from home, or simply saving up for the next homeward trip, international students at Sheridan are finding new ways to spend their breaks.

Megan Kong, Visual and Creative Arts

Kong first left China to attend school in Italy, and moved to Canada last summer to begin a diploma at Sheridan. She has not been back home in four years.

In China, she says, Chinese New Year is “like Christmas”. It is a time for families to get together and exchange gifts. Parents give children red envelopes with filled with money.

Kong and her boyfriend in Toronto

Another important celebration is Chinese National Day, taking place next fall.

Having been away from home for years, Kong does not do much to celebrate while her family is across the world. She does, however, celebrate holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Canada Day with her boyfriend’s family.

“I always feel kind of awkward,” she says, “because it’s not my culture.”

Kong explained that since she did not grow up celebrating these holidays, she does not feel as connected to them – she’d sometimes rather study than celebrate.

Abhi Jithu, Marketing and Advertising

Born in Kochi, India, Jithu is part of the Malyali community, a cultural group where people are typically either Hindu, Christian or Muslim.

To keep his job, and to save money, Jithu will remain in Canada over the break. He typically would enjoy visiting home to escape the Canadian winter, as this time of year in India is not “sweltering hot”.

Throughout the year, he would normally celebrate Easter, and various cultural festivals including Onam and Vishu. These celebrations are an excuse for families and communities to get together.

Jithu and his family celebrate a wedding in India

“Going home really refreshes you.”

He says that while there are organizations in Canada that arrange Indian festivals, he does not take much interest, and these festivals cannot compare to the real thing.

“Vishu is a firework festival. In india, you don’t need a license to light fireworks. Here you do,” he said. “As for Onam, it’s a foodie festival where food is served on a leaf platter, which can’t be found in Canada.”

Most importantly, Jithu is not interested in Canadian Indian festivals because his family is not here.

Jithu say that a one-way round trip flight can cost about $2,000. Since arriving in Canada, he has worked in retail, and on campus. Still, flying home has become unaffordble.

“I happened to be lucky enough to afford an international education,” he said. “I like going home and being with family and old friends but it’s a price you’re paying for travelling to the other side of the planet.”

Eugene Malentsov, Software Development and Network Engineering

As an Orthodox Christian, Malentsov will not celebrate Christmas day until early January. However, he is most disappointed to miss New Year’s Eve.

It is more simple for him to extend his student visa, which expires on Dec. 31, if he remains in Canada for the holidays.

While he has found a large network of other Russian students, Malentsov has made many Canadian friends, and is in no rush to go home.

“I love Canada so much, not going home is not a problem.”

Malenstov says that he has made so many friends from Russia simply from listening for his language in the Learning Commons, or in the campuses designated smoking areas.

This holiday season, he will be applying for a work visa so he cam remain in Canada after he graduates. He will spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Blue Mountain.

International students may contact Sheridan’s International Centre at each campus for more information on topics such as fees, housing, and entertainment.