Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Winter break leaves some international students stranded


For many students at The University of Alabama, Christmas break provides a much-needed opportunity to catch up with family, relax and celebrate holiday traditions. For the 1,537 international students at the University, Christmas can be complicated.

Charter Morris, director of Capstone International Services said most international students use the long winter break to travel.

The few international students who remain in Tuscaloosa are faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone.

Haroon Sheikh, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering, has lived in Tuscaloosa for the past five years and often spends Christmas alone on campus when he can’t return home to India. He said the break gives him an opportunity to discover Tuscaloosa and catch up on schoolwork.

“I like seeing the decorations and lights around town,” Sheikh said. “Being Muslim, Christmas is not a big celebration for me, but I can enjoy the atmosphere and the break from classes.”

Karam Albasha, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering, grew up in Ireland and has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past five years before moving to Alabama for college. Albasha’s parents are from Syria; he said it is not safe to go home, so he finds alternative ways to get in the holiday spirit.

“I love the shopping and the sales and also the food,” he said. “Occasionally we will get invited to a friend’s house for dinner.”

For students who live on campus, staying in Tuscaloosa over the Christmas break isn’t an option as many dorms close, requiring residents to vacate their rooms. Burke East and West, Parham, the Highlands and Bryce Lawn are the only on-campus dorms open during the break.

“Those who are on campus in the halls which close during the break will not be able to have temporary housing on campus this year,” Morris said. “They will need to make plans to stay somewhere temporarily in the city or travel for the holidays.”

Although studying abroad in the U.S. provides many travel opportunities, many international students are incapacitated by the lack of and unreliability of public transportation in the South.

“Public transport here sucks,” Haroon said, adding that the Tuscaloosa Trolley is particularly unreliable.

For those looking to travel farther away, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are popular destinations, and the international office provides information regarding transport and travel options.

Gary Mo, a freshman majoring in finance from China, said he is excited about seeing the sights of the U.S. during his break. He said he has plans to visit a friend in Chicago, and then travel to Orlando and Miami.

However, flying during the holidays is not cheap. Mo said he is paying $1200 alone for all of his flights.

He said Christmas celebrations are becoming increasingly popular in China. Some of the traditions observed include a turkey dinner and Christmas decorations in public areas; but exchanging presents is not customary.

“There is no Santa in China,” Mo said. “But I’m hoping he’ll visit me in America this year. I’ll be hanging a big sock on my wall.”

For Haroon, this year’s Christmas celebrations will be a little unconventional, but certainly in keeping with the traditions of the South.

“I’ll be eating Publix fried chicken for Christmas dinner,” he said.


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