Family Weekend has new meaning for international students

By Kendra Loh
Staff Writer

Photo by Ebbie Davis
International students support their fellow international soccer players during Family Weekend. These students spend the majority of the weekend together, because their families are too far away to visit.

For some of the 55 international students enrolled at Union, watching their American friends spend Family Weekend with their loved ones can bring waves of homesickness.

That’s because international students’ families don’t live just a few hours away but a few days’ journey away. Those enrolled hail from 29 countries.

To serve their needs, the International Student Office, along with the Institute for International and Intercultural Studies, organized events Sept. 28-30 designed specifically for them.

To kick-start the weekend, international students gathered Friday afternoon in the International Lounge for snacks and Barefoots Joe’s coffee and to share pictures of their families.

“It was a good opportunity to know more about my friends, and I enjoyed sharing pictures of my family with them,” said Yumi Miyazaki, junior political science major from Japan.

Denis Bisangwa, sophomore international business major from Rwanda, said he felt a little homesick, but spending time with his international brothers and sisters helped him feel like part of a family at Union.

On Saturday, students gathered for a “Family Potluck” at Liberty Park in Jackson, where the students shared foods unique to their cultures.

“The cookout was a ton of fun,” said Anna Loi, sophomore English major from Malaysia. “It was great to be able to get together with the other international students to celebrate our international family when we can’t be with our own families.”

Emily Harper, international student adviser, said she wants international students to know they are not alone and that they have a “home away from home” while they study at Union.

Lillie Meija, sophomore nursing major from Honduras, said she enjoyed the games and the food.

The group also attended the men’s soccer game at home against Christian Brothers University.

Krister Andreassen, junior sports management major from Norway and a soccer player, said seeing his international friends at a game encourages him.

“When I see my friends that are in the same situation watching the game, it makes me want to give that 5 percent extra for them,” Andreassen said.

Shiva Hemmatian, sophomore engineering major from Iran, enjoys being there to cheer them on.

“As an international student, I feel so proud watching them play because they are all from different cultures and yet they play so well as a team and they understand each other,” Hemmatian said.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.