For the past few days, I’ve been chatting with my international friends about their plans for Thanksgiving. Everyone is certainly looking forward to a hard-earned break after almost three months of school work and various commitments, and they all seem to have a solid plan. No doubt, people have different destinations for this break: an excursion with a host family, a relative’s house, traveling with friends, etc. But one destination is missing from that list: home.
While Thanksgiving can be a time of rejuvenation and reunion with families for most domestic students, it’s not always easy for international families to plan for it. Slightly over a week, the November break is so short that flying all the way home and back seems pointless. That’s ok, we might say deep down, not all families have to celebrate Thanksgiving anyway. But the real challenge lies in where to stay. Two factors limit the options of international students: Concord Academy’s campus is fully closed during breaks, and most students are not old enough to find a place to live on their own, such as a hotel. Most international students, therefore, resort to a relative, a host family, or an “immersion” program that Concord Academy helps to arrange.
But those options have disadvantages, too. There might be no family members available, and host families might have their own plans. I have also visited my friends at the Thanksgiving programs. It’s simply a small room in a building situated in the middle of Boston, and students have to figure out meals by themselves, which seems to me even less appealing than staying at a hotel. On top of all these options, how can parents not get anxious when their children are on their own thousands of miles away? Even though I’ve been privileged enough to have wonderful places to stay every break so far, I have received countless phone calls from my parents and grandparents every day. Their feelings are only imaginable should things have not gone well.
What is a more sensible step forward when we think about accommodating international students during the Thanksgiving break? That’s a question that we as a community can and should ponder upon. For starters, is the golden stipulation that everyone must move out of campus during Thanksgiving break really so impregnable? For a small number of international students, finding housing will be extraordinarily difficult. It seems reasonable to keep one house open for them rather than kicking them out in the wild to deal with some less-than-satisfying options. Of course, none of us can guarantee to have the details of such an arrangement all figured out at this hour. It is, nonetheless, a thought we can explore, and we should keep this conversation going.