Once winter break officially begins Dec. 13, Mercer requires that all on-campus housing be cleared of students. At this time, card access will be turned off for all residence halls, apartments and Greek houses.
For many who live on-campus, this break means making a trip back home to spend the holidays with loved ones. But it means something entirely different for international students living on campus — many of whom are thousands of miles away from home.
“We didn’t actually know when we first came here that we couldn’t stay in our accommodations … not until we got an email saying we would have to move out,” Stephanie Hall, a junior from England, said. “It’s rather annoying.”
Many international students, forced to vacate the international house for winter break, are facing issues when it comes to finding where to stay. The majority of them either don’t have family members living stateside or are not allowed to travel home unless there is a family emergency per their scholarship details.
Many have opted to travel around the United States during the break in response to this. For some students, however, arranging travel accommodations for a month comes at too high of a price.
“Some of us may not have the money to travel and have no options. We are only planning [these trips] because we have no option,” Hall said. “I think we need to be catered for more. [Mercer] forgets about us. They just expect us to have plans.”
One student who came to Mercer from Japan, Maiko Yuzuriha, had to enroll in another school during the break because she could not afford to travel for an entire month. For Yuzuriha’s family, the price of her attendance at another school will be cheaper than arranging travel accommodations for a month.
“My mother and I were afraid when we heard I could not stay here. I have to go to school in New York,” said Yuzuriha. “I’ll stay there for the whole break. I didn’t have a choice, so I will study. But I wish I could stay here for winter break.”
Josh Hodges, a domestic student who has chosen to live in the international house this year, said that it would be beneficial if international students could befriend students who live stateside, so they could plan to spend breaks with them instead.
But Faisal Aldhorgham, a junior from Saudi Arabia, said that it isn’t so easy.
“It’s not like [international students] don’t have friends [to stay with],” Aldhorgham said. “It’s just that their friends normally go home to their families, and so they can’t make plans with us.”
Many international students are looking to Mercer’s administration to help remedy their housing situation.
“There is not yet an official system for students who can’t go back home. I think it would be really cool if Mercer could offer housing during the break even if it’s just limited or for special reasons” said Gabriel Gonzales, a senior originally from Venezuela and member of both the Residence Hall Association and the International Bears Association.
“But I understand that it’s hard to let just anyone stay. I think it would be an amazing opportunity if they could [offer housing] for special cases where traveling is just not possible,” he said.
But Julie Strecker, director of Mercer’s International Program, said the university has not seen a large enough number of complaints thus far to organize such a program.
“Right now, there is more of a grassroots approach to supporting [international] students” Strecker said, adding that the university already deals with these issues on a case by case basis.
“If the students want help, they need to communicate it,” she said.
Note: Jeff Takac, Director of Housin contacted us between the printing and publication of this article to clarify that international students were made aware of their obligation to leave campus during winter break through contracts they signed before coming to Mercer. Takac also said Mercer would be open to organizing a program that helps remedy this situation and urges international students to share their concerns with housing officials.