Holiday: Home Away From Home


Natalie Roe

Mayla Gomes sat at her boyfriend’s house wondering what she should do next after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

If she were back in her home country of Brazil, she would be cleaning the dishes by hand, conversing with family. But not this year.

Mayla Gomes in her dorm room at UGA
Mayla Gomes in her dorm room at UGA

“I was like what should I do,” Gomes said. “Should I hand wash this? Should I wait? I didn’t want to be the lazy person that was just eating and sitting there.”

Something many Americans take for granted – such as automated dishwashing —  makes Gomes long for her family.

“It was definitely weird being around Americans,” Gomes said. “It’s not that bad, but it’s how you feel when you’re surrounded by people from another country, you feel dislocated, you feel like you are doing something wrong all the time.”

Gomes is not alone as she wishes she could travel home for the holidays. She is a part of the 2,600+ international students at The University of Georgia who must find homes away from home during the holiday seasons.

Many reasons keep international students from returning home during winter break, which at Georgia is around three weeks. While many of the dorms are abandoned as finals end, certain dorms stay open to accommodate international students.

Because Reed, Payne, and East Campus Village are the only halls that will remain open over the break many students are forced to move to these halls if they cannot travel back home.

For international student, Vanessa Vassenallo, the move from Brazil was tough without her family but perks like having her own room in ECV make it a little better.

“I really like it,” Vassanallo said. “I know some people that are sharing the rooms, they’re not having good roommates. So, I’m really happy that I’m here.”

However, bigger rooms don’t make up for lack of family and Rayra Dituri fights her feelings every day on campus as she works towards a brighter future.

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Rayura Dituri with her family in Brazil

“I really miss my family when I’m not with them,” Dituri said. “But I really wanted to come here to the United States so that was the consequence I knew would happen. I’m okay with that, but I really miss them, mainly during the holidays.”

International students stay on average for a year and a half, which means Christmas isn’t the only holiday they miss with their families.


However, with accommodations from UGA and friends close by, students are finding new ways to enjoy the holiday season, even if it is a little different.

Shot and Edited by Reporter Fernanda Perez

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