International students to spend holidays with new friends

Cory Hurley
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International Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland students Bruce Perinchief and Leah Ragoonath are spending their first Christmas and holiday season away from their parents and families.

CORNER BROOK  The holiday season is all about family and friends, pretty well no matter where in the world you are from.

A pair of international students at Grenfell Campus of Memorial University in Corner Brook know that all too well.

Leah Ragoonath of Trinidad and Tobago and Bruce Perinchief of Bermuda are both second year students at the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador campus. In their first year of studies, the two 19-year-olds went back to their homes and families for the holidays.

Both said it was important to them, and their families, during their first times away from home. Ragoonath said the student recruitment officers recommended she do that, to help with the adjustment to her new life and the possibility of homesickness — especially during the holidays. Perinchief said it was more or less a directive of his mother, whom he said just needed to see him.

As more established students at Grenfell, they have both decided the expenses and trials of holiday travel are not worth it this time around. So, it’s Christmas and the holidays at residence for them, and about 10 more international students.

The math major, with a minor in physics, has her dorm room all decorated in festive colours, a small reminder of what she is missing in her home in Trinidad.

The traditions in the two countries are similar, yet very different, Ragoonath said. She was raised to await the arrival of Santa Claus and the gifts he left under the tree, as her father was very much a part of making her believe in the Christmas tradition and spirit.

Her house is always festive and decorated, but their holiday is months of celebration, she said. Their holiday foods and music are very unique to the holiday season too, things they don’t normally have the rest of the year.

“Back home, there is a lot of focus on music and food,” she said. “It is very diverse, more than Newfoundland is. We have a lot of people from all over the world over there, so it is a lot of culture involved.”

She also said the atmosphere is different, with the holidays in Newfoundland more of a quiet time.

Ragoonath’s family is very big, she said, so it is difficult to buy for everybody. So, they get names of family members in November for a special Boxing day gathering and gift exchange.

She is sad about missing out on some of her home traditions this holiday season, but she is excited about experiencing something new. The international students at Grenfell have become a close group, and they will be sharing the holiday together.

Ragoonath will be trying her hand in the kitchen, cooking some of her local delicacies — which she said revolves around a feast of ham, rather than turkey. Other dishes, traditional Newfoundland families would not recognize by name or appearance.

Meanwhile, the plans for Perinchief this holiday are pretty much the same as his friend. They share the same circle of friends at Grenfell, and will be celebrating together during the holiday.

The business management student said his mother ensured their house was decorated and had a Christmas tree every year at home — even during times of financial difficulty. While the holiday was cherished by his family, he acknowledges their custom is a little unusual. His family would sometimes use the time to travel to different parts of the world, often on their own. It has made the adjustment to his first Christmas away from Bermuda and his family a little easier.

“Our tradition is more or less ensuring we are thinking about each other,” he said. “When a lot of people miss their families, I miss them in different ways. I miss being able to just see them easily, but I have been independent from them for a while now because of the natural way my family household is.”

Perinchief was also looking forward to the chance to spend some extended free time with his new friends from all over the world.

He believes there is a big difference in the holidays in Bermuda than Newfoundland because of the public events held in his country. He said the winter weather probably plays a role in that.

“I find that draws a lot of people to stay home, which is great too because it helps people get closer to their families,” he said.

Both being from warmer climates, neither had experienced a white Christmas before this one. The fairytale Christmas stories and Hollywood movies will have a little extra meaning for them this year.

However, at the end of the day, they continue to miss their families — but on a physical level. They are quick to point out, their family is only a click of a mouse or button away. They use Skype to speak with their family members all the time. But, a nice Christmas present certainly would have been a hug from mom and dad.

Organizations: Memorial University in Corner Brook

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Bermuda, CORNER BROOK Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad.The Hollywood

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