Not Home for the Holidays: International Students, Athletes Spend Thanksgiving and/or Christmas on Campus

"It's really what you make of it. Yes, there are other people in the same situation, so that helps."


The dorms are empty and administration buildings at the College of Idaho are locked tight, but some student athletes and international students don't—or can't—head home for the holidays.

"It's a bummer when all of your friends go home and you have to stay on campus," said Emily Hawgood, a C of I senior from Zimbabwe. "But it is really what you make of it. Yes, there are other people in the same situation, so that helps, too."

While their classmates have packed their bags and hit the road, some of those left behind find other ways to to enjoy the season. The International Student Organization at C of I does its best to curb homesickness by taking "orphaned" students to the movies or finding host families to welcome them in.

"For the past three years, I've taken a van full of international students to Winter Garden Aglow," said Jen Nelson, director of Residence Life at C of I. "It's cold, but fun. We try to bring along Alan Laird, our director of Campus Safety, and our own families, as well."

C of I does allow a select number of athletes and international students to stay on campus, but the options for sustenance are few: the main cafeteria is closed during holiday breaks and a small cafe in the student union building only serves a few items during limited hours. Student athletes aren't abandoned, though. The C of I Athletic Department does its best to create a sense of family for its athletes.

"Actually, our season is in full-fledge over the holiday season," said Scott Garson, C of I men's basketball head coach. "I try to give our team some time to go home and see their folks over Christmas, but it is not always possible. Yes, we'll be out on the court, practicing on Thanksgiving Day and, if by chance we're on the road for a tournament, we'll find a place to have a Thanksgiving dinner. For any night that our team is on campus, we try to set up a meal with a local sports fan's family in the Caldwell area. They make us dinner; it's an awesome way for our fans to get to know the players better. I'm overwhelmed sometimes by the kindness and concern from our community."

This year, the C of I men's and women's basketball teams will be participating in Thanksgiving weekend tournaments, hosting Montana Western, Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain on Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26 at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

Meanwhile, at Boise State University, some students stay in the dorms during the holidays, but only if the administration approves.

"We keep the Boise State cafeteria open on almost all of the days, but the hours are limited," said Dan Hammerquist, assistant director of Housing Operations at Boise State.

Hammerquist estimates during the past five years, about 400 students out of an overall population of 22,000 have been approved to remain in residence halls over the winter break.

"There really aren't large-scale activities since there are fewer students on campus," he said.

On Wednesday, Nov. 23, Boise State Broncos football players and coaches will spend some time at the Boise Rescue Mission serving a holiday meal to families in need. The Broncos will then leave on Thanksgiving Day for Colorado Springs, Colo., where they'll face off before a nationally televised audience Friday, Nov. 25 with the cadets of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The football team will probably be around during the Christmas season, too, awaiting a much-anticipated bowl game—time and location will be determined sometime in December.

The Broncos men's and women's basketball teams will also be staying on campus for Thanksgiving and for an abbreviated Christmas break.

"The last couple years we have been out of town on Thanksgiving Day, so we will have a team Thanksgiving dinner where we are," said Cariann Ramirez, Boise State women's basketball assistant coach. "Typically, we try to give our women four or five days ... to go back to their families over Christmas."

The women's basketball squad will be on the road Friday, Nov. 25 playing in the Saint Mary's Tournament in Moraga, Calif. The men's basketball team will be at home, hosting Presbyterian College at Taco Bell Arena.

"As for some of our basketball players who come to Boise from overseas, they'll usually go home for a brief holiday with a player from the U.S.," said Ramirez. "And our first game after Christmas is a home game against Utah State University on Thursday, Dec. 29, so they have to be back on campus by the day after Christmas."

School officials said that while a student athlete's holiday can be somewhat nontraditional, they do their best to provide some sense of family—and they get a lot of help from people in the community happy to host a student during the holidays.

"They are pretty well taken care of, " said Ramirez.