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Students far from home can still feast

As Biola students get ready for the holidays, some have something extra to be thankful for —- a place to stay.

Many international or out-of-state students cannot afford to travel to their far-away homes for Thanksgiving and have to rely on friends or faculty for a place to stay. Residence Life has set up a system to help students find a home for the holiday. Gale Stacy, residence life administrative secretary, said this system will be open for sign-ups until the day vacation starts.

Director of Residence Life Rachel Clark said Biola saw a need and wanted to make something happen to meet that need.

“It’s cool that people are welcoming,” Clark said. “And what a cool experience, a different experience with a family for Thanksgiving, to take the risk and join someone else. Sharing and connecting stories has a lot to do with being a Christ follower.”

Stacy said this is the second year Biola has offered to connect students with possible hosts. So far, more faculty and parents than students have volunteered to host students, but she expected more calls from both students looking for a place to stay and volunteers and as Thanksgiving draws nearer.

Those who have volunteered have expressed joy and excitement about the opportunity.

“I had one lady who volunteered last year, and she said, ‘I never got a call last year, so I was hoping to get a student to host this year,’” Stacy said.

Stacy tries to pair students with compatible hosts by looking at things like whether students and hosts are male or female and what majors students or faculty are involved in, she said.

Some students, however, have made matches of their own and plan to stay with nearby friends or family. International freshman Yanxuan Wang said she will spend Thanksgiving at a friend’s house in San Diego, and freshman YingYing Cui of China said she will stay with a family she has come to know as her second “parents.”

Sophomore Meagan Strodel is a long way from home too. She won’t go home to New Hampshire this Thanksgiving because of the distance, finances and the time difference that causes a plane trip to take an entire day.

“It comes with the territory of being an ‘extreme’ out-of-stater,” she wrote. “Some people take for granted that they can zip home and see their family. The only thing that bothers me is when they complain about how hard it is for them to go home —- and it’s not, they only live ‘x’ amount of minutes away. Try living 3,000 miles away from the only world you’ve ever known.”

While being away from her parents doesn’t come easy to Strodel, she said she sustains herself by thinking of the coming Christmas break and of her friends who open their homes to her. A proud out-of-stater, she loves her family, but also loves the opportunity she has to be at Biola.

Some students, like sophomore Taija Ziegenfuss, plan to stay at Biola for the break. Ziegenfuss said that, as a foster child, she hates going to houses foreign to her, and she thinks it would be awkward to stay with a family she doesn’t know.

“That’s a weird way to meet somebody,” she said. “‘Hey, I’m Taija and I’m going to live with you.”

Stacy, however, encouraged students to try something new.

“It’s a way to experience someone else’s tradition and create new memories,” she said.

Senior Hannah Emenaker and her brother sophomore Nathanael,children of missionaries, agreed. The siblings, who will stay with their grandparents in Santa Barbara this year, encouraged students to stay with friends or take advantage of Residence Life’s offer to find someone to stay with over the break.

“Don’t be afraid,” Nathanael said. “Most families wouldn’t reject you.”

Hannah also encouraged students to volunteer to host friends.

“I tried to invite friends last year and missed some of my friends,” she said. “I felt bad. Don’t assume [your friends] have somewhere to go, and don’t be afraid to ask people.”

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