International Students Experience "American Christmas"
By Rev. Irene Wong, Executive Director, AMIS Atlanta
For over 50 years, the Christmas International House (CIH) has been a unique program for international college and university students and scholars to experience friendship and hospitality with an American host community during winter break. The Kansas City program has been offered for the last 20 years as a ministry of Village Presbyterian Church in Kansas City in partnership with AMIS. They hosted 5 students this year. Three of them came from Atlanta.
Through this program, international students studying in other parts of the US are able to fulfil their dream of experiencing an “American Christmas” which they may have viewed through Hollywood movies as a child.
Davit is a master’s student in cybersecurity at Georgia Tech from Armenia. He wrote,
I really enjoyed my time in Kansas. I loved meeting my host family and they seemed very nice and welcoming. Despite some unprecedented weather conditions, we completed most of the planned activities. It was great meeting the other students and getting a deeper understanding of their culture. I especially enjoyed our visit to the WW1 museum and the bowling/ice skating we did together. Overall it was a simultaneously educational and enjoyable experience. I can finally say that I have had an authentic "American Christmas" experience
Shubhang is another Georgia Tech graduate student who was able to enjoy the experience. He wrote,
I would put my experience into words, but words would hardly reach the majestic feeling I had when exploring the city of Kansas. Right from where I landed, Judy Miller with her adopted daughter, Tabby, came to pick me up at the airport. On the same day we travelled through the golden lights of the city plaza. Judy welcomed us heartily in her home. The next day, our journey began with the church. Over the course of 7 days, we explored some of the best places in Kansas like the World War I museum, Nelson Art Gallery … and dined through variety of cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Lebanese and American. We celebrated Christmas Eve dinner at Judy’s neighbor’s and later attended the ceremony at the church. Later on Christmas Day, we opened the gifts that we bought and some from the church. While the dinner was traditional Christmas one and with some Indian cuisine magic. While the weather was cold, the way in which we were welcomed by everyone including Judy, the church leaders, other host families, and their neighbors was warm enough to overcome the effects of cold! I am immensely thankful to the AMIS community, to select me to have the experience of traditional American Christmas. It was more than what I had dreamed of. The feeling was out of the world. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
LinLin, a visiting scholar at Georgia Southwestern State University was able to spend Christmas with a host family in Atlanta. As the only visiting scholar this year on her campus in Americus, she looked forward to spending Christmas in Atlanta. She wrote about her experience:
I am Linlin, I have returned to school after my Christmas trip to Atlanta. Thank you, Jeanne and Ross for giving me a perfect Christmas. The holidays made me feel the warmth of home.
This Christmas holiday was very fulfilling and happy. Jeanne and Ross took me to the symphony concert. At noon, Jeanne took me and two other Chinese students to a fast-food restaurant with a history of 100 years. We had a great time chatting together.
Jeanne also took me to many Asian markets and international supermarkets. We ate very Chinese food together and bought a lot of specialties from my hometown, which I couldn’t see, taste or buy in Americus. Although the weather was very cold, Jeanne also took me to see a very beautiful light show. In Jeanne and Ross's spacious, bright and comfortable house, I learned American recipes, tasted delicious dishes and desserts, drank ginger beer, played interesting poker and mind games, learned to wrap presents.
I went to the church on Christmas Eve to participate in a very interesting Christmas event. At Christmas, I received my first Christmas stocking and beautiful Christmas gifts. At noon, I and the other two Chinese students had Christmas dinner at Jeanne and Ross's house and played puzzle games. Jeanne and Ross's daughter Lisa knows China and Korea very well. We chatted until late.…
When I left Jeanne's house, I cried because I missed it so much, there was the warmth of home, the care of loved ones and the wonderful holiday memories. Here I can only express my thanks to you through words!
And a note from LinLin’s host family:
We were so happy to have you and get to know you and share our Christmas traditions. You were the perfect guest who always offered to help, appreciated everything, and was cleaning up before anyone else. Your command of the English language is very good and will be even better when you return home next year. I think you will be very successful in your Volleyball referee role at international events and games. Maybe we will see you on TV someday if they broadcast the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship from Hangzhou next summer
Best of luck to you in 2023