International students acclimate to KU campus in heart of winter break

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Vivian Yudistyra, 18, a freshman from Jakarta, Indonesia, couldn't go home for winter break at KU, so she has been taking on more hours at the Market in the Kansas Union. She stood in the nearly deserted food court just before lunch on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

The University of Kansas won’t feel as deserted as it has for the past three weeks of winter break now that about 100 new international students have arrived.

They arrived Monday to get acclimated before the spring semester begins on Jan. 22, said Amy Neufeld, managing director of the Academic Accelerator Program.

The students, ranging from new freshmen to graduate students, began orientation Monday, according to Charles Olcese, director of International Student Services. During the fall semester, 2,114 international students were on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, according to ISS data.

For some international students enrolled in the fall semester, going home for winter break wasn’t an option, making for some long days during the five-week recess.

Vivian Yudistyra, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering, from Jakarta, Indonesia, was one of those students left behind.

She acknowledged mixed emotions about being on campus when it was practically empty. On one hand, she was happy getting in extra hours working at the food court in the Kansas Union. Plus, she was glad not to have to deal with a more than 20-hour flight home.

“Instead of spending all that money to fly home, I am making money,” she said.

But there have also been moments of total solitude, which could feel a little strange for a woman who six months ago was living in a city of more than 9 million people.

She has spent a lot of the break reading. She admitted to feeling disappointed after getting an A- in English this semester; otherwise, she would have had a 4.0 GPA instead of 3.94. However, she just learned she had been accepted into the chemical engineering department for next semester, which has her excited.

She said she fought off the blues experienced by many international students by talking almost every day to her mother in Jakarta. Plus she has been frequently reaching out to her close friends from high school – one is currently studying in Minnesota; the others are in Singapore and in England at school.

Yudistyra is one of 22 students from Jakarta attending KU. Before making her decision to come to Kansas, she spoke with another Indonesian student, Axel Silvano, a KU junior. He gave her a friendly warning about this time of year.

“He said it was going to be empty during the break,” she said.

Her recess hasn’t been all work and phone calls. She was able to have two holiday celebrations. One was an early Christmas with a Lawrence family whom she was connected to through International Student Services at KU. She had Thanksgiving with the same family and said it was fun.

Another connection is her mother’s childhood friend who now lives in the Kansas City area.

“Going to their house is like going home,” Yudistyra said.

She also rang in the new year in Denver. She took a bus trip with other international students from KU and Kansas State University with Bridges International, a Christian leadership group.

Many international students who can’t go home during winter break take trips around the country, Neufeld said.

“It’s a good time for them to travel,” Neufeld said.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.