The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends, and for Texas A&M students, that often means going back home.

However, bilingual education junior Alexa Flores, from Maracaibo, Venezuela, has not gone home this whole semester and will spend Thanksgiving away from home.

Flores said she was close to her family and found it difficult to leave Venezuela. She had never been away from home for more than a month, so she said the thought of leaving her family and moving to a new country scared her. Strikes and riots taking place in Venezuela persuaded her to come to the United States.

“My parents and I both decided that it was best that I leave Maracaibo in order to live a healthy college experience with no distractions or interruptions,” Flores said.

Despite her attempts to stay positive throughout her transition into college life, Flores said she could not help feeling saddened when the holidays arrived.

Flores’ freshman year was her first Thanksgiving away from home as a college student. She stayed behind in what she described as a “ghost town.” The absence of college students made her feel even more alone. College and expenses did not make it possible for Flores to visit her family in Venezuela.

“I spent the whole weekend watching movies and trying not to cry my eyes out,” Flores said. “I had never felt so homesick.”

This Thanksgiving will be the third year she’s spent the holiday away from her family. In Venezuela, Thanksgiving is not a holiday, but Flores’ family is half American so it is an important celebration for her and her family.

“It was a very hard decision to make, but I am so glad I took this path,” Flores said. “Texas A&M had been my dream school for the longest time, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Engineering freshman Shurui Zhang is from China and said she chose A&M because it has the best engineering program in Texas. She also fell in love with how the college campus looks.

Zhang has been in the United States since 2016 and has an aunt and uncle in Houston, where she will spend her Thanksgiving this year. The last time Zhang went home to China was in June.

“It can be lonely since my parents are in China,” Zhang said. “But it is just something that I need to get used to for choosing to study abroad. Also, because my aunt is here, I feel I’m not by myself.”

Zhang said that she found support in her dance group and in her church fellowship group. It made her have a greater sense of belonging.

Using a chat app is how Zhang keeps in contact with her friends in China. This keeps her connected to the life of her loved ones back at home. She shares her experiences at A&M and they are able to keep up with each other’s lives.

“I don’t ever think about going back because what I can learn and experience here is so much more that what I can learn if I go to college in China,” she said.

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