York International provides supports for students to stay connected during holiday break

A holiday garland
A holiday garland

Exams and classes may be coming to an end for the fall term, but York International (YI) wants international students to know there are still ways they can stay engaged during the holiday break, no matter where in the world they are joining from. There will also be University supports available, should they encounter difficulties during the holidays.

“Every year, we offer holiday programming and supports for international students, and, as different as this year is in many ways, that’s one thing that we did not want to change,” said Christine Omuodo-Kouassi, YI’s international student program facilitator. “Of course, all York students are welcome to join our activities; they are all about building community.”

A holiday garland
York International wants international students to know there are still ways they can stay engaged during the holiday break, no matter where in the world they are joining from

As exams wind down, there are ongoing YI Virtual Coffee Breaks on most weekdays with themes that offer great opportunities to learn from fellow students and share stories. The Dec. 21 coffee break is devoted to ideas about recharging after a challenging semester.

Two days later, York International kicks off the holiday season with its annual Winter Holiday Gala on Dec. 23 to celebrate the end of exams and the start of the holiday break. The gala is usually a semi-formal party held on campus, but Omuodo-Kouassi says there is no reason why participants can’t take this opportunity to still get dressed up even though it will be a virtual event this year.

“One of our students told me she had a new dress and would love to wear it,” said Omuodo-Kouassi. “This is a great opportunity to get dressed up and put on some make-up or wear whatever students makes them feel their best. We’ll be celebrating not only the last day of exams and the holiday season, but the fact that we all survived the fall semester remotely.”

YI will be going strong during the break, offering both incoming students and continuing students opportunities to connect and have some fun. On Dec. 27, it’s Holiday Art Therapy, a chance for students to visually express what the holidays mean to them. No talent is necessary; the idea is to have fun and share ideas with each other.

Dec. 30 is Winter Games Day, a way to get in the spirit of the new year in advance. There will be lots of fun, silly games that are bound to cause laughter. It’s a great way to relax among friends, old and new.

Then, it’s time to celebrate 2021 a second time on Jan. 3, this time with fellow students. Get together and chat about new year’s resolutions and why you make them – or not!

Of course, there are also opportunities to connect informally during the break. Visit the YI Global Community Facebook page any time to meet up with other international students, wherever they are spending the holidays. For incoming students, who would like to meet other newcomers, there’s also a Facebook page just for you. There will also be dedicated orientation sessions for new international students on Jan. 7 and 8.

While activities and relaxation are top of mind when contemplating the holidays, YI staff also want students to know there are safety and well-being resources available during the break. YI will have staff on call 24/7 throughout the holidays for urgent and emergency situations for international students, including immigration advisors, support for students in quarantine, and more. Community Safety at York is available 365 days of the year on campus to support community members’ safety. Students and families shouldn’t hesitate to call if they have immediate concerns. YI also has a holiday webpage that offers useful information about resources during the holidays in the event a University contact can’t be reached immediately. The page also offers lots of suggestions for celebrating the season, both in Toronto and around the world.

Daryl Nauman, York University’s director of residence life, says those international students living in residence can find all the necessary information regarding residence and campus holiday services on the Facebook page for their individual residence.

“We want to assure our YI community that York is interested in your well-being whether school is in session or not,” said Woo Kim, YI’s associate director, international student and scholar services. “We are available to assist you whenever you need our help. Whether we hear from you or not, we wish you a joyous holiday season.”

By Elaine Smith, contributing writer