The Unique Holiday Experience

A Small Glimpse Into the Diverse Campus of UNT

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UNT is arguably one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. We are home away from home for more than 30,000 students who come from all different walks of life. Our international students program is a top ranked program and well-known across the world. Five International students from all around the world share their UNT experiences with us and how they plan to spend the holidays with family and friends.

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Abir Arabi

A junior economics major from the United Arab Emirates.

What do you like most about UNT?

There are numerous things that I like and I really don’t know which to mention. I do like the fact that everyone is encouraged to connect more.

What’s the biggest difference between the UAE and Texas?

I think the biggest difference in Texas is the lack of public transportation even if you compare Texas to other states. Like I’ve never felt that driving is a requirement and in my country you don’t need to drive you can walk or take the public transportation. Taxi’s are pretty cheap as well. Another thing is that everything is just bigger in the United States in general. I don’t know how to describe it, but definitely food wise everything is bigger. I’m not complaining though!

What’s your favorite holiday and how do you normally celebrate?

Well for this particular question i’m going to mention a holiday that is unique to the UAE, which is called National Day. What’s interesting is that it’s going on right now and it’s actually the anniversary of the country. It isn’t really a fun holiday, it actually sounds very mundane when I explain it, but technically there is just a huge parade made of traffic. So people who are stuck in traffic take part in the parade and dance from their cars. They dress up in jewelry and colors of the UAE flag. There is also lots of food given out to everyone, mosques and etc. I think that it’s a very interesting holiday that I kind of miss. Also, one of the bad sides of this holiday is snow sprays, which is a spray that shoots out string. It’s very common during National holiday to spray at friends and family, some people will even spray strangers. I think it’s a really unique holiday.

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Naziba Hossain

A senior rehabilitations major from Bangladesh.

What do you like most about UNT?

When I first came here I had no idea about schooling and colleges in America. I came here as a student, so UNT was all I knew. Now, I have been to other colleges because of friends and cousins and I can compare. What I like about UNT is it’s diversity. I never feel like I am the only brown person around. In my classes there are different types of students and we have so much international events going on the whole year, so it’s never lonely or boring for me. People are really interesting.

What’s the biggest difference between Bangladesh and Texas?

Oh my gosh. Let me tell you if there is any similarities. Maybe the heat is the only similarity! There is a difference in the way everybody dresses. One difference that was really interesting to me in the beginning was the way people talk to each other. Like in English “you” only have the word you. And you use “you” to talk to elders, little ones, and everybody else. But in my language and I think in most other languages you have three different types of ways of addressing people. Like when you’re speaking with elders you use a different version of “you”. The way everyone dresses over here is different, everyone dresses casually. Back at home you dress according to the place you are going to, formally, informally, and etc. Food! We don’t have diverse food, like Texas. Texas has food from all other countries, but in Bangladesh it’s mostly South Asian food. American food is really expensive. If you wanna go have pizza it’s going to be expensive, which is weird because pizza is the cheapest food here.

What’s your favorite holiday and how do you normally celebrate?

Bangladesh is a Muslim country, 90% of the people are Muslim. So the biggest holiday is going to be Edi. When people ask me what’s Edi, I just tell them it’s Christmas for Muslim people. We have two Edis, two Christmases in our year. Yay! We call it the small Edi and the big Edi. I have realized that Thanksgiving is also close to our Edi. At Thanksgiving time you get together with friends and family and have a good dinner. That’s the same thing for us. This Thanksgiving I got to celebrate a nice “Friendsgiving,”so we did all of that. My cousin got married, so we got to be together. So I think for me, thanksgiving is a very good vacation, the idea that you get together with friends or family and have food is wonderful, it reminds me of home.

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Lillian Shih

A first year speech language pathology major from Taiwan.

What do you like most about UNT?

First of all I just came here, so I really don’t know the school that well yet. But I feel like we are an art school. Before I came here, I knew we had a big art program. I actually go to the exhibitions all the time. Then we also have music concerts almost everyday and that’s really interesting to me. At my previous college, we didn’t have an art program, so I feel like this is a really artistic school.

What’s the biggest difference between Taiwan and Texas?

Okay so first, everything here is HUGE. One portion of food is humongous. The roads are huge and the parking is huge. Everything is huge! In the beginning I wouldn’t dare to drive because the roads were too big. I felt so unsafe. Where I come from, in Taiwan we have very scarce land, so it’s crowded. The buildings are close to each other. For food it’s always a small portion, so you are able to finish it. For us, we like to eat, so food is really cheap and you can buy food anywhere. There are 24/7 stores and restaurants everywhere. You can get anything at anytime. This is very common in Asia. We have convenient stores that are sometimes right under people’s houses. The houses here are all mansions. Most of the houses there are all apartments.

What’s your favorite holiday and how do you normally celebrate?

My favorite holiday would be Chinese New Year because that’s when our Winter Break is. Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, so the date varies every year. Sometimes we have a longer Winter break and sometimes we it’s shorter, it just depends on when Chinese New Year is. Usually we celebrate it for four days. Families get together and eat. We celebrate with our father’s family first, so I would go to my dad’s mother’s house and then all of my father’s brothers would be there. We call that “Dad’s of Family” so that means a lot of people would be there, which means a lot of presents, noise, and food! Then on the second day we celebrate with the mother’s side. So everyone goes to the mother’s house. We get all of mom’s parents’ house and do it all again. We meet all my mother’s cousins, aunts, and uncles. Then we eat a big meal! Little kids look forward to little red envelopes.

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Sharath Thatipetty

A graduate student studying electrical engineering from India.

What do you like most about UNT?

It’s culture, diversity, and it’s support to students. The one quality I really like here, is their unity. Every student at UNT shows their school pride.

What’s the biggest difference between India and Texas?

Here the employment opportunities, the course work, and the overall development of a student is much better than India. We only have 8 hours a day of class work everyday in India and that’s it, but not here in Texas or UNT, a student has to study and do their work and research at home as well.

What are you looking forward to during the holidays?

I want to go to Las Vegas [for the holidays]. I really like to gamble. In our country we didn’t have casinos, so I learned about gambling in the USA. I really like this culture. As soon as I get my car I’ll go with my friends on holiday!

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Rose Kuo

A senior fashion merchandising and digital retail major from Taiwan.

What do you like most about UNT?

Before I came to Denton, I was in this very small town, New Braunfels. It was just a small town and I feel like everyone was so close-minded. After coming to UNT I’ve met a lot of new people that are so open minded. They are not afraid to talk to you because you are different. They are not scared to talk to you because you look different. When I was in New Braunfels, a few of my friends would tell me the first time they met me they didn’t know what to say because they didn’t know if I would be able to understand them or have a conversation. It’s understandable, but here everyone doesn’t care. They are just so free and open to try everything. Just free and open to diversity. They are willing to accept and adopt other cultures. They want to know the differences and more about you.

What’s the biggest difference between Taiwan and Texas?

There are a lot of differences. I have been in this state for almost six years. The first thing that was very different to me was food. Like the Chinese food here or Asian cuisine is completely different than what I have back home. It’s very americanized. Culture wise, the dialogue is completely different. In Taiwan, I was from a big city and we don’t ask people “oh, how are you?” or “how are you doing?” It was very weird for me, when I first came here, that everyone was asking me “what’s up?” or “how are you?” I was just like “what’s up?”… what does than mean? How am I supposed to answer that? So I think that was a very big difference for me to adjust to.

Also, Texas is so big and Taiwan is tiny. You have to drive everywhere here in Texas. In Taiwan, I have a convenience store that’s right down the stairs from my home. Everything is just so easily accessible. A lot of stores here close really early here. Once it passes 10 o’clock , your only food options is fast food, but back at home we have so many options and everything is open a lot later. I’m sure it’s because the market is much more competitive there, that’s why everyone feels like they have to stay open later. Those were the main things when I was having a hard time adjusting.

What’s your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate?

My favorite holiday would have to be Chinese New Year because it’s very similar to Christmas. But instead of giving gifts we get money in a red envelope. To me I think that’s a lot more useful sometimes compared to a gift because it can be hard to give someone the gift they want. Despite the giving gift part, we eat a lot of food like Christmas! We just eat a lot of authentic Chinese food and you get to see your family that you haven’t seen for a while. In my family, the part I love the most is later that night we all sit down and gamble with the money we get. You can use the money and get more money or lose it all! It’s fun, it’s kind of like on Christmas day when you play family games, but in my family we gamble!

Every student that steps foot on UNT’s campus is unique. They have interesting and relatable backgrounds, stories and lives that are filled with purpose and dreams. The Mean Green Eagles are dreamers and world changers and this includes the thousands of students that travel from over the world to experience the numinous wonders of being a UNT student. There is no doubt that our international student population will continue to grow at rapid speeds.

To learn more about the opportunities the international center at UNT has to offer visit: https://international.unt.edu/

Loved meeting these students? Follow them at Instagram! Find Rose @tingtingrose Find Naziba @nazibanazrana Find Abir @abirarabi

Words and Photos by Rikki Willingham

Edits by Maia Wilson

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