Do Not Be Sad to be Away from Home During the Chinese New Year

Spring Festival lantern
Creative commons photo by Flickr user alex.ch

Hey, all! How is your Chinese New Year going?

For an international student, feelings about the Chinese New Year are COMPLICATED. We miss traditions like having a big dinner with family on New Year’s Eve, making dumplings, and watching the New Year Gala on CCTV.

It sounds like all the essential parts of Spring Festival (same as Chinese New Year) are not available in America. So, international students: Was your homesickness getting stronger when the holiday came? Did you feel sad? Did all the bitterness about studying abroad suddenly get you overwhelmed?

Well, my answer is that you do not have to feel sad in the family get-together season with the separation from family. Because either you can try to create a new year atmosphere in the U.S., or just let that day pass naturally – those are your unique experience that only international students have, and you should be proud of it and treasure it!

We have big dinner, dumplings, New Year Gala, in the U.S.!

CSSC New Year's Gala Invite
CSSC New Year's Gala Invite

As far as I know, the Chinese student associations in many American universities will hold New Year’s galas this week, in order to give Chinese students a delightful festival experience, and help relieve the homesickness.

For example, this Saturday, the CSSA (Chinese Student and Scholar Association) of the University of Southern California will throw a huge Spring Festival Gala in Tutor Campus Center which is the newest auditorium of USC. Chinese students at USC will perform songs, dances, comedy and so on. All of those shows are original content created by our talented students.

Some of my friends who will give performance that night have been rehearsing for several weeks. What is more, one of the best-rated Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles will offer free Chinese food to all the attendants! Yummy!!

[Read about how other schools celebrated the Lunar New Year]

My friend Xue Li and her friend making dumplings
My friend Xue Li and her friend making dumplings

Speaking of YUMMY, the yummiest food is definitely dumplings! And you can start a new tradition by bringing dumplings to America. Making dumplings with friends is not only fun, but also special, because we are cooking the most representative Chinese cuisine while 8,000 miles away from China.

Isn’t it cool?

Spring festival is just an ordinary day, I have tons of stuff to deal with

Not all Chinese students are passionate about celebrating Chinese New Year in the absence of family. The author of this post, me, is an example.

There was basically no time for me to celebrate it, or even think of it, this year. I work full-time at The Hollywood Reporter every weekday, and before taking a break, I have to rush straight to my grad school classes three times a week, each lasting from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. I often tease myself that I have to drive back over speed to get into the class on time.

My readings for grad school are done during the breakfast and lunch break, and the only two hours of free time before sleep is for writing papers.

In addition, Spring Festival for me is about family. If there is no family get-together, then Spring Festival is just a regular day.

The point that I want to make here is, no matter which type you are when facing Chinese traditional festival in the U.S., it is totally unnecessary to be sad for not celebrating the festival with family. First, you can celebrate it with friends if you like. Second, it is part of experience that is unique for being an international student, and you should be proud to have it!

Just think what a great time we have in the U.S., which friends in our home countries do not have a chance to get, and you will feel what a wonderful and rewarding life we are living while studying abroad!

Chinese New Year is celebrated all over the world. VOA has been collecting pictures and stories on Flickr. Click to visit the Flickr map and explore global Lunar New Year traditions:

Chinese New Year is celebrated all over the world. VOA has been collecting pictures and stories on Flickr. Click to visit the Flickr map and explore global Lunar New Year traditions

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