FORT MILL — Thanks to the program Christmas International House, several exchange students from Asia now studying in various U.S. cities chose to celebrate the holidays with Fort Mill families.
Christmas International House is a two-week program that offers exchange students a chance to experience traditional American culture around the holidays. This opportunity is available through churches and civic groups. In Fort Mill, families from the Grace Presbyterian Church accepted six students into their homes.
In addition to providing temporary homes and new experiences for the exchange students, the program gives host families insight to how other cultures celebrate Christmas. It also allows students who may be a little homesick during the holidays to spend time with peers from their home country.
The students who visited Fort Mill were Yuki Onoda and Yuko Makita of Japan; Taewa Kim of South Korea; and Kaiyan Zheng and Huang Yu of China. Onoda and Makita are studying at Southern Missouri State, while Zheng and Yu attend Tulane University. Kim studies at Texas A&M University. The students’ majors vary from finance to English, Spanish and hospitality management.
They had more than one holiday destination to choose from. Kim said he picked Fort Mill because, “from the pictures, it looked beautiful. It seemed like a perfect place to visit.”
Divided between three Fort Mill families, the students learned the traditions of an American Christmas.
“The students alternated homes each week, so both the students and the families could get to know each other and spend time with everyone,” said Jane Horner, the local contact for Christmas International House.
Though Christmas International House helps students studying abroad, it is beneficial to local families interested in other cultures. Toward the end of their stay, the students prepared a traditional Asian meal for the host families and a slideshow of pictures and videos of their home countries.
The students spoke of how Christmas in America was different from their home countries, but had similar traditions such as figure skating and Christmas lights.