Not everyone can make it home for the holidays, especially when home is half a world away.
Tabor Mullen, Mississippi State University’s assistant dean of students, said the majority of MSU students are able to travel home for the holidays, including international students. For varying reasons, he said, some international students end up spending their winter break on campus.
“Each student has a different situation in terms of their ability to travel,” Mullen said, “but generally, international students face the barriers of cost and the simple difficulty of travel to some remote areas of the world.”
For these and other students, MSU remains a home away from home during the break, keeping its dorms open to those who still need them.
Mullen said the issue is not limited to international students. Costs can also be an issue for some domestic students who may be unable to leave part-time jobs or other commitments, he said.
“Typically, we will house athletes, band members and others who are participating in the bowl game activities,” Mullen said. “Beyond those groups, we typically will house about 40 students over the holidays.
Many of those students have jobs in the service industry and just can’t leave them.”
MSU’s primary service for these students is “break housing,” which is available to any student who signs up, Mullen said. Students who already live in MSU housing are allowed to live in the same rooms they use the rest of the year, he said.
“That service is available from the end of exams until the university break concludes,” Mullen said. “The university’s dining services are closed over the break, which puts students in the position of going into town for meals or preparing food in their rooms. That’s been a long-standing practice and actually isn’t a lot different than some of the weekend dining decisions that students confront all year long.”
The MSU Division of Student Affairs has a strong sense of the needs and concerns of students who remain on campus during winter break, Mullen said, but it is always evaluating its services and looking for ways to meet those needs better. One key to this effort, he said, is the community surrounding the campus.
“As is the case at Thanksgiving and other holidays, MSU is fortunate to have an excellent relationship with the people of Starkville and Oktibbeha County,” Mullen said. “The best thing that the community can do to help is what they have traditionally done, helping neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend. Area churches and civic groups are likewise very kind to students.”