Editorial: Emerson should not make winter breaks harder for International Students

A winter break away from home can be very difficult—spending the few moments off we have as college students with family can be restorative after a draining semester. Many international students, however, don’t have the same opportunities to head home for the holidays that national students do, whether it be because of the high cost of international flights or lingering effects of the pandemic. 

Domestic travel in the United States is safer than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, which has allowed most students to go home for Thanksgiving. However, international travel is still widely restricted by vaccination, testing and quarantine policies, and many other obstacles related to the pandemic. For those with nowhere to go during Thanksgiving, they are left to rely on Emerson. 

Emerson provides housing for students through the winter break — but at a cost. According to an email sent to residential students on Nov. 1, students will be charged $2,717 to remain on campus through winter break. This amounts to nearly a third of a semesterly housing payment for 23 days of on-campus living. 

Yet, students staying on-campus through the break won’t be able to access the same amenities on-campus students have grown used to—namely the dining center, which will close on Dec. 17 and not reopen until Jan. 7.The closure leaves students like Haohan Sun, a junior visual and media arts student, to buy their own groceries and cook or pay for food at nearby restaurants. 

“I’d prefer if we had a meal plan because obviously I don’t usually cook,” he said. “If I need to cook for like Christmas I have to buy everything and I would prefer to have the dining hall open.”

It makes perfect sense that Sun wouldn’t want to spend the extra money required to cook for himself over the break considering the high cost of simply having a roof over his head for the duration of the holidays.

During his stay, Sun, and the rest of the students who opt to remain on-campus through the break will be forced to move into the Paramount Residence Hall. Students paying for accommodations during the break must move out of the comfort of their own dorm, all for the reasonable price of $2,717. 

Yet, students like Sun have no other choice. 

“I came from Shanghai, and right now China has policies that if you go back, whether you are a Chinese citizen or a foreigner, you have to stay quarantined for 14 days“ Sun said. “After you arrive at the airport you are sent to a hotel, and stay there for like 14 days…..and that time is almost like our winter break, so there is like no point in staying home to then going back (to campus).”

Fewer than 80 students are expected to need short and long-term stays, without including a meal plan or most of the typical campus amenities, so why are these students being forced to pay for a similar price tag to the average month in on-campus housing when classes are in session? 

International students make up about 12.5 percent of the Emerson student body; this institution should be accommodating these students, especially after a pandemic and especially because they cannot receive any financial aid. 

International students are also critically important to the health of our economy. They contribute $41 billion to our national economy and have supported more than 458,290 jobs in the 2018-2019 academic year alone, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. International students are sought out by universities and colleges left and right, but when it comes to giving them the support they need they sometimes fall short. 

The college’s responsibility to help international students is about more than just being fair, but also being compassionate. International students shouldn’t be put in the position where they have to choose between an expensive short-term stay on campus or an oftentimes an impossible course back home.