By Kimberley Liu
‘A lonely stranger in a strange land I am cast, I miss my family all the more on every festive day.’ Du Zai Yi Xiang Wei Yi Ke, Mei Feng Jia Jie Bei Si Qin（独在异乡为异客，每逢佳节倍思亲).
This extract from the famous Chinese poem ‘On the mountain holiday thinking of my brothers in Shangdong‘ by Wang Wei, gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of many international students who choose to stay in the UK during Christmas. Homesickness and loneliness can easily take over as most domestic students and others who celebrate the festive season head home or travel to see their friends and families. All of a sudden, the bustling streets, shops, and cafes in Durham are met with a quietness that transforms the vibrant student city into a ghost town.
Luckily for those staying in Durham, the university gave students the chance to get together and have a traditional Christmas lunch on Christmas day. This was the fifth year that the university held the event, and naturally this piqued the interest of major news outlets such as the BBC, who came to take interviews to those taking part in the event (three international students representatives, the head chef and the chorus group).
The lunch was held in Durham Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a history stretching back to the 11th century, the time of the Norman conquest. Today, the city built around the castle is as stunning and picturesque as one as one would imagine when thinking of an idyllic English city.
Professor Elizabeth Archibald, Dean of St. Cuthbert’s Society, delivered a speech before the start of the lunch. She warmly welcomed the guests and wished them a Merry Christmas, hoping that the event could be a cherished memory for the students who attended. She talked to the international students one at a time, getting to know them and chatting about the spirit of Christmas. In particular, she gave special thanks to the staff of the University who sacrificed their Christmas family time to help out.
In order to give Chinese students a better understanding of the fun activities associated with holidays such as Christmas, Professor Archibald introduced the fun game of “pass the parcel.” While passing the parcel and unpacking different layers, smiles appeared on the faces of the guests, adding to the already delightful atmosphere.
The international students spent an unforgettable Christmas lunch at the Castle, with delightful food and activities. Many friends were made that day and a feeling of pride and happiness was instilled in the hearts of the students. I hope the university can continue to expand upon this success in all of their future Christmas lunches.
Editors: Miss Kimberley LIU and Mr. Jono Wilson
Photo credits: Mr. O’Brien and Miss Meng
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.