By Lily Abromeit, The Daily Iowan 
University of Iowa junior Xinran Gu hasn’t spent time with her parents since June, and the idea of seeing them over winter break helps her push through finals week.
“I feel very excited because they have never traveled to America, and this will be their first time,” she said. “They have a lot of questions … and they want to explore more.”
Her parents will travel roughly 7,000 miles from Jiangsu, China to Iowa City; they will not be the only ones to make such a long journey.
One of 4,049 international students at the UI for the fall 2013 semester — according to the UI International Students Fall 2013 Enrollment Statistics — Gu is also one of many who have not seen their families since they came to Iowa.
Gu said she is excited about her parents experiencing American culture through the UI campus and downtown Iowa City.
“Another reason they want to come here is Christmas, they want to get a taste of the holidays,” she said. “[And] so they can have a taste of where I am living.”
It is not strange for Gu to stay in Iowa City over break; she said the break is too short for a trip back home, citing expensive plane tickets and greater opportunity as a few reasons to remain in the States.
UI freshman Ye Yang said that although she will travel home to Zhejiang, China, the biggest drawback for her not wanting to return is the plane flight.
“For the winter break, I have two choices,” she said. “I can stay here for the first month and then travel, but I think the cost would be the same for the flight ticket.”
Her flight home could be as long as 13 hours.
UI junior Will Cai of Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China said that although it is expensive, he thinks the price is worth a trip home.
“It’s not easy to purchase a plane ticket at a reasonable price … but I don’t think that would be a problem,” he said. “You’ve been away from your family for so long, and it’s a great chance to catch up … and talk about your future with parents. I think that’s really important for students in college.”
Despite the long trip and heavy costs, Yang said a trip home is important for her to continue her success at the UI, especially as a freshman.
“Although I video chat with my parents every day, they miss me a lot,” she said, adding that having a break at home with family can help students continue to adjust to college in the United States.
This is something Lee Seedorf, senior associate director at the International Student and Scholarl Services, said she believes is a benefit.
“I think it’s a good thing for a lot of students to go home to see family and friends over break,” she said. “It’s a good time for students to reconnect with family and friends before the next semester starts.”
And Cai said he does not believe students should stay in Iowa City over winter break without a reason.
“There’s no point in staying if you don't have any plans over winter break because there is almost nothing happening in Iowa City, and it’s freezing,” he said.
UI sophomore Yezi Shen, who is from Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, said she would not be going home if she did not have to renew her visa, because she thinks it is better to stay.
“I think staying is better [so you can] take some courses during the winter or travel,” she said, noting that students will be more productive and have better opportunities if they remain in the United States.