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Taylor Center works with international students to build community over break


For many college students, breaks represent a time of relaxation, exploration, and much-needed family time. However, for international students like Ani Kharatyan ’26 and Tatevik Telunts ’26, both from Armenia, breaks often present a different reality. As Kharatyan shared, the experience can be summed up simply: “It’s boring.”


Telunts explains that, like most international students, flying home is not financially feasible. 


“Two weeks to go and to spend 2,000 dollars? It’s not reasonable, at least for my financial situation,” Telunts said. 


Oftentimes, she only is able to go home once or twice a year, meaning she remains on campus during winter and spring breaks, as well as fall and Thanksgiving breaks.


While some students might like the peacefulness on campus, which is something Kharatyan admits to enjoying, others find the quietness eerie. 


“The campus is empty. And I’m like, wow, it’s crazy,” Telunts said. 


“There aren’t a lot of activities. Everything just stops. Sometimes they leave the buses running… you have limited options,” Omar Fitian ’26 said, a current proxy for the International Student Senator and International Student Counselor. 


“It’s sad that it’s kind of expensive to go to the cities all the time when you don’t have a car,” Kharatyan said. “I enjoyed my time, but it will be better to be able to like, see more.”


In the past, the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion has offered trips to the Mall of America, the Science Museum, and other locations to students on campus. Many students say opportunities like this are valuable.  


“International students, just like other students remaining on campus, are really looking for ways to get away. They are looking for a change in scenery and an opportunity to learn about places they can explore more locally,” the Taylor Center’s Associate Director of International Student Programming Brisa Zubia said in an email interview with The Olaf Messenger. 


International Student Senator Kaashya Khandelwal ’25 remembers what it was like to be a freshman international student. Thanksgiving break is where many international students get that first feeling of campus life without the majority of students and she recalls being shocked at how different it was. In an effort to combat this, she wants to implement community events like a potluck, which they attempted last Thanksgiving break. 


“People will be able to cook and bring the food and have it together in one shared space,” Khandelwal said. 


The importance of food in building connections seems to be a common thread for many students. Kharatyan and Telunts both said they miss Armenian food, especially when food options are limited during holidays.  


The Taylor Center offers food options through the Grab & Go Program during breaks, which allows students to pick from grocery items that could supplement meals offered by Bon Appétit according to Zubia. During longer breaks, Stav Hall is open for students, though within a more limited time frame. 


Over the upcoming spring break, students will be able to attend trips to places such as the Historical Center or the women’s hockey game in the Twin Cities. According to Zubia, the Taylor Center has also given away movie ticket vouchers for movie theaters in Northfield and plans to have craft activities and movie screenings on campus.

Maya Betti
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