It was later in the afternoon on the final day in May when students met for yet another Home Away from Home event inside the Asian American Cultural Center to simply hang out.
Some played Pictionary, some drew or colored, others talked and a few helped Yun Shi, the director of International Education, and Kimberly Yau, the associate director for training and programming in International Student and Scholar Services, make Zongzi.
While Shi neatly packed sticky rice that was mixed with dates inside a bamboo leaf, she said they were celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival, something that was requested by students.
All in all, it was just another successful Home Away from Home event.
Tina Zheng, left, and Pranav Ponnunni Rajan laugh with their friends during a game of Pictionary at a May 31 Home Away from Home event inside the Asian American Cultural Center.
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The Home Away from Home break program is sponsored by International Education, International Student and Scholar Services and Asian American Cultural Center and paid for by the Student Cultural Programming Fee.
It’s held twice a week over summer break and is part of many events hosted by ISSS and International Education.
Shi said it started in the fall of 2014.
However, it wasn’t called “Home Away from Home” just yet.
In fact, the program was a lot of things or events that happened during breaks that eventually became a tradition.
For example, in 2015 International Education along with University Housing and Dining started the annual fall break Cooking with the Chefs program.
Since then, the tradition of hosting programs and activities over break stuck.
After a while, the break programs evolved throughout the years to include self-care sessions; finals de-stress events; and spring, summer, fall and winter break events.
For instance, the most recent break event was a week-long Spring 2022 break program that ran five hours a day for six days.
“It was meant to accommodate different schedules, provide longer hours for students to get comfortable with new acquaintances and to develop friendship and learning opportunities,” Shi said.
This is part of the reason why the break program’s name changed to Home Away from Home, which happened in the fall of 2021 when the campus returned to in-person classes.
Shi said the hope for the program, in addition to providing opportunities for students to develop friendships and experience new things, was to create a home away from home to enhance students' health and wellbeing and their sense of belonging.
“Students have told us how much they appreciate our efforts offering these programs and events,” Shi said.
Yau said more than anything they want to create a safe space for students to come, relax, and share their cultures and learn about other cultures in an informal way.
“Being on campus, especially during breaks, can be lonely, so we want to help ease that loneliness,” Yau said.
Looking at This Summer
The Home Away from Home program starts at 1 p.m. typically on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Asian American Cultural Center, which is located at 1210 W. Nevada Street in Urbana. It lasts until 4:30 p.m. those days.
There are tons of activities students can do.
Yau said they do anything and everything at the events from cooking and baking to playing music, board games, singing or watching movies.
“Basically, whatever the students want to do,” Yau said. “Some students will come and study, just to have other people around. One student just came and took a nap the other day.”
Shi said they also crochet and knit, and the program is open to all students.
“Attendees are typically international students’ we are glad to see some domestic students participating as well, because it’s giving participants more intercultural learning experiences.”
Here’s a look at the next upcoming program dates:
- June 28
- June 29
- July 5
- July 6
- July 12
- July 13
For more information on the dates and times visit https://calendars.illinois.edu/list/3715.