When you think about Christmas time, for many of us the notion of ‘going home’- whatever that may mean - is one of the highlights of the holiday. However, for some, it’s just another Christmas wish that won't come true. And that can be lonely and isolating. Especially for those students who are in a foreign country, with no family on their side of the world, having to figure out what to do on a completely empty and checked out university campus. Yes, we’re talking about the thousands of international students at your institution who spend their holiday sat in their halls, eating what’s probably a microwaved roast dinner. So on that note, Aaron Zheng Wang, our China Media and Marketing Manager, has given us a few helpful tips on how to keep your campus warm for the Chinese and international students who are sticking around at this time of year, to ensure they feel welcome at Christmas.
We know what you’re thinking. Chinese students don’t typically celebrate Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t enjoy some holiday cheer. And although it may not be as big a deal as over here in the UK, Christmas is now widely celebrated in China and all over the world, whether for its commercial purposes or just as a fantastic excuse to add some festivity and light to the winter season.
But although Chinese students may be taking part in secret Santa, mainlining mince pies and playing board games with their new friends, the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is the festival that really matters to them. With the Year of the Rat - the year for all your current 23-year-old students - just one month away (24 January), preparations will be in full swing on campus. So why not take the opportunity to get involved and engage your Chinese students with events and messages on campus focused on the coming Chinese New Year? And ask your Chinese students what their traditions are. Different areas celebrate in different ways so make sure your content is inclusive and relevant.
"Where I come from we make dumplings and hide a lucky coin in one of them. In other areas, such as the South, they make the Glutinous Rice Balls which symbolises reunion and happiness. We all have different traditions that make this time of year really special. But if you're not sure what you should be zoning in on, ask your Chinese students what's important for them and go from there!"
And don’t just focus on the fun and games. For those international students sticking around in the UK, cultural and travel information for the Christmas holidays is invaluable. What’s open on campus, what traditions to look out for and how public transport will be affected will all come in handy to those who aren’t native to the UK, and will help them to feel less isolated at a time of year when all sorts of weird stuff happens (flaming Christmas pudding anyone?).
Practical matters aside, what really matters to your Chinese students at Christmas? Feeling included and welcomed at this time of year is not only hugely important for your students’ mental health, but also a great opportunity to build engagement with your institution. While your campus may be deserted, you can still connect with students on social media - and why not go beyond the Chinese platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and Douyin/TikTok - your students do follow you on Instagram too! You could ask your Chinese students to take over your social feeds or get them involved in creating content to ensure it’s authentic and avoid perceptions of a “Chenglish” environment.
Don’t let your campus go cold this Christmas; stay connected and send more to your Chinese and international students than just ‘Merry Christmas’ with relevant and useful content. Speak to our China experts for more information on how to engage with, recruit and retain Chinese students.