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Why the Classroom Environment is Vital in the Learning Process

Students Studing in Classroom

The environment in which students and teachers interact is vital to the success of everyone involved. Everything from the decorations on the walls to the arrangement of desks and chairs play a role in how well students learn. Here are the most influential factors of the classroom environment and the effects they have on the learning process.

Physical Environment

When establishing a place of learning, the first thing an educator does is assess the physical environment:

  • Light, warm-colored walls and floors are welcoming and create a positive first impression.
  • Decorations should be academically geared and may include student creations as the semester progresses.
  • Ample windows should allow light to shine in, yet coverings should make it possible to view visual media with ease.
  • The temperature should be warm and homelike so students are comfortable and happy to be there.

In addition to the basic structure of the building, the desk arrangement in a classroom is equally important. Individual desks arranged in tidy rows establish order and discourage interaction. This is suitable for lecture halls, but not for collaboration.

When students are expected to work together, it’s much more appropriate for desks to be arranged in groupings, semi-circles or one large circle. This also encourages students to communicate and build relationships with one another.

Emotional Environment

The emotional state of students is closely tied to their physical learning environment. Consider one instance where a teacher in a poor district of the northern Appalachian region struggled to motivate, build trust with and create a sense of community among her students. The classroom in which she taught was in the unfinished basement of an old school. Plain cement floors and walls and floor-to-ceiling poles made the room feel more like an interrogation chamber than a place of learning.

The teacher decided to transform the look of the classroom with donated carpet samples, paint and student-designed wall art. The transformation took six weeks, and when it was complete, the students had renewed pride in their classroom. They bonded with one another and were far more motivated to learn now that they had formed a community, not to mention a more beautiful physical environment in which to learn.

Respectful Environments

The final essential element of the classroom environment is creating a setting where students feel respected and that their contributions matter. Students should never be singled out and humiliated in front of the class, either by being put on display or secluded from everyone else. Teachers should make students feel accepted, valued and wanted.

At Computer Systems Institute, students enjoy learning in beautiful classroom settings. Their physical and emotional needs are met both directly and indirectly to ensure a comfortable, happy and respectful learning environment. If this is the type of college experience you want to have, please contact CSI online or call 1-847-967-5030 to find out more about our business, marketing and other career training programs geared toward international students.

The Benefits of the Classroom Environment for International Students

Students Raising Hands in Classroom

In this age of the Internet, an increasing number of students are deciding to enroll in online classes. There’s no doubt that online learning offers greater flexibility, but the classroom environment also has merits you can’t ignore. If you’re an international student hoping to study in America, consider the benefits of taking face-to-face coursework in a classroom setting.

Hands-on Learning

When the subject matter is physical in nature, the ability to handle it in person is tremendously beneficial. Classroom demonstrations and scientific experiments performed in a lab facilitate the learning process much more than simply reading about a topic.

Even if the subject is abstract rather than tangible, such as business administration, studies show that students who struggle with complex topics tend to learn better in person. Information retention also improves when learning takes place in a physical classroom environment.

Social Interactions with Other Students

When students learn online, they learn alone. Real-time, face-to-face conversations aren’t possible online. This means there is no social interaction or chance to develop interpersonal skills. These are critical abilities for everyone to learn, but this is especially true for international students who may require extra coaching in American culture and social norms.

Many jobs require employees to work well together. Learning in a classroom setting offers you the chance to complete group projects, give group presentations and discover how to work as a member of a team. This translates to the ability to build workplace relationships that will last a lifetime.

The classroom setting also provides the opportunity to develop a network. Often, finding the right career is about more than just what you know – it’s who you know. Small talk on campus can lead to opportunities you would never have known about if you only learned from home.

Greater Assistance from Teachers and Peers

While it’s possible to stay in contact with an online educator via email, instant messaging and video chat, nothing compares to asking a question in real time, either by raising your hand or turning to a classmate for help. Teachers and peers alike can offer extra assistance in person than they can online by looking at the student’s work and making suggestions, perhaps even writing notes in the margins. A little one-on-one time helps with the learning process more than watching a lecture online and emailing your teacher a few questions afterward.

Classroom and Practicum Learning at Computer Systems Institute

Here at CSI, we believe in taking a multi-faceted approach to college education. Classroom learning provides undeniable benefits, but what it lacks is real-world experience. That’s why we encourage classroom and practicum learning. This is when students receive relevant training through an employer, allowing them to use their skills right away in a work environment while still completing classroom-based coursework.

If this sounds like the type of learning experience you want to have, please contact CSI online or call 1-847-967-5030 to find out more about our business, marketing and other career training programs for international students.

From Central Asia to the USA: An International Student’s Long Journey Toward Success

By Mansur Islamov; Skokie, Illinois

Central Asian Student in the USA
Central Asian Student in the USA

For many international students from Central Asia, studying in the USA takes a longer journey and more effort than students from other countries. Many youths from Central Asia make their first stop in Turkey or Russia to gain professional experience and work hard to save money for their future study in the USA.

I recently sat down with Zakir Bekenov, a CSI alumni from Turkmenistan, to learn his prospective on international students from Central Asia achieving academic and career success in the United States. Mr. Bekenov grew up in the north part of Turkmenistan in a traditional family. He grew up speaking three different languages and eventually learned three more. After completing high school, Mr. Bekenov went to Istanbul to further his education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics. Then he started to work for one of the largest media groups in Turkey. After working there for two years, Mr. Bekenov decided to come to US to continue his education. He arrived in the US in 2014 and studied ESL and Small Business Administrator programs in Computer Systems Institute. After studying at CSI for more than a year, Mr. Benkenov was admitted into the Masters in Business Administration program with concentration in Investment and Operations Strategies at Northeastern Illinois University.

Below is a selection of my conversation with Mr. Bekenov:

Islamov: What made you decide to study in the USA?
Bekenov: Coming to US was my dream during my university years, I could not afford to come for the Work and Travel program when I was back in Central Asia, so once I have saved enough money after a couple of years, I started researching my options to come to US, I considered several alternatives, then finally I decided to come to Chicago through Computer Systems Institute’s program.

Islamov: How did you choose your field of study?
Bekenov: I got my bachelor degree in Economics, then I decided to pursue my MBA. I thought MBA fits my qualifications well and I was right in choosing this program. I learned business more broadly, especially in operations and productions management together with finance.

Islamov: How did your education and work experience prepare you for this position?
Bekenov: I have always loved math and have good quantitative skills since my high school years in Central Asia, my educational background was more than enough for an MBA degree. Moreover, studying at CSI’s Small Business Administrator program was a good experience for me.

Islamov: Is it hard to study in the USA, generally for international students?
Bekenov: From educational perspective it was not hard for me, the hardest part was to finance my education. After completing my first semester at NEIU, I was hired on-campus as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, so it made easier for me to afford my school expenses.

Islamov: What obstacles did you encounter?

Bekenov: I did not have obstacles, I had difficulties. I believe if a person is ambitious enough to succeed, then he can accomplish his goals.

Islamov: What do you do in your spare time?

Bekenov: I am learning programming languages like Python and R Statistical programming.

Islamov: What are your short-term goals and long-term goals?
Bekenov: In the coming couple of months, I want to find a good fitting job in Chicago and start my application to switch my visa from F1 to H1B. In the long term, I want to be working for consulting firms and improve myself in the area of product management, operations management and hedge funds. If I will have time, I will consider another master’s degree in data science.

Islamov: What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
Bekenov: As an associate partner at one of the big consulting firms.

Islamov: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Bekenov: Having completed my MBA degree in one of the AACSB accredited schools as an honor student.

Islamov: What previous work experience has been the most valuable to you and why?
Bekenov: The one I worked as a data analyst at Feza Media Group. I learned a lot. Especially in the area of data analytics, thanks to the externship experience I gained through CSI’s program.

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Education Choices for Central Asian Students Looking to Study Abroad

By Mansur Islamov; Skokie, Illinois

In the heart of the Eurasia continent lies Central Asia, a region rich in history and culture. This region benefits from a blend of national identities that have been cultivated through centuries. Central Asia, as it is defined today, is comprised of five former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. All these countries speak Turkic language with exception of Tajikistan. Central Asian countries were under the influence of Russia for the last 120 years. Map of Central Asia

Education System in Central Asian countries

The combination of rich, deep history and culture, made this region one of the most educated in the world, despite the government’s limited education budget (Table 1).

Table 1 Countries GDP on Education (2017) (All amounts in billion USD)* Countries GDP on Education (2017) Moreover, these countries have an even higher literacy rate compared to European countries as well as the rest of the world. (Table 2). However, despite the high level of public education and increasing number of higher education institutions being established each year, (Table 3) Central Asian countries are lacking in noticeable scientific impact. Youth in the region are looking for more contemporary education from advanced countries who have major scientific and academic impact in the modern era.

Table 2 Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years) Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years) Table 3 Number of Higher Education Institutions (1991-2010) Number of Higher Education Institutions

International Education for Central Asian Students

As mentioned above, Russia’s impact on Central Asian countries has significantly influenced the local education systems and education policies. Students receive massive educational support from Russian universities, both during the Soviet era and after. There are still large number of international students, in particular Central Asian students, all across Russia today. However, in the past decade, Central Asian students who are studying in major cities of Russia, triggered rising xenophobia from local residents.

Central Asia shares the same education system with Russia, which is not being dynamic nor productive in the modern scientific field. According to US.news.com, the best ranked school of Russia is Lomonosov Moscow State University and which is ranked #267 among Best Global Universities (April 2018).

Because of these two major factors above, rising xenophobia and declining educational standards, Central Asians are looking for better options, outside of Russia for their higher education needs. At the same time, and partly as a consequence, the pathway of studying in Western countries, on top of them the United States, has become increasingly attractive.

The Benefit of US Education for Central Asian Students

First, students who study in the US make positive economic and social connections as well as other forms of network ties with the Western world. These interactions will help contribute to their own countries’ integration into the global economy. Most Central Asian economies heavily rely on natural resources. International students with advanced knowledge returning home will help their country to build more diversified economies, so that the next generation will not sorely rely on their “God given” recourses.

Second, students can benefit from America’s open society. International students who attend US schools tend to be more open to universal values, including democracy, rule of law, etc. These values can be very helpful for international students in their future business life on a global stage.

Third, the increasing international student flow will stimulate local authorities back at home to take new actions on improving their own education standards. There are already clear signals of positive reforms on-going that governments in this region have begun to increase their education funding. Russia has taken new actions to attract foreign students in the region and around globe. Moreover, these actions followed by the economic benefits will in return help combat the xenophobia among local residents and foreign students.

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International New Year Resolutions

By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois

New year resolutions
New Year = New diet + New plans. This is a typical formula for you to follow each year. Being an international student in the USA, I know it isn’t easy to start from the beginning or even refresh old commitments after the holiday season. Before I made my New Year’s Resolutions I read a lot of articles about “how to create your own resolutions”, “how to not procrastinate one more year”, “tips for international students for New Year’s Resolutions”. Afterwards, I decided to make your new life easier and share the tips which helped me to write my wishes for 2018 and will help you to succeed this year.

1. Be specific

“You’ve got to develop a specific action plan for change”, says John Norcross, Ph.D., coauthor of Changeology: 5 steps to realizing your goals and resolutions, and he is right. With many resolutions, you won’t understand what you need and how to succeed. For example, let’s say you want to learn a new language. You can’t just put it on your list and learn one word in a month or even in a few. You should set specific priorities and a timeline for your language goals, like knowing how to say basic phrases at the end of the month. Another example is that you want to lose some weight. The wrong resolution is “I want to lose weight”. You have to have a goal: How much weight do you want to lose and when? “3 pounds in the next month — that’s going to be the right type resolution.

2. Avoid previous resolutions

Using the same resolutions you had last year is a wrong decision. It will make you frustrated and sad, because you didn’t meet them last year. Or, if you are still interested in achieving it, then look at it with a fresh viewpoint. But follow the basic rule: make a plan for each day, week, month, then follow it.

3. Make Your Goals Public

Sharing your goals with family or friends is always a good idea. You’ll find support when you are stuck and encouragement when you’re doing well. Maybe you’ll find someone who has the same resolution and the way to achieve it will be fun and easy.

4. Say “NO” to procrastination

The biggest challenge to people, especially for international students, is being distracted by relaxation and something fun instead of working hard and achieving goals. Once you get used to procrastinating, it’s difficult to get yourself back. You’ll need to put in a lot of work to change this bad habit.

5. Stay positive and motivated

Having a good mood and faith that you’ll get what you want will make you happier. Make a checklist of how achieving your resolution will help you.

6. Get a reward

Who hates getting treats? No one. Take time and give yourself a small reward once you achieve your sub-goal. Even psychologists say that treating yourself is a good habit that will keep you from feeling deprived. Small rewards will help to motivate you and give you a sense of progress.

Finally, I would like to say that your goals should be SMART. That’s an acronym coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Usually it works for management, but it can also work in setting your resolutions, too.

P.S. One of my New Year Resolutions is to learn how to swim. You’ll laugh at me but I can’t swim at all. I’ve already bought a membership card for a swimming pool close to my home and made a schedule, which days I’m going to swim. So, see you all on the beach this summer, I’ll show you my best swimming techniques.


By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois

Do you like pancakes like Russian folk do? Then you, my international friend, probably heard about Maslenitsa. If not – it’s a good way to know about your Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian friends’ festival. For those students who are far from home, I will try to convey the mood and spirit of this joyful festival – Maslenitsa.

Let me start with a little introduction about this “Pancake Week” to prepare your imagination. Maslenitsa originally marked the end of winter and advent of spring and widely celebrated 8 weeks before Easter in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (though most Russians from all over the world do celebrate this festival). Why pancakes, you ask me? Because Russian folk believe that hot, round and golden pancakes remind us of the sun and help to warm up the frozen earth (most people believe that Russian winter is full of snow and it is so cold that people do not go outside during this season). From the religious side, a pancake’s circle shape has been considered sacred in Russia, which protects people from evil. That’s why pancakes are king on Maslenitsa (there are lots of recipes how to cook them, but let me put it on a plate and present you with full of jam, butter, caviar in the end of this blog).

Once you have some idea about what Maslenitsa is about, you are ready for the most important part of celebrating this festival. Maslenitsa runs 7 days. Each day has its own meaning. By following these steps you will understand why Russian folk have so much fun during this festival and hate for it to end.

Day 1. Welcome Maslenitsa

By this day the building of ice-hills and balagans are complete. Children and their parents assemble a Maslenitsa doll out of old woman’s clothes. They place it on a pole, go dancing and sledding down from the top of a snow hill (where they actually put the doll). People usually eat their first (of many) blini or Russian pancakes at 5pm on Monday with festivities continuing late into the evening. (Yes, you have to wait until 5 pm to really enjoy the first food of a day).

Day 2. Be young and play again

This day promises to be the day you’ll never forget. Be ready for snowball fights, sledding, unusual performances and Petrushka’s show (one the main characters of the festival). If you are a man and you were dreaming about woman and wanted to kiss her – this day is definitely yours, because men can kiss any passing woman on the streets during this day! More over single guys use sleigh rides to look out for young beautiful girls. The whole purpose of these games and activities was to make the matchmaking process easier and match couples who would get married on Krasnaya Gorka (Red Hill Holiday – the Sunday after Easter, traditionally a time for couples to get married). So, if you are single, love Russian girls and pancakes – you are welcome to Maslenitsa!

Day 3. The Sweet Tooth day

During the festival most restaurants make a special menu where they include pancakes with different sweet fillings. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of trying what at first sight might appear strange. Also, this day is the day sons-in-law go “to enjoy their mother-in-law’s pancakes”. Pancakes, of course, would be the center of attention.. On this day the general belief is that at Maslenitsa one has to eat as much as one’s stomach would fit – “Have as many servings as many times as a dog would wag its tail”.

At the end of the day people sing hailing songs to praise the hospitable mother-in-law and her abundant home.

Day 4. Revelry

People typically don’t work on this day, and all the fun reaches its boiling point. On this day fist fights traditionally take place. Be prepared so you aren’t defeated by Russian Men. This type of event shows Russian military history, when soldiers supposedly fought each other in hand-to-hand combat (and of course, everyone heard about “Russki Bogatyr’ which means Russian hero).

Day 5. Mother-in-law’s day

Families often stroll in parks across Russia to spend time together.

Day 6. One Last Winter Sleigh Ride

The festival is about to end, so why don’t you use the opportunity for a Russian sleigh ride? There are lots of parks where you can join other people and have fun. The parks traditionally put on a lot of attractions for children, which makes it a real treat for a family day out in the winter. Don’t forget your mittens!

Day 7. Forgiveness Day

It’s time to ask for forgiveness. Usually, young married couples visit their relatives, present gifts to their parents and friends who cheered them at the wedding. They would also pay visits to their godparents to give presents to them as well.

The interesting thing about this day, that the most honorary gift for a man is a towel. For a woman it is a piece of soap. I still don’t know why but people who follow traditions they always bring towels and soap.

When asking for forgiveness they hear the reply, “God will forgive you.”

7 days of happiness behind, and ahead is Lent. But before you start Lent, where you are not allowed to eat animal-derived foods, as well as alcohol, use bad language and have bad thoughts in general, I would like to share with you my favorite “Blinis recipe”:

Russian pancake blini with raspberry jam, honey, fresh cream and red caviar
Russian pancake blini with raspberry jam, honey, fresh cream and red caviar


2 cups kefir

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons oil

Sugar and salt to taste, enough water to make a thin batter.

How to make it:
1. Mix kefir, flour, eggs, sugar and salt in a deep bowl.
2. Add soda into a cup of boiling water, mix well.
3. Pour the water with soda slowly into the batter. Mix until the batter is smooth.
4. Let the batter sit 5 minutes. Add oil.
5. Fry pancakes
6. Eat and don’t share with anyone 🙂

P.S. If you search on Google you may find some interesting traditions like organizing fistfights and dancing bears. Yep, bears. Bears are considered by many Americans as a symbol of Russia. In some regions bears appear for fun and food. Why not? Perfect company to meet Maslenitsa.

Why Do You Want To Work Here?

By Shakhnoza Raimjonova; Skokie, Illinois
International Student Job Interview
“Why do you want to work here?” Most international students who apply for a job get this question asked during a face-to-face job interview.

So, imagine, you are at an interview and you are asked “Why do you want to work here?, how would you answer this question? If you search this topic online, there are numerous suggestions to provide ideas on how to address this. For instance, Chris McGoff, the founder of The Clearing, Inc., answers to present to the interviewer. Let’s look through them together as they may be beneficial to you in the future.

Keyword: Training and Development

“I have heard the work is challenging and that your company truly invests in providing training and development of its staff.”
If you are going to respond in this way, that means you value the group of interviewers giving you challenging assignments. And of course you will show that you want them to invest in your development.

Keyword: Corporate Culture

“I have heard about your company’s great team and positive corporate culture.”
Do you prefer to answer like that? Then you want them to make sure your peers are people you appreciate and want them to make sure you become part of corporate culture you value.

Keyword: Advancement

“I see your company is growing and creating much opportunity for advancement.”
Is this response in you have in mind? In this case, you want the company to provide opportunities for your advancement within your area of expertise as well as grow your area of responsibility.

Keyword: Mission and Vision

(to Chris Mc Goff’s perspective, this is a perfect response):
“Simple really. I have read your mission and vision. I have gleaned information about you and your company through social media, engaging my professional network, and exploring other publicly available information. As a result, I think I can clearly state four things and I would like you to validate my thinking.”
Perfect! This answer shows that you are not there to obtain something for yourself. You are there, well researched and offering specific ways you are able to give value to them.

If you choose this way, they will have positive thoughts about you and discover your skills further more:

  • Solid communication skills.
  • Diligent. Work hard and creatively to understand our situation.
  • Knows at least the basics of social media.
  • Has and actively manages a professional network.
  • Understands our business and our goals and vision.
  • Realizes what’s at stake should we fail and the possibilities afforded us when we succeed.
  • Understands what is making our path hard.
  • Has made a compelling case that he or she has some or part of what we need to be successful.
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    When You Choose to Study Abroad

    By Shakhnoza Raimjonova; Skokie, Illinois
    Study Abroad in the USA

    Do you have a strong desire to be an International student and obtain global knowledge in your area of interest? Congratulations! You have made the first step towards an important decision! But have you thought about where you would study, the cost of your education, and skills required for your applications to colleges? If you have any questions about these important decisions let’s consider them together.

    Doing your research online is the first step for international students to gather information about a college campus or a town. Students can see if they want to live in an area with lots of activity, then colleges in big cities are ideal options. Big cities provide many opportunities for fun activities as well as opportunities to find internship programs. Your destination has a major impact on your future career development.

    Once your destination is chosen, you should think about your financial situation and how you will live in another country. Be careful only focusing on tuition expenses, you will have housing, food, transportation and other expenses too. That’s why you need to understand not only the general tuition information, but also other expenses related to your education, and the average living expenses of the destination where you will choose to study. It’s helpful to make a list of all the necessities that you may need. You can connect with people who came there before you from your country and learn what expenses you should expect. This is also the best way to do your planning.

    Let’s go to the next step! Are you ready for lectures, assignments and conversations in English with your future classmates and instructors? The majority of international students prepare for this before they arrive in the US, but some students believe that they will learn English through daily conversations and interactions. Unfortunately this is not a very practical plan because you may not have enough time to prepare for class, instead, you will spend your time on learning and practicing English. It is significantly better to start learning English immediately, while you are still in your home country. It will be much easier to acclimate to your new home if you have gotten the basics down before arriving in the US. Try to read newspapers online, listen to US broadcasts via radio or television. Write in English as much as possible as well. In summary, the more practice you have, the more successful your future studies will be in the USA.

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    Things International Students Bring To a New Country

    By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois
    Moving to a new country is never a easy task

    Moving is not an easy process, especially when it comes to moving to a new country. When people move to a new country, they often feel like they want to take their whole house, all of their family, friends, and pets along with them. That certainly would be nice, but let’s take a look at what is actually possible. The amount of things you are allowed to take with you is limited by your airline (I’m kidding, but it’s still true).

    I’ve spoken to many students at my school and made a list of all the interesting things they brought when they became international students in a new country.

    Let me share my experience with you first. One year ago I became a CSI student. It was a winter. I brought with me shoes – I brought low-heeled shoes for spring and even sandals for summer. I planned for the summer season for 6 months before it came! My friends told me I was crazy, I could find shoes in America, but with my small feet (size 5.5, sometimes even 5) it’s a big problem. Even in Moscow it was tough to find something for me. To be precise, I brought 2 pairs of winter boots, 2 pairs low-heeled shoes for spring and 3 pairs sandals for summer.

    Mohammad Osama Mohammad Al Soub, SMP: “When I moved to America it was summer, so I took only summer clothes in hopes that I could buy other stuff here. I was right.”

    Supriya Pandurang Naik, SBA: “My most prized possession, as I would like to call it, is my extensive collection of stationery and arts and crafts materials. I have always been a craft nerd and working with my hands to create things gives me immense satisfaction. From my very faint recollection, I believe I have materials as old as me (or maybe even older, because they were my Grandmother’s), that I have collected and stored over the years and there was no way I was parting with any of it. So I packed up large brown boxes with everything and sealed it shut (I was worried my older sister would steal them so I had to tape the boxes shut) before flying out of India. And then my genius mind (as I like to think of it) came up with the brilliant idea of packing everything that I possibly owned in postal boxes that my lovely family could mail me once I was ‘partly’ (one can never completely settle here, at least not in your head) settled here, in the US.”

    Ahmet Tachmuradov, BCP: “I used to travel before I moved to America. Everytime I went somewhere I bought magnets as a memory from the places I had visited. I decided to bring them with me to remind myself of how many interesting trips I’ve taken in the past and how many are waiting for me in the future. I also brought my books. Favorite ones. I knew I could find them here, but I decided my favorite authors with my favorite heroes should travel with me.”

    Shakhnoza Raimjonova, BCP: “I decided to bring here our national flag because it reminds me of our motherland, my childhood, family and my history. Besides that, my husband asked me to bring national sweets and bread. Many Uzbek students or people miss the traditional food we’ve been accustomed to. Aside from the national and traditional things, you can find just about everything pretty easily here.”

    This is not even the full list of things students usually take with them when they move. I’m sure you all have little treasures you always take with you. Please do not hesitate to share with us. Let’s see maybe you can find someone who has exactly the same things but from different countries.

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    Do Not Let Anyone Steal Your Holidays

    By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois
    Enjoy your holidays in US
    International students, are you excited about the upcoming holidays? We certainly hope so! The semester is coming to a close with all your final exams and projects coming to an end. With the Winter Break starting, you will now have some extra time to do something that you normally did not have the time to do. Of course, you’d rather be listening to the song “Driving Home For Christmas” while going to celebrate with your family, instead of staying in the US during the holidays and feeling homesick. You have to admit that time and money are often limited. As an international student, I can understand being far away from family and close friends can be difficult especially at this time of the year. Nevertheless, it may be a perfect opportunity for you to have a new experience, find new friends, and create new memories related to the winter holidays.

    For those of you who have decided to stay in the United States, I put together some ideas on how you can feel the excitement of this holiday season.

    #1 Get Together With Other Students

    There are always students who can’t go home like you, so use this opportunity to make new friends. A good idea is to plan a Holiday potluck. Do you remember the International Food Festival last month at CSI? You’ll be surrounded by other international students like you, everyone brings their favorite dish from home, shares their culture as well as stories about being an international student. You can try a variety of foods and be inspired or even inspire someone new. Let’s get together and have fun!

    #2 Take a Holiday Trip

    I am pretty sure you have lots of places you dreamed about on your “must visit” list. This upcoming break is the perfect time for you to do that. Lots of cities in the US are ready for Christmas and the New Year’s Eve events. You will find special events, Christmas trains, and magical Christmas markets almost everywhere you go. I guarantee it will be impossible not to feel the excitement of the holiday season.

    Here are some suggestions for you to consider (if you have your own list, I will be glad to look at and share with other students):

    – New York City, NY. Take your ice skates and camera. There is a gigantic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and of course, ice skating in Central Park.

    – Santa Claus, IN. Each year this tiny town receives thousands of letters written to Santa. A group of local elves ensure each kid gets a reply (I’m kidding). But if you want to feel the old-time Christmas spirit, you have to visit the Santa Claus Museum and Village, get lost reading letters to Santa from the 1930s. You can sit at antique school desks, write a letter to Santa, and make a run through the gift shops on your way back.

    – San Francisco, CA. It will be a lot of fun to participate in The Great Dickens Fair and the Victorian Holiday Party. You will travel back to the 1800s with “an elaborate party with hundreds of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops”.

    – Chicago, IL. Chicago is a magical place to spend your holidays. Here you can find Christkindlmarket, ZooLights, see The Nutcracker, listen to Caroling at Cloud Gate and just enjoy the Skyline near the beach (while the weather is not so cold).

    – Las Vegas, NV. Vegas has the most dynamic and vibrant places anyone can ever imagine visiting, and moreover the shows go on all year long. New Year’s Eve celebrations are absolutely magical in Las Vegas – the City of Lights!

    Important notification: If you would like to travel outside of the US, do not forget to meet you Student Affairs Adviser.

    #3 Learn a new kind of sport

    When winter comes to the city there are lots of sports to enjoy, especially in the snow. With fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating and snow tubing, you will absolutely have a fun time while exercising. And by the way, nobody prohibits snowball fights! Take your friends and start a playful snowball “fight”. Afterwards, warm up with a nice cup of hot chocolate and cookies to end your day right.

    #4 Books Vs. Movies

    Either option is great. Reading books is always a great idea. Open your list of books you’ve been planning to read and start your journey. For those who prefer watching movies – there are many new movies out in theaters. Grab some popcorn and candy and get started watching your favorite movies. Invite your friends, make a movie night at home with popcorn, pizza, and soda. Have fun!

    #5 Stay Positive!

    Even if your family and close friends are far away, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday season. Write down your New Year resolutions, write letters, spend time volunteering, take photographs and create an album to share online, there are many ways to stay positive and enjoy the holiday season.

    To be honest, I still don’t have any plans for this holiday. This is my first time celebrating Christmas and New Year away from my family. But thanks to CSI I found a lot of new friends. I will definitely plan to host a Christmas family-style dinner with my new Family!

    Happy Holidays!