AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonAnd while many say there are plenty of things to keep them busy – from organized college events to winter sight-seeing trips – getting homesick is inevitable. “It is hard when you see families together, spending time together,” Arshed said. “It makes me think about my mom and what I would do if I had her right next to me.” Waleed Ali has been studying engineering management at California State University, Northridge, since May 2006 – the longest length of time he has ever been away from his family. The Saudi Arabian exchange student said being close to family is culturally important in his home country. “Usually people in Saudi Arabia don’t leave their families,” Ali said. “Even if they get married, they will stay with their family.” Every fall as final exams wrap up, 27-year-old Nigum Arshed gets ready to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha with her family. Arshed would spend hours in the kitchen with her mother and sister, sharing stories as they prepared eggplant, grind cumin and coriander, and cleaned lamb and beef portions for a family feast. “It is about spending fun family time,” Arshed said of the holiday gatherings in Pakistan. But this year was different for Arshed, who is researching quantum physics as part of an exchange program at the University of Southern California. Arshed joined many of the 78,000 international students attending college in California who face the holidays thousands of miles from home this year amid rising airfares and growing travel restrictions. But Ali would have to pay $1,300 for a round-trip plane ticket to Saudi Arabia – a large bill for a full-time student. While the 25-year-old said he still would consider shelling out the dough, his student visa has expired, and now he can’t leave the country to see his family until he finishes his graduate program. Expired visas tend to be relatively common among international students – because their educational programs can change while they are studying in the United States – and renewing it can be difficult and time consuming. “I left everything back home to come here, so I cannot risk not coming back even if I am stuck here without being able to see my family,” Ali said. “Because of this I am trying to finish my graduate degree in less time.” Wen Zhang, a physics student from China who is pursuing a doctorate degree at USC, said increased security measures also have forced him to change vacation plans several times during the course of his studies. Zhang said security clearances have sometimes taken as long as four weeks and have delayed his return to school for specific research projects. Other students find they cannot return home because their visas are marked with one-time entry stamps. “Unfortunately, we have to apply the law, and that is what the law requires,” said Cyril Ferenchak, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Ferenchak said some visa requirements are affected by a student’s country of origin and course of study. “I can see how this can be a hardship, but hopefully they can take their time in the States to discover something about our culture and also expose people here to their culture,” Ferenchak said. Vic Johnson, public policy director for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said that while many visa requirements are necessary for national security, they also can deter some students from pursuing degrees in United States. “Especially for a young person, studying in another country – coupled with the fear of not being able to visit family – is a daunting prospect and functions as a disincentive to come here,” he said. “We need to find ways to make it easier for people who have already been approved for a visa to have the renewal process more retained so they don’t worry about getting back in if they go home.” Ali, vice president of CSUN’s International Student Club, said he finds comfort spending time with fellow international students at the college. During Ramadan this year, Ali and other students gathered for a barbecue at a Northridge park. At USC, which tops the nation with its more than 7,000 enrolled international students, a program called Thanksgiving Match-Up tries to ensure all international students get an all-American turkey dinner. Becky Petersen, an international student adviser at USC, hosted four students from Iran, Pakistan and China this year for Thanksgiving. “It is just a fantastic way to spend the holidays teaching others about American culture,” Petersen said. Petersen said she often hears international students lament a lack of exposure to American traditions. “One of the key regrets that students have about the time spent in the States is that they never get to spend time with American families,” she said. “This way they get to see a real American home, and they get so excited to spend time with a real family.” Still, some international students are opting to make the most of their time off during the holidays by exploring their adopted country. In his homeland of Korea, Byungdoo Kim is majoring in American studies, so he has spent the past year taking several U.S. history and social science courses at CSUN. Kim said despite being a bit homesick during the holidays, he is looking forward to spending Christmas and New Year’s in the United States. “I have always dreamed of spending the holidays in New York,” Kim said. “I am hoping to plan a trip there.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!