Far from family: Some international students miss out on Family Weekend

March 3, 2024, 11:54 p.m.

Approximately 5,500 Stanford parents came to campus last weekend for the University’s 2024 Family Weekend. Amidst a packed schedule including events like Q&A sessions with the President and Provost and dining hall lunches, many students were able to provide their families with a look into their lives at Stanford. 

But, given flight times and expenses, most international students’ parents were unable to attend. 

As a student from the San Francisco Area, Brigette Mahoney ’27 was able to show her family around.

“I’ve worked so hard this entire year, and I was able to showcase that to my parents. It was very nice to see them so happy because I’m so happy here and I’m starting to find my place,” Mahoney said.

For many international students, whose parents could not attend, the weekend was a bittersweet reminder of their distance from home. Many of these sentiments were expressed on Fizz, an anonymous social media platform.  

One post, with over 1500 upvotes, read “[Shoutout] To all the international kids whose parents aren’t able to come for family weekend (myself included) 🥲.” 

For Zaydan Kabir Amanullah ’27, whose family lives in Bangladesh, the weekend was “enjoyable but saddening.” 

“There were no events for international students on campus because most of our parents did not come for the weekend,” Amanullah said

There were positives to the weekend, like “beautiful weather” and extra good dining hall food, according to Mariana Gonzalez ’27, a Venezuelan international student from Mexico.

But even sunny skies and fresh produce couldn’t replace sharing her Stanford experience and community with family. 

“ I wish that I could have spent the weekend with the people because of [whom] I am here today,” Gonzalez said. She spoke of the events that she wished she could have attended with her parents, such as a “Latino barbecue” that drew a lot of parents and students. 

Some international students, whose parents were unable to make it to the weekend, still partook in activities. 

“Some of the parents also invite international students to hang out together, grab brunch or dinner, which is a good thing,” said Petch Ounjaroen ’27, an international student from Thailand. Gonzalez said she spent the weekend with other international students.

Charlene Gage, a University spokesperson, wrote to The Daily that “Family Weekend has historically taken place in late February taking into consideration the academic and events calendar, to allow for more participation for students and families alike.” 

However, many international students suggested moving Family Weekend closer to spring break or having more activities specifically geared towards international students during the event. 

Gage also explained the University did make efforts to make some Family Weekend events inclusive. 

“For those who are not able to join in person, a live stream of the welcome event was available on the Family Weekend website and several sessions were recorded. All students are invited to the Weekend’s closing event, the Cardinal Student Showcase and the experience is always evolving to be more inclusive of the needs of our community,” Gage said. 

However, many international students are still unsatisfied.  

“[There should be] more events geared towards international students and getting them together on campus that celebrate our cultural diversity, Amanullah said.” 

Stanford provides mental health and well-being support for international students. The Bechtel International Center for international students recently introduced the SIB mentorship program for international students, where upperclassmen mentor the incoming freshman class.

For Amanullah, more could be done. “We should get more resources allocated to our well-being, an international support system more effective than SIB,” Amanullah said. Gonzalez said, “I think that they could have organized an event with all the parents of the international students. Create a community.”

For many international students’ parents, obtaining a visa is an added barrier in visiting their children. Another was the expense associated with the trip to and from Stanford.

The University wrote to The Daily, “The Stanford Opportunity Fund offers support for some expenses associated with the weekend.”

However, because financial aid is limited by factors like citizenship, many international students cannot take advantage of it. 

Paridhi Bhatia '27 is a beat reporter for international students and a writer for the University desk. She is interested in developmental economics and environmental policy. Contact Paridhi at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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