Being away from family around the holidays can be difficult for a lot of people. But Salus University tries to make that time away a little easier to handle for many of its international students.

That’s what the annual holiday party by the Department of International and Continuing Education hopes to alleviate: To provide some holiday cheer for the full-time on-campus international students.

“They’re all away from their families right now and that’s a hard thing to do,” said Natalie Standig, program manager for the department. “The idea is for the students to just stop studying for a minute – because they all have intensive programs – and take a moment to relax and celebrate with their Salus family.”

This year, four MSc students attended, including Mazen Alokiliy, Jiahong Zhou, Shixing Niu and Ahmed Skaik, along with his wife and daughter. The students, two of which are from China, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Canada, attended the party in the University’s cafeteria Dec. 11. Also in attendance were two visiting students from China, Xiaoxiao Zhang and Xuan Qiu, who are participating in a four-week program at the Elkins Park, Pa. campus; Advanced Placement Doctor of Optometry (APOD) students Maithili Patel, Xiaohua Zhou and Ali Fazel; and Post-baccalaureate student Xin Song.

University president Dr. Michael H. Mittelman and Dr. Melissa Vitek, director of International and Continuing Education, as well as faculty and staff who worked with the students, joined the group for the luncheon, which consisted of food from many of the countries represented.
The International Master of Science degree (MSc) is a one-year intensive Master’s in Clinical Optometry program with an advanced studies certificate solely held at the Elkins Park, Pa. campus. Students in the program come to Salus to work with faculty, participate in observations, work in advanced studies, experience clinical training, and develop their clinical skills set through practice in the Clinical Procedures Laboratory and Controlled Patient Care courses and attend workshops. After completing the program, the students are able to return to hospitals, universities and practices in their home countries with the expertise they might not be able to receive in their home countries.

Post-baccalaureate programs are for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree or are working toward a secondary degree from an accredited institution and the Salus Post-baccalaureate in Health Sciences is designed for those specifically interested in a health professions career. The APOD program offers an additional pathway to the OD degree specifically for interested and qualified international practitioners. Students are given a customized course of study that is designed based upon the applicant’s previous educational and clinical experience as well as their career goals.

The party turned out to be the right antidote to get rid of those holiday blues brought on by being away from family.

“This party brings our international students together, which is really good. Some of them I’ve met for the first time and I think I’ve made a really good friend. There are different foods here from different countries and it’s nice to try their favorite dishes,” said Maithili Patel, ‘22OD. “It helps us connect with each other and we don’t always feel like we are away from our families during the holidays.”