This year, students at Oral Roberts University get a long winter break, but some international students said they’re ready to get back.
ORU said 17% of its student body is international, representing 116 nations including the US. One student from Uganda told News On 6's the pandemic has made it difficult for many of them to get home.
Deborah Laker is a senior at ORU from Uganda and said this year her family can't count on her being home for Christmas. Laker lost her father in October and said it's been difficult to grieve away from family.
"There was just this great heartache of me just wanting to be there to support him and just you know hug my mother and just take care of my sisters," Laker said.
Laker said it would cost $2,000 to fly home and said several US embassies in Africa right now are not renewing visas. Instead, she'll be spending the holidays with her host family.
"I'm so grateful to have a host family that loves me and nurtures me," Laker said.
Samantha Munatsirei is from Zimbabwe and said she spent last Christmas on campus.
"It can make you cry. It's just really heartbreaking when you realize, 'Ah, I'm stuck on campus,'" said Munatsirei. "Most of my friends have left for their homes. There's not much I can do. I'm by myself."
Laker said she'll keep up traditions despite the distance; things like making snowflakes over Facetime on Christmas Eve to hang in neighborhood windows. She said her family didn't grow up with gifts under their tree.
Instead, her father would buy everyone new clothes to wear to church on Christmas.
"Being in the consumer capitalist society of America I have adapted," Laker said.
Laker has managed to fill her father's shoes and send her mom and sisters Christmas dresses, while her host sisters started a new tradition of giving Laker a handmade Advent box.
"This one says let all that you do be done with love," Laker said.