Temple international students experience first Halloween

Some international students describe their expectations for their first American Halloween.


Versions of Halloween are celebrated in different ways globally, but for some international students at Temple University, this will be their first time experiencing an American Halloween.

In countries around the world, celebrating Halloween, or their own similar tradition, has increased in popularity in the last 30 years. In some nations like Greece and Poland, more young people are engaging in pumpkin carving and costume parties, according to World Population Review, an independent organization that provides demographic data.

Hamil Noh, a marketing major from South Korea, said her perceptions of Halloween came from watching American movies, like “Harry Potter,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stranger Things.”

In Seoul, her hometown, Noh said restaurants decorate pumpkins and young children who attend English academies, dress up in costumes and get candy from their teachers, but Halloween is not a large celebration.

Noh said a big difference in America is that students throw parties for Halloween, so she is looking forward to wearing a costume and meeting new people when going out.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to make friends in America but [at a] party everyone is very open to us, and I can make a lot of friends,” she added.

Wenting Ao, a senior communication studies major from Kunming, China, said her favorite part about Halloween in America is seeing people dress up in “exotic” costumes.

“When I was young, I didn’t have similar festivals that allow me to wear a costume and just play with other kids,” Ao said.

Sonali Udaybabu, a film and media studies MFA student from Bangalore, India, said she hasn’t celebrated Halloween since coming to America, but she hopes to do something this year. 

“I’ve been feeling like ‘Hey, how come no one’s inviting me to a party,’” Udaybabu said. “I don’t know why, maybe because I’m Indian. Maybe people think that I won’t be interested.” 

Even if international students celebrated Halloween in their respective native countries, the experience in America is different, said Sam Kelley, the assistant director of Global Programs of the Office of International Affairs.

“Anyone that’s grown up in this area can attest that you have really fond memories of Halloween from childhood. That’s something really deeply rooted in our culture on the fun side,” Kelley said. “The students have seen that in movies and TV shows and people who come here [get] to experience that for themselves.”

The Global Programs office took about 70 international students to Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount on Oct. 24.

“I can attest that everyone had a lot of fun because I was there when everyone came out. That was a really good time,” Kelley added.

Kelley said she prepared the students for the frightening atmosphere who had never been to a haunted attraction. 

“Some students came out laughing because they couldn’t believe it,” she said. 

The International Affairs Office is thrilled when students are able to share American holidays at Temple because some students only stay in the United States for a semester or a year, Kelley said.

“We really like to highlight things like Halloween and Thanksgiving for students when they come here because it’s something that they can really feel like they’re a part of us and they’re part of our community,” she said. “Then they can go, and they can tell their family and friends all about the fun and excitement that they had, not only in the U.S., but something that Temple helped to bring to them.”

Noh is looking forward to experiencing the aspects of Halloween that aren’t present in Seoul.

“It’s very cool because I can have fun trick or treating, but I heard that trick or treating is just for younger children,” Noh said. 

Udaybabu said she appreciates the Halloween season.

“I really like that the whole month of October is a spooky month and everyone gets so excited by it,” she added. “I like the whole fall colors, squash and pumpkin, like there’s a whole different aesthetic to it.” 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Udaybabu’s master’s degree. She is pursuing an MFA in film and media arts.

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