How Chinese students are celebrating Chinese New Year at university

Chinese students all over the world share how they are celebrating Chinese New Year, whether they are staying at university or heading home to their families

January 24 2020
How are Chinese students celebrating Chinese New Year at university?

Tiana Zhao, actuarial science and statistics, University of Waterloo, Canada

Being a Chinese international student in a foreign country is always hard during Chinese New Year because we are used to celebrating with our family.

Luckily, my university is going above and beyond to create a sense of community and to make the campus feel like home for us international students. For example, the libraries are organising a Lunar New Year event consisting of activities such as Omni search tool demonstrations, a green screen featuring a choice of Lunar New Year background images, making origami rats and even distributing red envelopes with a sweet surprise.

Some student organisations and clubs are also running their own events. I always love attending these with friends because they make me think of home and remind me that although I am miles away from my home country and my parents, I am surrounded by wonderful people who can celebrate this tradition and welcome the start of a new year with me.

My friends and I are also having a get-together this weekend. We plan to cook at one of my friends’ places, play a couple of games, exchange some gifts and talk about our lives and what we want to achieve in the coming year.


Yujie Li, electronic and electrical engineering, University of Birmingham, UK

This is my third time spending Chinese New Year in the UK, which always makes me feel homesick. Although I am away from my family, I always have friends celebrating with me. We often go for karaoke and have a special dinner together, so I never feel lonely.

The core of the Chinese New Year celebration is to spend time with family, and the friends I have made here have become like family.

We decorate the flat according to the traditions – for example, with Chinese “Spring Couplets” and characters of “Fortune”. Also, we are lucky in that Birmingham has its own Chinatown, where events such as dragon dancing are held every year.

Each year, my university holds different activities for the New Year, including calligraphy competitions and a lantern show.

It is nice of the university to offer such events, which not only celebrate the Chinese New Year for all Chinese students and staff but also give students from different countries who are interested in Chinese culture a chance to learn how Lunar New Year is celebrated.


Bo Qiu, tourism, hotel and event management, University of Queensland, Australia

I am very excited for the upcoming Chinese New Year, as the last time I celebrated Chinese New Year with my family was two years ago.

The thing I am most excited about is the reunion dinner. As I have studied overseas for some two years, it has been a long time since I last saw my cousins or had a meal with all my other family members.

Every Chinese kid looks forward to the first day of the Chinese New Year because on that morning they will receive red packets (extra pocket money). Unfortunately, since I no longer belong to the “child” category, this year I have prepared red packets for my grandma and my nephew, who was born last month, with wishes for them to take care of themselves in 2020.

I hope that all Chinese students will have a great time over Chinese New Year and achieve success in 2020.


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Aries Chen, social work, Flinders University, Australia

In my family, the adults spend most of the time preparing dinner, which is regarded as the most important meal for the whole year. Unlike our daily meals, we tend to have this one with our extended family.

Meanwhile, children spend time decorating their rooms. Usually, they post New Year couplets and the Chinese character “福” (“fu”) on their doors, which symbolises good luck and fortune.

It is traditional in some areas in northern China to have dumplings at the New Year meal, but my family still chooses to cook different dishes served with rice. However, having egg dumplings is a tradition for some southern Chinese families because they look like traditional Chinese gold ingots, therefore representing wealth and prosperity for the coming year.

During the meal, people will say some lucky words to each other, and children will receive red envelopes and best wishes from senior members of their family.

As an international student, I am so sad that I cannot go back home this year because I have university work to get through. But I will celebrate this important Chinese festival with my friends. It is also a chance to experience how Chinese people from other areas celebrate this important event and to spend time with the Chinese community at my university.


Cynthia Shen, speech pathology, Flinders University, Australia

My family’s reunion dinner consists of two parts. In addition to making traditional Chinese foods such as dumplings and sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding, each individual family must choose a member to cook a dish for the extended family to share.

When we make the dumplings, we put a coin inside because our ancestors believed that those who got the lucky dumpling would make a lot of money in the New Year. We will place an upside-down character “fu” on the door together when we finish dinner. In Chinese, “fu 福” means “blessing” or “happiness”. We also love to play cards or mah-jong.


Leibin Ao, University of Queensland, Australia

Different regions of China have their unique Spring Festival customs, but some customs, such as putting up Spring Festival couplets, receiving “lucky money” and having a reunion dinner with family are the most common and meaningful customs for every Chinese person.

When I was young, my expectation for the Spring Festival was that I could eat snacks that my parents would rarely buy for me, I could buy new clothes to wear, I would receive lucky money, and I would take a break from studies.

As I grow up, I spend less and less time with my parents because I am studying overseas. Usually, I’m able to come for only one month a year at the Spring Festival.

I no longer think about how much lucky money I can get or what delicious food I can eat. I just look forward to being able to return home and spend time with my parents.


Zhuoya Li, agriculture and economics, Missouri State University, USA

This is my second year studying in the US, and I am unable to go home to celebrate Chinese New Year.

I do feel very homesick, but luckily, Missouri State University provides a good platform and opportunity for Chinese students to meet and celebrate the Chinese New Year together.

The week beginning 1 February will be “Chinese New Year Celebration”. Among the events will be a Chinese banquet, a tea ceremony and a dumpling feast, as well as activities such as paper-cutting, calligraphy, Chinese painting, tai chi, nunchacku performances, a traditional dance show, concerts and much more besides.

I am very excited for this week. I am going to play Chinese musical instruments during the banquet, make dumplings and do paper-cutting with my friends.

These activities mean a lot to Chinese students. They help to ease our homesickness and also spread Chinese culture and teach other students more about China and the festival. Happy new year to everyone!

Read more: How to deal with homesickness at university

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