Donation makes student’s vacation

An anonymous donor is making it easier for Yermek Zhakiphanov to go home.

An anonymous donor is making it easier for Yermek Zhakiphanov to go home.

David Haut

Christmas is a time of family and fellowship, fun and parties. Not for international students, though.

Many cannot afford a trip home for the holidays.

Yermek Zhakipzhanov, freshman graphic design major, came to Missouri Southern last May. Eight months later he still hasn’t seen his family, and he wasn’t planning to.

“I was preparing myself, like, ‘OK I’m not going to see my parents for four more months,” Zhakipzhanov said.

A native of Kazakhstan, Zhakipzhanov doesn’t get to travel home often, especially during the high-priced holiday season.

But, something happened Zhakipzhanov didn’t expect.

It started with E-mail.

Trish Udell, adjunct professor of international studies, received an anonymous donation specifically earmarked for one international student to go home for the holidays.

“I thought it was special that someone in the community would be that generous,” she said.

“International students could feel lonely over the holidays, so she wanted to help them.”

She immediately sent an e-mail to all international students requesting that all interested apply.

Zhakipzhanov responded within 10 minutes, saying it “would be a dream come true.”

“Everything happened in one week,” he said.

On Dec. 3, Zhakipzhanov received a call saying he was selected to receive the money. Zhakipzhanov said he had some doubts about finding a decently priced ticket on such short notice but he immediately began to search for one.

“Every hour the price was rising,” he said.

“We had just a couple of days to buy a ticket. To go home is very expensive.”

Zhakipzhanov’s search turned up several tickets, the cheapest being around $1,400. Then, Zhakipzhanov found a travel agent ad in a Russian-American magazine.

The ad was the break he needed.

Through it, Zhakipzhanov found an affordable ticket home.

By Dec. 8, Zhakipzhanov had his ticket.

“I didn’t expect Americans cared about international students,” he said. “It really surprised me.”

Overall, $750 was donated by an anonymous female for Zhakipzhanov’s trip home. He will still have some out-of-pocket expense, but Zhakipzhanov said there was no way he could make the trip without the donation.

Zhakipzhanov will leave from Kansas City on Dec. 17 and return home on Jan. 20, giving him a month to be with his family and friends. His instructors are giving him a break for missing his first week of class.

Although the source was anonymous, Zhakipzhanov is writing a personal thank-you to the donor expressing his thanks for their generosity.

“God Bless this person,” he said. “We really have to meet, someday.”