Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OU Exchange Student Program: the international experience of breaking the bubble

Until you do not leave your country you do not miss it, but all the exchange students who have been at the University of Oklahoma will miss the United States when they come back home.

That is because this year has been the year with more exchange students at the OU's history. More than 170 students from 66 different countries are having one of the most amazing experiences on their lives.

And that is possible thanks to the OU Exchange Student Program. This is about a program that was born in 1986-1987, although the first international students (four Colombian students) came here in 1954.

Millie Audas is the Program's Director since its establishment. She wanted to give to all the people from different countries the same opportunities in order to come to this University.

After more than 20 years, the program experience can say that Oklahoma -specially OU- is one of the best places in the US for being an exchange student.

People joke about they alway fly over Oklahoma to cross the country, but they never stop here. However, here in Oklahoma is where an exchange student can feel what is the real American life.

When the exchange students arrive here they feel kind of scared because that is a very different culture to them. But the International Program takes care of avoiding that.

It means that around this International Office there are a lot of student associations and host families trying to make the students happy and comfortable.

There are International student associations from all around the world here in OU. From Japanese to African, French and Francophone, or Pan-American student associations give support to all OU students, being exchange or not.

Other great association on OU there are the OU Cousins. I think that this is the best way to improve your English and build up new friendships. Each exchange has one or two OU cousins.

These OU cousins are able to share with you their American culture. That is an enrichable experience because while you are learning about them, you can show them how is your country, your language, your culture.

Host families help you feeling more comfortable here in Oklahoma. Not because you miss your parents, but they are a kind of “big OU cousins”.

These associations -always supported on the International Office- give to the students a new point of view about the different cultures that are coexisting here in OU.

The International Student Program achieves that these people not just grow as good students, but also as good persons. And all the exchange can feel a change on their-selves before they leave.

Although OU informs you -by the ISP- before you come here, you never know about the big culture diversity until you are not at your first class day.

I thought that the best way to know about the exchange student experience was interviewing them. That is why I have gathered some interviews to different exchange students from different countries.

“I think this program is very useful because you can to know another cultures like the American style...This is our chance to know this country because otherwise we could not never be here” says Miguel Pardo, Spanish student.

“I came here as an exchange student for one year, but I couldn't go back home...OU is part of my life and I will never forget it” says Franz Zenteno, Peruvian student.

“It is a very international family, I can not believe how many fantastic people that I have met here” says Susana Hung, Japanese student.

“It is a great opportunity to improve your English and also speak a lot of languages. I have met a lot of new people, and a lot of important people to me” comments Karl Huber, Chilean student.

“I have learned that there a lot of different ways to see the world” says Talisa Devresière, Dutch student. “I am proud of have been an exchange student here in OU” points out Alejandro Argilaga, Spanish student.

When all these students arrive home they know that it will be very hard. Every one it is going to be in their countries, thousands miles from.

But it does not mean that the distance will be the oblivion. These students have lived an unforgettable experience and have made incredible friendships all over the world.

And it had not been possible without the OU International Student Program's efforts.