Azara Assane Baraze, an international student from Niger, said the way she interprets English might be a little bit different compared to other international students.
While many international students put a lot of focus into listening and pronunciation in American English, Baraze said she found herself having no problems with those skills.
“I used to watch a lot of TV shows before coming to America. When I started doing that, I did not understand what people are saying. My friends were making fun of me. They said ‘you do not understand a word, why are doing that?’ I believe that is how we learn,” she said. “However, I don’t like writing essays, so it is really hard for me to write an essay in English. They ask you to write six pages and when I finished one page, I was like ‘Oh, I have to do five more pages.”
Baraze is majoring in pre-engineering environmental science. She said she wants to use the knowledge of the major to help the people in her country, who are being affected everyday by the radioactivity of the mass uranium exploitation. Niger is currently one of the biggest producers of uranium in the world.
She said her father’s work with those affected by radiation from their work in the uranium industry has inspired her to want to help others.
“He is a doctor and his job is making sure that people there are healthy and nothing affects their health. I have seen [skin disease] because of the radioactivity of Uranium and pollution. I want to do something for my country,” she said.
Baraze said her family is living in the capital of Niger, called Niamey. Before moving there, they lived in the north part of the country, called Arlit.
“It’s hot there. [Niger] is a big desert. I have never seen snow, before coming here.”
There are many reasons she decided to travel to America, especially choosing Oklahoma for education.
“My cousins and uncle are already here. So it is easier for me to come to somewhere where I already knew somebody,” she said. “My parents also decided that Oklahoma is a good choice because they know my uncle is working at OU so anytime I want to transfer to OU, he will help me and it would be more easier.”
Baraze said a person who has a degree from America can gain many advantages for a career.
She said after almost two years living here, she saw many other sides of America which were never shown on world wide media.
“If you asked that question to a lot of international students, it will be like ‘Wow, when I see America on TV, it’s pretty, like big cities … but it is not the same. What media wants us to believe is not the real America.
“Like on TV, it is only about rich people, you never see the poverty. There is poverty here also but you will never get to see that on TV,” she said. “I have been in Los Angeles. It is pretty much the same [like what I saw on TV] but we have been in some parts of LA that they do not show us on TV. I was like ‘Is it really LA?’ Because the LA I saw on TV is really glamorous, paparazzi, celebrities.”
Baraze said OCCC is a good preparation for any foreign students at the beginning before transferring to big universities. The tuition is really cheap and the size of each classroom is small so that students can have more chances to discuss and communicate with their professor during the class period.
Currently, Baraze is working at Graduation, Employment, and Transfer Services on campus. She said being a working student brings her many benefits.
“My parents help me a lot in finance and I really want to do something for them. I told them that ‘you don’t have to send me money for this, I will pay for my own things.’ They was really proud of me. It is also about gaining experience. It looks good on your resume when you said you worked before. It is also about making connections on campus,” she said.
She is currently the president of the International Student Association at OCCC for the spring semester.