Engineering Physics major Daniel Vargas, a native of Mexico, said he learned English at home partly by watching American movies.
As a child, Vargas said, he hated English.
He remembers his mother telling him “maybe English is not your thing.”
The 22-year-old from the Mexico capital Mexico City, said his father was less accepting of his son’s poor English skills.
It was his dad who hid the subtitles when they watched movies in English, so Daniel would learn English, he said.
“I even avoided watching movies with my dad because he used to hide the subtitles,” Vargas said.
“Later I realized that it helped me a lot to improve my English.”
Vargas said adapting to the environment of the U.S. was traumatic for him when he first came to OCCC in the spring of 2008, even though he had been to U.S. five times as a tourist.
One particularly embarrassing moment occurred, he said, when he entered the women’s restroom by mistake during his first week on campus.
“There were two ladies inside the restroom and I asked them what are you doing here,” he said.
“Instead, they asked me what was I doing there and I realized that I came to the wrong restroom, and I apologized to them.”
Communicating in English was not too difficult for Vargas, even at the beginning, because he had started speaking English as a child.
Nevertheless, he said, he sometimes felt uncomfortable speaking in a group, especially with people who speak English very fast, he said.
Driving also was not a big issue, he said, although he disagrees with a saying in Mexico: “If you know how to drive in Mexico City, you know how to drive in the rest of the world.”
Even though Vargas had learned to drive in his home city of 20 million people, he didn’t get his Oklahoma driver’s license until his second attempt at the test.
When he first came to Oklahoma, Vargas said, he was disappointed with the unavailability of public transportation.
“Public transportation is very easy and convenient in Mexico,” he said.
“I was expecting the same thing in Oklahoma.”
Vargas is taking classes at both the University of Central Oklahoma and OCCC this semester.
He will have completed his associate degree in December and will graduate from OCCC, a college he said he has fallen in love with.
“It’s like a second home for me.”
Vargas said he has actually completed his required classes at OCCC, and is now taking some basic classes just to hang around, he said.
“I feel very bad that I am leaving OCCC next semester because I will be done with all my classes here,” he said.
“But I might stay here taking some piano classes just to be here with my friends.”
Vargas works at the OCCC coffee shop.
He said he wishes OCCC were a four-year-university because it would be his first choice to continue his studies.
In the next 10 years, Vargas said he sees himself in a big city with a good job related to the engineering field.
“I would love to be in a big city rather than a smaller one,” he said.
Vargas said his life is great at the moment because of the good friends he has.
“An international student’s life can be very difficult, especially in the first year of school,” he said.
Vargas said he thinks if international students find helpful people at the beginning stage then their lives can be good both in and outside of school.
He encourages all international students not to give up even though they may sometimes experience bad times.
“Life always knocks you down but it’s always about getting up again,” he said.
Vargas said he is thankful to several people at OCCC who, he said, helped him adjust.
He named International Student Coordinator Sunny Garner, Mathematics Professor Paul Buckelew, and his best friend Murod Mamatov, an OCCC graduate.
“These are the people who made a huge impact in my life,” Vargas said.
“It’s all because of them I was able to adjust to the environment here at OCCC,” he said.
“I am very grateful to them.”