Russian students participated in an exchange of ideas and information with OCCC students by teleconference late last month.
Ten students in the OCCC Multicultural Student Business Club held an internet teleconference via Skype, a software program that allows users to make telephone calls over the internet.
They spoke with Russian students from Ulyanovsk State University to gain cultural knowledge of how students learn in other countries. The students could see one another on video screens.
It was 9 a.m. for the American students and 6 p.m. for the students in Russia.
Ulyanovsk State University is home to more than 15,000 students and is the largest higher education institution in the Volga region of Russia. The Skype conference was led by Russian Professor Sergey Moskallonov and OCCC Professor Germain Pichop, Multicultural Student Business Club adviser.
Moskallonov had been a Fulbright exchange professor at OCCC for a short time in 2002 and continues to serve as an adjunct professor of economics, teaching online courses.
The Skype conference consisted of eight Russian students, most of whom spoke English well and a few of who had to have an English translation from their peers. None of the OCCC students spoke Russian. “I wish we had more students on both sides,” said Pichop.
Students took turns asking questions about each other’s culture, means of learning, hobbies and more.
The Russian students took a profound interest in the American government and the differences in the two countries.
They also asked about the Oklahoma economy, how OCCC students spend their spare time and what life is like as an OCCC student.
Many of the students that attend the Russian university are international students, from areas such as Africa and Asia. They come to USU to study medicine, public relations and economics. The foreign students learn to speak Russian and said they really enjoy the Russian culture.
OCCC student Shelby Forbes told the Russian students that when she is not studying and working, she spends her time with her husband and children. The Russian students seemed to find it interesting that many OCCC students had families and jobs, in addition to attending college.
OCCC student Sergio Lopez asked what type of food the other students liked. The response was that the Russian students loved their own heritage food.
Lopez said he could relate to that answer.
“I also enjoy my own heritage food, Mexican,” he said.
Lopez learned [Volga] had recently gotten its first McDonald’s, which was not too popular there. But the Russian students said they enjoy eating foods from different cultures.
When asked about the unemployment rate in Russia, the students said the unemployment rate was decreasing. They said they were experiencing depression, but it was improving.
The Russian government has been reforming small businesses practices since 2002, Moskallonov said, but large businesses have been struggling.
Moskallonov said it is easier to start a business in Oklahoma than to start a business in Russia.
Oklahoma is more competitive and has more of a demand for creating a successful business. The Russian government is more favorable to political companies, rather than private small businesses.
After the conference, Pichop said there are plans in the works for another Skype conference for next semester.
“Overall all I am happy with the turnout and look forward to doing it again,” Pichop said.
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