A group of international students from OCCC came away with a different understanding of Native Americans after their first cultural field trip to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Okla.
More than 20 students and faculty attended the one-day trip on April 18, representing countries from South America, East and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The ESL Academic Bridge Program is designed to help students appreciate the culture of Oklahoma and what the state has to offer, said Abbie Figueroa, program coordinator and professor of the ESL Academic Bridge Program.
Bridge program students said they enjoyed getting better acquainted with the place where they are living now.
“I really like that OCCC has the ESL program because it has created in a way that we international students can learn about American culture,” said Natnael Gebrehiwot from Ethiopia. “That is why professors take us to important places that are part of Oklahoma’s history.”
According to the ESL directory, OCCC is one of the eight colleges in Oklahoma that offers English as a Second Language program.
“I looked for the ESL program in many schools, but just a very few schools have this program,” said Alex Flores from Peru. “I am glad that OCCC offers this program because for me it is very important to have a base where I can prepare myself for my next college classes.”
Flores is planning to earn a degree in accounting. Students learned from their experiences on the field trip.
“I always thought that Native Americans were barbaric because that is what American movies show, but now I realize that they were peaceful and hard workers,” said Lei Gao from China. “My visit to the Chickasaw National Reserve was a great experience. Everyone was warm and kind with us.”
The itinerary for the trip included activities such as a live demonstration of the Stomp Dance and Snake Dance, where faculty and students enjoyed dancing with the Chickasaw natives.
The students were especially captivated by the story of how Chickasaws settled within the territories of Oklahoma.
“It is sad to think how Chickasaw Indians were removed from their homeland in Mississippi and ended up here in Oklahoma by force,” said Maria Brooks from Colombia.
According to the Official Site of the Chickasaw Nation, they are the 13th largest federally recognized tribe in the United States.
“I learned that Chickasaw Indians were great farmers and built their own government,” Brooks said. I definitely think they are very hard working people.”
Students and faculty visited the center’s traditional 19th century Indian village, where they acquired a detailed representation of how Oklahoma natives lived.
“I had never seen those types of construction in my home country,” said Patrick Nzobonimpa from Burundi, in East Africa. “It was a great experience for me seeing how Oklahoma natives used to live in the past.”
Students from the ESL program commented OCCC’s affordable and flexible payment plans. This is one of the reasons why students from around the world are attracted to the college.
“I chose OCCC for its location and affordable fees,” said Reggie Uthup from India.
The college is committed to providing the services and programs that are needed to help international students survive and thrive in an English-speaking environment, according to the OCCC website. The ESL program is designed to help students from abroad learn to communicate fluently and study effectively in English and to gain a greater understanding of American culture.
“The main goal of the ESL Academic Bridge Program is to prepare international students for their freshmen classes and to help them be involved in American culture,” Figueroa said.
Other students on the trip were Hammad Alharbi, Saudi Arabia; Cuong Banh and Cam Nguyen, Vietnam; Luisa Guapacha, Colombia; Taslima Islam, Bangladesh; and Akash Patel, India.
For more information, visit www.occc.edu/esl.