All students welcome to be part of ESL conversation group

When I came to school here, I didn’t know anyone. The group meetings help me make new friends … .”

—Ali Basheer

OCCC Student from Iraq

International students Shabina Aga, from India, and Ali Basheer, from Iraq, came together one day last semester for another weekly meeting where they could practice their English with others learning the language.

They were joined by American student volunteers, as well as the staff leader for the English as a Second Language discussion sessions.

The hour and a half meeting gave a smile and some laughter to everyone in the room at some point.

Basheer said he attends the meetings regularly and is about to finish his third semester as an OCCC student.

“I had fun today,” he said. “The ESL meetings are good for me because they help me improve my English language and pronouncing things.

“When I came to school here, I didn’t know anyone. The group meetings help me make new friends … .”

OCCC’s Senior Communications Lab Assistant Lydia Rucker leads the group. She invites men and women of all backgrounds to join the ESL discussion groups this spring.

Rucker’s passion is to make sure the ESL discussions groups are fun and effective for everyone who participates.

“My favorite part about this is we do a variety of activities each week together,” she said. “But the students who come from different parts of the world are actually teaching me new things about their culture too.”

The smiles Aga and Basheer carried from the moment they walked in lifted the mood in the entire room.

Aga laughed along with others when students were paired up and led around the room by their partner’s hand.

Once the activity was over, Rucker asked the class: “Did you all notice that once everyone around you was doing the same silly things, it made you not care about what others were thinking about you?”

Though not every English word spoken by the two students came out completely clear, their smiles reflected their excitement about learning new skills and speaking with new people.

The meetings are open to International and American students who are looking to improve their self-esteem and fluency when it comes to public speaking, Rucker said.  The discussions not only help build communications skills but also they are a fun way to be involved and make friends.

Rucker wants to spread the word about OCCC’s ESL meetings so that the number of people participating each week will expand.

Basheer commended Rucker’s leadership.

“I like Lydia,” he said. “She is nice.”

The ESL conversation groups meet each Thursday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in VPAC room 146.

For more information, contact Rucker at 405 682-1611, ext. 7105, or email at

To contact Elizabeth Watkins, email

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