International students bring cultural perspective to classroom panel


By Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor

Questions are a gift and curiosity can drive a person anywhere in the world right from where they stand, according to the director for Global Learning at Tulsa Community College (TCC), Dr. Douglas Price.

Price is a strong proponent for students moving out of their ‘comfort zones’ and transporting their educational experience into a new setting.

He emphasizes the importance of viewing life from another person’s side of the table.

“How I see Tram [a panel member] is more about me than it is about her. How she sees me [on the other hand] is more about her.”

He says, due to discrimination, prejudice, racism and hate crimes—the tendency is to see others as the problem.

“Often, we don’t look at ourselves first … if you don’t look at yourself first, you don’t understand human interaction,” says Price.

On April 6, a six-student international panel assembled in the Southeast Campus classroom of Assistant Professor Beth Thompson, calling the discussion, ‘Food for Thought’.

Thompson is assistant professor of communication at TCC, teaching Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking and Academic Strategies.

She and Price have collaborated since 2010 to bring unique experiences to the classroom.

During the current semester, Thompson incorporated food and culture in her curriculum, while Price recommended the international panel.

Following are perspectives provided by three members:

Reagan Mpadi originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, majoring in mechanical engineering.

Upon graduation, he
intends to transfer to Oklahoma State University (OSU), where he will pursue his dream of becoming an aerospace engineer.

Favorite foods from his home country include chicken, rice, beans and fish.

Mpadi says he is accustomed to eating only once per day, sometimes twice.

He feels many Americans take food for granted, with the staggering amounts that are thrown away every day.

“In Africa, we don’t take food for granted. It isn’t easy to get food, because it is too expensive,” he says.

In America, he enjoys restaurants such as ‘Burger Street’ and ‘Sam’s Southern Eatery’.

His interaction with Americans and other international students has been positive.

Mpadi appreciates TCC as an institution. “They provide me a quality education for a reasonable price.”

As for what he would like others to know about the Republic of Congo, he names the diverse food, people groups and interesting places to see.

Mpadi feels Americans would appreciate and benefit from discovering the culture of the Congo. He would also like to improve his understanding of American culture.

“I would like to know more about the ‘American dream’, what that means. Why do people say ‘American Dream’? What is it?”

Mpadi highly recommends the international learning.

“There is more opportunity [here] … when you have an American degree, you are more welcomed to work anywhere … because America has the best education system in the world,” he concludes.

Andrey Thompson is from the country of Jamaica, majoring in nursing.

His educational plan after graduation is to transfer to OSU for his bachelor’s degree, then fulfill his dream of becoming a clinical nurse specialist.

The favorite food of Thompson is ‘jerk’ chicken.

“Jamaican cooking uses a lot of spices, and the mixture of their fiery and flavorsome potential is called jerk sauce.”

He describes a mixture of island-grown seasonings like Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, cinnamon and nutmeg are dry-rubbed on meat, which is then traditionally roasted, sometimes for hours over pimento wood.

Thompson’s international experience has been positive. He says his peers, American and otherwise, generally see issues from the same perspective.

He describes TCC as a wholesome school, with a collective support system. The result has been a less-complicated campus life.

Thompson says Jamaican culture is not much different from American culture, and trends are similar.

One thing he would like to understand better is the concept of ‘tipping’ at restaurants. In Jamaica, tipping is reserved for very good service, where in America it is expected for every meal, whether or not the service is good.

“Without a doubt, I would recommend becoming an international student to a friend, as it provides a rich experience and insight into the American culture,” concludes Thompson.

Tram Huynh is French, but her parents originate from Vietnam.

She is a pre-veterinarian student. After graduation, she plans to transfer to the
University of Tulsa (TU) or OSU, in order to complete her bachelor’s degree and attend veterinary school.

When it comes to food, she loves the ‘ratatouille’ (stewed vegetable dish) and roast pork of her adopted grandmother.

“She grows her own vegetables in her yard and cooks everything by herself,” she says.

Her favorite food in America is crawfish.

Huynh cites the positive experience and exchange with others regarding subjects of culture, education, food, activities and interesting places to visit.

She has adapted to TCC’s environment and says the college is a good place for an international learner.

She likes the smaller class sizes compared with four-year institutions and the relative ease of making connections with others.

“TCC also offers a lot of leadership opportunities to get involved, not only on campus, but also in the community.”

She would like to see Americans get over the stereotypes and discover true French culture.

Being an international student has been an experience Huynh would recommend to others. She says it was hard at first to leave family, friends and all things familiar.

Though challenging, she concludes: “It’s a fantastic life experience that helped me grow up and discover another culture.”

As an instructor, Professor Thompson was pleased with the result of the international panel.

“Understanding other cultures promotes tolerance and awareness, and having experiences with other cultures gives students a new perspective,” she says.

Thompson’s classes have helped many who have never done so before, become more confident and excited about the possibility of travelling.

“Because many TCC students will work in a global market, communicating effectively is essential,” she adds.

Thompson recalls many who have stepped out of their comfort zones to experience global education.

One student travelled abroad to England with no prior experience, while another lived in France for an entire semester. Still another plans to expand their academic experience in Iceland this fall.

“Pairing textbook concepts with actual experiences helps students recall and apply ideas,” Thompson concludes.

For more information about opportunities for global learning, contact Dr. Douglas Price at (918) 595-7853 or Beth Thompson at (918) 595-8688.