Thursday, May 14, 2009

International and area studies senior Courtney Powers (left) and
friend, Ragan Dueker, ride the bus in Guadalajara, Mexico
shortly after the Swine Flu outbreak in April. ~Photo provided

Swine Flu shortens spring semester for exchange students

The semester was cut short for several exchange students studying in Mexico this spring when an outbreak of Swine Flu immobilized the region.

The outbreak, occurring in late April, forced OU partner universities in Puebla and Guadalajara to close as a precaution against spreading the disease.

Courtney Peters, an OU international and area studies major who was in Guadalajara, said she was never worried about contracting the illness, but all the excitement made the trip more interesting.

"It was more of an annoyance," Peters said. "I think it really got blown out of proportion."

According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, the CDC is still recommending U.S. residents avoid nonessential travel to Mexico.

However, Jack Hobson, a spokesperson for the Education Abroad office at OU, said school officials will continue to monitor the situation to determine if summer programs will be impacted.

Megan Powers, an international and area studies junior, said the university in Colima did not close, but she left Mexico early anyway.

"It was incredibly frustrating to be down there, actually," Powers said. "The only way I was getting information was by reading news sources and, depending on what you were reading, it was either the end of the world, or it was the flu."

Mexican officials ordering all public locations to close prompted Powers to leave.

"They closed down restaurants, they closed down the movie theater, everything was closed," Powers said. "And I thought, 'there's got to be something going on.'"

Powers returned to the United States the first weekend in May, a month shy of completing the semester.

"I made the decision to apply for withdrawal from my classes for the semester," Powers said.

Hobson said when a program is closed due to unforeseen reasons, a student would certainly qualify for a retroactive withdrawal or cancellation, but withdrawal is not the only option.

Peters will be finishing her studies at the university in Guadalajara through correspondence.

"At first they were like, sorry, you're not getting any credit," Peters said. "But now, they're starting to work with us."

Both students said it was unfortunate they had to come back early, but neither regrets the experience.

"It was an uncomfortable position to be in," Powers said. "But it was very revealing of the culture and the mentality. It helped me grow quite a bit."

Hobson said the exchange program in Mexico was the only one impacted by the Swine Flu outbreak, and many students are moving forward with summer plans that include international travel.

Advertising junior Anthony Caravello plans to work in Ayamonte, Spain for the summer, and he hopes to travel throughout the region.

"I refuse to let the swine flu compromise it all," Caravello said.

Shari Kinney, administrator for the Cleveland and McClain County Health Departments, agrees there's little cause for concern.

Kinney said the reaction has been extreme considering there are thousands of flu-related deaths in the United States each year.

In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control reported 1,812 deaths as a result of influenza, according to the National Vital Statistics Report.

"You should be just as concerned every fall, as you are about this," Kinney said.

For updated information on the Swine Flu visit www.cdc.gove/swineflu or call the Oklahoma Swine Flu toll free hotline at 1-888-278-7134.

Exchange student Megan Powers talks about her experiences in Colima, Mexico during the Swine Flu outbreak in April.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Salsa lovers savor the first dance

More than 200 staff, students and community members attended OU's first International Salsa Ball Friday.

The event was deemed a success by Latin Dance Club organizers Mohan Incharas and Maritza Rodriguez, who envisioned hosting a Salsa ball to rival Stillwater's, over eight months ago.

"We never thought we'd have this kind of turnout," Rodriguez said. "And there's still more to come."

Incharas said he hopes to make Salsa a part of people's daily lives and not just something they do on the weekends.

Contact Mohan Incharas at 405-474-5694 for information about the Latin Dance Club or upcoming Salsa classes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

University college freshman Chelsea Nordstrom performs a selection from Paramore’s “Here We Go Again" for Sooner Idol judges Holly Berrigan, George Gust and Steven Lee.
Students contend for Idol spots

Nearly 50 students auditioned this week for a chance to be OU’s next Sooner Idol.

“It’s kind of a take on American Idol,” Union Programming Board vice president George Gust said. “By kind of a take, I mean it’s exactly like American Idol.”

Gust said the competition, which the programming board has sponsored for seven years, is one of its biggest events.

The top ten finalists will compete at the Sooner Idol event April 25, where a panel of expert judges will score the performances and provide feedback to the singers.

First and second place winners will be chosen by the judges, and the audience will choose a third place winner.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

University College freshman Kate Holland and partner,
Eric Whitebay, showcase their dancing skills at the
International Salsa Ball Friday.

OU Stirs Up Latin-Flavored Fun

OU Latin Dance Club will host its first International Salsa Ball Friday night in the Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Molly Shi Boren ballroom.

The event was created to showcase the club’s efforts over the last 8 months to expose students and the community to the art of Latin dance.

“It’s spicy, lively and sexy,” event coordinator Mohan Incharas said.

Free Salsa lessons will be provided from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m.

The ball will be 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., Friday, April 10, in the Oklahoma Memorial Union's Molly Shi Boren Ballroom.

Tickets, $5.00 for students and $10.00 for non students, may be purchased at the door or by contacting Mohan Incharas.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Matching cousins promotes friendship and understanding

International students don native clothing to celebrate cultural diversity at
the 2008 Eve of Nations event - Photo provided

Matching cousins promotes friendship and understanding

OU Cousins provides an opportunity for students to build friendships with people from a different culture by matching foreign exchange students with American students.

Many ‘cousins’ develop strong bonds and use the program to learn from each other, but some international students find it difficult to connect with their American matches.

“I don’t have close relation with my OU Cousins,” Mylene Marchat, a foreign exchange student from Clermont Ferrand, France said. “I know I have two, but I never meet them.”

The organization was created in 1996 by President and Mrs. David L. Boren as a result of a conversation they had with an international student during commencement exercises. The student expressed regret that he had never visited a working farm or ranch while in Oklahoma, according to the OU Cousins Web site.

“To make sure this never happened again and to enhance campus awareness of our rich international culture, the Cousins program was born,” staff advisor Quy Nguyen said.

The organization hosts frequent formal events to promote cultural exchange. Some of the activities include trips to ball games or local sites, artistic performances, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and an annual end-of-year barbecue at a local ranch.

“Students are encouraged to get together outside the program to study, shop and socialize as any normal friends might,” Nguyen said.

For Destiny Poole, a local student who was assigned an international student from China, this is where the real cultural exchange happens.

“You get to know your OU Cousin pretty well,” she said. “I was barely familiar with Chinese culture before.”

Poole, who is now an advisor for the program, said she tells people you get out of OU Cousins what you put into it.

“If you’re going out of your way to meet up with your cousin, not just for events and programs OU Cousins puts on, but outside-like hey let’s go to lunch, let’s go do this-that’s where the real connections are solidified,” she said.

Each year, the organization hosts a matching party where international students mingle with local student volunteers. The students have an option to be matched with someone they meet at the party, or they can sign up to be matched by the program’s organizers.

Nguyen said students are matched on a one-on-one basis according to major, common interests and other criteria.

For some international students these connections are important to functioning in American culture where public transportation is limited and very little is within walking distance.

“We just stay on campus sometimes,” Laure Noinski, a French exchange student said. “It would be nice to just go look around. To integrate with Americans-it’s not so easy.”

Noinski said she has exchanged emails with her assigned cousins, but due to scheduling conflicts they have not met in person.

Armin Streibel, an exchange student from Austria said he has not heard from his OU Cousin.

“I signed in but never got an answer,” he said.

Nguyen said American students who sign up are not obligated to devote a predetermined amount of time to the program.

“It is up to each pair to figure out how much time works out best for them,” he said. “If the OU Cousin is unable to meet their OU Cousin, we try our best to rematch them.
When the matches work, they can provide a valuable experience for both the exchange student and the American student.

Local student Mars Chapman was paired with an international student from Austria last semester.

“We hit it off quite well,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to butcher German to him, and at the same time I helped correct his English.”

Chapman said he often just grabs a cup of coffee with his “cousin” and they talk about perceptions of each other’s countries.

That’s the best part of the program,” he said. “When you put yourself in another person’s shoes, you can empathize. On many occasions it has changed my perspective.”

Hear French foreign exchange student Mylene Marchat discuss the differences between Oklahoma and her native France.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Representatives from the Women's Outreach Center used the South oval lawn
as an activist's canvas Wednesday to launch its first ever Red Flag Campaign.

WOC raises red flags on relationship abuse

Miniature red flags dotted the South oval today as part of the Women’s Outreach Center’s recently added campaign to promote awareness of abusive relationships.

Although the center sponsors other campaigns throughout the year dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault, the “Red Flag” campaign deals specifically with college dating relationships.

Teresa Schuster, administrative assistant for the Women’s Outreach Center, said the campaign focuses on the little things a partner can do that are abusive but are often dismissed.

“Coercion, isolation, emotional abuse, jealously,” Schuster said. “We are hoping to raise awareness on those types of issues.”

The campaign originated in 2006 by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance as a response to statistics asserting relationship abuse affects one in five college relationships, according to the Red Flag Campaign Web site.

In Phase II of the campaign, volunteers for the center will canvas the campus with posters educating students about what is acceptable in relationships and issuing a call for those who witness questionable behavior to raise a red flag.