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.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

English sophomore Erin Hampton does her part to help OU reach its goal of recycling 200,000 pounds of material by the end of March.

RecycleMania hits the South Oval

More than 200 students stopped by the RecycleMania booth on the South Oval Thursday to enter the 2009 sweepstakes and learn about OU’s efforts to reduce waste.

Callie Cady, marketing and public relations intern with the OU Physical Plant said one of the main reasons for the event was to educate students about what to recycle and how to do it.

“Before I started at the plant I didn’t even know where I could throw stuff away,” she said. “It’s awesome that we have so many containers on campus.”

Students can use bins around campus to recycle newspapers, cardboard, aluminum and #1 PETE and #2 HDPE plastic. The recycling plant also accepts ink cartridges, rechargeable batteries and pallets.

OU's RecycleMania initiative is part of a nationwide competition among colleges and universities. To be competitive OU must recycle 200,000 lbs. of material by the end of March.

First prize in the sweepstakes drawing on March 27 will be a MC-17-150 crimson Moped, and the first runner up will receive $500 in SoonerSense.