The Division of International Studies and Outreach hosts three summer programs that help attract Mexican students to Oklahoma State University. For many of the 300 students usually involved, the trip to OSU is their first time to visit the United States.
“The goal of the programs is to introduce these students to OSU in hopes they’ll return for their undergraduate or graduate degrees,” said Rodrigo Tello, director of international programs at OSU. “We also teach students about Oklahoma and U.S culture.”
While familiarity with the sights and sounds of OSU and Oklahoma helps, students may struggle with some cultural differences as they weigh their options for making a move here. Of special concern is the idea of leaving home.
“Because many students in Mexico live at home until they’re married, it’s something of a shock for them to learn that most U.S. students leave their home at a much younger age, right after high school graduation. It’s also for that reason that doing laundry or fixing a meal for themselves is often something new,” said Stacey Brandhorst, director of UPAEP U.S. Liaison Office at OSU.
Montserrat Ramirez, a 17-year-old student from Puebla, Mexico, attended the High School Summer Academy program at OSU and noted another difference.“Here, people always smile and say hello, even if they are in the street,” Ramirez said. “In Mexico you don’t see that.”
Ramirez insisted that being by himself, taking care of himself and his things, and trying new food, all helped make the OSU experience as positive as it is.“I really enjoy the leadership course, but mostly I enjoy meeting new people. I really like the environment of the school and I plan to come back to Oklahoma soon.”
The three summer programs are for specific groups. They include Experience Oklahoma, Faculty-Led and High School Summer Academy. Experience Oklahoma emphasizes cultural and business experiences and improving language skills. Faculty-Led includes undergraduate or graduate students who receive credit from their home institutions. The High School Summer Academy reflects its age group and focuses on leadership, entrepreneurship and cultural intelligence.
The students have scheduled activities every day that include academics, culture and recreation, explained Tello. They visit the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma State Capitol, Dallas Cowboys Stadium and Six Flags Over Texas among others.
“Usually from Monday to Friday they are on campus taking classes in the morning just like any regular OSU student,” Tello said. “Then they go to the Colvin Center, they can go downtown, whatever they want to do during their free time. Saturday and Sunday is when we take them off campus.”
“The U.S. is the starting point,” said Marissa Hernandez, who works in the Monterrey Tech liaison office at OSU. Monterrey Tech is one of the Mexican universities regularly involved in the OSU programs. It sent 63 undergraduate students to participate last summer.
“Most of these students have not decided on a career path, so we hope their trip to OSU will convince them to choose to get their master’s degree here,” said Hernandez. “They take six hours of classes, all for credit. All the courses are part of the student's plan of study and count toward their degree.”
Students who decide to study in Oklahoma make a positive economic difference for the state, said Tello, who estimates the economic impact of the outreach programs he oversaw this summer brought in $360,000 for the state of Oklahoma.
“This is a non-stop process,” Tello said. “Once we are done with summer programs, we start the planning for winter programs along with next spring and summer.”
The institutions that participated this summer are: UPAEP and Monterrey Tech (both of which have a permanent office at Wes Watkins Center), Autonomous University of Chihuahua, Sonora State University and Maria del Rosario School. OSU works with these institutions not only during summer, but also throughout the year in different areas such as visiting faculty, dual degrees, exchange semester and winter/spring programs.
Story By Brittany Zerr