Stressing about final projects and exams? Imagine writing them in Chinese or Vietnamese!

More than 800 students at Collin College struggle with English as a second or third language, and yet still have academic success – and fun.

On Nov. 9, students left classroom challenges behind as they celebrated the ESL Open House in Collin College’s Spring Creek Campus atrium. Happy music, delicious scents, and colorful attire and artwork created an atmosphere of joy, peace and unity as hundreds of Collin College students got a glimpse of 19 other countries, including Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Egypt. Students set up tables containing posters, videos, CD players, handicrafts and foods from their home countries in order to share their culture with others. As Dean Millie Black explained in her opening comments, “This event displays the diversity that is an integral part of Collin’s mission.”

Students could eat an Indian samosa, drink Iranian tea, request a henna tattoo from a Bangladeshi artist or get a card with their name translated into Chinese characters.

Even students from the same country sometimes learned new aspects of their own culture. Vinson Pham, who worked on the Vietnamese table, explained that different regions in Vietnam play different games and eat different foods.

“I learned a lot about different cultures,” said Hongfei Li, “and I think we should keep this going so people can understand each other better.”

Some students took the Brazilian quiz, created by Meury Corsico and Flavia Araujo, and if students answered that Brasilia, not Rio de Janeiro, was the capital, they received a green and yellow Brazilian key chain.

“I enjoyed the Indian dances because so many students joined in, “ said Ubaldo Lozada, who created his Colombian table on his own. “My wife prepared rice pudding and over 100 empanadas. She worked until midnight, and all the food was eaten in less than an hour!”

The Iranian table, organized by leader Mina Forouzandeh and assisted by about 20 students, was filled with a golden tea set, hand-painted plates and cups, the sweet dessert Fereni, and many other precious items. Iranian students played the flute and dulcimer. Said Darya Akhaven, “I felt like I was in my country for a few minutes. The whole event was wonderful and I appreciate Collin College for hosting it.”

In the comment section on the sign-in papers left on each table, the most common responses were “Thank you,” “I love this,” “Really cool” and “I want to visit!”

Atefeh Bagheriraouf, an artist from Iran, spoke for many when she said, “It’s very good to show peace and kindness and to accept each other and enjoy all different cultures.”

Many students agreed that next year an American table should be added. “I know what message could be on the table, said Wafa Sharif: “America really is the land of freedom, bravery, opportunity and dreams.”

Submitted to Cougar News by Kristine Springate, ESL associate professor