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The French Connection

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Below is the interview I conducted for work.

The French Connection, by Drew St.Claire

SKEMA student Omar Marouf“So there I am, sitting in this jazz club, just feeling the music. I mean, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life.” SKEMA student Omar Marouf looks off into space and nods his head in sync with an imagined beat. He’s majoring in international business, and everything about him screams credentials for the program.

Omar was born in Algeria, but moved to Amiens, France (just north of Paris) when he was very young. “Things were getting sort of bad in Algeria— very violent. So we moved to France where both of my parents taught sociology at the university.”

Decades before he’d ever set foot on NC State’s campus, Omar was being exposed to higher education. “My father did research at Harvard when I was just a newborn. That was actually my first trip to America— to Harvard!”

The regular trips back to Algeria kept him well versed in both Algerian and European culture. “That’s probably the reason why I’m still fluent in both Arabic and French too. There are lots of immigrants that come to France and lose their ability to speak Arabic.”

Language clubs like Le Cercle Fançais (French Club) and Annadee Elarabee (Arabic Club) can help keep both Omar and non-native speakers fluent too. NC State even has an English Conversation Club to help its international students learn proper pronunciation and practice their speaking skills.

The culture shock was a pleasant experience for Omar when he first arrived at NC State. “I think you can be much friendlier in the United States. In Europe, people don’t become friends very quickly, but here, people consider you a friend right away. That’s one thing I’d tell anyone coming to the United States for the first time too: be prepared to meet lots of new people and to become friends with people right away.”

NC State students can now make even more friends like Omar. In January 2011, around 250 students from the renowned French business school, SKEMA, came to the university as part of a new academic partnership, increasing NC State’s French enrollment from a previous count of just fourteen students.

When asked to describe what a typical American was like, Omar immediately shakes his head as if you’ve gravely misspoken. “There is no ‘one type’ of American. They are all so different. There’s a great mixing of cultures here. The multiculturalism, that’s one of America’s great strengths.”

He strains when I push for an honest answer as to what he doesn’t like about the United States though. “Sales tax is not included,” he laughs.

In the coming months he’ll just have to deal with that inconvenience. “Next semester I’m doing an exchange program in San Francisco. Then I come back, finish my degree, and work here while I get my MBA. I like it here. There are lots of open minded people, so I think I’ll stick around for a while.”

If there’s one thing Omar would change about his whole experience, it’d probably be cheaper tickets for the basketball games. “I’m actually trying to go to the game against Chapel Hill tonight. If we’re done with the interview now, I’m going to go and see about a ticket!”


Written by dstclaire

March 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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