By: Stefany Olivas, Staff Reporter
The African Students Association provides a variety of supports to foreign students, said Pre-management major and club secretary Andre Matip.
The association was founded this semester when Matip and the other officers felt the need to help English as a Second Language students integrate into New Mexican society.
“The purpose of our organization is to meet each other and help each other in school and everything else. I don’t w a n t anyone t o miss something because they could not understand something as simple as paperwork,” said Matip.
The association is developing a partnership with the ESL department to find African, and other foreign students who not only need assistance but can volunteer to help others, said Matip.
The association has given the ESL department a list of the names of everyone who is involved with the association and the languages they speak so they can help translate for incoming students, he said.
“Everyone can be involved in our association, not just Africans. We want to show CNM and the Albuquerque community that we are a part of this big community and can bring more variety – something special,” said Matip.
Philosophy instructor Jess Lionne is from South Africa and said she did not have a very hard time integrating into American society because English is her first language and UNM had many resources for i nc oming foreign students.
“The situation is different for the majority of African students. A lot of the students who come here from Africa know very little English, if any, and they can’t even read or write so we really need some resources for them,” said Lionne.
The opportunity for the CNM community to be exposed to different cultures, languages and points of views is going to be very valuable and will add to the diversity already in Albuquerque, she said.
Once the word is out that the association is available, there will be very little encouragement needed for students to get involved.
“ESL is not enough. People need one-on-one tutoring. In the four years I’ve been here, there hasn’t been anything like it,” said Lionne.
Matip speaks Basaa, Bamelike and English, but his first language was French so he has the ability to help other students besides Africans, he said.
Like many students, Matip arrived to New Mexico and did not speak any English, he said.
“All of us want a better future and to get that we need to learn the language. It’s about being around people who speak it and building a network,” said Matip.
Learning English is the first obstacle to overcome in order for students to begin to achieve their goals and he said when that is on the forefront of the mind, there is no problem picking up the language, he said.
“When I came here I had a tutor who was a psychologist. It was helpful for me. He made me learn my strengths and weaknesses. All of us need to get that chance,” said Matip.
It is necessary for students to learn English to attend school and get their degree, so it is valuable to have a mentor to check sentences and to give advice, he said.
Matip learned many lessons; from using a credit card to the type of body language used by New Mexicans.
“If you go to New York or California people don’t smile. I met a person in California who smiled at me and really wanted to interact. It’s the same thing in my culture. When I came here, it was shocking because everyone smiles, but it doesn’t mean the door is open. Once you pass them, their face goes right back,” said Matip.
Matip is in his last term at CNM. He and the team of officers are doing their best to see the association move on and be successful, he said.
“With my tutor it was nice because we used to go out to eat, go to the museum and even though he moved back, we’re still in touch and he still corrects my English. It was a good experience,” said Matip.
He hopes that all Africans at CNM will get involved because the association has a lot to offer.
“Having people who are from the same place and speak the same language, who can be there to listen, helps to not feel alone. We are there not only to provide guidance but also to be a family. Family means a lot to everyone,” said Matip.
For more information contact the association president, Jallahou Baigebo, at jbaigebo@ cnm.edu.