Our Story: Tunisian students find success and fun experiencing new cultures at TCC

February 15, 2017

Study abroad is a rite of passage for many students around the world. While Tallahassee Community College has hosted hundreds of students from about 80 nations over the years, the 2016-17 school year is the first time the College has enrolled students from the small North African country of Tunisia.

Takieddine Laskaa and Mustapha Bouhalleb are members of the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program, a U.S. State Department initiative that chooses a United States college for students to attend for one year based on their preferred fields of study.

The two young men hail from different parts of Tunisia. Laskaa grew up in Ben Arous, part of the metropolitan area of the country’s capital, Tunis. Bouhalleb hails from Bizerte, the northernmost city in not only Tunisia, but all of Africa.

“Life in the States is so different from in Tunisia,” said Bouhalleb. “I got the chance to experience better learning strategies and participate in more open and conversation-based classes, which helped enhance my ability to collaborate with others.”

Laskaa and Bouhalleb have enjoyed the chance to meet and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.

“Here in Tallahassee, I interact with people from a different culture on a daily basis, which is different from my life in Tunisia,” said Laskaa.

Laskaa also noted a difference in his personal life: This is the first time he has lived by himself.

“Now I have more responsibilities,” he said. “I have to prepare my meals, do the laundry, wash the dishes and, more importantly, I have to manage my budget and my time.”

The students participate in TCC’s International Student Organization and even celebrated Halloween at the College’s annual party, where Bouhalleb won Best Costume honors.

“Takie and Mustapha have experienced first-hand the impact of civic engagement and hands-on experience at TCC,” said Li Pon, international student adviser. “They are excited to get back to Tunisia and make a difference in their community.”

Laskaa and Bouhalleb both plan to continue their educations upon returning to Tunisia. Laskaa will eventually pursue a master’s degree and intends to open a civil engineering design office, while Bouhalleb plans to get a degree in engineering and start his own cybersecurity business.

Both students praised Pon as well as former international services coordinator Betty Jensen for their advice, kindness and assistance.

“It was a bit hard for me to adapt with this different lifestyle,” said Bouhalleb. “But these two incredible women kept motivating me, and I will always be grateful to them.”