My First Month at OU

With anything new, there is always an adjustment period. I like to think that I am very capable (and even enthusiastic) about having to adapt to change or alter my habits to my environment, and I love experiencing what kind of person I become when I am forced to change. After having been here at OU for a month, I would definitely say that I have found a routine and that I am very comfortable living here, attending classes, and starting to get involved. My state of being has changed dramatically since my first week, and I want to write about a few of the personality and habit changes that I have experienced.

It is impossible to be as introverted as I used to be

My old self preferred days where her only interactions were either one-on-one or in small groups. She felt overwhelmed being in large crowds or in loud, rambunctious settings, and she feared small talk more than anything. She needed solitude to recharge and would have picked reading a book over going out with friends. Quiet settings were her sanctuaries, where she could stimulate her mind for hours with a book or a pencil and paper, and she was happy this way. It helped her to realize how different people are in their emotional and intellectual needs, and it naturally made her more inclined to listen rather than to speak, to be skeptical rather than to believe.

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While I still embody many of these qualities, I have evolved noticeably after just four weeks of college life, and because my transformation is not a physical one, it is not obvious for everyone to see. I am much more comfortable around large amounts of people, an inevitable aspect of having chosen such a large school, and small talk is less daunting for me now that I have met a lot of new people here. Class discussions have prompted me to voice my opinion when I would have previously slipped into the background and listened to what others had to say (I still prefer to listen, though). In general, my once heavily concentrated introversion has been diluted to the point where it no longer dictates my life, and I have only been here four weeks. ☺

Privacy and seclusion are no more

No matter where I go here on campus, there are always people around. Even my “bedroom” has two other occupants with whom I share the space, and my new inability to find the seclusion I needed was the most difficult adjustment I had to make.

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The best way to convey how I felt would be to compare myself to an asthmatic who, as she experiences an asthma attack, is frantically searching her surroundings for her inhaler, ripping open drawers and ransacking her home to no avail. Of course, I was not going to die from not finding a “hiding place,” but it felt that way to me, someone who always had that option at home. Today, I can say that my once perpetual need for moments of isolation has, like my introversion, lessened to the point where I can feel refreshed and refueled in places like the Great Reading Room or the beautifully landscaped garden at Sarkey’s Energy Center. Surprisingly, I even feel a new sense of security and belonging when I am, say, walking down the South Oval to class. It is a great feeling.

You cannot survive without patience

I consider myself a very patient person. Early on, I realized that I did not enjoy the anxious and irritated feeling that took over me when waiting in a long line or when interacting with someone I did not get along with. It came to me that I could control my feelings — to an extent.

Patience

I willed myself to take a few deep breaths and think through the situation rationally: I am being immature, I would think to myself. I am not special, and there is no reason why I cannot calm down and wait my turn like everyone else. Do people find irritability and shortness endearing? If I grumble and complain about this, will that positively affect my situation and the way people perceive me? After doing this a few times during situations where patience was required, I conditioned myself to automatically assess my surroundings at all times and to try and act in the least resistant way. This has especially benefitted me here at college because everything here is shared: Living areas, elevators, stairs, lounging areas, cafeterias, laundry rooms, libraries, classrooms, teachers, desks, gyms, books, swing sets, sidewalks, benches, and with this sharing comes lots of waiting and cooperation. I personally did not have trouble adapting to this, but I would not say it was effortless; it is just something we all have to do.

I am always tired and hungry

Even with a meal plan that entitles me to anything and everything in the Couch Restaurants, I find that at any given time, I’m hungry. As I’ve heard many other students say, “Wherever the free food is is where I will be.” I could not agree more.

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Along with that, I am constantly tired or taking a nap. Even though it is joked about so much amongst hardworking, sleep deprived people, lack of sleep is incredibly unhealthy. Getting adequate sleep is just as important as eating quality foods and drinking enough water each day, and sleep deprivation is basically an unspoken requirement of success (or so it seems) in many aspects of life here in the U.S. I succumbed to that expectation at first (not just because of homework, but Netflix as well), but once my body and mood had disintegrated to the point of misery, I decided it was of the most importance to find a better balance. I still struggle with this, but it is getting better, and I hope that everyone learns to find more time for sleep (napping is great).

 

Overall, I am really enjoying my time here at OU, and I look forward to each new day and whatever may happen. Even more so, I’m looking forward to my first study abroad trip and the experiences I will gain from it.

A Brave New World

Hello World,

This is my blog over everything that the world could possibly want to know about my experiences whether they be academic or casual, English or German, here or there. I strive to convey a message of hope to the world that things are not as bad as we are made to believe.

Be Cheerful, Strive to be Happy,

AJM

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Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is something I have always known I wanted to do. And while that might lead you to believe I have some sort of solid, detailed plan now that I am a freshman and it’s starting to become a reality, that would be far from the truth. In reality, there are so many incredible opportunities abroad to choose from that I can’t pick.
When I originally applied to be a Global Engagement Fellow, I wanted to do a summer in Western Europe and a semester in Spain. While that might be the most practical option- it would give me flexibility in the summer to see a wide variety of places and language experience in the semester, I am not sure it would be the best use of this once in a life opportunity I have in front of me with study abroad. While I want to continue to travel the world throughout my entire life, I am starting to realize this may be the best time in my life to check the craziest and most exotic places off my travel list, while I am still young, adventurous, and able to be relatively flexible with my travel. Later in life, I will probably have a job and a family and a million reasons to stay home in the U.S. and, while I hope that never stops me from travelling, realistically, I know it will limit me in some ways. That doesn’t change the fact that I want to experience the city life in South America or explore Scandinavia, Russia, and Istanbul, though. I still want to go backpacking like a typical college student, I want to stay in a hostel, I want to eat foods I can’t pronounce, and I want to meet people who haven’t the slightest clue what life in America is like.
I think any study abroad experience, even if it is just a couple weeks in Mexico or something relatively small like that, would be as eye-opening, fun, and adventurous as I made it. I am not worried I will not enjoy my trips abroad, I just hope I don’t waste this wonderful opportunity in front of me. Because it will only come once so I need to make the absolute most of it.

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Reflection #6

What did you think of the different perspectives you heard in Tuesday’s class? In what ways have you experienced being the “other” or outsider? Or have you? Do you have any fears about studying abroad in terms of your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other factors? How do you plan to address those concerns? 

The student’s different perspectives from Tuesday’s class regarding their study abroad experiences were interesting to hear about. As you already know, I was not born or raised in the United States. As an eleven-year-old girl who was suddenly thrown into a world full of foreigners, I very much experienced being the outsider. Since I could not speak any English, I was automatically categorized as an outsider; needless to say that people judged me based on the country of my birth and my religion. Although my experience after immigrating to the United States was bitter-sweet, I have learned many things about myself throughout the past seven years. I feel very comfortable with my race, ethnicity, gender, and religion even when I receive negative remarks about such things from others. I have come to realize that I am the individual that I am because of those differences and I know how to handle situations that are not quit favorable towards me in regards to such topics. I don’t necessarily have any fears regarding my race, ethnicity, gender, or religion while studying abroad; however, I am concerned about other things that are important to me such as not being able to find Halal meat. Although I am aware that most countries outside of the United States have more food options for Muslims, South Korea is not such a Muslim-friendly country when it comes to food. The best way for me to address this issue is to explore many restaurants and find meals that I like best out of my options. Another way is to ask for chicken instead of pork or red meat, since I don’t have a problem with eating chicken even if it is not labeled Halal. Overall, I am not too concerned about my fears because I know that my experience while studying abroad will not be affected much due to my fears.

Here is a song that I think fits the topic of this reflection quite well. Enjoy!

A Merging of Journeys

Everyone is on a journey. Everyone has a story to tell. Why do we so often think that the only way to learn on a journey is to leave and travel ourselves? If we listen, we can learn so very much. OU has a wonderful program called the OU Cousins Program that seeks to teach its members just that. Fortunately, my cousin is willing to share her journey with me.

I received a message from my cousin, Xiaolu, the other day inviting me to her home for lunch. A friend of hers was teaching her how to make dumplings. It was fascinating to me that two girls from the same country would have had such different experiences growing up, in this case manifested by the food that was so familiar to one while relatively new to the other. We expect to see that sort of thing in America (we’re a melting pot, after all) but I at least tend to consider it unique to us. It seems that I was mistaken. To add another layer to the cultural fusion, one of Xiaolu’s roommates is from France. As the five of us sat down to eat, we represented three countries from three different continents, and yet we were able to sit down together and enjoy a meal that we had made in cooperation while discussing various differences in our separate cultures. Our individual journeys had led us to one another, and, for now, we have the opportunity to journey together. There is much that I can learn from them, and also much that they can learn from me.

Of course, it’s not just those from other countries who can share their stories with us. No matter your background, you have your own unique story, just as we all do. If I can learn to see the world through, not only my eyes, but also yours, then I have learned something truly valuable. Now think about what would happen if we all learned to do this. If I learned to see the world through Xiaolu’s eyes, and you learned to see it through mine, wouldn’t we all get along and understand our world better? Consider this too: what if we learned to see ourselves through each other’s eyes? Think of what we’d learn. The possibilities are innumerable. I hope that as you read these entries you think of them as a lens. Peer through the lens of this blog at the world and perhaps even at yourself and see what you can learn. We live in a world full of different people and ideas. Don’t hide from that reality—learn to embrace it. You’ll probably be glad you did. I know I am.

On Being an Outsider Abroad

Symphonie in particular confirmed my fears about going abroad. She, an African American woman, could not go abroad without looking like an odd woman out or being gawked and glared at for the color of her skin. Because I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life, I am extremely used to being the outsider due to both my race and my religious views. The state of Oklahoma is a little more than 90 percent white, and some-definitely not all- of these white people have very racist tendencies. I have been profiled and prejudged due to the color of my skin. People automatically assume that I speak a certain way and act like the stereotypical “sassy black chick,” and when I turn out to be something different than what they expect me to be, they seem almost offended that I dare not sound like they thought I should sound like. Even now, I’m being judged for my religion; my roommate’s parents think that I will turn their daughter atheist and make her a sinner.

I think my race and views will be less of a problem in France than it is in Oklahoma. France is a relatively religious country, but the majority of French people do not actively practice. and the question of religion rarely comes up in casual conversation. When it does, it definitely does not take as intense a tone as it does in Oklahoma. My ethnicity also will not be a problem, as France has many African immigrants from the Maghreb area, and so, while I may feel like an outsider, I don’t feel like I will be gawked and glared at as much for my skin color or my religious views as much as I would be for simply being from America.

I have thick skin; being black in Oklahoma means I have to have it. Should problems arise due to my race or my religious views, I can adapt. Host family refuses to house an atheist? I will get an apartment. Discrimination in stores due to my skin color? I have dealt with that before, and the best way to overcome that stereotype is to just do my shopping as usual since I know I’m not doing anything wrong. It will be hard, and I will have hurt feelings, but overcoming boundaries caused by things beyond my control is something I’ve gotten pretty good at.

Encountering Diversity

It would shock me if someone were to travel abroad and only encounter people with backgrounds and outlooks similar to their own. Traveling means encountering diversity, and in this reflection, I talk about some perspectives on diversity I heard in class as well as my own experiences with diversity.

 

Hearing the different perspectives on diversity abroad was extremely interesting for me. Diversity is something I am most excited to experience abroad, but I hadn’t ever put much thought into the fact that I would be in the minority there. I grew up a white, Christian girl in an area dominated by white, Christian people, so I have very rarely felt “outside” of anything. However, I am Catholic in an area dominated by Protestants, which has been interesting at times. The differences between Christian denominations aren’t even near the same league as the racial and ethnic differences that can cause tension abroad, though, so I have a lot to learn about being in the minority. I can only recall one time in my life when I truly felt outnumbered and overwhelmed: I was ten years old and my family was visiting the Grand Canyon. We arrived late at night, and were having trouble finding our hotel. Tired and hungry, we stopped at a small cafe owned by the park to get sustenance before buckling down and finding the hotel. The inside of the cafe was absolutely packed with people, all from eastern Asia. Not a one was speaking English (they were being very loud in their various languages), and even the cafe employees were foreign. To top it all off, the restaurant was out of the chicken pot pie. It was all too much for my sleep deprived, hungry little head, and I was panicked and confused. Looking back now, my distress seems quite ridiculous, but it did open my eyes a bit to the pressures of being in the minority anywhere. Granted, I say a bit because my situation was incredibly tame, but it can serve as somewhat of a parallel for people who actually represent a minority on a day to day basis. Feeling outnumbered and unable to connect with the people around you can be terrifying, and that is often what students studying abroad experience during their first few weeks outside of their own country.

Having nearly another decade of life under my belt, I doubt that the Grand Canyon cafe incident would even cause me to bat an eye now, but I am aware that my experience abroad may be similarly overwhelming, and I am prepared for it. I’m actually quite excited to go abroad and experience life in the minority for once- I know it will teach me a great deal. I’m prepared to stand out, being a 5’10’’ white American female, but I’m eager to share my diversity, and in turn to experience the diversity of others. It’s going to be challenging at times, but it will be well worth it in the end.