Stephen Kinzer, a professor at Brown University, visited OU to speak about US relations with Iran. A former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, he is an expert in his field. As I do not have an extensive knowledge of Iran, the opportunity to hear Kinzer speak was an exciting one.
He began by giving us a brief overview of Iran’s history. Unlike most “fake” Middle Eastern countries that have no real history, Iran has a very rich heritage, stretching back to the days of the Persian Empire. More recently, during the 1930s, Iran was on the road to democracy, led by a harsh but visionary leader, Reza Shah. However, when parliamentarian Mossadeq was nominated as prime minister and announced his plans to nationalize Iranian oil, the British, who depended on this valuable resource, convinced the United States to overthrow Mossadeq, citing communism as the motive. So, in the summer of 1953, Kermit Roosevelt led the charge to overthrow the prime minister, bribing more than half the newspapers in Iran to publish incriminating stories and hiring famous gangsters to rampage through the streets and yell, “we love Mossadeq and communism.” At this point, the entire democratic system came to an end, Iraq attacked a weak Iran, and the United States’ opposition to the country was sealed with its support of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
After this enlightening account of the true history of Iranian affairs, Kinzer explained that the US and Iran have more in common than often realized. An alliance or at least an agreement could benefit both sides and end this needless conflict. This talk opened up a new interest in the subject that I would not have discovered otherwise.
I could not be luckier to be a part of the OU Cousins program, an organization that matches international students with American ones in order to foster new friendships and cultural ties. On the day of the matching party, I was extremely worried that I would not find a cousin, as I had heard rumors that there were far more Americans than international students to be matched with. Arriving late because of previous obligations, I was immediately overwhelmed by the manner in which we were meant to meet international students. I attempted conversations, but was forced to switch to speak with new people every few minutes. Then, I met Olivia, a student from the south of France. In my nervousness, it was difficult to strike up a conversation at first. But I could tell we would be friends; there was a connection there. Immediately, something threatened our possible friendship: another girl interrupted our conversation – quite rudely – and introduced herself with a commandeering attitude, as if she wanted to steal Olivia away! But after she finally realized that a cousin agreement had already almost been established, she backed off. Olivia and I agreed to sign up as each other’s cousin, much to my excitement!
Olivia and me at the OU Cousins pumpkin decorating Halloween party
Being Olivia’s OU cousin has turned out better than I could have ever expected. We meet up nearly every weekend, attending international events, baking cookies, and watching movies together. She is in a STEM field and I a journalism one, but we still find things in common, from our love of travel to our taste in movies! Olivia is one of my closest friends here at OU, and without a doubt one of the most caring, intelligent, and sweetest people I know. I am lucky to have met her and to have fostered such an amazing friendship, with the help of the OU Cousins program.
Am I afraid to go abroad?
The notoriously bad food, Russian mafia, and vodka-soaked, drunken individuals do not scare me. It is the cryptic cyrillic letters, in their analogous twists, alike those of the Latin alphabet yet so averse in sound. It is knowing that I purposely stranded myself in a sea these cyrillic letters and sounds, knowing that I will not be able to communicate my thoughts entirely. I know the feeling fully, as my experiences in Colombia have exposed me to the feelings of discomfort and frustration, the language a barrier in my relationships and interactions. But staying in Colombia also sharpened my senses, made me a better speaker, and brought me closer to the South American culture and mentality. Because of Colombia I thrive off of discomfort now, placing myself in Russian classes and trying everything, from slacklining to rock climbing to Indian dishes that don’t even look edible. So the discomfort and fear of messing up is good, actually. Almost addicting. I truly do not have any reservations about studying abroad because I know that I will love it, and I know I will overcome the language barrier. Practicing with my fellow classmates, reading, listening, observing the language will be the key to overcoming this. My only tangible problem is the funds, which I will scour the Internet for and probably procure through some English and Maths tutoring while I’m there. The fact that the Department of Defence is no longer funding the Boren Scholarship for students who want to go to Russia will make the scholarship search much harder but I will persevere. The Land of Putin is worth it.
This, the last of this semester’s lunchtime talks with the International and Area Studies department, was an incredibly insightful discussion, out of my normal range of interests. For a long time, I neglected to keep up with political activity, adamant that since I could not vote, it didn’t matter to be informed. However, in the last few years I’ve made it a mission to become more politically aware, since I am now of voting age and have more of a stake in our nation’s political future. Daming is an expert on the subject of American politics, especially how they are received by and affect the Chinese people. He explained that the Chinese population – including some experts and national leaders – doesn’t know much about US politics, but they do enjoy discussing the topic nonetheless. Congress has much leverage when it comes to China, making relations with Taiwan, among other issues. In China, there are a few institutes that research US politics, including the Center for American Studies, China Renmin University, and Beijing Foreign Studies University. However, there are fewer than 5 experts on the methods of the US Congress. Daming also mentioned that many congress-people use the so-called “China card” to gain power and leverage, diminishing the relevance of China in US politics. All of Daming’s observations about US-China relations, especially during congressional negotiations, gave me substantial insight into how members of the Chinese population view the United States. This talk was certainly a stepping-stone in my journey to learn more about US politics and foreign relations.
My OU Cousin is Ignas Rekasius, a native Lithuanian. After graduating from high school, he went to university in Scotland. He is presently on a one year exchange program to the United States. So far, we have attended the OU Cousins Pumpkin Carving Event and had a nice lunch at the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Over this lunch, we discussed the differences between the American and European school systems, specifically with regards to testing. Evidently, testing is quite different in Europe! If I recall correctly, he said that the college entrance exams have higher stakes than the SAT or the ACT because it is possible to fail the entrance exams in Europe. While I enjoy taking tests, it would certainly have been much more stressful if I had had to worry about failing.
Several weeks ago, I went to the international bazaar. I walked around and looked at all of the booths, but I didn’t buy anything.
I was there at around 11:30, but I did not see the Brazilian Student Association’s Performance. That was somewhat disappointing. Overall, I think that the bazaar was a little bit smaller than I had expected it to be. This is probably my just reward for watching too many movies with bazaars in them. Still, it was fun to see how many of the flags I could identify.
I visited a table where they were drawing pictures on a map of the world. When I went to take my turn to draw a picture, I was puzzled. I didn’t know what to draw. I decided to draw the borders of Sweden and Norway onto the map. Then I got to Finland, and decided to draw its borders on the map as well. I made it to somewhere in Estonia or Latvia before they told me that that wasn’t quite what they meant by drawing on the map. It was a fun event to visit.
I do not yet know where I want to study abroad. I would strongly prefer that my study abroad experience occurred someplace that I could apply my National Merit Scholarship because, for obvious reasons, I would like to apply the scholarship. I would also like to go someplace with easy access to clean water, medical care, and other basic amenities. I find that these are very important. I would also like to go someplace that is safe and, preferably, where violence is minimal. I value my safety quite highly. I have not decided where I want to study so far because I have not yet decided what I want to study. This could have a major impact on where I decide to study abroad. If, for example, I were to decide to major in European History, it would be somewhat silly to study abroad in Thailand. I intend to make my decision, at least in part, on the basis of what I decide to study. I will be trying to figure out what I want to study. This could help me decide where I want to study.
I think that the OU in Arezzo program sounds very interesting, and it is something that I will probably look into in more detail as I work on deciding where I want to study abroad. I am also interested in going to see some of the great sites of Europe and the rest of the world. In particular, the architectural sites could be very interesting to visit. The Florence Cathedral, the Bilbao Guggenheim, and the Eiffel Tower all come to mind.
I have not yet gotten involved with an international student group. I am interested in learning more about the Russian club, because Russian sounds like it might be an interesting language to learn and, with the way present affairs are trending, it may be an increasingly important language to learn in the future. I am also interested in the OUr Earth organization because, for obvious reasons, I would prefer that the Earth not become an uninhabitable wasteland. While this organization does not deal directly with international affairs, it does deal with international issues. A third organization which I am interested in learning more about is the Geography and Environmental Sustainability Club, because I am interested in geography. I plan to choose which club I will become involved with by attending meetings of some, or all, of these clubs next semester and then choosing based on which club I like the best.
I attended the IAS career fair a few weeks ago. I walked around and talked to several people. I talked to someone involved in the college of international studies about possible degree plans in international studies. It was interesting to note that while there were many people at both the Department of State’s and the FBI’s booths, the CIA’s booth did not have many people at it. I did not stop to talk to the person manning the table, though, because I was in a hurry to make it to the hummus tasting from Reflection #10. It seemed to be a nice career fair to me. I was mainly going to see what it was like there this year, but if I were to go in search of a job or an internship I would be sure to dress more formally after having gone to the event. I still need to find an international organization on campus to get involved in, so I will try and attend more events related to international organizations next semester.