International Event #01

I attended the OU Cousins Halloween Pumpkin Carving event with my OU Cousin, Ignas. We carved a pumpkin.

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As you can see, we chose to carve our pumpkin in the traditional style. I enjoyed the event, despite the fact that it was very crowded. It was a nice event and a nice way to get to know Ignas a bit better. Ignas had not carved a pumpkin before. He said that it was not a common thing to do in his home country of Lithuania.

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A Word from the Author

I can’t imagine how you ended up here unless you meant very specifically to find me, so I will be amazed if you know nothing about me.  If you somehow did, however, or want to learn more, here’s your back file on this blog runner and Global Engagement Fellow.

Name: Linda Grace Stack-Nelson, a name about 40 years older than her 19 years.

Studying: English Literature and International Studies at the University of Oklahoma, first year

Originating from: St. Paul, Minnesota, with a brief but formative stint in Princeton, New Jersey

Where I’ve Been So Far: New York City, Rome, Pompeii, Athens, Delphi, Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Dallas

Motivated by: Finding a greater understanding of the other people on this planet.  The most important thing about the lives we live are the people we affect and two of the best ways to understand the people of this world are the study of what people write and understanding the history of how we relate to one another.  Books are something I’m good at, something I’ve been raised in; International Affairs is not.  I know very little about them, I’ve had an incredibly Western education, and I intend to remedy that ASAP.

How I ended up in the Global Engagement Fellowship at OU: I got an email last spring that offered money for study abroad and a structured way to become more engaged in the international events on campus.  Nothing could be better for me, since I am both a broke college student and someone who is frequently terrible at doing things I love unless I put myself on a schedule and set requirements.

Why I’m glad I’m here now: I’ve met a ton of great people through Global Engagement already! I’ve gotten to go to many events and get a lot of information about how to get abroad while in college, and taking classes for the Fellowship has lead me to add my IAS major.  It has already been and promises to continue to be an invaluable experience.

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Reflection #10

Recently, on Thursday, November 13th, I went to the hummus tasting offered by the Lebanese Student Association. I was not sure what to expect from this exotic dish. I had been told that it was something like peanut butter, but with a different taste. After having tried it, I must admit that this was the case. It was not the case in quite the way I expected it to be, however. It is certainly true that both are used as condiments. Hummus, however, has a somewhat softer texture. It is perhaps more akin to guacamole than to peanut butter, as far as texture goes.  It was the taste, however, which really caught me off guard. I am not sure what I was expecting before I ate the hummus, but it certainly wasn’t the taste of peas! I suppose I should explain that I do not like the taste of peas, and that I avoid them whenever it is possible to do so. I did not know very much about hummus before I tried it, so I did not know that one of the principal ingredients of hummus is the chickpea. If I had known this ahead of time, I could probably have saved myself a measure of disappointment. Nevertheless, I am glad that I tried hummus. I can now recommend hummus, with the benefit of having tried it, to those who like peas. If you have ever dreamed of using mashed up peas as a dip on your crackers, try hummus!

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #09

This post was originally posted in response to this video from TED talks.

 

I watched Ms. Amy Smith’s video about a pioneering approach to providing fuel for cooking food in developing countries. She, with the assistance of some of her students from MIT, developed a device which could be used to manufacture charcoal from common agricultural waste products and the root of the cassava plant. This charcoal produced far less smoke when burned than wood. Ms. Smith argued that this would have several benefits including a reduction of deforestation, from the fact that no trees need be cut down to create this charcoal, and an improvement of health, from the reduction in smoke. I thought that the device presented an interesting and cheap improvement over other methods of preparing fuel. It concerns me, however, that she did not seem to have thought out a viable method for distributing the devices and methods over a wide area. While she said that she and a group of thirty students volunteered to distribute these devices each year, it seems difficult to believe that they could create a major impact without a larger amount of funding. She stated that it would be impractical to sell these devices to the people in the developing world because they are poor. This is probably true, in part. It seems likely that many of the people would be unable to afford this device. It also seems likely that there will be some people in the developing world who would be able to afford it, especially if it were to be mass produced. It seems that it might be possible to sell the device to some of the relatively affluent members of the community. These people could then go into the charcoal business, if they were so inclined. If this were economically feasible, it seems like it would not be necessary to sell the device to every member of the community.

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #08

This post was originally posted in response to this video from TED talks by Peter Singer. It was also in response to the following in class discussion and a question about whether I felt I had an obligation to help others.

 

I like to think that I am capable of contributing constructively to any discussion. I was therefore dismayed to learn that I was tasked to help defend the ideas of Peter Singer during the debate last week. I cannot and will not defend the doctrine that people have a duty to serve other people. A duty to serve other people – regardless of whether the servant is rich or poor, white or black; regardless of whether the one being served is a wealthy slaveholder of the antebellum south or a starving farmer in sub-Saharan Africa – is slavery. Ask yourself: would the slavery of the South have been ethical if it had been the slaves who lived in the plantation house and the master who lived in a hovel? Of course not. The evil of slavery is not in the condition of the slaves, but in the fact that they are obligated to work. It is the obligation, not the condition, which is evil. This will hold true in any circumstance where an obligation to serve others is present.

You might ask: but what of the man who runs down a pedestrian in the street? Is he not obligated to stop and render aid? He is – but not because he has an obligation to serve others. He has caused harm to the pedestrian and must now try to redress this grievance. He is not obligated to serve the pedestrian – he is obligated not to drive over the person in the first place. Should he fail to fulfill this obligation by running over the pedestrian, he must act to undo the harm he has caused.

You may ask: but what of soldiers? Do not soldiers risk their lives daily in the service of their country? Do they not have a duty to do this? In America, and other countries with volunteer militaries, they do. It is a duty that they took on voluntarily when they enlisted in the military. It only holds because they freely decided to take an oath to protect their country. Such devices as the draft are, of course, immoral and unethical.

But, you might argue, the slavery of the nineteenth century was based around physical coercion. Is this really similar to helping people in Africa? First, there is a difference between helping people and being obligated to help people. This distinction is important. There is, of course, nothing wrong with helping people – so long as it is your choice to help them. There is, however, something wrong with the concept of an obligation that one must help other people. Let us return to our example of nineteenth-century slavery. Could any ethical philosophy which claimed that the slaves had an obligation to serve their masters be taken seriously today? Of course not. Would slavery suddenly become moral if the slaves were bound not with guns, but by this philosophy? It would not. That philosophy would immediately be deemed to be flawed. This is, however, precisely the sort of philosophy which Peter Singer is espousing. The only differences are that the people who are asked to embrace it are not poor and they are told that they may occasionally take a break from serving others. Are these differences large enough to invalidate the conclusion? They are not. There is not, and cannot be, an obligation to serve others.

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #07

This post was originally posted in response to a question about what my biggest concerns about studying abroad.

 

My time at college has been the longest amount of time that I have been away from my family. With this in mind, I am naturally concerned about going even further away from home. Obviously, college will help to address this concern because college is also an unfamiliar environment, far from home. This concern is also addressed by the proliferation of electronic communications. I think that I will have an easier time studying abroad knowing that I can use cell phones, Skype™, and the like to communicate with my family at home. I do not think that there is anything in particular that you can do to help me with this concern.

I have a relatively minor concern that I might be abducted by some hostile entity. This concern can best be addressed by heeding U.S. government warnings and generally staying away from unsafe areas. The concern may best be avoided by staying well away from the movie Taken for long periods of time before travelling abroad.

I am somewhat concerned about the money changing process, as I have never had money changed before. I am not sure if this is covered by the link which was e-mailed to the class as I have not yet read the website, but I cannot help but wonder about the details of when it is good to change your money. That is, are there discounts for changing large amounts of money at once, or is it generally better to wait to change your money if it looks like the value of the dollar is increasing?

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #06

This was originally posted in response to an in-class panel on diversity.

I thought that the perspectives on diversity which were covered by the panelists were very interesting. I found it especially interesting that the panelist who had visited Finland and, if I recall correctly, Tanzania had had people want to touch her hair while she was abroad. I had not realized that different styles of hair could be so interesting to different people.

I was homeschooled while I was in high school. I was also an avid chess player. Naturally, being homeschooled limited my opportunities to play chess in person. In order to play more chess I would attend the meetings of the local public school’s chess club each week. At first, I was nervous about attending these meetings at a public school. I was worried that I might not be allowed on the campus. After I had been attending the meetings for a while, I could see that my concerns had been unfounded. After I managed to overcome my nervousness, I was an outsider only in that I could not run for the officer positions in the club.

While any fears that I might have about studying abroad due to my race, ethnicity, religion, etc. would naturally depend on which country I choose to study abroad in, I do not have any general fears on those accounts. My main concern, with regards to differences between other countries and America, is that whichever country I choose to study abroad in might not have peanut butter. I will address this by taking a jar of peanut butter with me.

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #05

This was in response to a question about where and how I wanted to study abroad.

I am still not sure where I want to go to study abroad. Wherever I choose to study, though, I think that I will begin with a shorter excursion to the country. I might study in the country, for that excursion, as part of a summer program or on one of the renowned Journey programs which the university sponsors. Only after I have some idea of the country will I return for a longer period of study. This will allow me to ensure that the country in which I have chosen to study abroad is still the country in which I wish to study abroad in upon my return to America. If I find that for whatever reason I do not like the country, I will study somewhere else on my next trip abroad. While I am no more certain now than I was before about where or when I want to study abroad, I now have a better idea about the general order in which I will study abroad. So in that respect I have changed my mind ­– or at least come to a decision – on how I want to go about studying abroad. In the other respects, however, I have not changed my mind. I think that this is because I do not yet have a clear grasp of what, exactly, I am looking for in a trip abroad. This naturally prevents me from making any sort of decision on where I want to go. This, in turn, makes it difficult to decide which courses I would like to take while I am abroad, which makes it difficult to determine when I should go abroad.

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Becoming Globally Engaged Reflection #04

This post was originally posted in response to an in-class activity.

I found the activity in which we were divided into two groups, one to represent the inhabitants of a hitherto unknown land and the other to represent the foreigners who have come to learn of the customs of these people, to be very interesting. It was an excellent reminder that it can be very hard to investigate a culture when you have little to no knowledge of that culture and, it follows, the methods of investigation which the people of a nation respond to the most favorably. In this activity, I was a member of the group which was to be examined. It was somewhat amusing – as a member of the group which knew the rules – to watch the efforts of the intrepid travelers to make contact with our group. I think that I reacted with amusement because I knew the object of their investigations – and how the methods which they were applying were not readily leading them to that object. This knowledge is not necessarily available, however, to the people who may be in an analogous situation in reality to the position I occupied in the activity. This could readily lead to a great deal more confusion than we faced, because neither side would necessarily know very much about the other. In many situations, this confusion could easily give way to frustration and anger; this will tend to aggravate the situation and will usually lead to a worse result for those involved. This activity has helped to reinforce my ideas of the importance of patience, especially when the people you are dealing with do not have the same cultural background as you.

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