Well, it seems like I am developing a habit of posting on a regular basis, which is good I suppose. If anyone is wondering, which I’m sure you are not, my first semester is going well, albeit a little busy, which is understandable considering I am taking 18 hours. My study abroad application is on its way, however, there was a hiccup in the processing of my passport. So, I suppose I’ll get that sorted out this week. Anyways, onto the subject of this post.
I came across this TED Talk a couple weeks ago which I found quite entertaining and fascinating. Shawn Achor speaks on the subject of happiness and how it improves productivity. At the end of this video, he gives a list of several things one can easily do over the course of 21 days to rewire our brains to be a happier you. This list includes
Write down three things for which are thankful for each day.
Write about a positive experience you have had over the past 24 hours
Exercise and meditate
Do one conscious act of kindness each day, such as emailing a coworker or friend, complementing them and telling them how much you appreciate them, or something along those lines.
Apparently, after doing each of these daily, we are able to change how we perceive the world, creating a better you. Today, I am beginning this quest, and I think everyone else should take up the challenge as well.
I think the shooting of Charlie Hebdo raises all sorts of issues: about the rights of free speech, acceptance between cultures, and the extremists that live in our society. On one hand, Charlie Hebdo’s political cartoons offended many of the Muslims living in France and some could say he brought the attack on himself. On the other hand, Charlie Hebdo had the right to free speech and, of course, no one deserves to be killed by a terrorist. I think the main point of this tragedy is we need to promote general acceptance between cultures today. If Charlie Hebdo had not felt the need to write political cartoons that depicted Muslim beliefs in a negative light, he would not have sparked the attention of Muslim extremists. Similarly, by teaching young people in our society to accept others for who they are, extremists might not have as easy of a time recruiting members. Perhaps I am oversimplifying the situation, but if people were taught to seek friendship with each other despite differences, violence and hatred of people from different religions and cultures would not exist, or at least would not be as common.
Coming to the international floor, I knew that my roommate and I would have very different cultures. I had expected them to be glaringly obvious. I had imagined strange forms of music, odd habits, and very different outlooks on life. To some extent, all of those are there; and yet, they are subtle enough to often be overlooked.
I look at her and I see myself. Not in her eyes or hair or skin, but in the way she carries herself. The way she considers a comment before replying. Her concern for my welfare, shown in small ways. Interactions with friends. Our long conversations long past when we should both be asleep. Religious beliefs, and views on how life should be lived. I connect with her on many levels, and I would count her as one of my best friends.
I find myself assimilating to her culture in some aspects. I listen to some of her music, and I’m falling in love with Portuguese. I picked up on her habit of wearing a wrap-around skirt rather than pants when we are alone in our room. I stop to ponder more, rather than being in a rush.
And I wonder.
She and I are so alike.
If she and I had been born in each other’s countries, would we be same? Would I be just like her now? Would she be like me?
Or would our relationship be drastically different?
I’ve finished the first week of second semester, and now seems like a good time to quickly lay out some of my goals (mostly the Global Engagement related ones) in writing.
1. Go to more international events. This semester, crew practice is going to be in the morning instead of the evening, so I have no excuse to miss all the meetings and fun events that go on between 5:30 and 8:30 pm. In particular, I want to go to Chinese Corner more often, which should be possible since Chinese Corner will actually be twice a week this semester.
2. Join the Chinese Language Club. The first meeting is this Wednesday (in the evening of course – if this was last semester I wouldn’t have been able to go), and I will definitely be there.
3. Finish applying for study abroad and scholarships well before the deadline. Not 10 minutes before the deadline, WELL BEFORE THE DEADLINE!!!!
4. Talk to my OU Cousin more. She’s really cool and I’d like to be less antisocial than I was last semester. Plus she speaks and texts me in Chinese, so I can practice my language skills.
5. Volunteer as an ESL tutor. I’ve emailed both Norman Public Schools and the Norman public library, and I’m sure at least one of those options will work for me. I don’t have a car but I am 100% willing to run, walk, or bike to anything reasonably close!
6. Think of some more creative and interesting posts. These long list posts get old after about the first one. I made a really fun video about OU Cousins for the Global Engagement class last semester, so I might try to do some more of those. I also want to have some more pictures on here, since right now I have exactly zero. I’ve been told that I don’t take or share enough pictures, so maybe that can change. I might also try to do some random posts about international news or interesting TED talks.
7. Post something on this blog at least once a week. If I do everything above, I should have plenty to talk about.
Something that is very important to me is time spent alone. I am a fairly introverted person, and I often need to take a break from others in order to rest my mind. I am highly stimulated in the presence of a lot of people, and can become exhausted quickly in social situations. I still consider myself a people person, and a people-pleaser, at that, but I require ample amounts of “me” time to recharge from all of the stimuli.
I have realized that while I am at home it is easy for me to ignore the rest of the world for a little while and obtain this precious “me” time, but while I am abroad it will not be so easy. I like to spend time alone in places I am familiar with and where I can put everything in my mind at ease. While abroad, there may be a few moments in the day when I have time to rest from social exertion, but they will be fleeting, and in places previously unknown to me. I will also always be traveling in a group for safety, which will make complete solitude a bit difficult.
Fortunately, I also know that I will often be too excited to get out and absorb as much as I can to calm down and let myself get comfortable. Hopefully, this excitement will help boost my energy level so that I can continue onward, and only realize how exhausted I am when it is time for the physical rest of sleep.
Whatever happens, I know that I will only grow from the experience. Maybe when I arrive home, I will realize that I need to spend less time alone than I did before my studies abroad. Perhaps when I get back it will make me value that alone time even more than I do currently. There are so many ways to grow from studying abroad I can’t possibly foresee all of them, I can only wonder at the possibilities.
So good news: I have a plan. I am going to do my darndest to get into the O-Chem in Arezzo program. I’ll worry about the other study abroad after I get this one figured out.
If you are not one for stress, just stop reading now. It’ll be a short post, but a happy one.
And the bad news: I emailed the program director for O-Chem in Arezzo. She told me that they had filled the program with one person on the waiting list. Lucky for me, they had just gotten departmental permission to take two extra people. So there was one spot left.
The stressful part was that there was already seven open applications. I would have to finish my application before the other seven people who already had a head start on me. To top it off, my phone was not working. To put it simply, that was a very interesting day. But I’ve never been one to leave things at that.
So all I had to do was finish my application before anyone else did. Piece of cake, right? Not so much. The application was something like 10 parts, including applying for a passport, putting down a $200 deposit, getting a faculty recommendation, and writing three personal essays. But I got it done in less than a day. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, especially since it required a lot of back and forth with my parents, and my phone was toast.
Recently I’ve learned something about journeys: even if you intend to occasionally return home, the place from which you departed eventually ceases to really be “home.” Over the Christmas holidays I went back to Sugar Land for almost a month. I said I was going home, and I really believed it at the time. However, “home” is not a static place. In fact, I’m not certain it’s a place at all. Home is wherever you have become used to spending your time. It’s the place where you come together with those you care about and wish to spend time with. The house I grew up in is still special to me, but it isn’t really home. College—this crossroads, this inn—has become my home. I remember being told that this change would occur. I suppose I believed it, but I didn’t really understand it.
The joy of returning home at the end of the break was greater than I expected. However, it was also accompanied by a sort of melancholy premonition: the time I spend here is ticking away rapidly. We will all have to say goodbye and, once again, we will leave home. There is solace though. We lost our attachment to our first home without even noticing it, so why do we assume the next transition will be harder? Every goodbye is hard, but every goodbye passes. I will leave this home too, and I will be grateful for the time that was, not bitter that it couldn’t last. Good things aren’t static; they change. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something to be remembered so that I don’t lose the moment I have. Tomorrow will come, and I will return to the journey. Perhaps I will return to this home to visit, just as I returned to the home of my childhood, but perhaps I won’t pass this way again. Well, either way, I will follow the road.
“The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
So I was in an unhappy place after that sting of bad meetings I had. I tend to be a really cheerful person so that was definitely not fun for me. And to top it all off, when I went to talk to Jaci, she wasn’t there to tell be to calm the heck down and breath for a second (she is really good at that).
Buuuuut, as the title of this post may have given away, I figured something out without help, and this is how it went down. Picture this:
I am sitting in the Study Abroad offices, in one of the waiting areas, degected because, not only have I been told that my only study abraod plan will not work, the amazing Jaci is not around to help me brush it off. I need to do homework anyway so I pull out my Laptop and what should I find, but my very own degree sheet. I glare at it in distain! How could someone who came into college one semester shy of being a junior still have so many problems? I began looking at all the classes that I had already taken.
And then I noticed something.
In the Spring semester of my Sophomore year I had already taken two of the six “suggested” classes for that semseter. The other three were Differetial Equations, Organic Chemistry Lab, Mass Heat and Momentum Transfer, and Professional Development. A quick search on classes offered in previous semesters showed that both Differential Equations and Proffesional Development are offered in the summer. That left me with three classes to work with, until I remembered something.
The college of Arts and Sciences offers Organic Chemistry as a summer study abroad.
This doesn’t immidialty seem helpful if you aren’t staring at my degree sheet like I was, but I saw something wonderful. It is suggested that I take Organic Chemistry in the fall of my sophomore year and the lab the following semester. But if I took O-Chem during the summer on a stud abroad I would not only be fulfilling one requirment, but I would be that much closer to another!
Obviously I am in a much better mood now, and I have just sent off several frantic emails. I will update when I know more.
I was told today that a really good idea would be to share a few of my favorite links or videos on my blog. I think this is actually a WONDERFUL idea. There are so many ways to share who I am as a person, but I feel as though the best way is to show you all things that interest me through the internet. Some of these links have changed me as a person. Who knows? Maybe they will make a difference in your life.
So I had my meeting with Theresa Marks. And with the Arezzo adviser.
You know that music that plays in scary movies when the killer is sneaking up behind the protagonist? That should be playing through your head right now.
According to the both of them, if I do the engineering study abroad in Italy for the summer and semester like I planned, I will get an entire year behind!!! I am already in a five year degree plan!!! What the HECK!!!!!
Don’t worry, I was very polite to both people who told me this. It’s not their fault that the curriculum is rooting against me. But now I’m back to square one. Actually, I’m worse than square one, because I have no idea where I want to go, or if this is even possible. I didn’t realize how difficult this would be when I accepted my fellowship. But hopefully I can go chat with Jaci about this and, between the two of us, we can work something out.
*Cue sad music that plays when the killer finally gets the protagonist*