Reflection #8

turkish flag

“Research the first country you plan to study abroad in. Referring back to the list you made of the most important things to know or understand, what did you find out about your country? How will you use what you learned to make your study abroad experience better?”

As a female going to a nation that is predominately Islamic, I was initially unsure as to what type of clothing that would be considerable both respectful and acceptable. I was somewhat surprised to learn that it was appropriate to wear what one would wear here in America. In mosques, you have to wear conservative clothing, which is understandable as it is a place of worship. What really surprised me is that there are some Turkish topless beaches. I had assumed that Turkey would be more conservative compared to some other countries in Europe, like France or Greece.

I was pleased to learn that all the tap water in major Turkish cities is safe as it has been chlorinated. While I doubt I will drink water straight from the tap, it is nice to know that I can use tap water to brush my teeth without worrying about catching a water-borne illness.

Turkish is the main language in Turkey, but nearly 1/5 of the nation also speaks English, especially in the large cities. So while I won’t be able to converse with everyone, knowing that I can talk to roughly 20% of the population makes me feel much better about going abroad to a country that has an official language other than English.

Knowing these things before I actually arrive in Turkey will make me more comfortable, as I feel that I am somewhat prepared. I won’t have to stress about making sure my clothes are appropriate for whatever activities I will be doing that day, nor will I have to be concerned about accidentally drinking dirty tap water. Learning even just a little bit about the country I will be visiting will make me a lot less stressed and thus allow me to enjoy myself more.

Some thoughts on the SAE controversy

 After careful thought and consideration, I am ready to discuss publicly my feelings about the recent events that have occurred concerning the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity organization at the University of Oklahoma. Even though it was been over a week, my thoughts are still a bit jumbled. The event, and specifically the fact that such a heinous chant could be produced and repeated by students at my own University, hit me deep in my gut. I wouldn’t say it was a stab, because that’s too sharp of a pain. The feeling that rests within my stomach is a deep, devouring pit of sadness and shame. Embarrassment is too kind a word. 


 The Monday after the video surfaced, the weather in Norman was drizzly and wet, overcast and thoughtful. Although I usually appreciate such weather, there was a tension in the air as I walked down the South Oval that could not be removed. I would not have wanted it to be removed, because then I might have been able to forget how ashamed I was of our student body. 


 There was a bond between every Sooner that was broken on the Sunday the racist video from the SAE party bus surfaced. Unfortunately, it had been broken for quite some time without the majority of us realizing it. As Sooners we are all connected by our choice of being here, of attending a great University on a beautiful campus in a wonderful town. By allowing evil thoughts to be formed into a rhyming chant, and then allowing such a mantra to recur in a large group without anyone calling out the malevolence within it, the student body failed itself. 


 There is a Student Honor Code, and everyone on the bus that night failed to abide by it. Group mentality can be a powerfully wicked thing, and I accept the fact that there were people on the bus who did not agree with the chant but were simply too shocked, and possibly afraid, to stand up against it. However, I am not so dull as to believe that was the first time the chant had ever been recited. The incantation was practiced and calculated and had been going on for some time, most definitely in various places, yet a single student never voiced an opposing opinion loud enough to be heard.


 I myself had never heard anything akin to the vicious racist chant that was captured on video, as with many other students on campus, but at least an entire organization tied to our campus had actively participated and taught it to others. As students attending the same University, we all come together as an individual unit, no matter our differences. This is why the student body as an entity should feel ashamed. We are all connected, and we failed each other. 


 Our brother and sister Sooners of every minority have a right and a duty as human beings to stand up for these basic rights, and as a human being myself and also as a Globally Engaged Fellow who will soon be representing my University abroad, I stand in solidarity beside them. As our eloquent and fearless leader President David Boren said, real Sooners are not bigots. They take care of each other and treat each other with respect. There will be no room for bigotry abroad in my studies and journeys in Tanzania and elsewhere. 

 Although I had an open and welcoming mind to all people before this tragedy of passivity occurred, I will carry this event with me abroad and continue to learn from it. I will not fall victim to the injustice that can be carried out in groups. I will think and act as a mindful individual who cares for all others as if they were my family, because they are my family. As a real Sooner who will be representing true Sooner values, I will treat each person I meet with the respect they deserve. 


 The pit of shame in my gut, although temporarily a negative feeling, will deepen and grow to enact a powerful change in my world. I will not allow anyone I have influence over to carry out heinous acts, be they verbal or physical, against anyone else. I will urge myself and others to behave as we all should, in a way that allows us to grow respect for ourselves, even when no one is looking or listening. 


 The University and its students will all grow from this debacle. As a Global Engagement Fellow, I will spread this growth throughout the world, working toward a place for all people to live where racism and bigotry do not exist. We are all equal beings on this earth, and I will not stand for anyone who thinks or says differently. Such is my duty. 

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62 Days

In 62 days I begin my first great flight. In 63 days, I will step out onto the soil of another country for the first time in my life. I’ve been planning this flight for so long, but now it’s so close. 62 days does not seem very long at all. These days could be the slowest of my life, but I doubt it. I expect them to fly by. I’ve always wanted to go to China, and I’m about to finally be there. A childhood dream will have become reality. I had many fantasies as a child, but few true dreams. This is one of them. Standing on top of the Great Wall; gazing upon the Forbidden City; actually seeing a giant panda; these are events that I always dreamed of but never expected to truly happen. In my mind, the chance of such a thing occurring was little better than the chance of walking through Lothlorien. And yet, 62 days. As I watch the clouds part and stretch out my wings, I can feel a spectacular wind at my back. Soon, very soon, I will let it carry me aloft and whisk me into the realm of my dreams. 62 days. 1,486 hours. 89,220 minutes. The day is coming. I’m ready.

OU in Rio and Puebla

Last semester, I had the privilege of attending the launch party for the new study sessions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Puebla, Mexico!The study centers abroad are such an incredible opportunity–being taught by OU professors and paying OU tuition in a foreign country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! At the event, we were able to try some Brazilian and Mexican food, which was delicious. (For those of you who don’t know, my absolute favorite food in the world is Mexican food!) The launch party was exciting, and different professors that will be living abroad next year were able to share their excitement and encourage students to go abroad. I hope to study for a semester in Puebla because I really enjoy Mexico’s culture and the Spanish immersion experience it offers. I can’t wait to start traveling the world!

Tengo noticias buenas!

I’ve got great news!

This summer, I will be spending two months studying Spanish at la Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. I will be taking four courses there, two per month, and I’ll finish my Spanish minor!

Alcalá de Henares is located in the middle of Spain, very close to Madrid. I’m not entirely sure what courses I will be taking, but I do know that I intend to take part in the medical Spanish program that allows me to shadow a physician.

Look at how majestic the building looks!

I do expect there to be some culture shock, mostly because I’m a vegetarian who likes to go to sleep early, but I’m determined to make this one of the best, most fun and educational experiences of my life.

I’m so excited!

Image taken from: http://www.alcalingua.com/sites/all/media/seleccion/universidad/Universidad%20de%20Alcala%20(15).jpg

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Bolivian Culture Night->Salsa Night

On Friday the Bolivian Student Association hosted a Bolivian Culture Night in the caf. I went with my Brazilian friends and met up with my OU cousin there(Wara- who is FROM Bolivia!). They had decorations with the colors of the Bolivian flag, which was green, yellow, and red. They had a short video about Bolivia and then a performance. A few Bolivians danced a traditional Bolivian Carnaval dance in very pretty, colorful costumes. It sort of resembled the Brazilian Carnaval dances. Afterwards, they served some DELICIOUS food. They served juicy pork(not sure) and sausage and a creamy rice thing (forgot the name).  It was similar to Ecuadorian food and the Brazilians  told me they had it in Brasil too. My Portugues is audibly improving, as I spend a few hours a week in the language lab doing Rosetta Stone. It’s so cool to be able to talk to them in a foreign language(very limited conversation). The hardest part about it is not confusing it with Italian. I’ve decided the best way to learn both languages at the same time, is to choose only one to actively learn.  I chose Portuguese for now.  For Italian, I passively learn it by listening to Italian radio every day and watching Italian Tarzoon cartoons on Youtube.

It turns out that basically the entire foreign student population knows each other;  I was able to meet a few internationals through the internationals I already knew. After the Bolivian Culture Night, many of the people at Bolivian Culture Night headed over to the Union for HASA’s Salsa Ball.  The Salsa Ball was really fun; I was able to use what I learned in my Ballroom Dancing Class. My Ecuadorian friend Rob was a really good dancer and he taught me a bit. There were some very impressive dancers there and two performances by a couple of dance teams. The latin dance team killed it, and another group who’s name slips past me also were great. For the second performance, the guys put blindfolds on the girls half-way through and they still didn’t mess up! Overall it was a great night where my inner latina got to come out and dance.

SAMSUNGSorry, can’t figure out how to make this upright:/

 

 

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Reflection #7

Make a list of what you think are the most important things to know or understand about the country you plan to study abroad in.

 

turkey

I will be studying abroad in Turkey over the summer. Turkey is a beautiful country with dazzling cities, relaxing beaches, and a unique culture. While I eagerly await my trip, I’m also a bit hesitant. To make myself feel more prepared, I constructed a list of things that I think are crucial to know before arriving in a foreign country.

One of the most basic things to know about a foreign culture is what clothing is acceptable to wear when out in public. I went abroad for the first time last year, and it never crossed my mind to research acceptable dress until someone mentioned it to me. So, in preparing for my trip this summer, I will look into what would be considered appropriate attire while abroad.

Another important thing to know is the condition of the tap water. In some nations, it is safe to drink from the tap, while in others it is a huge risk to drink any type of water but bottled. I don’t plan to drink straight from the tap, but it would be nice to know that the water is safe to use for simple tasks like brushing my teeth and rinsing dishes.

Perhaps the largest area of concern for me was the prevalence of English speakers in Turkey. I know very little Turkish, so the thought of not having anyone speak English is a quite frightening. So I hope that, at least in the major tourist areas, there will be people who will be able to understand English.

I hope that within the next week I will have time to do research and learn the answers to my questions.

turkey ballons

Endija Kreslina, my OU Cousin

I felt like I was drowning, surrounded by a sea shark-like of female American students swarming a small inner ring of international students.  Why?  In an attempt to be matched with an OU Cousin.  I don’t thrive in such situations as I am neither sharklike nor socially aggressive, so I failed to be matched during that event.  I wondered who I might be matched with by the computer program.  Where might she be from?  Would we have similar interests?   I was surprised when I received the email matching me with Endija Kreslina, a senior international student from Latvia, with whom I’d already become acquainted.  She had attended United World College Red Cross Nordic, the same school that most of my friends had attended, so I had met her at many parties and social gatherings.  We had often eaten together in Couch Restaurant in a large group with other friends, but  I hadn’t gotten the chance to get to know her well. I was happy when we got matched!

When I met with Endija one-on-one for lunch at Cafe Plaid, I found that we had quite a few shared interests. We shared a nice meal together, talking about everything from school to friends to spring break plans.  As she is a senior at OU, I could learn from her.  In our situation, the American student could learn about life at OU from the international student, which I assume is not the case for exchange-student cousins.  Also, I could learn from her about her home country, Latvia.  I had already learned quite a bit about the country from another friend, Emils, who is a Freshman who attended the same UWC as Endija.  It was interesting to hear about some Latvian customs, such as the habit of tossing salt or spitting three times over your left shoulder when you say something bad so that it won’t come true.  Endija is still here at OU so we remained cousins during the spring semester and I’m looking forward to meeting with her again!

 

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Reflection #6

‘What’s one thing that you definitely don’t want to give up when you go abroad? Why? How will you cope if you have to?”

netfliz

As terrible as it sounds, the one thing I definitely do not what to do without when I go abroad is Netflix. As a college student, Netflix is a bigger part of my life than I should probably admit, so going without it cold turkey would be extremely difficult to adjust to. Unfortunately, however, I’m pretty sure I will have to. I am studying abroad for the semester in Italy, and  Netflix only streams in a few nations, and as of now, Italy is not one of them.

It’s not only the lack of Netflix I’m worried about, but also American T.V. I don’t currently watch that much television, but I do like knowing that if and when I want to, I am able to find a show I like that’s in English. I have no idea how prevalent English-speaking shows are on Italian channels, so the idea of not having Netflix or any form of English T.V. is pretty daunting.

I don’t just watch television for entertainment (although that is a main part), I also watch the news, keeping up to date on domestic and foreign affairs. Not having the ability to simply turn on the T.V. and listen to what’s happening will be very strange, especially since I doubt that there are English newspapers in small-town Italy.

Like it or not, I’m going to have to learn to adjust to the lack of American programs for a long time (unless I am somehow able to stream them online). The culture of Italy is completely different than that of America, so maybe the lack of T.V. and Netflix will be a blessing in disguise. It will make me get out more and explore the town I’ll be living in, meeting new people and exposing myself to the Italian way of life.