Antisemitism in Istanbul

One of the places that we visited in Istanbul that I found most interesting was the Neve Shalom Synagogue.  Walking down the street towards it, I couldn’t even tell it was there at first, as all that we could see of it from the outside was a very thick, black door.  Once inside we were subject to probably the strictest security I have ever experienced in my life; they took our passports and made copies, split us into groups of five to go through metal detectors and security doors, and searched our bags.  Once we were inside the synagogue itself, we were told that the windows that appeared to be lit from the outside were actually in front of layers of steel, and that the light was the result of light bulbs.   Window inside Neve Shalom Synagogue It made me very sad that the Jewish community within Istanbul feels that they needed this level of protection for themselves and their place of worship; however, I understand why they feel that way, as the synagogue has been victim to at least three terrorist attacks.  I also feel that this fear within the community fits in with a trend of rising anti-semitism across Europe.  There have been anti-Semitic rallies, attacks on synagogues, and increased support of neo-nazi parties in many countries, including but not limited to Germany, Poland, and France.   However, after what I’d seen in Istanbul so far, it was confusing to me as to why Jewish people would be receiving this kind of hatred.  It appears the Muslims and Christians get along very well within the city, or at least are tolerant of each other; we visited multiple churches and mosques without incident.  So why is it that when Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are so closely related, it is only Judaism that is singled out and attacked?

Layers of History

One of the things that struck me the most about Turkey were the amazing layers of history that are clearly visible everywhere.  The ruins of an arch that is thousands of years old were only a block away from our hotel in Istanbul, and we were surrounded by countless other buildings from the 15th, 16th, 17th, and up centuries. Ruins of Victory Arch I was surprised when, for example, a mosque from the 1600s was referred to as “recent”, when in the United States a building from the 1600s would be extremely old and impressive.  I also thought it was interesting that the government handles the vast majority of the historical and the cultural sites in Turkey.  Some of it has been extremely well preserved, such as the pillar in the hippodrome that was over 3500 years old, while others buildings have been rebuilt but not reconstructed, like the building near our hotel.  On the outside of that building the new brick is clearly visible from the old remains, and it does not look good. DSCN3601   However, with the exception of that one building that has been poorly reconstructed, I do find the blend of new and old that Istanbul seems to have very refreshing.  People walk around on the streets in both traditional and modern clothing without batting an eye at each other, and modern stores can be right next to ancient buildings.  This allows for a very vibrant atmosphere in the city, and I would guess that it creates (or perhaps is the result of) a more tolerant attitude towards people with differing beliefs.  

Lasting Impressions of KNU GSS

Having returned from South Korea ten days ago, I can say that I already miss the people, the language, and mostly the food. I truly enjoyed my time there and am hoping to return for the spring semester.

During the Global Summer School at KNU, I was able to participate in cultural activities such as Taekwondo and Tea Ceremony complete with traditional outfits, Hanbok.  We took weekly excursions to various locations– Gyeongju, Ulsan and Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Busan. I lived, studied, and traveled with students from all over the world and this was an extremely rewarding experience.

After the Global Summer School ended, I spent three weeks traveling around the country and spending time with my Korean friends.  I had the opportunity to go on a vacation with my roommate from high school, Cassie/ ChaeYoung, and her family to the mountain area where the Winter 2018 Olympics will be held.  I toured the coastal city of Busan again, visited the traditional-style city of Jeonju, and spent time with my high school friends in Seoul.

This summer was the best summer of my life but was not without its difficulties.  Living in a country whose language I don’t know much of was very challenging, but it also enables me to see exactly how much I’ve grown since the beginning of the summer.  I gained confidence, humility, and numerous unforgettable experiences. I’d recommend this program to anyone interested in South Korea or to anyone who is adventurous and willing to try something new.

Reflection #10

Hello World!

Prompt: Have you gone on an international volunteer trip before? If so, how did it compare with the criticisms of international volunteerism you have encountered? What is your reaction to that? If not, are you interested in doing international service in the future? Why or why not? If so, how will you approach it? What will you look for?

I have always found international volunteer trips very life-changing and is definitely on my college bucket list. I did not know of such an opportunity till I came to OU and the study abroad office. Although many students do study abroad in language emerssion programs or earn college credit through it, I have only heard of few that go out of nation solely to volunteer. While volunteering in general is a selfless act, it takes an especially incredible person to volunteer abroad. Volunteering abroad not only demands physical, but also mental and emotional readiness. Also, an ability to adapt quickly and give your best to improve a community you have possibly never met is a tough task, yet a very fulfilling one. These are just some of the reasons I find international volunteer trips attractive.

As mentioned before, I have been looking at World Unite, which I only found out about recently. They have plenty of volunteering and language immersion programs from both undergraduate and graduate students in numerous countries. Personally, I have been looking into clinical volunteering programs in Morocco, India and Israel. I hope to participate in one of those programs in the coming summer, and if I get that opportunity, I will be sure to keep you all updated!

Reflection #9

Hello world!

Prompt: Look up either a few of the staple foods or dishes or the traditional music of a country you want to visit, and describe why they are or aren’t appealing.

I know, I know I already did this prompt. But I loved researching and writing about Morocco so much that I wanted to discuss Moroccan music through this post. I will be honest, I think international music (other than Indian– can’t really call what I grew up with “international”) is really cool but I do not listen to it as much as I want. My dad, on the other hand, loves music. He is a strong believer in the fact that music has no language; and once that barrier is taken off, the tones, rhythm and all the neat sounds that create the naked music is blissfully enjoyable.

With that in mind, I looked up moroccan music. I was led to many videos of men in bright clothing with a round instrument in their hands. Those men reminded me of the Sufi dancers that I saw when I went on vacation to the middle east. Then one thing led to another and I soon found myself listening to very soothing Sufi music. I learned that Sufis are very common in Morocco. Sufi dancing refers to a series of motions, many that involve spinning facing up towards the sky, that are said to take you into a trance and bring you closer to Allah. In morocco, Sufi music is often mixed with traditional African rhythms. Both men and women sing and play instruments to create Sufi music, but I have not seen any women actually dancing to sufi rhythms. It is mainly just men that participate in dancing. Following is a link to the Sufi meditation music I found really appealing after clicking through various Moroccan music videos: Moroccan Sufi Meditation Music

OU Cousin Story

Hello world!

So funny story– this post is actually not about my OU cousin. I wish it was, but unfortunately, I never got to meet her. I was introduced to her via email, which allowed me to learn her name: Noemie Ntahonkiriye. We talked a few times over email. I learned that she was a transfer student (she did not say from where) and that she was a junior. We also realized that we both love biology, which is something I would have loved to talk more about. A few days later, we had arranged to meet for dinner on campus. Unfortunately, her phone broke during work and she could not get a ride home if she stayed back to have dinner with me. So she went home and emailed me afterwards. I understood the situation and wanted to reschedule a meeting but never heard back from her.

However, I did meet some other awesome international students on campus! I honestly wish I had spend more time with them (something I hope to do more the coming semester) but between all my classes and extracurricular activities, I prioritized my time too heavily upon other things. I did meet an awesome Colombian named Karen, who took me and a few other friends to a Hispanic party where I learned (using that term very loosely) how to salsa. I also met Nikki, who is a freshman from Nigeria, through my SAIV dance group (stay tuned for a post about her– she’s amazing!). I met a few other international students, especially on the international floor in the Couch residence halls, who I unfortunately did not get to connect with better. Hopefully, I get to do so and make more fun memories with them during the coming semester.





Reflection #8

Hello world!

Prompt: Look up either a few of the staple foods or dishes or the traditional music of a country you want to visit, and describe why they are or aren’t appealing.

I believe in love. My love on earth is when food and travel come together, which is what this post will discuss. Since I have not exactly decided which country I want to study abroad in, I decided to just choose one from my general area of interest: Morocco. My interest in morocco was sparked by a dear friend of mine that got a scholarship through the federal government to study abroad for two months in Morocco. He spent his days with a host family, traveling, studying and writing about his time in Morocco (if I ever find the link to his blog, I will be sure to update you all! Although it was a while ago, I remember it as well worth the read). Within those short two months, he learned so much about Islamic culture and brought that passion back with him to college. He became an outspoken activist in the issues between Israel and Palestine and even went to Jordan for study abroad during college. His travel and work became such an inspiration to me, that I’m currently looking for an affordable study abroad program in Morocco.



Enough of all that, let’s talk about food! From every popular recipe website popped out these two main staples of Moroccan cuisine (pictured above): Moroccan chicken tajine with almonds and chestnuts, and Moroccan mint tea. I looked over some recipes while trying to keep myself from drooling and it sounds really delicious! I have never tried the chicken tajine before, but I read it is made in a traditional clay crockpot called tajine, which is where the famous dish gets its name. The mint tea is something I have tried before, but I have a strong feeling the authentic Moroccan version will taste much better. Next goal: find a Moroccan friend and have him/her make me some chicken tajine!


ISA India Night





hello world!

India Night was held on April 25, 2015 and hosted by the Indian Student Association. I had the privilege to choreograph and perform for/with these amazing SAIV members pictured below. Even though getting through two months of rehearsals and even longer hours of choreography was hard (to say the least) they all made it worth it! So thank you, SAIV!




Reflection #7

Hello world!

Prompt: Talk about a book or movie that’s had a significant impact on how you view the global community or your place in it. 

I was never the one to get overly excited about political movies. The mysterious jargon, the stern white men in crisp suits, the corruption– none of it appealed to me because it never felt like reality. But on one family movie night, my dad brought “Argo” home. “Based on the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979,” it read in bold on the back cover. Just based on that line I could tell my family (except my dad and I) would all be asleep 5 minutes into the movie.

When the movie started, it immediately sucked me in. Maybe it was the cinematography, or good script writing, or the actors’ skills, or all the above– whatever it may be, that movie became my favorite political movie of all time. I will be honest, I did not know much about Iran. And I am not necessarily saying that movie taught me a lot, since it was taken from the US’ point of view. But it did fulfill what I suspect was the goal of everyone that supported its production– to remind people of what happened. Yes, the point of view is super bias and yes, from the reviews I read after the movie, it is evident that not everything is historically accurate. However, that movie really inspired me to look more into Iran vs. US relations, specifically into the Islamic Republic of Iran and the revolution led by Khamenei.

Overall, as aforementioned, I believe the movie served its purpose– to reignite the importance of Iran and US relations and get people talking about it.


Back to the Grind

I’m in the United States, and have been for a few weeks now. I didn’t think that reverse culture shock would really affect me that much, but it kind of did. Spanish is still in my brain, and some of my thoughts come out in Spanish.

My experience has changed me, but in a different way than what I expected: I feel like I’ve become more of myself. I’ve become more confident, and I love myself a little more than I used to.

I miss Spain. I feel like every time I speak in a language that is not Spanish, I am actively forgetting the language, but the truth is, there are so few opportunities to practice it. I plan on becoming much more active in the Spanish clubs and organizations on campus, but beyond that, I have few other ways to practice it.

This truly was a great experience, and this was supposed to “get my feet wet” for the actual, semester long study that I plan on doing spring of my junior year. Until then, I will be working like crazy at my science classes and trying to get all of my ducks in a row so that I am able to make these travel dreams come true.