Arezzo, Italy

For the fall semester of 2015. I am studying abroad in Arezzo, Italy. I stay with a lovely host family with two younger siblings outside the city center. I live around vineyards and the country; fruit grows in my backyard. There are grapes, pears, apples, figs, tomatos, plums, you name it! I can run up a hill to find a beautiful view. There is also a park on a hill that overlooks Arezzo. I have to ride my bike uphill to get to school everyday, so my thighs have definitely have gotten stronger. There are quite a few things I noticed when I got to Italy. For starters, Italians LOVE pasta. They have pasta every day usually, and they eat alot of bread. Alot of the food is regional, and the bread coming from Tuscany is dry and flavorless. But that’s okay becuase they make up for it with the Lasagna. Pizza can be found at every corner and so can gelatto. Stracciatelle is my favorite flavor- it has little chunks of chocolate that give it the perfect crunch. They eat a ton of cheese, tomatos, and ham. They also put LOTS of Olive oil on everything. Another thing I noticed was that the eating times here are late. Generally, dinner is eaten aroun 8 pm and for breakfast they only eat a small pastry and have coffee. The family atmosphere is different from most in the states. The grandparents are present every day in my host family, and often times adolescents will live with their parents until they are 25 or 26. The unemployment rate for young people is very low here. There is also not a lot of national pride. Most individuals have pride in their city and region, but not in the country as a whole. The North and South of Italy don’t get along too well. The North see themselves as more educated than the South. Things like food are cheaper in the South. Since I live in the country, Overall, I am really enjoying my time here in Italy, especially being with my host family. I am able to learn the language and feel at home. I would reccomend to anyone to study abroad!

Saracino Joust

The Saracino Joust of Arezzo is one of the most impressionable events I have witnessed. The anticipation building up to it alone was enough to demonstrate what a big deal it was to the people of Arezzo. Walking through the city, different flags of the quarters were seen hanging off building and tied around the necks of the townspeople. At the four headquarters, the nights preceding the joust were filled with partiers hyping up for the joust. I reside in a homestay outside the city center so I do not have a quarter that pertains to me and was able to choose where to place my support. I selected the quarter of Porto del Foro to cheer for, due to their superior party-throwing. At these festivities I was able to meet new Italians, who I now have the pleasure to call my friends. They were all from Porto del Foro, another reason why I chose to vote for them. There were parades of hundreds of people in medieval costumes marching around and spectators lining the walls. The costumes were similar to those found at the Renaissance fair near my hometown. The drummers kept a steady beat for the steps of those carrying the crossbows, followed by the interjections of the trumpeters. I was personally dumbfounded at the resilience of those who had to suffer through the beating sun draped in heavy garments. I even recognized a couple of the marchers, having seen them at Porto del Foro the night before. My only complaint from the day of the joust was concerning an inconsiderate bird that flew overhead and took it upon himself to drop a nice little poo on my head and shoulder. However, in comparison to Crucifera’s loss during the joust, I wasn’t too bad off. In Piazza Grande, bleachers were erected to offer sitting accommodation for the audience that had opted not to stand the whole time. It seemed that the most excited groups of people were in the standing area. My seat was in quite a favorable location to witness the jousters running towards the target. However, I was not in an optimal position to see the lance puncture the target, as spectators arms flew up and blocked the scene. The flag twirlers put on a spectacular show before the commencement, tossing flags high into the air. One of my favorite parts were the guys at the bottom from each quarter who jumped and ran around after their rider had taken his turn. There was a very lively atmosphere with the crowds cheering or jeering. Porto Crucifera became a temporary laughingstock when it was evident that one of the horses possessed an obstinate defiance towards running down the aisle with a man dressed in a costume and refused to start. As the scores were announced, especially the 5’s, the audience erupted in cheers and hollered in jubilation. The three way tie that led to overtime built even more suspense. Only Santo Spirito and San Andreas remained. A few fights broke out as the emotions heightened, especially between Crucifera and the other quarters. Overall, I loved the joust and thought it was a great cultural event that brought the whole town together, even though it divided them at the same time. It made me realize that Arezzo is indeed a very unique and lovable city. Although seeing everyone in a stadium-like environment reminded me of football season back home, I would not trade in the opportunity to see the joust for the game back in Norman.


Distortion – the action of giving a misleading account or impression

As part of the media, the news network – being in the position of reporting the news – it is our job to report factual information. It must be correct, true and unbiased (unless it’s an opinion piece). However, there have been issues with doing even something as simple as this.

Whether if it’s reported knowingly or not, it is the job of the media to give those who do not have the access that we do accurate information to better their lives and make them more knowledgeable. If it’s incorrect, then it isn’t helping people – it’s misinforming them. I don’t know about everyone else, but I know I hate being wrong. That being said, I won’t hesitate to admit when I KNOW that I’m in the wrong. So the media should, too.

The entire situation can be solved simply by doing research and fact checking, but in the event that something is released that’s incorrect, there are things called corrections that run ASAP to fix, or at least report, the mistake. This is called transparency – so even though we may be wrong, it allows the readers to know that hey, we did do something wrong, but we’re admitting it. We’re sorry, we realized it, so here it is the way it should be.

To get back on track, once the media distorts the news, it ruins its reputation and even that of others, even if they haven’t done anything wrong. What one publication does, it affects the others. And being in the business of writing FOR the people, it’s important to have their trust. They need to know that the information given to them is good and true, so the moment it’s not, that trust is broken.

It’s like a relationship. Distorting the information is basically cheating on the other. Once they find out, that trust is broken. However, some people can live in an ignorant and blissful state in not knowing about the truth and even choose to ignore it. However, that doesn’t help either party because one will always end up unhappy – and in this case, it isn’t the media.

I don’t care how far

In high school, I was in about…maybe six organizations, but none of them really had an international background. I was in the International Baccalaureate program which is more academic than anything, but does require that students tackle an international issue as a service project. However, that was really the only experience that I had  with  an “international” organization.

Now that I’m in college, however, I have the opportunity to look at and witness so many different organizations that have so many different messages. The ones that I’m most interested in, however, are all international oriented. There’s AASA, FSA, and the Language Exchange program. These organizations interest me because I feel a connection to them. I’m half Filipino (hence the FSA) and the FSA is an affiliate of AASA. I’m not 100% sure if I want to just be involved in a smaller organization or the larger one. Language Exchange is really cool and I feel like it has a really cool message. You get to help other people learn another language. How amazing is that?

I’m looking for exposure to other cultures in an international group. I want to be able to learn everything that I can because I feel like I haven’t really been exposed to too much, at least not as much as I want to be. I want to be able to learn about everything, or everything within my grasp. That’s what college is for, right? For exposure and finding yourself along with your interests. It’s a great opportunity, and I think more people should take advantage of it.

I don’t know whether or not I’ll find what I’m looking for at OU. I’m sure I will since I’m not really sure what I’m looking for exactly, but I feel like that’s part of it. I feel like I need to know what I want to find before I can actually find it. Before that, I need to figure out what I’m interested in before that.

She’ll be comin’ around the mountain!

This weekend we hiked a volcano, not hiking as in taking the tram to the top and taking selfies from the summit (although there were so many selfies taken). We actually hiked the 2 1/2 trail to the top of Puy de Dôme. We’d been trying to get to this volcano pretty much since day 2 and it honestly wasn’t that tough, it just involved reading lots of train and bus schedules and coordination of people and times.

We set out at 10:30 on Sunday morning and walked to the train station. As we were looking around trying to find our bus stop we saw it pull up to a bench across the street. Our group of seven international students (nationalities include American, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Italian) ran across the busy street frantically trying to catch the soon-departing bus. We made it just in time and after a few minutes of ticket-buying confusion we were on our way to the volcano!

We passed through some new parts of the city (including a hamburger joint!) and as we neared the volcano we saw some adorable little hillside towns (complete with healthy French people going for brisk Sunday morning jogs). The bus dropped us off a little ways from the base of the volcano. We looked eager yet incredibly lost so our bus driver rattled off hiking directions while I listened intently.

The hike was hard. It took forever, it was so steep, and our group was composed of people ranging all different skill levels. We took videos to document the occasion on Allison’s Gopro (action camera) that was strapped to my chest. Despite the undeniable difficulty of the hike we had a blast! We planned a movie to make together, climbed a tree, saw a grazing herd of sheep, and drank from a quaint little well!

Once we reached the summit everyone was exhausted and starving. There’s a little cafeteria style restaurant at the top where the meals are ridiculously overpriced, naturally we ate there. We explored the summit seeing the Temple of Mercury (an ancient ruined Roman temple) and taking photos. We asked a lady at the welcoming center about a different way to hike down and we began our descent. This was undoubtedly the best part! We briefly met some guys from Austin, climbed some cedar piles, and ran down steep zig-zagging paths.

At the end of the trip everyone was tired, hungry, and had a lot of homework to do but it was still a really great trip!

Zumbathon & Plaza Mayor

This past Saturday, I attended the Zumbathon put on by the Latinos Without Borders organization. Tickets were available for ten dollars and proceeds went to fund scholarships that will be awarded at this year’s LWB Fall Camp.

Zumbathon Ticket

Ticket-holders followed the direction of various Zumba (a type of exercise dancing) instructors. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding on my part, I did not come dressed appropriately. (A dress and sandals are not good dancing materials.) However, while I did not actively participate in the main activity, I did enjoy watching it as well as exploring the location in which the Zumbathon was held.


Plaza Mayor was a surprising place. Firstly, I did not expect it to be a mall. Secondly, it was unlike any mall I have ever been in.

Upon first entering the building, Emily (my friend who went to the event with me) and I thought it was abandoned. We walked by an empty Braum’s and an old clothing store that had signs up announcing sales but no merchandise. As we followed the sound of the Zumba music, though, we began to pass brightly colored stores with names in Spanish. The mall was half-empty, but it was not abandoned.


After finding the source of the music, buying our tickets, and watching the dancing for a while, Emily and I decided to roam the mall. We wandered through a store that sold dresses for baptisms, confirmations, and quinceaneras. I wanted to try something authentic from one of the food shops. Upon Emily’s suggestion (she has studied Spanish for four years), I ordered horchata. This might not have been a good choice for me as cinnamon is not my favorite flavor, but I enjoyed the experience.

So, though I did not get to dance myself, I had an enjoyable, interesting afternoon. I learned about a new place and tried a new drink (new foods are definitely outside my comfort zone). I also got to contribute to a great cause.

Sequoyah and online publishing

Historical finding of Sequoyah publishing his "talking leaves" online
Historical finding of Sequoyah publishing his “talking leaves” online. (illustration by editor)

Okay. So Sequoyah once described books (and basically the paper they were printed on) as “talking leaves”. Although highly personified, Sequoyah most likely meant to describe the power of speech held behind a book’s pages; one that his people, the Cherokee, had not yet claimed as their own. His general frustration of not having an outlet of verbal expression led him to organize the Cherokee language into an alphabet. Now, his people were able to find a sense of independence and a useful tool to express themselves in a more convenient way, through literature that could be consumed freely and accessibly in their own tongue.

Same can be said of our own modern publishing era that has evolved to online self-publishing. Unlike print books, online e-books have created a public forum that has let writers publish in their own time and be able to receive immediate feedback.

Our own “talking leaves” actually talk back. Or in this case they now have a platform to be formally responded to.

This unique experience, in my own perspective as an aspiring writer, is both exhilarating and terrifying. The internet can be a scary place. Yet, some indie writers have found solace and a general appreciation for their online work. Yet sometimes, appreciation does not always equal compensation.

An article by the Huffington Post presented the idea that self-publishing was predicted to see an increase in authors wanting to govern their own publishing but would most likely drop due to small revenue their work actually receives.

So why stay and continue to publish online?

Before I get into that, let me go into a tangent. This wouldn’t be a blog if I didn’t.

As a student growing up in Oklahoma, I was greatly familiar with Sequoyah and his legacy. A legacy that generally consisted of his pipe-smoking mug plastered in the scholastic book lists I was urged to read in elementary school.

I doubt Sequoyah would have even been able to imagine that books would be consumed digitally while actually having a place to communicate in more ways than one.

Back to the main point.

Yet both his idea and the idealism of indie authors of today combine under one Toni Morrison quote: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

In other words, Sequoyah was able to discern that the stories of his people, although bountiful by word of mouth, had not been written into the “talking leaves” he so desired for them to consume. Aspiring authors see similar frustrations in trying to get their voices heard by big-name publishing houses.

What is worth more of the risk, waiting around for the opinion of one or putting your own work online for the eyes of many? I think its safe to assume that the books will speak for themselves.

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Reflection for 9/10/2015

As one of the assignments for the Becoming Globally Engaged class, students are expected to respond to reflection prompts on a weekly basis. Here is the prompt and my response for the week of Sep 10, 2015.

What international group(s) are you most interested in becoming involved with? Why?

What are you most looking for in an international group – language practice? Cultural exposure? Foreign friends? American friends who share your interests? Career preparation? Networking opportunities? Service opportunities? Something else?

Do you think you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at OU? Why or why not? If not, what will you do about it?

The international group that I am most interested in becoming involved with on campus is OU Cousins. Unlike other international groups, I feel that it will provide a more personal, intimate experience with people of other cultures and really give me a chance to see their human side, as opposed to just learning the superficial aspects that distinguish them, such as food and clothing. I feel that often times when there are activities meant to celebrate a culture, aspects of that culture are cherry picked and participators do not get a real connection with the individuals. For example, a couple weeks ago was Italian celebration week on campus, and the activities being held were things like free pizza and a pasta making workshop. While this is all very fun, I feel like there’s an abundance more to learn about Italians than the fact that they make a good pizza, and through OU Cousins I hope I can achieve this.

The thing I am most looking forward to in an international group is the opportunity to break the stereotypes or assumptions I may have formed about another culture. Obviously I’m also very interested in getting to know someone from a country that I am interested in visiting as well. In addition, I am looking to have an ounce of career preparation in the sense that I hope being involved in international groups will lead to me to deciding what career path I want to take, or to at least narrow down my options so that I can be more focused and motivated in the coming years of college. I feel as though exposure ‘to people from around the world can help one form decisive opinions about what exactly they hope to do with their life. Maybe in the end I will decide to be nothing but a beach-visiting nomad!

When it comes to hoping I will find what I’m looking for at OU, I can’t help but be a tad pessimistic. I hope to be a marine biologist when I’m done and through with my education, and OU, being a landlocked college focused mainly on things like engineering and pre-law, may not offer me the best opportunities. However, even if I don’t get exactly what I want out of OU, I will inevitably be benefited by my traveling abroad opportunities and international accustomization in whatever future I hold