The Dark Side

So after being abroad for about three weeks, I wanted to write a post about the bad aspects of studying abroad. Now, before you starting thinking I’ve gone completely crazy – because this is literally the opposite of what I would normally say – chill for a second. I am still beyond ecstatic about being here. There’s just a few things I wish I had known before I came.
  1. Time. I spend a lot of time bored. I’ve had a job of some form or another since I was 11, even if it was just tutoring or babysitting. I’ve worked a regular weekly schedule for the past three years, at different places. Between turning 16 and now, the longest I’ve not worked is ~5 weeks. So, besides missing the influx of spending money, I have a bunch of extra hours every week that I have absolutely no idea what to do with.
  2. Accents. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard for me to understand people here, since at least I already speak English, and I watch British movies and t.v. and listen to British music. Let me tell you, it is most definitely different. Especially for the class with the Scottish professor. Have you ever tried to understand a Scotsman? It isn’t easy.
  3. Traveling. All I thought about was how everything here is so close together, compared to things in the states, which is true. But that doesn’t mean that travel is cheap. To go round trip from the University of Hertfordshire to London is upwards of 20 pounds ($28) which is just for the train tickets. That doesn’t include getting from the University to the train station or getting around London, which is just too big for walking unless you only want to see a tiny bit of the city. If I went to Dublin (which I will eventually) to take the train would be 43 pounds one way. Then I’d have my hostel, inter-city transportation, and the train back. For someone with zero income, its disheartening to say the least.
Remember; I wouldn’t trade this for anything. These are just some of the things that I hadn’t expected. And I’m learning a lot from these experiences. I’m learning to listen more (which may shock some of my friends), I’m learning how to be thrifty and that I don’t really need a lot of stuff, and I’m learning to value every experience I have, because I have no idea when I’ll get to repeat it. darthcookies  

Wadjda the movie

I loved watching the movie Wadjda! It was such a good film and that fact that it was filmed in Saudi Arabia by a Saudi director makes me feel like I got an honest representation of the culture.

The story is about Wadjda a young girl who lives in Saudi Arabia and dreams of having her own bike. But its frowned upon for girls to have bikes, and Wadjda’s mother won’t buy her one. Wadjda wants the bike so she can race her friend Abdullah, one of the neighborhood boys. Wadjda ends up selling hand made bracelets and mixtapes so she can save up for a bike. And eventually ends up entering a Koran competition so she can use the prize money to buy a bike. I won’t tell you anymore, you’ll just have to watch the movie yourself.

I really liked this movie because it opened my eyes to cultures outside of my own. It showed me the vast differences between cultures and made me realize that the world is bigger than just America. I mean I knew that, but I didn’t fully know that.

A lot of things that seem normal and natural in the United States is quite the opposite in Saudi Arabia. The movie showed how girls weren’t supposed to wear nail polish, or let men see them, and how an 11 year old girl can marry a 20 year old man, how a husband can make the decision to marry again because his first wife isn’t able to give him a son. The movie shocked me but I really enjoyed it.

The ending was very sweet and I highly recommend everyone to go watch this movie!


Cultural Shock?

IMG_5393I was expecting to experience a lot of cultural shock when I went to Italy and traveled around Europe; however, I think dealing with reverse-cultural shock was harder for me. When I went abroad, I knew everything could/would be different from home. Returning home, I thought it would be very easily slip back into “the American way” of doing everything – but I was wrong. There were tons of little things that bothered me or drove me crazy when I first got back. Most people in the Arezzo program did not have a lot of data, so whenever we went out, few people were on social media. When I got back, everyone I saw seemed to always be on their phones, unable to converse without also scanning social media sites or the web. People are constantly on technology, and I miss the almost anti-Internet environment we had — unless of course we were at someone’s apartment that had reliable internet. I also miss being able to walk everywhere. I initially hated not being able to drive in Italy, but now I hate having to drive or take public transportation to get anywhere in Norman. I loved the small-town feel Arezzo had and the ability to walk anywhere in the town center. Being two blocks away from campus and a 15 minute walk from most of the restaurants spoiled me. It also took me a while to get back to a more normal eating schedule. When I was home, I usually ate dinner by 6; whereas in Italy, the restaurants usually didn’t even open until 7:30. There was nothing significant, in terms of cultural shock, that really affected me in either Italy or returning home, but there are hundreds of different, little things that I notice everyday. 

Portrait of a Villain

I was supposed to write a character sketch of a hero or a villain for crime piece. I chose a villain because they are much more interesting!

Genre Writing – Week One


On December 30th Adeline Veroe hurriedly left her office in her black sedan. To the casual observer she looked to be in her early thirties, blonde haired and blue eyed with, at this particular time, a rather grumpy disposition. She worked in an office building so she was obviously some type of business woman, and the ring she wore indicated that she was someone’s wife.

A more intent observer might have wondered what kind of business was run without clients or other employees, as no one ever came to the office. Or they may find the number of unsavoury locations she travelled to after hours to be quite strange for an ordinary woman. The people she was meeting with would also have raised questions of their own.

Truth be told, Adeline Veroe was nothing she appeared to be. She was a business woman, but she dealt in secrets instead of goods or services. From an early age Adeline was very good at getting people to admit things they didn’t want too – it was a game she enjoyed. That talent lead to the realization that one “client’s” secret is another man’s treasure, a treasure that was sometimes worth a fortune. If there was no one to sell the secrets to, often the client would pay to make sure it stayed a secret.

Even with all of Adeline’s second-hand secrets, the world was a difficult place, made more difficult by the legal system. Her first, and only, run in with the law led to a year of probation and a less-than-amicable divorce from her husband of three years, whom she had never let in on the secret of her livelihood. The probation was expunged from her record – judges, it seemed, had secrets too – but Adeline had learned her lesson. She not only had to make sure her clients were too scared to ever go to the authorities, but also that they would never know who was extorting them.

From that point on Adeline split her business into two parts: the recruitment and reconnaissance of new clients, and collecting payments. She no longer handled either part of the operation personally; instead she became a puppet master, sending her employees toward specific people and allowing them to do their work. None of the employees really knew who they worked for. Adeline met with them as a middle man, a secretary to the “real” person in charge, at a variety of different locations.

But on December 30th Adeline could feel the walls beginning to close in on her. One of her new employees was most likely some type of police informant. She could easily have gotten rid of the man, but his presence alone meant that the authorities were going to start searching for her in earnest. She had more money than any five people could ever need and a plan to escape the country for good. But she thought, wouldn’t it be fun to turn everyone’s world upside down before I disappear? She laughed to herself as she drove. They all deserved it for making her run away in the first place.


What’s in your bag?

The assignment was to take a group of four items and write a story about the person who had those items in their personal bag. My items were a deck of playing cards, a lighter, Chanel lipstick, and a sparkly rock.

Becoming a Writer – Week One


Olivia leaned toward the mirror to put the finishing touch on her eye makeup when her boyfriend walked into the flat they shared. “I’m in the bedroom” she called to him, happy that he was home after his third night shift that week. But as he walked in the door she saw him slip a pack of cigarettes into his pocket. “Craig, you promised me you’d stop,” Olivia reproached him. He had promised her, three weeks ago. As far as she knew he had been doing quite well, using nicotine patches instead. Craig shrugged; “Work’s been a handful,” he muttered, not looking at her.

Olivia sighed forcefully and tossed her Chanel lipstick into her bad – she could finish getting ready later. “I’m going out for a bit. I’ll see you later” she said sharply. As she walked toward the door, she grabbed his lighter as well. It wouldn’t stop him from smoking, but it made her feel better. The lighter joined her lipstick and a pack of playing cards in her purse. She walked rather huffily to the nearest park and sat on a dry bench. Realistically, she knew it wasn’t that big of a deal. Lots of people smoke, and it wasn’t like she had asthma or anything. She just didn’t like the way it smelled or the fact that Craig was always stepping out for a quick puff. Him quitting hadn’t seemed so bad either. He had been more grumpy than normal for the first week or so, but then he said the cravings were going away and everything was getting better. She pulled out her deck of cards and started absentmindedly shuffling them against her leg while people watching.

As Olivia was looking around the park she saw a young couple with a small child start to bicker. It was about something small, but Olivia was struck by the man’s expression. He looked bored and exhausted, like bickering with the woman was all he ever did and it was wearing him down. When he looked at the child Olivia could see love shining out of his face. But that vanished when he looked at his companion. Olivia wondered if it had ever been there, or if their seemingly constant fighting had slowly eroded it. The man suddenly looked in her direction; she dropped her gaze to the playing cards, realizing she had been caught staring. Olivia stared at the cards instead, really looking at them as she hadn’t since they were given to her.

They were a gift, from Craig of course. They met at a mutual friend’s party where someone was entertaining people with simple card tricks. Olivia had thought it was amazing. The next time she saw Craig, it was at another party and he was the one with the deck of cards. Eventually he confessed to her that he had learned the magic tricks in the hopes of impressing her. He gave her the deck on their first anniversary and taught her every trick he knew.

Just then, the bickering couple’s child toddled up to Olivia’s bench. She smiled at Olivia and mumbled some gibberish that, clearly, had some profound meaning. Charmed, Olivia slipped the cards back into her bag and played with the child until her parents noticed she was with a stranger. When they called her back she giggled a bit and gave Olivia a sparkly rock before toddling to her father. Absentmindedly looking at the rock, Olivia pondered her relationship. She didn’t ever want to be like the couple in the park, together out of obligation more than anything. She knew she loved Craig, but did it mean that he hadn’t told her he was smoking again? Olivia slipped the rock into her bag and left the park.

Little Peru

Machu Picchu, lost city of the Incas, Cuzco, Peru. Image shot 05/2013. Exact date unknown.So, it’s official!!! I’ve paid my deposit and will be going to Peru this summer with OU’s Journey Program. I am indescribably excited, and it’s not just because I’m going to visit Machu Picchu and eat delicious seafood and go hiking through the Amazon rainforest. This will be my first experience outside of the United States, so this is incredible and unbelievable, and even though I still have an entire semester of school and work and obligations ahead of me, I am already ready to board the plane and jump head first into this adventure. I’m grateful to be able to go, to have this opportunity, and to have already met a handful of my journey companions at a ‘Study Abroad in Latin America’ information session in Hester Hall. I met a girl who is equally excited about this, and we have unofficially declared ourselves exploring buddies, vowing to go on mini-excursions where we only speak Spanish and try odd foods like guinea pig and get lost (though not for too long) in the beautiful country. I still have plenty of preparing to do, such as getting my money converted and deciding what to pack, but I feel anything but stressed about this. I know that many other fellows have shared posts and expressed their anxiety about studying abroad, for a plethora of reasons, including not knowing where they wanted to go, not being sure of what to bring, and just being in a new place on their own, and that all makes sense. I’m working on applying to study in Latin America for the entirety of my junior year, so I will very much be in that position soon, but for now, I’m so, so, so, so, so excited for this summer.


Wadjda–the story of a young girl in an Islamic country

Firstly, I would like to thank Sarah Smallwood for arranging this movie night at Gray Owl Coffee and thank Gray Owl Coffee for allowing us to set up  this event at their location.

Wadjda is a Saudi Arabian film that showcases a small part of the life of an eleven-year-old Saudi girl. She struggles to fully express herself in an environment where the people constantly criticize and question her passions based on her gender. As I was watching this film, I found myself smiling at times because of Wadjda’s sweet yet daring personality; however, I also felt my face warm up  at times because of the way the men in the film treated women and spoke to them.

Foreign films are quite eye-opening because not only do they focus on a very specific issue/topic, but they also relay their message in a very concise manner due to the cultural differences between the audience and the characters in the films.

Since I have spent more than half of my life in the Middle East and have traveled to a few countries in that region, I was able to understand the characters and some of Wadjda’s struggles better than those who have never lived in the Middle East. One scene that comes to mind is the scene where the girls brought nail polish to the school and were putting it on in secret. This scene reminded me of my own childhood, because we were not allowed to wear nail polish/makeup to school due to strict rules in the school environment.

If you have not watched this film, I suggest you give it a try. Wadjda’s persistence and likable character will keep you interested throughout this short film. Here is the trailer:

Higher Education: Our Angsty Teenager


Drawing of Harvard College in 1720!

I spent quite a while thoughtfully considering each of the events on the Historical Timeline of American Higher Education and even did a bit of independent Internet searching, but seeing as the provided timeline was twelve pages long, there were plenty of intriguing events to choose from. Just four events in, and I pinpointed the first that seemed particularly significant: in 1628, “the first printing press in the American Colonies was set up at Harvard College.”




I recalled, during our first class period, when Dr. Morvant spoke briefly about the invention and utilization of the printing press in colleges in the United States. Students outnumbering textbooks was no more, and information was much more easily shared and transported; not to mention the fact that, as time went on, people who could not attend a university were able to get their hands on printed materials. Before the printing press, “books were reproduced by monks through the painstaking process of copying them by hand” which “made [them] very rare and expensive, meaning members of the lower and middle classes could not easily obtain them” (Brunelle). Without a lot of thinking, you can pretty well assume that literacy rates increased as people became better educated and more thoughtful with the new sharing of knowledge; further, scientific and medical research could be shared among scholars, aiding greatly in collaboration and further advancement. People of all economic and social standings were able to educate and entertain themselves with printed material, and this idea of educational equality is further emphasized in the next important event that I selected: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Leading up to the Civil Rights Act, discrimination was uncontrollable in the United States, particularly and most notably against African Americans. This made it impossible for education to be open to everyone, which created innumerable problems and hardship in every way imaginable. If blacks wanted to attend college, they were left with the option of attending an all-black university, and I always wonder how much better the academic environment could have been if all people were allowed to learn and collaborate together. Once the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, however, “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” was outlawed (Wikipedia). Though everything was not perfect as soon as this legislation was passed, conditions slowly got better, and in terms of higher education, the inclusion of ALL types of people only created a more diverse, creative, and capable group of learners. With technology also moving forward, the introduction of IBM’s first version of the personal computer in 1981 was my choice for the third most important event in the history of higher education.


On August 2nd, 1981, computer model 5150 was released by IBM and was immediately a huge success. Much like the printing press, this advancement in information sharing completely changed and improved the ways in which people learned, and further, they could now be more in control and more curious! The internet today is a sort of infinite black hole of everything. You can spend a ridiculous amount of time exploring every single informative or perverse crevice and still know so little. It is incredible. IBM’s clunky computer helped to jump-start what we have today, and while there are undeniable (and arguable) cons to such an interconnected world, the benefits surely prevail in providing us with never-ending connections to people, places, and ideas all over our world. These benefits are found just as bountifully in higher education, where students now study abroad, email each other from other countries, learn new languages with apps, find endless information and resources for research and paper-writing, and enjoy the exciting opportunities that are made available by computers and internet. The exciting and eventful maturation of higher education is a testament to its importance; it is kind of like a society’s little whining toddler with chocolate ice cream on his cheeks who has slowly and painfully matured into a young adolescent with a cracking voice and a hint of angst, still trying to figure out the ins and outs of life. I hope that, with time and effort, our teenager will mature into a fully functioning adult, more aware of what he is doing wrong and more able to take advice and correct it.


Works Cited

Brunelle, Marcus. How the Printing Press Revolutionized Humanity (n.d.): n. pag. Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science.   Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

“Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

IAS Major/Minor Career Fair

Last semester, I attended the IAS Career Fair that was held in Hester Hall. At first I was surprised by the many opportunities there were for jobs in the IAS field. I had only known about working for the government, and so I’m glad I went to the fair.

I learned about potential internships  I can do later. I got into a good conversation with the man who had done some work though the Peace Corps. He told me about his time aboard and how much it has changed his mindset of the world. I think the Peace Corps is something I will definitely be looking into later on because it seems to match most of my interests.

Overall, the IAS Career Fair helped me to see that there are other types of jobs besides working for the government or something similar to that.  Hopefully by the time I’m ready to apply for a job, there will be one that fits my interests and skills.

Brochures I picked up from various tables
Brochures I picked up from various tables