On Tuesday, February 9th I attended a musical performance/lecture in Kaufman room 210 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences “Focus on Arts” week. Three faculty members of the Spanish Language Department -Christina Audas, Armando Rivera, and Chris Kneifl- preformed songs from different Latin American traditions for a small group of students and faculty. Different regions represented were Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. The different rhythms and musical instruments were unique and told stories about the cultures from which the songs originated.
The performance was lively, intimate, and informative. In between discussing the cultural significance of different songs and instruments, Ms. Audas would sweet everyone away to another time and place with the melody of her songs, some of which she even wrote herself. Mr. Rivera was amazing on different percussion instruments. He played the bongo with such skill that it appeared an extension of his body. One of my favorite things said was, “come and experience the soul”. I thought this was apt because music is the soul of a culture, and by listening to the songs of a people, we got to experience the soul.
After Paris I took a bus up to Berlin. I’ve had some people here tell me they thought I should move to Germany, and I knew Berlin was a city with a lot of history, so I wanted to go check it out for myself. I absolutely loved it! In a weird way, Berlin felt a lot like home. My tour guide said that it isn’t a beautiful city, but that it has a certain charm if you give it a chance. I only partially agree with him. I think it is a beautiful city, if you know where to look. And after spending some time there I have developed a great respect for the German people! They were amazingly friendly and I think their determination to hold on to even the worst parts of their history is very admirable.
The German people as a whole also have a very dry sense of humor. You have to know about the history of Germany and well as the architecture of Berlin, but once you see it, it is hilarious! From the goddess of Victory overlooking the Paris Plaza and glaring at the French Embassy to the German Cathedral being a whole ten centimeters taller than the French Cathedral its design is based on. I really enjoyed learning about those kinds of things.
For the most part, Berlin is a very new city because so much of it had to be rebuilt after World War II. As a result, it doesn’t have the same breath taking architecture and history that other cities, such as Paris and Rome, have. But there are plenty of beautiful gardens and meaningful memorials. And the residents were extremely friendly. They would share a smile for no reason and chat with you just to pass the time. It actually felt a lot like home. Oklahoma isn’t a “pretty city” but you can find some amazing places if you take the time to look, and I think Oklahomans are some of the friendliest people around.
I really fell in love with Berlin; it was completely foreign to me, but it felt so familiar. It was perfect.
Today I went to an international event. Well, kind of. It was put on by the Student Association of Bangladesh. However, the speaker primarily focused on his journey to becoming a chemical engineer, not necessarily international things. The talk was held at Meacham in the Union and served with free pizza. My friend Sakee, who I had gotten to know last year with my participation in Bangladesh culture night, introduced the speaker. His name was Dr. M Sam Mannam. He was currently a big guy at Atm and his presentation was called ‘ A serendipitous Journey for a Chemical Engineer’. Being foreign, he undoubtably ran into obstacles but overcame them in his pursuit of one of the most demanding feilds out there.
The words that stuck out to me most were that when you run into something you can either see it as 1) a problem. 2) a Challenge. and 3) an oppurtunity. It got me thinking of how a different mindset totally changes the approach to addressing a situation. Dr. Mannam took advantage of what he saw as oppurtunities, instead of problems. This allowed him to excel greatly. Overall the talk was inspirational and a reminder to always see things in a light that will end in improvement or something beneficial.
Before I went abroad last summer, I had grand visions of what traveling would be like. I thought that I could live similarly to how I lived in the US, I would just be in a different country. Besides, Europe isn’t that different from the Americas, right? Well, kind of, in comparison with Asian and African countries perhaps, but the differences that do exist are large. Below are some aspects of my life that have never really been the same when I’m abroad.
- Food: I’m vegetarian, so there isn’t as much variety in the food as what a meat-eater would find, maybe, but the differences I’ve experienced are quite big! I try to eat healthfully, with a lot of fresh fruits and mostly whole grains, but while some aspects of American cuisine have found global popularity, such as french fries, others really have not. What I eat largely depends on where I am, but I’ve found that I really don’t have a problem with that.
- Exercise: I make a very sincere effort to go to the gym at least 3 times a week, but never when I’ve lived abroad have I been able to replicate this. There simply have not been gyms nearby, and sometimes I choose instead to go on runs outside, but even this is so variable based on the weather (running out in the heat is no fun and I will not do it no matter how good it is for me).
- How often I talk to non-local friends and family: Let’s face it, when we go abroad, basically everyone that is not there with us is non-local, and it takes extra effort to communicate with them. I usually talk to my parents on the phone every other day, or every three days, but when I’m abroad, I’ll often go two weeks without talking to them at all, save text messages assuring them I’m alive. Friends are even worse. I won’t talk to anyone on the phone, preferring instead loooooong emails that serve kind of as diary entries that I recount the events of the day in. I don’t text my friends at all when I’m not in the US! I send fewer snapchats and respond to fewer GroupMe-s. You’d think that it would be the opposite, and that I would want to share more with them about my adventures, but the truth is, I’m so preoccupied with absorbing it myself that I don’t think to share.
I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that my life isn’t the same abroad as when I’m in the United States, quite the opposite in fact. Changing my life gives me more insight into who I am as a person, and I love that it gives the opportunity for growth.
This weekend I spent 37 hours in Paris! It wasn’t a ton of time, but I still feel that I got to see so much of the history of the city. I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the catacombs, and the gardens outside of the Louvre. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore the Louvre because I was running out of time, but I’m not really a museum type of girl anyway.
Somehow I always seem to forget that I’m afraid of heights until I find myself hundreds of metres in the air. Where was I when I remembered in Paris? On top of the Eiffel Tower.
After that I kind of gave up. I wanted to climb the bell tower of Sacre Coeur – and I wasn’t about to let my fear stop me! – so I just kind of ignored it. And Sacre Coeur was definitely worth it! I felt like Quasimodo, clambering around the roof of the basilica with all the gargoyles! (yes, I know Quasimodo lived in Notre Dame’s bell tower, but I didn’t see that. Besides, Sacre Coeur is way cooler!)
Notre Dame was also really cool (and it’s free to visit for all you tourists out there), more so because of it’s history than anything. But the structure was awe-inspiring!
Unfortunately I only saw the Arc de Triumph and the Louvre from a distance, but they were both really cool, and I did
get to walk through the Louvre’s gardens!
But my favourite part of Paris was definitely the catacombs! I’ve read about them a lot and they were everything I had imagined them to be. Including extremely creepy.
I’m very glad that I got to go to Paris; I wish I could have stayed longer. But I think that I’ll make it back one day!
It rains. I take great pains to take away
The worms from the pavement, the cold seeps through
My scalp. The skies eyes have broken today
In sorrow. The worms know not what they do.
My fingers peel their bodies from the ground
Antagonized by weight of feet and wheel,
Returned to grass where life is likely found.
To their smallness surely rain seems surreal.
The drops surround us, rising to our heads.
Clouds breathe down their grief, collapses my spine,
The worms escape my hands back to their beds.
Unnatural end with life now unalign.
I leave them saved from death so sure to be,
Hoping someone will do the same for me.
Part of me never thought I would miss home this much. It’s strange to admit the presence of a previously unknown and unusually strong attachment to places I call home.
After such strides to prove my own independence to myself, it almost feels like defeat.
So, as I drudge through a strangely difficult month on the Emerald Isle, I count up everything I miss about my little corners of the South.
- The sunshine. After months of reassuring those who asked that ‘No really, I love rain!’, I have given in and will admit that these grey months have affected me more than I ever realized. All the more reason to count down the days until I can once again soak up every drop of sun! And a lesson to be learned here – be more in tune with how different weather affects you, and then make an effort not to move to a place that has the potential to put a damper on your mood.
- Biking. Sure, I could’ve summoned up my courage and learned to navigate these new roads, but, alas, I was too afraid. People driving on the left side (and twice the speed limit, at that) still confuse me, and I’m amazed I haven’t been run over yet just walking to class. Add perpetually slick roads, and you create a disaster waiting to happen for infamously clumsy me.
- That twang. I find myself slipping into a strange mix of what I would call a pretty far-gone Texan accent along with lots of quirky Irish slang. Being in Ireland has brought the Texan out in me, a piece of me I never thought existed in such prominence. I wake up sweating in the middle of the night and nearly start crying because I had a dream about breakfast tacos that I just can’t have. (Ok, not really.)
- My campus. A beautiful place where I could bring a blanket and a sandwich just about anywhere and call it a picnic. Oh, and the hammocks. I know, such a cliche college tradition, but I think I know what I’ll be asking for this year as my birthday approaches. UCC and OU are both beautiful in their own ways, but I find myself longing for familiar little nooks and crannies I frequented last year.
- My people. I’ve said it before and will no doubt again, but there are a lot of faces I will be quite happy to see again mere months from now. Letter-writing and Skype help, but I’m very much a huggy person. That said, I try to avoid thinking about how I’ll feel when it finally sinks in that there are faces here in Ireland that I won’t be seeing (mere months from now).
Now, the ‘big news’: I’ll be flying home the Saturday after finals (May 7th), packing everything up and heading up to Oklahoma the next weekend. Less than a week at home freaks me out, but I will be taking summer classes! Which sounds like about the worst thing ever, but it’s all to get back on track with my new degree.
And after thinking about all the friends I can adventure with, all the sunshine I’ll be taking in, and all the new stuff I’ll be learning (in quite a condensed fashion), I’m actually pretty darn excited. Call me crazy, but somehow I can’t wait to see Norman once again, even if it is to inhale 10 credit hours’ worth of knowledge in just under three months.
Looking forward to enjoying Ireland while I’m still here, but I’m no longer afraid of the future, either.
PS. To get ready for summer (yes, I know it’s two months away), here’s a great playlist I just discovered. This, plus Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl, equals a pretty great Sunday afternoon.
Feb 18, 2016
KCC finally started back up with lessons (well, kind of) this week. Everyone that attended this week’s meeting took a placement test to see what level their Korean was. Based on the scores of the tests, we are to be divided into 2 groups: beginner and intermediate. I did pretty well on the placement test, so I think I’ll be in the intermediate group. But, I’ll find out at the next meeting where I’ll go!
There were a lot of new faces at this week’s meeting, including a fellow GEF! I have known Sara since first semester but never really got the chance to hang out with her, and so it was a good surprise to see her. She went to South Korea in the summer on the same program that I am applying to this year. Hopefully I can hear some of her stories or tips for going aboard.
Speaking of studying aboard, I have finished my applications! Now, I have to wait patiently to hear back (hopefully good news!) I have also started to look into other scholarships I can apply to. I have applied for the PITF offered by OU and the Gilman Scholarship, which is a national scholarship. I am also looking into the Freeman-ASIA scholarship, but there isn’t much about it online. Applications for the academic year hasn’t opened yet, but I will definitely apply when it does.