Reflection 1: Unique Perspectives

One of the funniest and most interesting things I’ve experienced in these first few weeks of being here at the University of Oklahoma is the small thrill people seem to experience, and the small burst of pride I experience in exchange, when I tell them I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Of course, not everyone is surprised when they hear this, but the general trend is one of awe. This distinct mystery of Alaska, it’s separation from the rest of the continental United States both physically and culturally, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, Alaskans are proud of being different, but in the other hand, the isolation from the Lower 48 can be hindering. Alaskans often pride themselves in being so far removed form the rest of the US, and as such often limit conversations to “our own thing.” However, I have had the privilege of being exposed to many different stories by default, because Alaska itself is a melting pot of diversity. The Anchorage School District, which I attended all the way through grade school, has three high schools that are statistically ranked as the most diverse high schools in the entire United States (East is ranked number one, Bartlett is ranked number two, and West, where I went to school, ranks number three). In our own way, without even meaning to, we participated in rich cultural exchange, even if we weren’t necessarily exchanging culture with others in the US. Coming here, I have met so many different people that have concerns and passions that are very different to what I’m used to back home. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that Alaska held me back from experiencing stories, because I was exposed to many different perspectives, I will say that I’m excited to get outside of my comfort zone and expose myself to even more new stories every day. For me, I don’t feel limited in my exposure to international cultures and perspectives, but I feel limited in my exposure to my fellow Americans, and I’m excited to explore this new range of stories. As far as on the more national level, I do believe that the United States is portrayed in many different ways to many different countries, much of which is due to mass media. Some see the US as a land of endless opportunity and power, while others see us as bumbling idiots who live in constant excess, neither of which is a fair generalization. Which is why I’m committed to learning as much as I can about all different kinds of countries, and in the event that I have the opportunity to visit them, to represent my country well and engage in interesting conversations with all kinds of people.


1st Reflection

Every story has perspective. Even the history textbooks filled with the names of people and places with historical significance are, to some extent, subject to bias. By all means, the vast range of material available today should compensate for some of the discrepancies; however, I feel as though my knowledge has been limited to very few sources. While there are countless numbers of stories available covering every topic imaginable and in every medium,  one can only absorb so much information. Once we hear one story on a single topic, we tend to cease searching for more information. Instead, we dub ourselves automatic experts or we think we know enough to get by.

Much like Americans have skewed perceptions of other cultures, the rest of the world may also have a limited view of the United States. Thanks to Hollywood and America’s thriving pop culture, many people around the world may be under the impression that every American lives on the beach or drives million dollar cars. In order to change this perception, I will do my best to interact with the international students here on OU’s campus and teach them more about the American experience. In addition, I will attempt to represent the United States as accurately as possible when I go abroad and avoid making generalizations. Ultimately, ignorance is one of the most dangerous faults in modern society, so it is imperative that everyone makes an effort to improve the situation and educate one another on topics that we may not have adequate knowledge of.


Start of the semester post!

Obviously, it’s the start of the semester which seems like a good time to post and talk about some (okay, only one) of the fabulous international clubs that OU offers. I’m talking about Chinese Language club, the best club there is if you want to practice speaking Chinese and go to cool China-themed events. I’ve been trying to get more involved with CLC this year, so I volunteered to table at the involvement fair and talked to some super cool freshmen who joined our mailing list (Probably some GEF’s in there!). I also became secretary for the club, which is pretty exciting.

This semester we’re hoping to host some small, inexpensive events in addition to the usual Moon Festival and Chinese New Year celebrations, specifically a movie night and language practice sessions. If you’re up for free food and learning about Chinese language and culture (or just watching a movie!), we have cool events for you! I’m really excited to see how Chinese Language Club takes shape this semester because it really does tend to be just a little bit different every year. I really hope it goes well now that I’m partially responsible for how things turn out. I’m especially excited for the Moon Festival celebration, which will be on or near September 15th. I haven’t been able to attend the last few years due to crazy practice schedules and then going abroad, and I want to see what it’s all about! Plus there will be moon cakes, which are delicious.

Here’s to a great semester, everyone!


My View on the “Stories” I have Experienced

I am a person who has been born and raised in Frisco, TX. The farthest away from my hometown of Frisco that I have lived is fifteen minutes away in Plano, TX. I have not traveled out of the United States much, and even inside the States my travels have not been extensive. Due to this lack of traveling and diversity, I know that the way I view the world is very limited. I tend to see things only through the eyes of myself and those around me, which are generally very similar to mine. I do not know much about other cultures and have not had a chance to experience life through their eyes. I have only had the chance to read the story that North Texas and its citizens present to me.

I feel that this is a common theme among many people in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. I personally have suffered from a lack of exposure to different so-called stories, and I believe that many other have as well. However, we can change this. I do not need to go travel the world to see different stories, but instead I just need to broaden my horizons. I will do so by taking time each week to learn about another culture and gain an understanding for how others outside of North Texas view things that are happening around the world. By doing so, I will be learning about other stories and gaining perspective on many new and interesting topics, as well as different ideas on those topics which I am already familiar with.

Mo’s Impact

In short, yes. I do feel like I have limited to both the number and range of stories to which I have been exposed.

I was born and raised in smallish-town Ardmore, Oklahoma.  With a population of about twenty-five thousand, Ardmore wasn’t puny, but it had the whole small-town vibe that just wasn’t my cup of tea. I went to the same school with the same one hundred kids for twelve years. I attended the same church with the same congregation for almost two decades. I have even lived in the same house and had the same bedroom for the literal entirety of my life. Not only being surrounded by the same circles of people for eighteen years, but having everyone know each other’s middle names, birthdays, and ten+ cousins who live down the road has made being exposed to new and wide-ranging stories difficult.

However, I will say that I have had a big saving grace when it comes to being globally aware. Let me begin by clarifying that I know only a fraction of her almost unbelievable life, but what I do know has been learned over years of holiday story times, sunset chats, and trips down her memory lane. My grandmother Maureen, or Mo for short, was born in Portsmouth, England around eighty years ago. Because of World War ll, she and her family were bounced around between England and Scotland for several years in her early youth and lost the majority of their belongings and savings a total of three times (her father, my great-grandfather, also deserves his own story about his pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality, but that’s for another day). However, she always managed to retain one specific commodity that changed her life: her bike. By the time she was twelve or thirteen she had already begun solo-biking across England and wherever else she could land; she had lived in Germany and France by herself before she would have even been able to legally able to drive in the U.S. (picking up French and German along the way); and she had left her country, friends, and family behind before she was the age I am today.

And that’s not even scratching the surface.

To reiterate and get relatively back on topic, yes, I do feel like I have been kind of limited in my exposure to the world and its stories. However, I have had an incredible role model who has taught me about the world and its history through an entirely unique perspective–her own life.

You’ll definitely hear more about Mo later. She’s deserves her own book (a joke my father [her son] and I are actually contemplating making a reality) and a lot of credit. She is the reason my love and desire to discover the world, its people, and its cultures is coming to life.

My Housing Situation

I have been in Korea for a little more than 2 months, and I’ve lived in three different types of housing: dormitory, hostel, and gosiwon. I wanted to explain a little bit about each style of housing and tell you which I prefer.

1) Dormitory
I lived in the Kyungpook National University dorm during my first month in Korea. It is a standard dorm room with a bed, desk, chair, and closet. There is also a toilet/shower within the room which I shared with with my roommate.

Pros: This is definitely the most convenient housing as I was on campus, which meant easy travel to classes. There was also a cafeteria, convenient store, and coffee shop located in the basement of the dorm tower.

Cons: Although I am not the best cook, I enjoy making my own meals once in a while. The dorms I was in did not have a kitchen, and the microwave ovens were only located in the convenient store. The air conditioning shut off every couple of hours, which meant it got very hot at night and I had to get several hours to turn it back on.

SIDE NOTE: Korean buildings do not have a central cooling/heating system that America has. They use a machine that is attached to the wall, and it blows out cool air. This means that only places with that air conditioning machine are cooled, and it doesn’t circulate the air very well.
2) Hostel
After my one month stay in Daegu, I made my way to Seoul. I had one month of break before my year at Seoul National started and so I chose to stay in a hostel (Backpackers Inside) for the first week.

Pros: LOTS OF FOREIGNERS. Since the hostel I was staying at spoke both Korean and English, there were many people from all over the world there. I met so many people, and although our stays were short, usually ranging from a few days to two weeks, I learned a lot about their culture and countries. Also, depending on the hostel and room, living in a hostel can be very cheap. One night at Backpackers Inside cost me about $13. This price includes breakfast (toast, eggs, coffee, tea) and the owners clean the building every day. The atmosphere of Backpackers Inside is so lively. They, the owners and guests, make you feel at home and as if you were a part of a huge family.

Cons: Since there were many people staying at the hostel, it can get quite loud. A hostel is not the best place for studying or trying to get quiet time. Also, air conditioning was not included in the cost of the room (if I wanted air condition I had to pay about 500 Won, about 50 cents, an hour through a coin machine).
3) Goshiwon (고시원)

Traditionally used by Koreans studying for national exams, goshiwons are meant as quiet places for study and to basically cut off all contact with the outside world. A goshiwon is a little room with a desk, chair, bed, closet. Other amenities include a shower/toilet room, mini fridge, TV, air conditioning, and a window for a higher price. I paid 470,000 Won for 1 month (around $450).

Pros: It is a quiet place for studying. Since I had the room all to myself, I had lots of privacy to do whatever I wanted (I mostly slept and watched endless Youtube videos).

Cons: It can get quite lonely in a goshiwon because there are not as many chances to interact with the other goshiwon residents.

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Tongin Market 통인시장

Today, I visited a traditional Korean market called Tongin Market. Located in Seoul near the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the market was full of tourists and natives trying to get a glimpse of what life was like before modernization.

Another reason that draws people to Tongin Market is the Dosirak Cafe. Here, you pay 5,000 Won (roughly $5) and you receive a plastic tray and 10 coins. Then, you walk around the market and trade your coins at different vendors for food! A serving of vegetables or smaller side dish will cost one coin and meat or other protein will cost two.
I had a hard time picking what I wanted to eat because there was so much to choose from and they all looked so delicious! In the end, I got a potato pancake, a skewer of pan fried fish, japchae (Korean sweet potato noodles with vegetables), greens, fried chicken, and Girim Ddeokbokki. Girim Ddeokbokki can only be found at the Tongin Market. It is rice cakes fried in oil and red pepper flakes.

It was all so delicious, and I definitely left feeling full and happy. Best of all, it was cheap and a very fun experience.


Bonus Round: Dessert

After stuffing my face with all of the food from the Dosirak Cafe, I walked around the area and found a little shop that sells egg tarts. The smells coming from the shop made me salivate even though I was full. I decided that I had room for one egg tart and treated myself to one. Now, I haven’t had many egg tarts before, but this one was definitely one of the best tarts I’ve ever had.

Egg tart

I would definitely recommend Tongin Market and the Dosirak Cafe to anyone who wants to try a variety of food and experience a Korean traditional market! Also, get an egg tart because it is delicious.

The Danger of a Single Story

In my seminar entitled “Becoming Globally Engaged,” we recently watched a TED Talk by Novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who spoke about the danger of only recognizing a single “story” about another person or country and the grave misunderstandings that may follow. This has prompted me to reflect on the “stories” that I have encountered in my life thus far.

I have spent my entire life in Norman, Oklahoma. Sure, I have traveled with my friends and family, and even spent a summer in Spain with the Rotary Youth Exchange program, but I feel as if (in general) my life has been limited to many variations of a similar “story.” My friends and I all have similar backgrounds, and despite best efforts to explore my environment and meet others with different perspectives, I feel that the majority of my life is encompassed by those with similar socio-economic statuses, familial situations, and past times. This is not to say that I have not seen diversity or explored the boundaries of my peers in my hometown, but as a generalization I feel that my life has been limited in the range of “stories” that I have been exposed to. However, I feel that lots of the traveling, exploring, meeting new friends, and even volunteering that I have done throughout my adolescence has contributed to my desire to thoroughly understand those with different “stories.”

It is the job of all engaged citizens to not be limited in the “stories” regarding any country or situation. Just as many Americans have been limited in their “stories” as others from around the world have been about the United States. Online media makes it incredibly difficult for those who have not had experiences with certain groups of people to generalize their “stories.” As globally engaged American citizens (and Global Engagement Fellows) it is our responsibility to be ambassadors for our country and share our diversity with any who struggle to comprehend our unique “stories.” It is also our responsibility to be an advocate for those whose “stories” are openly stereotyped. Hopefully, in the long run, this will create an environment of mutual global understanding.


Reflection #1

Prompt: Do you feel like you’ve been limited to the number or range of “stories” you’ve been exposed to? Do you feel that the rest of the world is limited in its “stories about the United States? Why? What will you do about it?

The wording of this question is a tricky one. I do not believe that I have been censored in what I hear on the news in the United States. However, I do think that there are a lot of stories that do not make it into the main new stations because of their location. The United States, as a major western power, (if not THE major western power) is Euro-centric. The news from elsewhere is put into the long queue of news stories behind the stories involving the west.

I do feel that the rest of the world is limited to stories of the United States. This problem is not too apparent in the western countries, but in the copious amount of other countries, the news on the US is censored in order to spread the sentiment that the leaders of these countries wish to be held. In Russia, the news is infamous for stretching the truth on the exploits of itself, and purposefully showing a larger number of blemishes in the United States. (As opposed to the positives)

I will attempt to change this by attempting to understand the other cultures. I believe that a majority of conflict/hate, is caused by ignorance. If the countries, and their citizens learn more about one another, I think there will be more understanding and respect throughout the world. Not all countries have to like each other, or the policies of said country, but no country should hate another.