Fun Games and New Names

This past Thursday I had an incredible time attending a game night for international students and other OU students wanting to get to know their peers from around the globe. I arrived quite late due to a prior commitment, and I was worried that I would not be able to find a game to join or people who had not already broken off into their own groups. To my surprise, I was instantly greeted with smiles and enthusiasm when I asked a group of girls playing Guesstures if I could join in the next round. As they introduced themselves to me and told me where they were from, I couldn’t believe how many countries were represented! I had the chance to talk individually with many of them and learn a little bit more about their home countries and what they were studying in the US. One of the girls I met even showed me a photo of her hometown in Uruguay, which was absolutely beautiful!
I tend to be shy when I meet people for the first time, and I was surprised by how comfortable I felt. Everyone I met was so friendly, and they welcomed me right away into their international community! The game we were playing added another element of comfort to the situation, because it was based on charades. Since there were varied levels of English fluency present, being able to play a game that utilized the universal language of human movements was an awesome way to connect and have fun. I ended up walking with the group of girls back to the Traditions Apartments, and had even more time to get to know some of them. I began the night feeling quite lost among a sea of students from other countries, and ended up making some great new friends!

Language in Morocco

One of the most fascinating aspects of Morocco during my time there was its linguistic diversity. Arabic is the native language of most people, except when it’s Berber. Almost all higher education in the country is in French, and many educated, upper-class Moroccans speak French better than Arabic. French is also the principal language of business in the country. In the north of the country, there is still a large segment of the population that speaks Spanish, a product of geography and a legacy of the colonial era, during which much of northern Morocco was under a Spanish protectorate.
Still, it is frustrating as a student of Arabic to visit an Arabic-speaking country and find that many people don’t want to speak with him in Arabic. Instead, throughout my three months in the capital, Rabat, and across the country, I found people more disposed towards speaking with me in French than in Arabic. Most of the time I would have to repeatedly speak in Arabic before a Moroccan would respond to me in Arabic, and even then that didn’t always work. In the eyes of many Moroccans, the local Arabic dialect, Darija, is viewed almost with disdain, whereas French is the language of the “educated” and “cultured”. My host mother, a university-educated woman, preferred to speak with me in French as opposed to Darija. There are a variety of reasons why Moroccans do this: to seem educated, because I’m European by ethnicity, to make life easier for me (my French is much better than my Arabic), etc. However, I must admit that this had to be one of the most frustrating challenges I faced during my time in Morocco. While Morocco’s polyglot character was delightful, especially given my background growing up in a decidedly monolingual region, I was disconcerted by Moroccans’ dismissal of their own language as somehow inferior to French or classical Arabic. I greatly enjoyed speaking and learning Darija and I believe that it is every bit as worthy a language as French, and even if Moroccans view France as a model for the country they want to become, they shouldn’t dismiss their own culture and language in so doing.

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Estoy Aprendiendo Español

As I write this, I have officially finished my first week of Spanish. I say finished, I mostly just mean muddled through. Every single day of the class I was lost. Our instructor is fluent. Most of the students in the class have had some background in it. Therefore, from day two the class has been taught in exclusively Spanish. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t want to cry because I had little to no idea what was going on. We had a homework assignment due at the end of this week that I just finished last night. Any guess how long it took me to complete?

Six hours.

That’s not distracted browsing on Facebook and pinning quotes on Pinterest work either. That is sitting down and focusing completely on the task before me. I am positive that I have never spent that long on an assignment- ever. In high school, I took difficult classes, but none that challenged me near as much as this class has and we’re “just getting started”. I am so far out of my learning comfort zone. Already, though, this class has challenged me to a broader view of the world.

Probably the third day of class my instructor, Señora Audas, came into the classroom a flurry of activity as usual. She pulled out her phone and started chatting excitedly in Spanish. She told a story with large hand motions and a smile in her voice. I listened intensely, desperate to understand. At the end, she and the majority of my classmates laughed. I wanted to cry. I felt isolated. I felt stupid.

You see, in high school, there weren’t that many times that I really struggled to understand a concept more than any of my classmates. If I didn’t get something- hardly anyone else did either. I graduated with a 4.0. I was part of the National Honors Society. I was an Oklahoma Academic All Stater. School was my comfort zone. Now, here I was completely lost. I had to take a deep breath. I had to remind myself to be patient with me because I am just beginning.

It hit me that there are so many incredible people who experience that every single day when they come to America. People who are stunningly intelligent and experts in every field with more knowledge than I could ever hope to obtain who come here and feel that same way when it comes to speaking English. I suddenly could sympathize (though my Spanish class is a substantially smaller scale) with those I see from other countries struggling to grasp the language I just happened to be born into. This moment reminded me to have compassion for those struggling at the post office, or at the restaurant, or even just in front of me in class.

I challenge you to do the same. Open you eyes and open your heart. Don’t take things for granted because you never know when you’ll be on the opposite side of the situation.

 

Cross posted onto my personal blog found here.

The Danger of A Single Story

This semester, I made the great decision to enroll in a course called "Becoming Globally Engaged." This class is a two hour course that was created specifically for Global Engagement Fellows, a group of students who have applied to the Global Engagement Fellowship and are receiving a scholarship to study abroad during our time here at OU. In the short amount of time that I have been here in Norman, my GEF friends have become like family to me. They are all so inspiring. Many of them have been abroad or have had the incredible opportunity to surround themselves with international students throughout their time in school. I am amazed at how much they teach me every day. This week alone, I've found a friend who is studying Spanish and European Studies. He is very smart and well spoken, he knows a lot about a lot of things and I love talking to him. I met another girl who I have two classes with. She is so kind and bright, I know she is going places. She is also studying Spanish and Arabic at the same time! As unbelievable as it may sound, every person I have met from this program is like that. My instructor, Jaci, is also such a blessing. She studied Arabic as well and she calms my nerves about the language. This week, she had us watch a TED Talk video entitled "The Danger of A Single Story." In this video, a Nigerian woman discusses the dangers of only seeing the world, or a particular situation, in a particular light. She talks about how most Americans think that Africa is an AIDS ridden "country" that needs our pity but she also analyzes her own experience with a single story in that she never knew that the house boy who worked for her family could ever be anything but poor. This is a incredible view because, if you think about it, your family can really only raise you to see a single story. It is up to us to go out and see those other stories. Many of us are stuck on a particular story. Before deciding on my major, I really only had a single story of the entire Middle East. My story read that the Middle East was a war torn area with no hope of survival because of the conflict between differing religions. What I know now is that this is a very long story with origins that I can not begin to understand. The story begins with a rich culture and heritage, beautiful architecture and a history more deep than that of Europe's. If I had continued to only read my single story, I never would have found the joy and satisfaction that studying the Middle East and its languages brings me. I think that, in particular, our nation has trouble recognizing that there are other stories that we refuse to read or even acknowledge. The world has a story of us that we mark as misconceptions and outright lies to defend ourselves and our practices. The only way that we can end the trend of only reading a single story is to read the stories of others. Once you (the royal "you") stand up and make an effort to understand someone else's culture, they will do the same for you. Just make sure that when others begin looking into your story, it is a story that you want them to read and spread to the rest of the world, otherwise that story will become the single story that you are judged by.




Watch the TED Talk here
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The Danger of A Single Story

This semester, I made the great decision to enroll in a course called "Becoming Globally Engaged." This class is a two hour course that was created specifically for Global Engagement Fellows, a group of students who have applied to the Global Engagement Fellowship and are receiving a scholarship to study abroad during our time here at OU. In the short amount of time that I have been here in Norman, my GEF friends have become like family to me. They are all so inspiring. Many of them have been abroad or have had the incredible opportunity to surround themselves with international students throughout their time in school. I am amazed at how much they teach me every day. This week alone, I've found a friend who is studying Spanish and European Studies. He is very smart and well spoken, he knows a lot about a lot of things and I love talking to him. I met another girl who I have two classes with. She is so kind and bright, I know she is going places. She is also studying Spanish and Arabic at the same time! As unbelievable as it may sound, every person I have met from this program is like that. My instructor, Jaci, is also such a blessing. She studied Arabic as well and she calms my nerves about the language. This week, she had us watch a TED Talk video entitled "The Danger of A Single Story." In this video, a Nigerian woman discusses the dangers of only seeing the world, or a particular situation, in a particular light. She talks about how most Americans think that Africa is an AIDS ridden "country" that needs our pity but she also analyzes her own experience with a single story in that she never knew that the house boy who worked for her family could ever be anything but poor. This is a incredible view because, if you think about it, your family can really only raise you to see a single story. It is up to us to go out and see those other stories. Many of us are stuck on a particular story. Before deciding on my major, I really only had a single story of the entire Middle East. My story read that the Middle East was a war torn area with no hope of survival because of the conflict between differing religions. What I know now is that this is a very long story with origins that I can not begin to understand. The story begins with a rich culture and heritage, beautiful architecture and a history more deep than that of Europe's. If I had continued to only read my single story, I never would have found the joy and satisfaction that studying the Middle East and its languages brings me. I think that, in particular, our nation has trouble recognizing that there are other stories that we refuse to read or even acknowledge. The world has a story of us that we mark as misconceptions and outright lies to defend ourselves and our practices. The only way that we can end the trend of only reading a single story is to read the stories of others. Once you (the royal "you") stand up and make an effort to understand someone else's culture, they will do the same for you. Just make sure that when others begin looking into your story, it is a story that you want them to read and spread to the rest of the world, otherwise that story will become the single story that you are judged by.




Watch the TED Talk here
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About Me

Alex_Moore1

Hello Everyone! My name is Alex Moore and I am from Tulsa, OK, I graduated from Jenks High School. Although my major is undeclared, I am very interested in sports photography and international studies (of course). You can usually find me reading my latest book or watching Teen Wolf in my free time (when I’m not studying). I applied for the Fellowship after hearing how much my older brother benefited from his experiences with it and I hope to broaden my understanding of the global community and the people part of it.

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About Me

unnamed

Hey y’all! I’m Emily Zhou from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I recognize that my parents are first-generation immigrants from Jiangsu, China, and I just started my About Me page with the contraction “y’all.” But I’ve lived in Oklahoma for over a decade now and grown to call it home. Before that, I lived in Ohio and was born in Virginia.

I’m a freshman psychology/pre-medicine student at the wonderful University of Oklahoma, and I hope to one day be a pediatric electrophysiologist. I am so grateful to be a part of the Global Engagement Fellowship. The people I’ve met here are so intelligent and thoughtful. During my undergraduate years, I hope to go to China for at least a semester and Denmark for a summer. I’m definitely eager for the start of OU Cousins, education abroad, volunteering, and all of the other activities that await me at OU!

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Traveling Colombia

So I’ve been MIA this summer, basically for the BEST reason possible. Thanks to the Global Engagement Fellowship and the LEAF Leadership Fellowship, ya girl was able to go back to the motherland and explore its wonders. Colombia has a special place in my heart, but not because of the “life-changing experiences” I had while traveling it. It’s because my family is there, mi sangre, and this summer I had the amazing opportunity to get to know them. They showed me their country and loved me like they’ve known me forever. Talking about this is makin me emotional, mainly because I miss them so much even though it’s only been a week and a half. So let’s move on to the stuff people want to know.

 

This isn’t really a travel blog I guess, but I remember before my trip I looked up “best places to visit in Colombia” or “places to go out in San Andres”. What I found was typically very broad information, with basic touristy locations and/or really out of the way places and I didn’t really trust them. But they were typically right so if this sounds repetitive, sorry but know that I Actually went to these places and liked them.

OK LET’S BEGIN

The exchange rate is currently really great for any American or European visiting, 3000 Colombian pesos to $1. You will love this so much.

 

I’m going to start with Bogota, because I got to know this place better than the other places.

FOOD IN BOGOTA

So so cheap here and so good. I typically paid $3-$5 per meal, and if I was wanting high-class gourmet food, $10-20. If you want some delicious food, Go Anywhere. But I know being a foreigner, it’s kind of scary just walking out in Bogota and asking around for places to eat. That also isn’t necessarily the safest or most reliable thing to do. But Parque Usaquen has some great food. This was a 15-20 minute taxi ride from my place (on Calle 138) but every restaurant there is amazing. They also have a flea market on Sunday mornings called Mercado de las Pulgas. 11/10 recommend. They have great fresh food at this market and amazing art. Leave your house around 9 in the morning, because it will be a little difficult with Ciclovia- which happens every Sunday where streets are shut down and people go running or bike riding. If you want to eat at a restaurant in Usaquen on Sunday, expect a wait.

If you’re closer to the centre, there are good places to eat that I don’t really know of. I’m not going to lie, I got really comfortable where I was and my grandmother made me a lot of amazing food. I wasn’t the explorer that I said I would be. But in the Candelaria area there are great restaurants. Zona G is also really good, G standing for gourmet. Zona T also has some really great food places. Domicillios is also an app where you can order food. This is very good for hypothetical mornings where you’re so hypothetically hungover you can’t move. Andres DC (Andres Carne de Res in Bogota not Chia) is also a good option if you want to go to a restaurant. If we’re talkin chain restaurants, Bogota Beer Company has great beer and food (I don’t really like beer but it was good there?) and so does Crepes & Waffles. If you want a good cheap burger, El Corral is also good. Also, at the base of La Calera, there are some really good restaurants that serve lots of food in huge baskets. WOK is also amazing and right next to the Museo de Oro and the Museo de Botero.

Also a staple of Bogota is the ajiaco. It is so good and will warm your soul. Side note: be careful with street food.

ok enough of that

PLACES TO GO OUT & GET YAH GROOVE ON IN BOGOTA

We’ll keep this short because this was a university funded trip. Zona T aka la 85. This is where you will find the good “discotecas” or clubs in Bogota. Bogota Beer Company is always a good place to chill. I was told that Baum is a good club and apparently the restaurant Andres DC transforms into club which is also cool. Not sure where Baum is. I went to a place called Plaza Mexico one night, and they have really amazing mariachis. And I’m not really a mariachi girl but they were so good, and the atmosphere was really fun.

GETTING AROUND

Before I got here, my mom and family were all telling me “don’t use TransMilenio” or “don’t use taxis”. If you’re in Bogota to study, you will have to use both. I used Uber a lot, it’s apparently illegal to use because stupid politics, but if you’re going home after 6 it’s the best option. For TransMilenio, you will need to get a card. I’m going to ask family where they got mine.

PHONES

Phones suck. Get the international plan where you can still physically call and also send texts for free. Because you will need it when you get lost. If you’re really thinking in advance and have the ca$h munee, get a phone and a plan with from TMobile. They have unlimited international data, phone calls, and texts for apparently $100/month. If you’re not going to change your plan (which makes total sense), just know that I survived on ONLY WIFI and WhatsApp for 2.5 months.

I hated it so much, but it’s easier than getting a burner phone there. My parents gave me an old phone from the States but to use a Colombian SIM card in phone from the States, you have to get a code from your carrier’s website. With AT&T it was pretty easy, but getting the Colombian SIM card to work in that phone was hard because the phone was old. You also have to do this 72 hours before you leave.

 

PLACES TO VISIT

  • Museo de Oro
  • Museo de Botero
  • La Calera
  • Monserrate
  • Andres Carne de Res in Bogota and in Chia
  • Zona T
  • Guatavita (45 min from Bogota)
  • Any place that sells aguardiente. It’s part of the culture, you need to try it.
  • Downtown. Kind of gross (anybody from there would agree) and dangerous but has a lot of cool buildings and old churches.
  • Usaquen
  • La Candelaria
  • Any Bogota Beer Company
  • Jardin Botanico Bogota if you like green stuff
  • Nemocon mines
  • Zipaquira mines

 

LIFE

This is where my family is from and it is the capital of Colombia. I didn’t really live the tourist life here, living in the northern part of the city for a month with my family. Here I worked with the NGO Smile Education Foundation, updating and collating their website material and social media accounts.

When I arrived, the altitude HIT me. Some people can take the change from Houston to Bogota really well. I did NOT. If you’re not a international triathelete (idk if that is even a thing, just somebody really really fit), this may not affect you. But normal people: pack some strong ibuprofen or Aleve because sleeping will be v hard or v easy.  It took me 2 weeks to really acclimate to the altitude.

And don’t even get me started on the water there. I love reading travel blogs on Colombia because they tell you “drink bottled water and you’ll be fine!”. Maybe if you’re there for a few days. But if you are playing the long game, lol at those blogs because you will go to any restaurant and they will offer the most delicious, fresh juice that you Will order. Trust me, you will want this juice with every fibre in your body. And you’ll order it, knowing that you can only drink bottled water. Or you won’t even remember, because you want said juice so badly. It comes with the $3 meal you’re ordering and you will see everybody around you drinking them. Your family or friends will tell you it’s fine. You will drink it and love it because them juices are delicious.

*ONE DAY LATER*

You will be sitting on the toilet all day, watching telenovelas on the Netflix app on your phone, not getting up because it is futile. Accept it. Love it. You may be missing a day of exploring but you will be practicing your listening skills by watching these telenovelas.

 

Ok now things to bring to Bogota if you’re an American studying there (my future list hopefully!!):

  • Peanut butter. Trust me, if you’re a peanut butter fan, you will want a big tub a JIF (Peter Pan if you’re weird) that doesn’t cost you $20. Plus for some reason the peanut butter, even if it’s JIF from Carulla, tastes different. T r u s t  m e.
  • Nice clothes. People here dress super well. Also it’s pretty cold there, I don’t really know degrees and whatnot, but during the morning you won’t want to get out of bed it’s so cold. During the day, jeans and a shirt are perfect. At night, you will need pants, boots, a jacket, and probably a scarf. The weather in Bogota is my favourite.
  • Gifts for people that help you. Trust me, even though Rollos (people from Bogota) are known for being on the colder side, they Will help you. And people love gifts.
  • A credit/debit card with a bank that has partners in Colombia. I messed this up so badly. I legit was living on $300 that I had switched for pesos with my tia for basically a month. Western Union is a good option but not that accessible. Really best to just get a Wells Fargo card that you can use at ATMs. People also don’t use cards that much there and you Will need Colombian pesos. Also don’t forget to call your bank in 2 days before you leave!
  • Make sure your passport won’t expire while you’re gone.
  • Probably some other stuff I can’t remember. 

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