This weekend I travelled to Granada, an historic city in the South of Spain. It is best known for its Moorish fortress/palace, La Alhambra. Even though we planned the trip 3 weeks ahead of time, most tickets to the Alhambra were already sold out because they limit the visit to 6000 people daily. That sounds like a lot but really it’s not apparently, so if you do plan a visit here make sure to buy your tickets to La Alhambra well ahead of time.

We took a bus from Madrid to Granada to get here. Honestly it was so pleasant and so cheap. I would definitely recommend it. The buses have wifi and movies so you hardly even notice the 5 hour drive, plus the scenery is full of Olive farms, mountains, and windmills.

We stayed at a hostel here, again, would recommend. It was cheap and quiet and functional.

My favorite thing we did was seeing La Alhambra and el Generalife, the accompanying gardens. The gardens, architecture, and views were all great. My least favorite thing we did was eat dinner up in the hills near the caves. The whole area had a very “alternative” vibe which, for all its merits, isn’t really my thing. It was hectic and the food was just average.

The funniest/most random memory I have is the bus ride from the hostel to the bus station to come home. First, we got a little lost getting to the bus stop (even though we had directions… oops). Then we had to wait 12 minutes only for the bus to show up and when it finally did it was almost completely full. There was about 5 square feet for 8 of us with bags to squeeze into- that was fun. We flew through all the stops, the bus driver letting people off as needed but ignoring pleas from those waiting to open the front door and let them in, chuckling a bit each time. It was so hectic and squished I was glad it only took like 15 minutes, but we made it and got on our bus and here I am. Hopefully the people he left behind weren’t too inconvenienced??

If I were to plan the trip over again, I’d fit two cities into one weekend, adding either Córdoba or Sevilla. Granada was great, but one day-albeit jam packed- would be enough.

Now, back to Madrid and back to classes, though only a three day week!


Halloween Do’s and Dont’s

It’s the last week in October, meaning it won’t be long until people of all ages will be going to parties and taking to the streets in celebration of Halloween. What’s not to love? Of course, on Halloween there are things you should do and things you shouldn’t do, as always. Below are four simple things to keep in mind and get you started as you celebrate this Halloween.


DO express yourself!

Halloween is an opportunity to get away with wearing something you wouldn’t ordinarily. Take advantage of the opportunity to try something with more visual drama than usual, or radically different than what you do every day. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of this opportunity to try new things.


DON’T wear something offensive.

Dressing up as someone else’s culture is a big no-no, as are things like blackface. These are cultures, not costumes, and dressing up as an outdated, racist stereotype is wildly offensive, most of all to the people who have to face the harmful effects of these stereotypes every day. Just don’t do it — there are a hundred alternatives to each of these costumes that aren’t offensive to large swaths of humanity. For more information about this, here’s an article from the New York Times about cultural appropriation as it pertains to Halloween, and here’s a more tongue-in-cheek perspective from artist Dylan Marron.


DO try DIY!

DIY — that is, Do It Yourself costumes — can be a fun way to make a costume cheaply. DIY allows for more creativity and control over what the final product is, not to mention the possibility of last-minute improvisation. For example, this year I’m wearing a bat costume comprised of a black t-shirt, black jeans, a single-piece fabric “wing” I cut out of an old costume cloak I found in the bottom of my closet, and some Wal-Mart cat ears. Attach the wing to the t-shirt with stolen borrowed black bobby pins (or safety pins, if those are on hand) and you have a fun, unique costume that costs next to nothing and can be pulled together in less than an hour. (Not that I ever procrastinate.)


DO have fun!

Cheesy? Absolutely. Important to remember? You bet. At its core, modern Halloween is about having fun. That’s the focus — not having the best/goriest/scariest/most unique costume, getting the most candy, throwing the best party, or whatever might get in the way. It can be easy to get caught up in this, but wouldn’t it be better to have fun at a small get together of good friends with the truly groundbreaking costume of 99-cent vampire teeth than to be miserable at a lavish party in the best costume ever seen? Don’t get so wrapped up in making the other things perfect that you let it get in the way of having fun.








Going Halfway Across the World…No, that’s not Scary at All.

When I first was accepted to the Global Engagement Fellowship, I knew that it would mean that I would be traveling abroad, away from my family and friends, but I just brushed the thought away since it was still far off. I do not plan to travel abroad until the summer after my Sophomore year, so I still have a while, but now I am seriously looking at where I want to travel to and at times it can be quite frightening.

The thing that has been scaring me the most is becoming sick while being half way across the world from my family. I am very independent and know how to take care of myself and get the necessary medical attention, however it is still a little bit scary. I know that I will have resources such as people to contact within my program if an issue arises, so I know that it will be okay.

In regards to being globally engaged, I am worried about adjusting and not sticking out as a tourist. I do not want to be that person that sticks out like a sore thumb when I am living and studying in another country. To help prevent this from occurring, I will do research beforehand about cultural norms and the do’s and do not’s of the country to where I am traveling. In addition, once I arrive to my country of study, I will make an effort to reach out to someone local and ask for advice of what to do to best become engaged in the culture of that country.


Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival

Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience the Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival in Norman:

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There are llamas. Need I say more?
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The weather this time of year is perfect for experiencing a carnival atmosphere!
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There are several different mariachi-type bands that perform!
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The atmosphere is unbeatable: everyone comes together to celebrate the lives of those who have passed and honor them in their death.
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There’s a little something for everyone: a car show, food trucks, street vendors, henna, face painting, live music, and super fun costumes!
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You can meet people who you otherwise would never come into contact with because Dia de Los Muertos is a unifying celebration, because death is a universal occurrence.
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Everyone should experience the Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival! It’s free and it’s a really neat way to experience another culture without leaving your hometown!

The Future of French Club

I am a part of the French Club on campus, or at least, what’s left of it. Apparently last year all the officers graduated, and there was not really anyone around to take on the leadership role and keep it going. But now, there is potential that we might be able to build it back up again. We have several people in charge now who seem very committed to growing the club, so hopefully something will come from that. Unfortunately, it seems to have kind of died off for this semester, and we have only actually had two or three meetings so far as I know, but that is still better than nothing, so hopefully it will build up again next semester. If I had the time, I suppose I could try to build it back up myself, but I neither have the time nor experience for that, so I guess all I can do is support those who are building it up, and perhaps someday it will flourish again like it used to.

Living with a Chinese Major

As I have mentioned before, my roommate is a Chinese major. She is incredibly awesome at speaking Chinese, and she is always interacting with the Chinese students on campus. Then when she’s back at the apartment, her love for Chinese starts to rub off on me. Again as I have mentioned before, I don’t know any Chinese whatsoever, and I don’t exactly plan to learn it any time soon, but I can definitely still appreciate the Chinese culture. For one, my roommate cooks some pretty amazing Chinese cuisine, and I always love trying her new recipes she gets from her Chinese friends. She has also been introducing me to Chinese music. Sometimes she’ll run a playlist of Chinese songs while we’re cooking, and I’ve started to be able to sing along to some of them, even though I don’t really know what they are saying.

However, there is one thing that “annoys” me about my roommate… I’m the one studying French, yet she still meets more people from France than I do! She came back from Chinese Club one day and told me that a guy from France had shown up because he wanted to learn Chinese. Go figure. Plus, there is a French girl in one of her classes. I have never actually spoken with anyone from France here before, so I have to say that I am pretty jealous of her for that!

What is altruism?

Earlier this week, we watched a TED Talk from a man named Peter Singer. In this speech, he emphasizes the impact of effective altruism. We have a big debate in class about what can be classified as effective altruism. I think that Peter Singer is accurate in his statements to a certain extent. I think that any kind of altruism can be effective because, at the end of the day, you are helping those who are in need of help. I don’t feel completely obligated to help those in need because I also have to take care of myself. With that being said, I think that everybody should take the time to go volunteering and helping those in need. I wish I had the time to volunteer more as a college student, and I plan on committing more time to volunteerism over the next three and a half years of college. I think that seeing the impact that you can have on someone’s life through something as simple as volunteerism is something that cannot be understated. It’s such a heartwarming feeling that I don’t see how anyone could not enjoy volunteering. As a member of a Greek fraternity on campus, I plan on representing the fraternity through volunteering opportunities. In addition, I am hoping to join a student organization on campus that goes out on volunteering events. Though the time commitment might be a problem, I think that the benefit that I can gain from volunteering easily outweighs the costs.


Music from Syria and Beyond

The evening of October 1st was a pretty magical one. For just the cost of a cup of coffee, my friend Sadaf and I were able to attend a beautiful concert unlike anything I had seen (or rather, heard) before.

The concert was extraordinarily simple, featuring just two performers: Kenan Adnawi on the oud and Tareq Rantisi on percussion. What followed was a two hour period of listening and contemplating.

Music has been a huge part of my life since before my birth – I remember the sounds of Peter Gabriel and Lighthouse Family filling the house. But somehow, even with a father who received his bachelor’s at a university in Saudi Arabia and a sister who has collectively spent over two years studying in different parts of the Middle East, I had never listened to any music of that region (save some Egyptian rap my sister sent me videos of on occasion). Therefore it was pretty incredible for my first concert in this genre to feature two very talented musicians from the region.

Although I can’t recall the names of the individual songs, their sound stays with me. The highlight was the moment the two musicians transitioned from original pieces to traditional Syrian songs, and members of the audience began to sing along. Music was meant to be shared this way – not in silence, but in togetherness, either with emotions flooding our heads or the words themselves spilling from our mouths, to share in the awe as one.

OU Cousins

This semester I joined OU Cousins to fulfill my international group requirement. OU Cousins was truly a great way for me to get involved and played an instrumental role in my happiness and success at OU my first semester. Through OU Cousins I was matched with Eva, a Greek student who attended a university in Germany, and had decided to study abroad for the semester at OU. I loved spending time with Eva and getting to know her throughout the 4 month she was here. We attended plays, had numerous dinners, went shopping, and shared our favorite movies. I loved seeing the excitement she had about things I tend to overlook being an American. She was amazed at the immense popularity of football, that a Victoria’s Secret was in every mall, and discovered her love of frappuccinos through Starbucks. It was truly special for me to be able to show her the “American way of life,” and it was equally special for her to teach me about Germany and Greece. Through OU Cousins I was able to gain a better understanding of the Greek culture, Greece itself, and Germany. The cultural differences that were major in my opinion were how amiable Eva was even to strangers. Eva explained to me that in Greece its custom and very common to greet all people you encounter. I loved this ideal and hope to be more willing to be friendly and greet strangers that I encounter in the future. Another major cultural difference that is common across the board for most Europeans is how open they are. Eva and her friends were so open about everything they thought and had no filter it seemed. While Americans view a “filter” as necessary in order to maintain relationships and avoid stepping on toes, I enjoyed being around people who were not afraid to speak their mind, because I believe it helps build better, stronger, more honest relationships. OU Cousins is indeed a great organization to be apart of. In Eva I gained a great friend that I know I will keep in touch with over the years.


Second Wind: Latin America travel stories

The Second Wind meeting last week (we had two this semester!) was over study abroad experiences to Latin America. It started off a bit rocky where I thought I had gotten the day wrong again and the first people didn’t know if they were in the right spot, but we eventually settled in fine. There were 4 or 5 people who had stories to tell, but lots of people had questions so discussion went smoothly. There were so many people that after a little while the table split into around 3 sub-groups with their own individual conversations. One of the most interesting differences discussed was emphasis on accent. People were talking about not going to countries because the Spanish accent there was not to their liking. I’m sure my outlook was colored by my choice of language. For Japanese,  there is one small country that speaks the language so if I don’t like the dialect/accent, tough. It seemed an embarrassment of riches to get to mark off entire countries for something that I consider such a small detail. Anyways, I am glad that Jaci is continuing to setting up these Second Wind meetings; they are probably my favorite GEF event.