In high school, I did not have many life-changing experiences. I mostly had my head down and did whatever I was told to do to get good grades, build my resume, or get into college. However, one of the few really influential things I did was join Model UN. I joined without a real understanding of what Model UN is or what it means. MUN is a mock conference of the United Nations where high schools or colleges represent different countries to committees. For example, my sophomore year was the first year of my involvement, and I represented Iraq to the World Intellectual Property Organization. I wrote resolutions and caucused and quickly became 1. generally overwhelmed, and 2. completely in love.
Coming to college, I knew that I wanted to continue my involvement in Model UN, as it is one of the driving forces for my interest in a career in the field of international relations. So, bright-eyed, I joined the club and eagerly showed up to the first meeting. It was definitely a shock that not many people came to the first meeting. Anchorage high schools and UAA (University of Alaska Anchorage) have a very robust Model UN program that hundreds of students participate in each year, so it was definitely discouraging to see only a few people come to the first meeting, and even less continue to come to meetings. However, the people that have stuck with it are just as passionate as me about MUN, and it has been an awesome community to be involved in.
A few weeks ago, we hosted the Midwest Model UN Conference for local middle school students. I didn’t really know how to prepare, if at all, so I just went to the forum building, ready to wing it. It was the first time I have been on the administrative side (monitoring the students and leading the meeting rather than debating resolutions and caucusing). It was a shift in perspective, and it was so rewarding to see the middle school kids passionately but respectfully debate their opinions on international issues. I even got to lead the committee meeting for the second session, so I stood up at the front of the room and instructed the kids on what we were doing and what the proper procedure for various actions was. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to leading another committee in March when we host the high school conference.
In the mean time, we are preparing for our own collegiate-level conference February 22nd to 25th. We’re going to St. Louis for the Midwest Model United Nations conference. This week we signed up for committees, and my first choice was the Women, Peace, and Security session of the Security Council and my second choice is the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) because I have a special passion for refugee issues and have represented India to the UNHCR in the past. This year we’re representing France, so we’re looking forward to a busy and heated conference, especially in regards to refugee issues. I’m beyond excited to road trip with these wonderful people to St. Louis and experience what I love at a whole new level.
This semester I have not been nearly as involved with German Club as I previously have been. I have only made it to a handful of meetings mainly to just catch up with my old professors. Its hard to imagine that this is my first semester without taking a German class, but I am always delighted to dust off what I remember. I still hope to go back to Germany in the next 10 years whether for work or play, but for now it looks like I am destined for other adventures.
So currently I am in talks with the Toyo Carp Baseball team in Hiroshima, Japan on what could be a job working with their mascot team. I never in a million years thought that I could be working as a professional mascot let alone as one in Japan. It would be such an uniquely amazing experience that I had to apply for it. I am eagerly waiting for a response, but if I were to get it I would leave the Monday after graduation in May to start my training. Who knows what is going to happen, but I am excited and happy to daydream about the possibility.
I assume many people will write about this red hot topic, so I thought I’d give my two cents.
I can honestly say this was not my first choice, or even second or third. I am a little bit afraid of what Trump is going to do simply because I do not understand what he could possibly do; however, I am much more optimistic than most of my fellow students. I did not mourn Hillary’s defeat, and now that Trump holds the keys, and the codes, we must rally behind him for leadership. Currently his international stance lacks any substance mainly because he is attempting isolationism. I really hope he chooses his Secretary of State wisely because they will probably be left out to dry in all of this. Anyways.
I have faith in the American system, checks and balances, and people to help steer the ship along with Trump for the next 4 years. I am not a Democrat, if anything I am a Republican though anything but starkly, but I do hope that a reaching across the isle will occur to put a cap on any wild attempts at unconstitutional endeavors. I guess what I want to say specifically is that while the country is obviously divided, the world is on edge with Trump-isms popping up, and people are scared about what will happen next, we need to get past bickering and stalling because now its real. We can no longer afford to sit back and be happy when things go our way and scream when they do not. It is time to buck up and lead through compromise. That is what I hope for from a Trump presidency. Use this as a wake up call around the world that there are a lot of things we need to get straightened out together in order to prevent this nationalism from getting out of hand. I just pray it hasn’t already.
This was not a normal international event. Many different cultures celebrate Fall Festivals, but this was not a conglomeration of nations, rather a coming together of a community. It was on a sleepy Saturday while the football team was away, so I decided to check it out. After speaking with the event planner I learned it was one of the ways the University tried to keep the older students more involved with their OU community. It was very simple with a petting zoo and a few snacks, but you could see that there was an impact. From Ugandans to Russians to Chinese, every person was having a blast watching their children play as the students posed with a 10 foot python. Its these simple moments that truly make OU a home, and I am proud that the university went out of its way to make these individuals feel welcome.
This semester the University was able to have a unity day where different voices from around OU were able to give their perspective in combination with others. Sadly David Boren, who was originally going to be opening the two day symposium, was sick, so the dean of the Law School stood in his place. Even through a recited letter, President Boren’s words rang through the hall, inspired as ever. He spoke on how perspective leads to innovation and innovation leads to success. After this speech we were able to hear from a Mexican-American author whose books illustrated the complexities of South American culture. He had images and stories about his time in Mexico and South America which were second to none. Finally, I heard a proud man, a former Chief of I believe the Cherokee Nation, speak about the resilience of his people. It was a humble pride that did not boast about accomplishments to impress, but instead it felt like he was supporting his identity with his fellow people through his successes. I did not have a chance to go the second day, but I was truly impacted with only a peak into some of the perspectives OU has to offer.
I have tried this semester, and intend to continue, to expose myself to Latin American culture. It is a beautiful thing that I have been so fascinated to learn about. In my Spanish class, we started talking about Día de los Muertos several days ahead of time. There was a mixed opinion on it. Some thought it was a strange tradition; other, like myself, loved it. I see it as an incredible way to celebrate life as the blessing it is and also continue to honor those who have passed on. Our Spanish professor asked us what sorts of things would be set up in honor of us. I’m unsure what mine would be completely, but I can assure you it would involve Dr. Pepper, books, and homemade tortillas.
The Spanish department set up an altar for a famous Latin American singer. I visited and was fascinated by the set up. Just looking at it, you could catch a glimpse into the personality being honored and the celebration that was at hand. It had me excited for the festival that was coming up on Sunday.
Friday there was a free shirt pass out that ran out of shirts in minutes. I was salty because I felt like some of those people who got shirts probably had no idea about the festival on Sunday, I, on the other hand, had been faithfully following the event on Facebook from the time it was announced and was stuck in Biology so I didn’t end up with a snazzy shirt.
I went home Friday night and drove up much earlier than usual on Sunday to make it to the event. I drug with me my boyfriend and a few friends from OU. None of them had ever been to or heard anything about Día de los Muertos. I was elated to inform them and have them experience the whole thing with me. An important part of becoming Globally Engaged, I believe, is sharing with others the new things that you learn.
The entire thing was incredibly well handled. I give props to the students who put it together. Everywhere I looked people were laughing and enjoying themselves. People had sugar skulls painted on their faces, there were masks in the sugar skull style available as well. There were those who were born into the Latin American culture and then there were those of us who were new to it all, but no one seemed to care everyone was there to celebrate life and honor the loved ones who passed before us. There was live music- I didn’t get to listen to much. I was the only one in my group who spoke any Spanish, and I speak very little.
All in all, this was one of the neater things I was able to attend this semester and I am so glad I did. I have fallen in love with Día de los Muertos.
Dr. Joshua Landis recently gave a lecture at the President’s Associates dinner held in October. Upon receiving an invitation, I quickly reserved a seat for this highly anticipated talk. As an arabic major, topics regarding the Middle East naturally draw my attention. Arriving at the dinner I was able to spot other students amongst the finery of the older people. They came dressed in suits and fine dresses. Despite being seated near the back of the room (perhaps I should start writing bigger checks to the University’s capital campaign :)), I was seated by a research scholar from China. We discussed her experience so far at OU and she was genuinely satisfied with the University. A aspiring law student sat to my other side and I was able to confirm the myths and truths of law school. Interestingly, across the table I met a senior who had completed a year abroad in Germany as I had. It was comforting speaking with someone who could relate to such a experience that is not shared by everyone and can be difficult to bring up without coming off as a snob. All these encounters happened as I tired to eat the delicious food in the most manner cautious way possible. The drone of the crows slowly became silent when President Boren tapped the microphone at the podium and gave his pep talk speech for the University. From National Merit Scholars to our ranking in college campus beauty, he always convinces me that OU is the best fit for me. Finally finishing with his appeal for state question 779, Boren introduced Landis. His lecture drew fascinating parallels between the “great sorting out of Europe” and the present day sorting of ethnic groups in the Middle East. When the Q&A session began, I was hopeful for thought provoking questions, but was ultimately let down. Some people seemed interested in giving speeches than asking question while others left me baffled and wondering if they bothered to ever open a book. A little harsh on that assessment, but I know it was shared by the stares and shaking of the head from the others. I will certainly try and attend the next dinner and try and keep up with Landis’s Blog. These lectures do indeed bring prestige to the University Community.
At the second installment of Hebrew Club, we all gathered around the TV at Hillel, popcorn in hand, and watched the film Ice Age with Hebrew audio and English subtitles. It was my first time watching a film in Hebrew and being exposed to the language for a prolonged period, and I was surprised how many words and phrases I was able to pick out. Although I am still very much a beginner with Hebrew, I felt more connected to the language as I sat with friends from class and enjoyed a movie with them. Hearing the pronunciation of the words was also extremely helpful; I have found that one of the hardest parts of mastering a language is becoming attuned to its specific phonetics, to the rhythm and tone of the spoken words.
While I was studying Spanish in high school, my aunt, who is originally from Mexico and whose first language is Spanish, suggested I watch movies or TV shows in Spanish to help me practice, as she used this same strategy to learn English. I’ve watched many series since then with Spanish audio, and have indeed found it immensely helpful in my understanding. I am excited to watch more movies and TV shows in Hebrew in the coming months, with hopefully similarly helpful results!