The World War II Memorial in Florence held a deep reverence in its air and respect hung around each gravestone like a cloth over a fallen soldier. The grounds of the memorial touch the heart of an American who had been away from home as sycamore trees and short cut grass shaded and covered the earth, reminders of home. Etched onto the walls of the memorial building were the thousands of names of men and women laid to rest on the property, thousands of miles away from home, but among other heroes they served along side. Inside the building, engraved in pieces is the beautiful eulogy given to the soldiers, nurses, and victims who died in the Italian Campaign. The Americans sought to free Italy from the power of oppressive forces, seeking freedom for all nations, and in turn gave up their own lives fighting for that cause.
The simple fact that this memorial exists and is so beautiful and reverently run by a native Italian shows the mutual respect humanity has for great sacrifice. Great men and women died in an effort to save an entire country from oppression, and that country, now free, seeks to give the honor earned to those brave men and women. Of course the lives lost will never be replaced, but thousands of families chose to have their children, brothers, sisters, cousins and whoever else buried across the ocean in the place they chose to die for. The love and heart for all of humanity, not just ourselves is shown in the beautiful memorial.
Rome is such an odd city. You get out of the airport and drive though a small country side then an urban city. You go down tight streets and everywhere you look people dart around on motorcycles and on foot. Little shops pop up on both sides of the street and buildings rarely exceed four stories in this part of town. But then you go deeper into the city and you look to your right and The Coliseum shows up through building randomly on your left. It is truly as huge as you always thought it would be, but you always imagined it would be in the middle of a little village or surrounded by other ruins, not across the street from Zara.
You keep driving and as you struggle to tear your eyes off of the colossal ruins around you, you look forward to see more urban structures popping up on the sides of cobble stone streets, this time tall and strong looking. I guess when I thought of Rome I envisioned a Tuscan village surrounded by ruins and not a booming metropolis with modern buildings and people everywhere. But Rome has been a metropolis since the beginning of it’s history. The small village quickly became a huge city that regulated and controlled trade, so why would that have changed in a short three thousand years?
This is a very typical twenty-something American girl thing to say, but I had always dreamed of seeing the Trevi Fountain that I had seen in all the movies, particularly Lizzie McGuire. And although there were probably a thousand people there all taking pictures and it was a hot a sweaty day, the Trevi is easily one of the most magnificent sites I have ever seen. All the business and people simply melted away at the sight of the waterfalls and the statues. I loved Italy and all it beheld, but the Trevi has my heart.
This slightly continues on with the idea in the blog names ‘Responsibility’, but deals with the international issue Americans face of being slightly uncultured and highly ethnocentric. Ethnocentrism is defined as an ‘evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture’. Ethnocentrism isn’t a commonly known trait to have by the person who acts as if they do; however, the issues with the term can be felt none the less. We as Americans typically don’t understand why other cultures struggle in oppression or why they don’t just fix their issues themselves. But we are also operating under the idea that every culture has the same “American Dream” mentality as is so common in Western Culture. However, these ideals and our moral compass doesn’t always fit into the cultures across the world. Many people groups and indigenous peoples have had customs and traditions in their civilization that date farther back than even the founding of our country, yet somehow, we think that because they live differently than us, they are somehow wrong.
I believe a solid solution for this issue would be more traveling of individuals. Students, adults, children, who go out into the world seeking a new perspective, and for more than just a week or at a resort. Truly living and abiding in another culture, not just getting a taste, but learning to cook the whole meal. I believe the increase number of students studying abroad will help to alleviate the issue here in America and will help the world to see us not just as stuck up Americans, but as workers for peace and for the common good.
What is our responsibility as Americans? This is a question that has been pondered since the founding of our great nation. The American Revolution was a founding not only of a brand new nation, but also of the idea that a people could start a new and throw off the chains of oppression. After the American Revolution, the next hundred and fifty years of world history were dedicated to the freeing of colonies and people groups all around the world, and even within our own nation. Humanity grew an obsession for the idea of freedom and the right to live as one please, unburdened by the regulations of a government they could not participate in. These ideas are attached firstly to the Western World, and in pieces and fragments to the rest.
So now, two hundred and forty-two years later, the world still looks to us for how to shape government and how to engage in wars and trials. Not only do they look to us for an example of how to do government, because Lord knows we aren’t perfect at that, but they look to us for how we choose to intervene in foreign affairs.
The question I ponder today is should we intervene in the communist climate of North Korea where we know there is oppression and devastating regulations, or should we merely watch from afar and only act if we ourselves are put in danger?
As we contemplate that and research that question further, I will leave you with this quote from Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Learning about studying abroad has opened my eyes to the world (pun) of possibilities out there for a little Spanish and Pre-Med major who just wants to help change the world. When I started going on missions trips five years ago, I saw how much I could help in changing people across the globe’s lives, but never fully understood how much they could change mine. Yes, I could learn how to better love and saw the incredible kindness of people in Central America, but studying abroad is a very different ball game than serving abroad. Serving you are focused on just that, service. Studying abroad, you are learning how to live and coexist in a place you have never been. Going shopping, to school, hanging out with friends, all in a foreign environment that you have never seen before. Serving abroad you have a driven and connected purpose for being there; while studying abroad, you will have time to just relax and experience life in a foreign country a little bit more.
I don’t know if this counts as an international event blog post because it’s just about a study abroad meeting I had, but I learned so much about how the world could change me and my perspective, that I’ve decided it was worthy of a post.
I want to see the world and taste the flavors of culture, but I also want to go and make friends in new places that I have never been before.
Global Engagement Day was a day that left me full of thought and contemplation over how I regard and speak to people who are different than me. I have never considered how my unthoughtful, casual words might sting someone who hear little things on a daily basis. I learned about the word ‘micro-aggression’ that day, which was described as ‘a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority’. These micro-aggressions can take many forms, but they act like mosquito bites; one bite is annoying and might distract a little, but thirty bites is a ridiculous amount to deal with and would be very painful to experience. A person of color might experience an untold amount of micro-aggressions every day, and each word, look, or question is a little bite. The inflictor likely has no idea the negative impact his or her words is having on the person or how many similar things that person has experienced that day.
The most important way to counteract these micro-aggressions is to see a person first and foremost as just that, a person. No one is just the color of their skin or their ethnic background. These things are incredible and so vital to each person’s individualism and who they are, but focusing on just the difference between your looks and theirs and disregarding the fact that they are just another human can cause pain.
The students on Global Engagement Day spoke on these things and described how incredible it would be if people would be friends with them not just because they are international, but simply because they are fun to hang out with and talk to.
This past year, I spent a great deal of time with and interacted with students who attended the United World College in high school. Now known as Davis Scholars at OU, these students live in the residential colleges and attend classes as students; only they have already experienced life away from home and their families (and their countries for that matter) for years.
In high school, students at the United World College leave their home country and their native tongue to study at a high school abroad, full of other students who have chosen the same education from various countries. This exposure gives them invaluable cultural knowledge and insight into how we are all alike in some ways, and how we are all different in others.
Many students while in high school and even more in college will study abroad or at least travel abroad with their families. However, during these trips the students will mostly engage with people from their own home and who understand their culture, because that is who they live and interact with. The unique thing about the United World College is that students are surrounded by people they have never met from countries they have never visited.
As students who has left the country on multiple occasions for brief periods of time, I cannot imagine the stress this puts on a young person, leading me to believe that these students have a strength and fortitude not known to many. These students will be world changers and peace makers, and we are blessed to know them and call them friends.
March 14, 2018
Latino Flavor is an annual event that the Hispanic American Student Association holds every year, and I was so excited to attend this semester. I had heard such good things about the event from last semester, and I had many friends who were extremely involved in putting on the event.
The entire week, HASA spends time promoting Latinx cultures and holds small events the entire week to lead up to their large event in the Molly Shi Ballroom. From llamas on the South Oval to cultural performances during a luncheon, I had a great time attended so many of these events.
LatinoFlavor provides so much food from so many different countries. I got to try so many different foods and desserts. I had Spanish Paella and more. I also got the chance to watch a mariachi band play while eating and drinking and tasting so many different foods.
I learned a lot about expanding my pallet and just forcing myself to try something new and different than what I was expecting or what I already liked. I also got to see so much passion from students about their culture from dancing, food, friends, to pride.