Growth Opportunities

As has been noted throughout the year, it’s been really hard to get out and get involved in what’s happening in the world. Add to this my tendency to not avail myself to many of the educational opportunities offered by various international organizations, and it would have been easy to miss out on a lot of knowledge. However, I can safely say that I learned more about German culture and history this semester than any other, in large part through the efforts of the OU German Club.

            This was the first semester in which I took two German courses – German Literature and Film (focusing on the 20th century) and Business German. These two courses helped keep me apprised of upcoming German Club events while also providing educational about various facets of German culture. In Business German we were provided the opportunity to read Max Weber in the original German as well as analysis done by Konrad Adenauer on the “salaried masses.” It was fascinating German philosophical (and economic) thought that has gone on to transform the world. Further, German Literature and Film exposed me to some of the primary German artistic movements of the 20th century and provided me with a lot of context surrounding Germany’s process of overcoming their Nazi past.

Besides the classroom instruction, the German Club events provided numerous opportunities to examine various other facets of German culture. The first event I attended was a forum on internships in Germany. As I interned with the State Department earlier this year, I was invited to share my experiences, as did another student who had participated in a remote internship over the summer. The short story is this: if you can intern in Germany, you probably should.

            The German Club brought in an outside speaker for the second event I attended this semester – a discussion on the history and current state of gaming in Germany. This lecture was fascinating, for several reasons. First, the discussion included lots of interesting information about some of my favorite modern board games. For example, I hadn’t known that my favorite board game of all time, Settlers of Catan, was created in Germany. Second, the speaker discussed the evolution of board games from simple entertainment commodities to a form of artistic expression in their own right and the accompanying push by game developers for recognition. I had never thought about the process and difficulties of bringing new games to market, and I didn’t realize that for most of gaming history, game developers did not receive much popular credit for their work. Finally, the discussion ended by noting one of the largest trends in computer games in Germany: agricultural simulations. In these games, players (frequently living in urban areas) simply drive farm equipment (harvesters, tractors, etc.). This trend is notably ironic given Germany’s long history of war games.  

            Although my course-load prohibited me from attending all the events I found interesting, two other events deserve honorable mentions. One event was a lecture covering one of the continuing challenges of German reunification – legal uncertainties regarding the proper ownership of houses in former East Germany. Another was a bake-along event for the traditional Viennese cookie, Vanillekipferl. (Although I didn’t attend this event, I did bake some Vanillekipferl, and they were fantastic. Would highly recommend.) In short, The OU German Club provided many high-quality opportunities for myself and other students to expand their knowledge of German culture and history, and I’m excited about continuing my involvement in events that they host.

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A Technological Triumph

In spite of all the darkness in the world in 2020, one recent, inspiring example of international is the cooperation between BioNTech (a German biomedical firm) and Pfizer (a United States biotech company) have jointly created the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for emergency use by the FDA. Obviously, these are not the only firms who have acted to create a COVID-19 vaccine – Moderna (another US firm) has also created a vaccine now being deployed, and other multi-national firms (e.g. Astrazeneca, partnering with Oxford University) are also in the process of creating a vaccine.

            The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is particularly noteworthy because it highlights what can be accomplished through international cooperation. As noted, while this partnership is not unique, it first demonstrates that international cooperation can produce remarkable results. More impressive than being the first vaccine to receive approval by the FDA is the creation of any effective vaccine within 9 months of starting. I’ll confess that nine months ago whenever a COVID-19 vaccine was first discussed, the prospect that one could begin deployment before 2021 seemed preposterous. And yet it was accomplished; and that deserves recognition.

While the creation of a vaccine is a testament to the incredible results possible from international cooperation, effective dispersal of the vaccine is also going to require tightly coordinated efforts from governments around the world. COVID-19, although it has impacted some nations more than others, is not the problem of a single nation; it’s a truly international challenge. Indeed, as international travel picks up, if COVID-19 remains a substantive problem for any nation, it will also remain a problem for all nations; as was evidenced earlier this year, COVID-19 won’t just remain in one place. Clearly then, dispersal of the vaccine will require coordinated international efforts to ensure that all nations have access to the resources required to surmount the challenge provoked by COVID-19. Certainly, COVID-19 has not always (or even mostly) brought out the best in us. But I hope that as we look back at the dispersal of the vaccine (and hopefully at COVID-19 as well), we can see the tremendous potential of coordinated international efforts.

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Life in the Matrix

            I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that COVID-19 has changed, and will continue to change, the world. These changes are too numerous to exhaustively cover in a single post, so I’ll simply note the one that stands out most in my mind. COVID-19 has, in ways not seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall, divided country from country. This division – seen primarily in travel bans – can be seen as a macrocosm of the pandemic-mitigation measures implemented across the world.

            Although I have lived in Oklahoma for the past four months where social distancing measures and mask mandates are, at best, loosely applied, I’ve still noticed that I’ve felt more isolated in previous years. Attending classes on Zoom and doing homework in my house (or more specifically, my bedroom) made it easier to separate from the outside world. My world just felt small, constrained, and isolated. It was so easy to forget that there’s a whole world outside of my bubble. This isolation – or at least separation – from the ‘rest of the world’ extended to my connection with other countries. Although international news was much more common than in “normal” times, the world outside of Oklahoma (and on a larger scale, the US) seemed much farther removed. Nations aren’t just a plane flight away. Rather than a “community of nations” – which has arguably never really existed – the world seems more starkly divided into its disparate parts. The world (certainly the accessible world) just seems smaller.

These isolating effects of COVID-19 aren’t just constrained to individuals – they’ve been seen in international relations in ways that seem unique in my lifetime. It was shocking earlier this year when Poland, the Czech Republic, and ultimately most European nations closed their borders to others in the EU (and naturally, the rest of the world). Indeed, only this week, France has closed access to UK citizens after a new, and more contagious, strain of COVID-19 emerged in Great Britain. These aren’t warring nations – these are allies. The closures aren’t due to strained international relations – it’s in the interests of public health.

Now, I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion of pandemic mitigation measures. I don’t know what the right answers are – I don’t think that widespread (or universal) shutdowns are the solution, but ignoring the problem seems riddled with errors of judgment as well. One idea seems critical, whether it’s considered on an individual, societal, or international level: going in alone is destined for failure. I lived the first half (or ten weeks) of my fall semester trying to succeed alone – in part driven by pandemic cautions. In mild terms, it blew up in my face. Across society – whether one looks at the United States or other nations around the world – COVID-19 has laid bare deep-seated divides. As already noted, nations have erected barriers against allied nations in hitherto (in my experience) unexperienced ways. I concede that barriers might have to be temporarily enforced between nations; however, it’s critical that we (as nations) not create an island, insulated and independent from all others. Fundamentally, that’s not representative of how the world works. While each citizen might possess limited power to influence policy, we can (at a minimum) remain informed of events from around the world, act when we can to alleviate the sufferings of others, and refuse to (mentally) sequester ourselves at a time when (physical) sequestration is required. We must not resign ourselves to the blue pill, to a matrix of our own creation.

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International Travel

One thing that I have been extremely interested in this semester is international travel and how that has been affected by the pandemic. This has affected so many people and I have been interested in what other countries are doing to protect themselves and work to open themselves back up for travel. One thing that really interested me is that there are some countries, such as Taiwan that are accepting study abroad students and are open for travel again. I think this is because they are in general a much cleaner country. I know someone who traveled there a few years ago and they said wearing masks when you are ill is the normal thing there, so they were much more prepared for the hit that COVID took. I am interested to see how countries continue to open back up for travel as the vaccine begins to be used and hopefully COVID cases begin to decrease.

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Dance

Another Instagram live event I got to go to was also through the oupueblo account and it was on dancing. I got to watch people showcase Hispanic dancing and how that is such a big part of their culture. Dance is something that has always fascinated me because it is something that I do not participate in or know much about but is so vital to countries culture. I really enjoyed getting to experience this part of their culture.

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Understanding the Global Community

This semester I was able to take the course Understanding the Global Community where I was able to broaden my views of the world and look at different perspectives and understandings of the world. This class helped me to look at events happening around the world from multiple perspectives and helped me to learn to analyze those perspectives. I really appreciated getting to look at issues from a global view and not just an Americanized view because that is hard to do. I also really appreciated getting to learn about COVID around the world and dive in a little to how other countries have been handling it and what has worked well and what hasn’t. This class helped me a lot with critically thinking about events around the world.

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Tour of Pueblo

This semester, getting involved in international events looked much different. One opportunity that I had was to get a tour of Pueblo, Mexico via Instagram live. I got to see many of the sites and experiences that students who study abroad there get to have. I got to see the city and learn a lot about the culture. It was really cool to get to be involved in this and get to see somewhere from my phone. They also talked a lot about the OU school their and the opportunities that they typically have to study abroad there. They showed a lot of spots that students who study abroad typically frequent. The experience was really cool and I was glad that I got to do it.

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Por que las precuelas y secuelas de Star Wars son realmente buenas

El título de este blog me causaría problemas con mis padres. Cada vez que aparece Star Wars, defienden con vehemencia su creencia de que la trilogía original es la única trilogía que vale la pena ver. Para ellos, las otras seis películas de la saga son películas terribles.

Estoy aquí hoy para presentar mi argumento de por qué eso es categóricamente falso.

No soy ni un experto en cine ni un crítico publicado, pero defenderé las precuelas hasta el día de mi muerte. Cuando comenzaban a salir los DVD, la única película de Star Wars que teníamos en DVD era el Episodio II, The Clone Wars. Esta película y el Episodio I son los más criticados de toda la saga de 9 películas. Pero el Episodio II fue mi infancia. Incluso hasta el día de hoy, creo que podría citarlo palabra por palabra. La historia es asombrosa, ver a Anakin y Padme enamorarse a pesar de que va en contra del Código Jedi. Pero el elemento más importante de esta película es el desarrollo del personaje de Anakin. La mayor parte del mundo sabe que Anakin eventualmente se convierte en Darth Vader, pero comprender quién es y cómo se convirtió en uno de los villanos más notorios de todos los tiempos es fundamental para apreciar realmente la saga.

También dentro de las precuelas está la historia de la Orden Jedi y la República. Sabemos en la trilogía original que los Jedi están extintos aparte de Obi Wan Kenobi y Yoda, pero no tenemos idea de qué sucedió para destruir una religión entera. Y como persona de historia, simplemente no puedo aceptar eso. Las precuelas son necesarias para comprender y apreciar completamente la lucha de los rebeldes en la trilogía original y la verdadera maldad del Imperio.

Más razonable para mí son las personas que odian las secuelas. A veces, cuando se hace una secuela de una película, todos desearían que no hubiera sido porque no estuvo a la altura de la película anterior. De alguna manera puedo estar de acuerdo con esto con respecto a la saga Star Wars. Sin embargo, la historia de Rey Skywalker y Ben Solo es demasiado buena para ser criticada como un intento desesperado por continuar la franquicia. Tienen personajes profundos y dan cierre a la saga. Comenzamos a comprender más la Fuerza en esta trilogía y tenemos una comprensión más profunda del universo de Star Wars. Sin embargo, debo estar de acuerdo con la crítica de que los escritores inventaron nuevas reglas con respecto a la Fuerza y ​​el poder de los Jedi que simplemente no encajan en la trilogía original. La Fuerza no tiene el poder de resucitar a la gente de entre los muertos, sin importar si la estás usando para bien o para mal. Los Sith no se han mantenido en un planeta secreto. Esas cosas son ridículas y merecen críticas. Sin embargo, si puedes mirar más allá de esas cosas y ver la increíble historia y el desarrollo del personaje, las películas están increíblemente bien hechas y filmadas.

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Cómo Jane Austen arruinó mi vida

Leí Pride and Prejudice por primera vez cuando tenía 10 años. Mi mamá es una lectora ávida y siempre nos hacía leer el libro antes de que pudiéramos ver la película. Ella y mis tías veían la miniserie de la BBC de 1995 Pride and Prejudice todos los años, a veces varias veces al año, mientras los hombres veían fútbol americano. No me importaba el fútbol en OU cuando era más joven, así que tuve que leer el libro para entrar al club y poder ver el programa.

Durante mucho tiempo, no pude comprender la profundidad o el significado de la novela porque era muy joven. Pero a medida que crecí y salí con algunos hombres y fui perseguido por algunos más, me di cuenta de que Jane Austen destruyó cualquier esperanza de felicidad que pudiera tener. Mi expectativa por el hombre del que me enamoraré es completamente irrazonable. No hay hombre vivo que pueda hacerme tan feliz como el señor Darcy, el señor Knightley o el capitán Wentworth.

Darcy es un hombre guapo, orgulloso, pero escandalosamente rico que se niega a rebajarse por debajo de su posición social para interactuar con la familia de clase media de Elizabeth Bennet. A través del libro que no explicaré completamente aquí, llegamos a conocer el carácter de Darcy para descubrir que es un hombre amable, gentil, pero muy tímido que estaba tan enamorado de Elizabeth que no podía hablar con ella. Movió cielo y tierra para estar con ella, corrigiendo todos los errores que había cometido para ser digno de ella.

El Sr. Knightley de Emma es inmediatamente mejor, pero su lenta comprensión de su amor por Emma, ​​y ​​el suyo a cambio, me preparó para el fracaso. Mi amigo más antiguo es el hombre más maravilloso que he conocido. Creo que podría amarlo si me diera el estímulo adecuado. Pero nuestras vidas no son como libros y él nunca me pedirá que lo ame. Entonces, me pregunto “¿y sí?” por ahora.

Por último, y potencialmente más doloroso, nunca conseguiré que un hombre se enamore de mí, intente casarse conmigo, sea rechazado, se haga rico, regrese siete años después y todavía esté enamorado de mí. Mi novio de la escuela secundaria no se presentará en mi graduación de la escuela de medicina para pedirme que me casé con él porque mi familia me convenció de romper con él cuando me gradué de la escuela secundaria. No estoy en Persuasion, una de las novelas más desgarradoras de Austen.

Estos tres ejemplos son la razón por la que Jane Austen me preparó para el fracaso. Los hombres nunca se comportarán de esta manera. La propia Austen fue abandonada por un hombre que la amaba para poder casarse con una socialité adinerada. Escritoras increíbles han creado hombres que no pueden encontrar, lo cual es increíblemente inteligente, pero también me ha dejado un romántico desesperado. Si muero solo, será porque me negué a conformarme con alguien menos que Fitzwilliam Darcy y decidí que podría vivir mucho más feliz solo que en un matrimonio con alguien menos digno.

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Por qué la Bachelor es lo mismo que trabajar en el campamento de verano

 

Este es un concepto que he querido abordar desde hace mucho tiempo. Trabajé en un campamento de verano cristiano como consejera durante dos veranos y como enfermera durante uno. Mientras estuve allí, vi cosas increíbles que sucedían en la vida de los niños y niñas que conocieron a Jesús y cambiaron sus vidas. Por primera vez para algunos de ellos, tenían una persona que se preocupaba profundamente por ellos, escuchaba sus luchas y los amaba bien. Esas cosas no se pueden minimizar.

Ahora que he afirmado las cosas maravillosas que suceden en el campamento, puedo hablar sobre la parte divertida de mi vida que son las relaciones en el campamento. Los hombres y mujeres cristianos son famosos en los Estados Unidos, particularmente en el sur, por comprometerse y casarse jóvenes, presumiblemente porque quieren guardar su virginidad para el matrimonio, por lo que quieren casarse lo antes posible. Poner a cien hombres y mujeres de Cristo en un campamento de verano durante 2 meses juntos puede instigar la búsqueda de esa alma gemela perfecta.

Como la primera noche de la Bachelor, la primera noche del campamento está llena de observación y conversación. Los campistas no estarán allí por algunas semanas y pasas todo el día con los otros consejeros conociendo gente y escuchando las partes más profundas de su vida. Este es un gran catalizador para las relaciones. Ves los lados buenos y malos de la gente muy rápidamente. Todos se burlaron de Claire Crawley por comprometerse dentro de las 2 semanas posteriores al inicio del programa, pero cuando te encuentras en una situación en la que tu objetivo es conocer a alguien, el amor puede suceder rápidamente.

Ojalá estuviera hablando en abstracto sobre lo que podría suceder, pero he visto a personas enamorarse en semanas en el campamento. Nunca he estado enamorado, pero lo más cerca que he estado fue después de pasar un verano en un campamento con un hombre que ama a Jesús y es un líder fenomenal entre sus amigos y los campistas que guía. Estás en una burbuja y ves que las mismas personas hacen lo mejor de sí mismas todos los días. No vemos noches de borrachera o la noche después de un día estresante en el trabajo. Solo vemos perfección y alegría.

Esta es una forma interesante de enamorarse. Algunas personas se casan después de reunirse en el campamento, pero la mayoría de las personas se separan y todos sus amigos de verano tienen que tomar partido. Bromeamos diciendo que las relaciones en los campamentos son como relaciones fuera de la universidad. A veces funcionan, pero la mayoría de las veces, después de salir de la burbuja, el amor se desmorona, no sostenido por la adrenalina del campamento de verano.

Este es un concepto interesante para considerar sobre cómo la gente ama. Cómo se enamoran y qué sostiene el amor. Creo que el amor puede ser un fuego lento o una reacción química rápida. No tiene que durar para ser real. Solo tiene que ser fuerte, aunque sea por un momento.

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