Destination: Heidelberg!

I have some exciting news to share! Thanks to the Global Engagement Fellowship, I will be continuing my studies next semester at Universität Heidelberg, Germany. A lot of work has gone into preparing for next semester, beginning when I arrived at OU in the fall. In the interest of documenting my entire study abroad experience, below are some of the notable questions and processes I have gone through this Fall.

Why Heidelberg? As a B.S./M.S. student, my major requires that I take at least one upper-division mathematics credit while studying abroad. This limited my options considerably, as I needed the course to be taught in English. German universities are currently some of the leading locations for mathematics study, which made studying in Germany a good option. Just as importantly, I am studying abroad primarily to be immersed in a country, culture, and language. If studied in another English-speaking country, I would be missing out on the main reason I wanted to travel in the first place. To that end, I began taking German this past semester. Since then, I am convinced I made the right choice. I love the language and the culture and can’t wait to be immersed in it!

What next? After I decided on a location, I had several meetings with various OU advisors to confirm course equation, graduation requirements, and financial requirements to clear me to study abroad. I submitted the Study Abroad Office application for Heidelberg and was accepted into the program. There was a pre-departure meeting, meetings with the other students traveling to Heidelberg, and a last meeting with my study abroad advisor. Finally, I submitted my official application to Heidelberg, with a recommendation letter from OU. Now, I am waiting to receive my acceptance letter from Heidelberg and then will purchase my ticket.

It has been a whirlwind of preparations and planning, but I am so excited for what’s in store!

Day of the Dead Street Festival

On November 4th, OU had their annual Dia De Los Muertos street festival at the Lloyd Noble Center. A few friends and I went to experience a taste of this Latino tradition. The parking lot of the LNC was covered with tents of vendors, food trucks, a large stage, artists, and a little carnival. All day long, students and locals crowded in to eat, listen to and watch performers, and take pictures.

A few things stuck out to me from this event. First, the performers were wonderful! They gave such a beautiful example of the musical traditions of Hispanic culture. It was also neat to see people of all ages celebrating together on OU’s campus. We also watched street artists spray paint slabs of wood into frightful pieces of art. Perhaps most interestingly, OU’s Intervarsity Latino Fellowship (LaFe) organization had a table that some of my friends were stationed at. They invited passers-by into conversations about how individuals and cultures cope with death.

The Day of the Dead is a fun festival, but it also serves a purpose. It is a way that a culture takes time to commemorate lost loved ones. LaFe’s table has sparked some questions in my own mind that I would like to further investigate. As a Christian, I have a hope after death and my perspective on how I approach loss and grieving reflect that. How might that differ within my own countries’ culture? How do others around the world approach the topic of loss and death? As I study abroad in the future, I hope to keep this in mind and learn how different worldviews and cultures affect these perceptions.

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Kaffee und Kuchen

On November 16th, I attended the Kaffee und Kuchen event hosted by OU German Club. The event was quite possibly my favorite campus activity of the semester.

Naturally, there was coffee and desserts to enjoy while a current OU professors from Vienna presented on the Kaffeehaus tradition in Vienna. Viennese kaffeehauses are places where one goes to spend a couple hours quietly talking or reading while drinking coffee and eating fresh pastries.  Taking your time and quietly enjoying the experience are the main emphasis. The professor also shared about Viennese humor and slang, which unique to the area.

Afterwards, we broke into teams for trivia regarding all things coffee and cake. Needless to say, I learned a lot of random facts about both and there was plenty of laughter involved.

This event made me appreciate German culture even more.  I find the differences between it and American culture so fascinating. This event made me very excited to travel to Germany and experience it for myself!

IFES World Student Day Celebration

Last Thursday, OU InterVarsity held our annual World Student Celebration. The event kicks off the IFES World Student Day of Prayer, which is the following day International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, or IFES, is the larger umbrella organization of InterVarsity and connects campus groups from all over the world. On World Student Day, we get the opportunity to connect with some of these groups, learn more about their cultures and how we can be praying for them.
The celebration began with a pot-luck dinner with cultural dishes from all over the world. Groups then shared prepared presentations on different regions of the world and spoke briefly on the culture and prayer requests of specific campuses in the region. Intermingled in this were songs in different languages, and dancing! We traditionally do the Ukrainian tunnel dance halfway through the night, which never fails to disappoint. This year, we also learned a Latino line dance. Additionally, we watched a video from a current OU alumni who is working with InterVarsity in Ukraine now. After the celebration, InterVarsity set up a prayer room in Wagner that was open during the following day for the IFES World Student Day of Prayer.

This event has to be one of my favorite events that InterVarsity does. How neat is it that we get to dedicate a day to celebrating different cultures, while learning how we can be supporting one another through prayer!

The Ethics of “Fast Fashion”

Last semester during the Global Engagement course, we watched a documentary called The True Cost. The documentary follows the “fast fashion” trend and the impact that cheap clothing has on the environment and the people who make it. Much of this attention to fast fashion has resulted from the Rana Plaza building collapse, in which 1,130 factor workers were killed in a textile factory. The workers had been locked inside the building and were working in dangerous conditions for very low wages.

As the documentary explains, when the clothing industry races to produce the cheapest clothing for its consumers, they cut cost by paying less for labor. In order for factories to comply to the decline in income, they have to cut corners, often endangering the lives of their workers. Theses factory workers often make hardly enough to live off of and work in desolate conditions.

According to The True Cost website, nearly 97% of clothing is made overseas by 40 million garment workers, 85% which are women. These people are often exploited for cheap labor without any oversight to protect their rights.

There is good news, though! Organizations like Fashion Revolution are increasingly making people aware by asking “Who Made My Clothes?” By supporting ethical brands, thrifting, and not subscribing to the fast fashion trend, we can begin make an impact on the conditions of the people who make our clothing.

Find more information at : The True Cost and Fashion Revolution

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Filipino Cultural Dishes

In honor of the end of the semester and preparing to return home for the summer, I want to share an international topic very near and dear to my heart – cultural food! One of my favorite aspects of living in a larger

Palawan Island, The Philippines, 2015

community like Norman is the opportunity to try so many types of cuisine. There have been so many cultural events on OU campus alone that have given students the opportunity to try food from countries all over the world. There are restaurants serving Thai, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German, Greek, Mexican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, and Peruvian foods, to name a few. One of the only types of cultural cuisine I have yet to find in represented is what I miss most – Filipino food.

My brother with an {almost} empty plate of pancit and rice.

I grew up around a Filipino culture with family friends who would serve their classic cultural dishes whenever there was any type of celebration. After visiting the Philippines in the summer of 2015, the Filipino food has become even more nostalgic. In the anticipation of returning home and being reunited with these friends and family, here are a few classic  dishes that I have grown up enjoying:

 

 

 


Pancit (Bihon)

Ingredients:

  • 1lb rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • *choice of meat: ½ – 1 lb. of pork (ground or sliced), and/or chicken (cooked, deboned, shredded), and/or shrimps(shelled)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 10 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cups soup stock
  • 4 tsp oyster sauce
  • *choice of vegetables: cabbage (shredded), green beans (sliced thinly), carrots (strips), celery, sweet peas
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon (sliced) – optional

Directions:

In a wok, sauté garlic and onions. Add meat/shrimps. Once cooked, add vegetables. Set aside. In the same wok, combine soup stock, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Add rice noodles and cook until al dente. Pour sesame oil over noodles and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle meat and vegetables on top of the noodles. If desired, serve with sliced lemons.


Lumpia (Filipino Spring Rolls)

Ingredients:

  • Lumpia wrappers
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup minced carrot
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • ½ cup minced garlic
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.Mix the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. (*you can fry a small amount of the lumpia filling for taste/seasoning, add more soy sauce/fish sauce if necessary.) One sheet of lumpia wrapper requires about 5 tbs of the meat filling. Seal the wrapper with the beaten egg and fry (either over the stovetop or in a fryer – your preference).


Cassava Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 packs grated cassava (thawed)
  • ½ cup condensed milk
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ bottle macapuno strips
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • *for a simple topping – (optional)
  • ½ can condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients and bake for ~ 1 hour.


Many thanks to the Dimaliwat family for sharing their delicious recipes!

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Tea Time with Global IV

The Friday before dead week, I attended the final Tea Time with Global InterVarsity. Tea Time is an afternoon dedicated to meeting and spending time with international students from all over the world. As we enjoyed refreshments and tasty treats, I got the chance to learn more about Chinese and Japanese culture, listened to conversations about global news, and spent time with friends who had studied abroad.

Though I have been an infrequent member this semester, Tea Time is a wonderful chance to get to know international students that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. Global InterVarsity is a chapter of InterVarsity on OU campus, whose purpose is to reach out to international students. For these students, it allows them a chance to experience American culture. Collectively, we get the opportunity to learn about cultures and build a network of friendships that spans the globe.

I highly recommend this international organization and look forward to becoming a more active member in the years to come!

 

The 2018 Puterbaugh Festival

On March 9th, I joined my roommate in attending the closing banquet of the Puterbaugh Festival. The festival is hosted by World Literature Today at the University of Oklahoma and celebrates authors from all over the world. This year was the 50th anniversary of the festival and hosted the newest Puterbaugh Fellow, Jenny Erpenbeck. Ms. Erpenbeck is a German author from Berlin who has written everything form short stories to stage plays. The three-day festival was spent honoring her literary achievements through workshops, visual arts, and receptions.

Though I knew hardly anything about the Puterbaugh Festival before attending the banquet, as a Global Engagement Fellow, I really appreciated its purpose and effect. By bringing Ms. Erpenbeck to the University, students had the opportunity to be exposed to a different culture, language, and way of viewing the world, while celebrating the achievements of one of the world’s most accomplished authors. Additionally, a select group of students who took the Puterbaugh course over the semester had the opportunity to study Ms. Erpenbeck’s literature beforehand and interview her during the festival. This seems like an exciting opportunity worth taking.

During the banquet, Ms. Erpenbeck read a selection of her book in German. Even though I couldn’t understand what she had read, it was the most memorable moment of the evening. Since then, I have been thinking about the power of language and its importance. We celebrated Ms. Erpenbeck for her capability of expressing ideas through language and were fortunate to have someone at the festival to translate her writing. However, there are so many ideas and forms of expression that I can’t access because I can’t understand the language that conveys them. I was inspired by the realization that learning a foreign language opens up a new world of ideas and expression.

Fall Semester: “The Danger of the Single Story”

It’s incredible to think that the first semester is almost over already! I was looking back on all the new experiences of this Fall, and I am so thankful for my time at OU. Being a part of GEF and taking the Understanding the Globally Community Course has already contributed so much to my college experience. For one, getting to meet my cousin and other international students on campus has been so exciting. I can’t wait to get to study abroad myself! I have also been able to learn much about events occurring on a global scale and cultures different from my own.

 

 

I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to have a global aspect to my education. As a mathematics major, learning about the international sphere has no obvious connection. Yet, the little exposure I have had to International and Area Studies has sparked my curiosity and enriched my college experience.

During a GEF meeting with Anne DeLong earlier this year, we watched a Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie called, “The Danger of a Single Story.” I was so intrigued that I later watched the entire talk on my own. In short, it explains that we often make misjudgments of people and their cultures because we lack information. To communicate well with others, we must at least be aware that we may only know a “single story,” rather than the full picture.

To me, this reinforced something I have been thinking about all semester. It is valuable to want to learn, and keep learning, about others. Being in college provides a golden opportunity to do this. We can be exposed to more cultures and people than virtually anywhere else. I want to cultivate this desire and allow it to grow into a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, and through this, to reach out and build lasting relationships with others. I look forward to what the future holds!

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