reflection: my digital story

It’s finished! I presented my digital story during our last class, and I was surprisingly happy with it. It was a little nerve-wracking, and hearing my own voice in front of the whole class made me sweat a little bit, but overall, I was happy with my work. The animation went well with the music and my photos matched up with my voiceover pretty well, so I’m pleased.

The process of creating the digital story was pretty fun. I liked getting to go back through my photos and videos from this summer and relive some of the fun of being in France and laugh at silly photos my sister and I took together. I shared the completed story with my mom, who shared it with Martial, her old pen pal who I talked about meeting in my story. He told her he loved it, and asked if he could share it with some of his friends, too. I was so happy they both enjoyed it, since they were my inspiration for the story. They make me want to find an international pen pal too. (Mom also shared it with my grandma, who sent me a congratulatory email. I have Grandma’s stamp of approval now, so I’m happy.)

I took a lot of photos and videos during my trip to France this summer, but next time I study abroad, I want to be even more diligent in recording small parts of the trip through photos and videos to create a better digital story next time.

reflection: on working on my digital story

How have you liked learning how to put together your digital story? What have you gotten out of Rachel’s visits? Do you think the knowledge you’re gaining is something you’ll use in the future?

Working on my digital story makes me wish I’d been more diligent in keeping a record of my travels this summer. I did journal every day on Tumblr, and I took lots of photos, but I found that I mostly took photos of things that seemed big and important and cultured. I didn’t record the little moments. My journal entries highlighted places we went and things we saw, but I didn’t quite capture all the feelings that those places and things brought me. Going back through my photos and journal entries for my digital story, I’m finding myself a little nostalgic for all the time I spent with my family there and how well we all got along there, but I think I’m happy with how the story is coming along.

Logistically, working on the story has been fun. WeVideo is surprisingly nice software to work with, and Ms. Jackson has been great with helping us learn the intricacies of the program. Recording my audio with her was a little nerve-wracking, but she helped the process go along nice and smoothly. She helped clue me into when I was talking too fast and when I sounded nervous, so I think the recording I have will work pretty well. It’ll still be cringe-y to listen to my own voice during the presentation, but I’m looking forward to hearing other’s stories. I think this whole process of creating my digital story will help me be ready for future international experiences. I hope, then, I’ll remember to look out for and record the little moments, not just the tourist attractions.

reflection: on my mid-semester meeting

How do you feel your meeting went?  Was it helpful? Why or why not? How’s your semester going so far? What goals do you have to make the second half of the semester go better? What will you do to implement them?

I enjoyed my mid-semester meeting–I felt like it was productive. I got to talk through some of my plans for my digital story, and now I know what kind of changes I should make to it before it’s a final draft. Before I record it, I’m planning to adjust my transcript to tell a more introspective story. In my draft, I focused too much on providing context and never quite got to talking about how the experience made me feel.

The meeting was also helpful in checking my general progress for the semester, and I feel like it’s going well. I have plans to attend my final international event next week, and then I will have completed my two events for this semester. As far as goals for making the second half of the semester go better, I’m going to be more proactive about spending time with my OU Cousin–I hope to initiate more plans with her and really try to get to know her, since I believe she’s leaving at the end of the semester. I want to make sure that her experience at OU has been welcoming and fun!

I also am going to try to start scoping out international organizations that I could potentially be a part of–I know there’s a Spanish Club on campus, and I think maybe joining that could help me prepare for my Spanish composition class next semester. Because my beat for The Daily is cultural/ethnic/religious groups, it shouldn’t be too hard for me to learn about and interact with some of these organizations.

The meeting was a good refresher to remind me what I need to keep in mind throughout the rest of this semester, and I’m ready to finish out the semester (and the year) strong!

reflection: on being the “other” (or rather, not)

What did you think of the different perspectives you heard in Tuesday’s class? In what ways have you experienced being the “other” or outsider? Or have you? Do you have any fears about studying abroad in terms of your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other factors? How do you plan to address those concerns?

As a light-haired, blue-eyed, white Texan female, I’ve grown up almost never feeling like a minority. Even at OU, where I’m here with 20,000 other people, a lot of people I’m surrounded by look like me.

Because I’m hoping to go to a Spanish-speaking country to study abroad, I’m sure that I won’t blend in wherever I go the same way I blend in here. I think it’s generally pretty obvious that I’m not Hispanic. Even when I was in France this summer, and I looked fairly similar to the people there, people could tell I wasn’t a local. Maybe it had to do with the camera around my neck, or the fact that I was moving in a pack with my mom, dad, and sister. I don’t speak French, so that was a big giveaway too, especially when I would stumble over my stumble over my words trying to order food at a restaurant.

When I study abroad, I think it’ll help that I have a good handle on Spanish. My accent isn’t perfect, but I’m confident that I can speak well enough to get around, keep myself fed, and talk to locals. I don’t feel that my gender would put me at a significant disadvantage–I mean, women are treated differently (and worse, I suppose you could say) than men in the United States, and while I imagine that being a woman in a Spanish-speaking country would be a different experience than if I was a man in a Spanish-speaking country, I can’t imagine that it would be a shocking disparity.

I’m also not particularly worried about my religion being a problem abroad, since I’m not particularly religious. I was raised Christian, but my family and I didn’t subscribe to any denomination. We tried Baptist churches, Methodist churches, nondenominational churches, and I’ve attended a couple Catholic and Lutheran services. Now, I don’t attend any church regularly–unless my parents ask me to come to church with them for a holiday or just because my mom’s feeling religious, I don’t attend church. There’s nothing I oppose specifically about church or Christianity in general, but it’s just not a large part of my life anymore. If I was living with a host family and they wanted me to attend a church service with them, I’d happily go, if for nothing else than to understand a bit more about their culture and lifestyle.

Overall, I’m not terribly worried about feeling like an outsider when I study abroad because I know that, to a point, it’s inevitable. Some of the things that make me who I am are things that I can’t hide. When I study abroad, I hope to strike a balance between trying to hide my differences and trying to blend in and be respectful of a new culture.

reflection: on different study abroad opportunities

After spending some time looking closely at different study abroad possibilities, what do you want to do and why? Has your mind changed since you applied for this program? How and why (or why not)?

After looking over different study abroad opportunities, I’m still not totally sure what I want to do. I think that I may go on one of this summer’s Journey programs–possibly to Brazil, Italy, or Turkey. Already, people that I work with on The Daily have been talking to me about summer internships (for this summer and beyond), and I feel that this upcoming summer would be best for me to study abroad, since there will be less pressure on me to be working or doing internships. If I can’t go this summer, next summer would likely work too. I also feel that it would make most sense for me to get that general education requirement out of the way this summer rather than later on, when I may have already fulfilled the requirement.

As far as my longer study abroad experience, I’m unsure. I feel certain that I would want to be in a Spanish-speaking country. Part of me wants to go to Spain and live in a big city for a semester, but part of me wants a more immersive experience somewhere in South America. Really, I just want to be able to speak Spanish wherever I study. I’m also interested in the OU in Arezzo program–while I know that Italian isn’t the same as Spanish, I really do appreciate the variety of classes that are offered in Arezzo. I bet organic chemistry in Italy would feel a lot more glamorous than organic chemistry anywhere else. (Plus, my mom and my grandma would be so happy for me to get in touch with my Italian roots.) I’ve been thinking that the spring semester of my sophomore year would be a good time to do a study abroad experience.

I’m also still curious about internships and volunteer programs where I’m doing more than just studying abroad. I would really like to find a way to incorporate my journalistic interests or even my interest in photography with my study abroad, even if it’s just a personal project for me.

As far as whether I’ve changed my mind since applying to be a Global Engagement Fellow–I don’t know if I ever had my mind made up to begin with. I’m a fairly open-minded person, and really, all I want out of study abroad is a place to immerse myself in a new culture and learn something about myself (and get some credit hours knocked out). The good thing is that I’m sure I’ll be able to do that anywhere.

So, it’s clear that I still have a lot of questions. Luckily, I’ve set up an appointment to meet with Shanna Vincent in October, and I’m hoping she’ll be able to help me come up with a more definite plan for my study abroad future.


reflection: perspectives on the U.S.

How did you react to the perspectives on the United States that you encountered this week? What stood out the most to you? Why? How will that influence your thoughts or actions in the future – either here or abroad?

When I read about the 17 observations (or criticisms, really) Benny the Irish polyglot had about the United States, I tended to take it with a grain of salt. Really? Criticizing Americans for smiling too much? For tipping at restaurants? It just seemed over the top, like he was looking for trouble. Some of what he wrote was understandable–when he wrote about how Americans tended to stereotype other countries and tended to be wasteful in their consumerism, I understood where he was coming from.

Plenty of Americans are wasteful. I am, at least. When I make a cup of coffee with my Keurig in the morning, popping the little plastic K-cup in and out of the machine and throwing it away, there’s this little twinge of guilt in my stomach that’s telling me, “Dana, you’re making coffee in the most wasteful possible way.” And I still do it every morning.

Plenty of Americans stereotype other cultures too. Part of that has to do with ignorance, I think. I think that at least a sizable portion of the country doesn’t know much about the world outside of the US–we know very little about other countries, so oftentimes, our knowledge about other cultures comes from television and movies and other pop culture references, which can largely be based in stereotypes.

So, to a point, I agree: Americans can be less than perfect global citizens. We’re not the most polite country, but sometimes I think that criticizing Americans as a whole can be just as unproductive as boiling an entire country down to a handful of stereotypes. I get that we have a ways to go when it comes to being understanding and welcoming of other cultures, but the United States has such a vastly diverse set of opinions and backgrounds–we pride ourselves on being a “melting pot” of cultures. I digress, but perspectives on the United States seem to be paradoxical. On one hand, we’re uncultured and impolite and unwelcoming of other cultures, and on the other, we claim to be welcoming and open to other cultures.

As for myself, I’m going to try not to trouble myself too much when it comes to perspectives on the United States. While it’s important to step back and think about how you fit in to your country as a whole, I think it can be more important to strive individually to be welcoming, open, and caring when it comes to interacting with people from other cultures.


reflection: on international groups

What international group(s) are you most interested in becoming involved with? Why?

What are you most looking for in an international group – language practice? Cultural exposure? Foreign friends? American friends who share your interests? Career preparation? Networking opportunities? Service opportunities? Something else?

Do you think you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at OU? Why or why not? If not, what will you do about it?


I’m definitely excited to get involved with the Center for English as a Second Language. I really enjoy learning languages and I’d definitely like to learn more. So far, I don’t know too many languages–I speak Spanish fairly well (to be fair, I haven’t really practiced in about a semester, but last time I tried, I could speak pretty well), so if I was paired with a Spanish-speaking student through CESL’s language exchange program, maybe I could take some steps towards fluency and getting really comfortable with the language. When I emailed the coordinator, however, she told me that many of the students in the program speak Chinese, Arabic, or Portuguese. I don’t know much at all about any of those languages, but hopefully I could learn a thing or two from whichever student I’m paired with regardless of the language they speak.

I’m also very much looking forward to the OU Cousins program. While I’m mainly hoping to strengthen language skills through CESL, I feel like I’m hoping to gain friendship out of the Cousins program. This weekend, I actually ended up working with a photographer for a story I’m writing for The Daily who was from China and moved here only a few years ago, and while we were walking to and from our assignment, I really enjoyed hearing about her OU experience and what cultural differences she noticed between the U.S. and China. If I have a Cousins experience that’s anything like my (albeit very brief) experience with the photographer, I’m sure it will be wonderful.

I definitely do think I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for at OU, in a lot of respects. The opportunities for international involvement are beautifully suited to my interests–I really like communicating with new people and learning about them, so CESL and OU Cousins are right up my alley. But even in a broader sense, I’m seeing already that I’m finding what I’m looking for at OU: my classes are interesting and engaging, working at The Daily (even for only two weeks) has proven to be a much different, more real-life experience than any of my work on a high school newspaper staff, and I’m starting to make deeper friendships with the people I’m surrounded with. All in all, I can’t complain.

reflection: on the world & its stories

Do you feel like you’ve been limited in the number or range of “stories” you’ve been exposed to? Do you feel that the rest of the world is limited in its “stories” about the United States? Why? What will you do about it?

I’ve considered myself a journalist for a while now, and so I’ve also considered it my job to tell stories. When I was in high school, I would always profess that I loved to give voices to the voiceless and that, most importantly, everyone has a story. I told a lot of different kinds of stories–I told the story of a girl whose parents were from El Salvador, with little more than a middle school education, and how they brought her to the United States for a new chance, and how she would be the first in her family to attend college. I told the story of the math club–how math, for them, was a lot more than numbers and worksheets, and how they would yell and argue over the many, many different ways to solve a problem.

I still do believe that everyone has a story. It’s something that countless journalism instructors and lecturers have drilled in my head, and–maybe I’m brainwashed–but I believe it.

But when I step back and think of the way I perceive other cultures, I don’t have tons of stories to choose from. Especially when I think about Africa, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained in her TED talk, I have a skewed view of the culture. Even just the fact that I specified an entire continent, rather than a country or particular city, should be telling.

Right now, any media coverage about Africa (especially Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea), focuses on the Ebola virus. It’s happening and it’s real, but the media has painted a picture of all of Africa as an unsanitary, diseased, dying land of bad health care, full of desperate, grabbing hands reaching out for American aid or medicine.

Even so, I don’t find myself clicking on headlines about countries in Africa or the Middle East. I tend to ignore them, focusing on the news that’s easier to stomach–local news, Texas and Oklahoma news, United States news. While mass media does limit the number of stories I hear about a particular culture or country, I also (consciously and unconsciously) limit myself to the number of stories I hear. It’s easy to avoid stories about countries and issues that seem far away from me, to tell myself that I’ll learn about what’s going on in Syria later.

So, while I’m not grossly ignorant about everything that goes on in the world around me (both locally and globally), the ignorance that I do have is at least partially my own fault. I don’t actively seek out the stories that will make me a more informed global citizen. So, I’m going to be more active in the way I look for stories–especially about world news. When I’m on Twitter, then, I’ll make the (impossibly minute) effort to click on an extra headline link to a story about a country I know little about, read it, and make sure that I’m hearing a variety of stories about the world.