More On Immigration

After thinking about The Wall and the reasonings and thoughts behind that, I began to contemplate another big topic of conversation that deals with immigration. Although I hope that immigration would be taken more seriously in some aspects of the United States, the vetting of Muslim, Middle Eastern, Arab (I am not intending to be offensive by miscalling or mis-grouping populations, I am simply not informed well enough) immigrants during their immigration process deeply saddens me.

Unfortunately, I understand where many people are coming from with their desires to vet Muslims as much as possible to prevent them from entering the U.S. I understand this because I was too young to remember 9/11. However, coming from a small Okie town, I have heard all too much hatred spewed about the lack of trust some people have because of the horrific actions of a few. In more modern times I personally remember growing up and hearing about the developments of ISIS/ISIS (sorry for another naming blunder) and their ruthless murders, the killing of Osama bin Laden and throwing his body into the ocean, and the like.

Although too much blood has been spilled on both sides, I think it is so wrong to keep refugees out of the United States simply because of where they come from and for what other people in their ethnicity/country did. And what is even scarier, to me, than having someone from another country and background trying to sneak in to cause destruction is the homegrown terrorism that is becoming more of an issue in the US. I am not the most educated in the topic, but having terrorism spring from our own front lawn is a much scarier issue to me than having one ill-intentioned person slipping through the cracks out of thousands of good people who deserve our help. I think the United States has a responsibility as a well-endowed country of the world to help people from other countries when they are in danger. Turning a blind eye during an international crisis to those who need help the most, in my 0pinion, is the wrong thing to do entirely.

That Wall & My Thoughts

This topic, especially for being an hour drive from the Mexican border an in a particularly diverse university in comparison to the rest of the state, is hot and bothersome to a lot of people. I have honestly tried to understand both sides of the argument for and against The Wall, and to me, I think there is a decent compromise that could be had.

To begin with, I believe that not everyone should be able to come to the United States whenever they want and however they want. I do understand that this would make some people angry, but I immediately think to myself, What if I just wanted to start living in a country whose language I don’t speak, where I subsequently couldn’t easily (or maybe even legally) get a job, and where I may be able to even participate or contribute my fair share in the country because of these issues? I would get in trouble in other countries for that, so why is it okay for people to 1) stay in the United States illegally and 2) become angry when these issues are brought up? For example, I am well aware that there are numerous countries in the world in which I would be targeted or even killed for just being there because I am a white, unmarried, educated female.

So with this, I think there should be reforms to how our country handles immigration. To me, building a big fat wall is probably not the best solution, but I think that change must come with who all can immigrate in and how. For example, the crime rates in sanctuary cities is unreal to me. Why are there designated places where illegal immigrants can stay and cause damage to lawful citizens? With this, I do definitely recognize that not every illegal immigrant is bad, and I hope that this is not how my thoughts are coming across. However, I believe that to benefit from what the United States has to offer, from its benefits, to its legal systems, its economics, and its freedoms, a person should do what they individually need to do to to lawfully be in and participate in the United States.

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On Being a Rio Ambassador

This semester, like last semester, my international group was being a study abroad ambassador for the OU’s sister program in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, also much like last semester, this group did significantly less than I had hoped for.

As I have written so much about, I loved every second of my time in Rio de Janeiro and would shout it to the whole world from the top of Mount Everest if I could. Because of this, two semesters ago I was thrilled to apply-for and become a part of the ambassador program. I have been more than ready to stand in front of classes, armed with dozens of the several hundred photos I took from my time in Rio, and explain how they would all be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime (which I genuinely believe it is) if they didn’t drop what they were doing to sign up for the next trip out. But even after several offers from me, this still hasn’t come to fruition. Additionally, we don’t have consistent meetings to discuss ideas or the like either.

What we do do, however, is band together when it is important, like during a big event to promote Rio, and show off our own enthusiasm about our experience. For example, we make a lot of appearances during Brazil week each semester, spend time at booths when we can, and some even act as liaisons in the CIS office, but other than this, unfortunately, we don’t get to do too terribly much. Now don’t get me wrong, this approach is important, but I think there is more we as ambassadors can do to spread the word about how Rio should be more of a contender in OU’s sister programs.

With this, I have an announcement! In order to attempt to bridge the gaps and try to get more people involved, I have volunteered to be the Rio Ambassador Chair for the next spring semester! Whoohoo! I am thrilled. After this semester, I learned that we simply need, as ambassadors, to be more connected to one another and more involved with the ambassador program in general. I have high hopes and already a few plans for myself in this position, and I can’t wait to keep y’all updated!

Study Abroad Fair

A few weeks into this past semester the College of International Studies hosted its annual event–the Study Abroad Fair! It might have also been called the International Fair…but you know what I mean!

The fair was chocked-full of the different study abroad groups trying to convince whoever was walking by that their program could offer them the world, literally!, and more. At leas two dozen booths were looped along the South Oval with all the pens, knick-knacks, and odd-ball trinkets that each different program could offer. Some even had food! However, one booth stood out among the rest because…this time around I got to help host OU in Rio’s booth! Our booth was smack dab right in front of Neilson Hall–a prime location. I got the opportunity to help host because this past semester, much like the one before, I was a Rio Ambassador.

The whole experience was actually quite satisfying and fun! It was lovely to be able to just rattle on-and-on about anything that came to mind about Rio. It was also very enjoyable to be able to whip out some of the photos I took while in Rio that were on my phone to show off how beautiful the city is. The ooo’s and ahh’s were so real–and I can’t blame them!

However, most people who came by weren’t actually interested in going to Rio (we were one of the booths that had snacks), but there were a handful that I think I might have actually made a bit of a difference with. One guy in particular, I cannot remember his name, was a physics major who was teaching himself Portuguese and was also already fluent in Spanish. It was such a pleasure to talk to him because he was thrilled, but he didn’t think he could go because he was running out of time. Sadly, he was right–the sooner you think about studying abroad the better–and I don’t think that he ended up signing up for the spring semester or another program. Unfortunately, I think there were only a few people, in total, who express genuine interest. Honestly, I don’t blame them too much. Rio was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life, but I with all of the swirling rumors about what is going on in Brazil (that actually spiked right after I returned last year), it is difficult to convince people’s parents that their children would be remarkably safe so far away from home.

To top this all of, my favorite person from Rio made an appearance–Caren!! She definitely deserves two exclamation points. I adore Caren with my whole heart and soul, we even have matching polka-dotted/stripped shirts. It was a real joy to be able to speak so fondly of her city with her to all of the kids who walked by. I know she’ll be back for it again the next time around (she comes back to OU once a semester), so I can’t wait for the next Study Abroad Fair!

Oklahome (Intentional Mispelling)

Waaaay back at the beginning of this past semester, I received an email about an international event that was specifically for OU students who had recently returned from a study abroad program. At first, I felt kind of silly about wanting to go to the event. It promoted an environment in which returning students could not only just share about their experiences, but also discuss the nitty gritty things that a lot of people probably don’t always want to talk about.

For example, although I will talk about my experience in Rio de Janeiro for hours, one of my very first memories from my Rio trip is NOT one that I ever share. After traveling for a full day from Mazatlán, Mexico to Mexico City, São Paulo, then finally Rio, I was more than thrilled to be there, but all the worrisome looks and concerned words from friends and family were really eating at me after being with only my thoughts for 24 hours. I after struggling to find my drive (he was waiting in the international terminal–I came in domestic from São Paulo), I rolled into the hostel, hauled my enormous suitcase up two flights of stairs, attempted to call my boyfriend via WhatsApp, and cried for about an hour. Even in hindsight, I still can’t quite put my finger on why I fell apart as soon as I arrived, but the point is that I did fall apart even though I was over the moon to be there.

So after recalling this experience, among others, I RSVPed for Oklahome!

I arrived and was shocked to see as many people there as I did. There were probably two dozen, and there were even a few with I traveled with in Italy.

First things first, we introduced ourselves and where we had been with OU. People had been everywhere. There were a lot of Italy’s, I was definitely the only Rio de Janeiro, a few Germany’s, one or two in Uganda for mission work, a few in Asia, and then the rest were scattered.

After our introductions, we listened to a woman who works in CIS as the Italy study abroad advisor. Oddly enough, what she had to say really resonated with me. The thing that hit home the most was how she talked about how the places we visit change us in ways we don’t typically understand or may not notice.

immediately thought about how much I miss sweating. Odd, right? In Rio, I grew so accustomed to having big, fat beads of sweat just rolling from everywhere. I didn’t know that the back of my knees could sweat like that! Don’t get me wrong, at first it was very uncomfortable and a little gross. However, even after only being in Rio for a little under two weeks, to this day I would give anything for the feeling like the sun is baking me like a toasty loaf of bread and losing ten pounds just from sweating so profusely.

So I shared this, and yes, I got some weird looks. Ha! But what the woman said made 100% sense. I am grateful to be home and to have had the experiences I did in Italy and Rio, but I think it will take me a looong time to not hesitate to give the “okay” hand sign without thinking I’m about to offend someone.

Italy Recap

It was a decently looong time ago (or at least it feels like it after a hard fall semester!)…but I went to Italy in the early summer of 2017!

To start, I was in Italy for almost a whole month. I went with the 2016-2017 President’s Leadership Class with over eighty other people. I’ll talk more on that in a minute.  We went to twelve different cities, my favorite being Positano, and I loved every single one. In hindsight, the whole trip felt like it passed in a blink of an eye. However, while I was there it felt like eternity, for both good and not so great reasons.

Let’s start with the not-so-great reasons. As I italicized earlier, I went with almost eighty other people including the sponsors and the other PLCers. Having eighty American college-kids in Italy was, in my opinion, a train wreck. This made the trip surprisingly very difficult for me. I have been lucky in my life to travel relatively extensively for my age and economic status, and when I traveled I was taught to be incredibly respectful of the culture and people I was sticking myself into. Some of the instances of privilege (and not in the new socially trendy sense, but the old-school I-get-what-I-want-when-I-want-it-or-else) I saw dumbfounded me. For example, one girl had a break down in a Prada or Gucci store near the famous Spanish Steps because she wasn’t able to get a hold of her parents (the seven hour time difference) to get them to transfer her $3,000 so she could buy a purse or two. Another boy would only eat at McDonald’s and refused to try new Italian food (which was actually all new because of how different Italian and Italian-American food is). Finally, one boy in my group starting harassing me a bit and wouldn’t take my avoidance as a hint that I didn’t want his company. He made a chunk of my trip even nightmarish because he was always watching and following me–and this never ended even after I asked several of our sponsors for help. And, I promise, there are many more instances like these that happened for the whole month.

This insensitivity and lack-of-respect to what we were doing in Italy shocked me every day. I should have gotten use to it after a while, but I remember it would really bum me out seeing kids try to sneak away from different outings or educational times to do other things (often including drinking). PLCers are suppose to be representatives of OU, and I think we should have been ashamed of ourselves and our actions while we were over there. I would be embarrassed at least a few times every day to be in the group I was in.

On the bright side, though–I loved Italy as a whole. As I extensively posted before, I went to Rio de Janeiro around this time a year ago and I love love loved every second of it. It was tight-knit and we were well aware of our outsider-presence in another community and way of life, and, luckily, I was able to find a few people to band-together like this while in Italy. They really helped turn the trip around for me. The food was always absolutely incredible, the people were always beautiful and kind (especially the woman that helped me when I was completely lost while in Arezzo, and I learned so much more than I ever expected about the Roman Empire and its art history.

All-in-all, I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat, but with people I know would appreciate it I truly hope I can return to Italy again one day and to have the kind of experience I know is out there.

Honestly? Highly Confused

I most definitely walked out of the “Into the Mainstream” presentation at Zarrow more than a bit confused.

While sitting in Farzaneh, because Zarrow doesn’t have cozy seating, typing this up, I am realizing how surely out-of-the-loop I am with international politics. Back in my political-knowledge prime, which was probably sophomore year of high school when my Quiz Bowl coach had me memorize a good chunk of the leaders of the world, I still had no idea what the heck any of the countries, policies, or leaders anything else had to do with one another. I have always thought that I had a decent general knowledge about what’s going on in the world, but this evening was a pleasant notifier of how lost I am!

On a seemingly unrelated note, I recognized several faces in the crowd tonight, some from GEF, PLC, or other odd-ball acquaintances on campus, and a few of them asked hearty-enough questions to make me more than question my competence as a person living on this highly politicized planet. I’ll be completely honest here–I have heard of a “populist party” before tonight, but other than that, again very honestly, I knew nothing about what the speaker was talking about. The only tidbit I even remotely recognized was the name of “Le Pen” because a few GEFers were furiously discussing some French election. Please note, a key phrase in that last sentence was “some French election.” Ha!

And since now I recognize more how little I truly know about global politics and relations, I feel like a lot of what I absorbed tonight was a little electric and, to put it lightly, strongly-worded. I learned how populists are suppose to be racist, antisemitic, heterophobic, sexist, and two other buzzwords I can’t remember. I learned how it’s hard to define “populism,” but that we did it anyway. In summary, I think it boiled down to leaders who are scrapping by and targeting the ignored voters of a political system to get in control to instill their “let’s change EVERYTHING” mindset.

Please know, the speaker did a wonderful job presenting his research and thoughts on the subject, but I couldn’t help but thinking every few minutes how biased what he was saying sounded. And regardless of political affiliation, the numerous Trump shots only soured my perception further.

For a more informed person, this event would have been highly interesting. I feel bad to say that since I truly didn’t know enough about this information on my own prior to this event, it really just left me more intrigued/skeptical than anything to find out more on the subject in general.

I guess the speaker was successful–now I want to buy his book (and others’) to learn more!

I Have Missed You.

Tonight was the night. I have talked about it for months, have based life-long plans on it, and even managed to convince my parents that three minors and spending a year abroad is a good idea because of it.

I had my first true encounter with Arabic!

This evening I went to the Arabic Flagship Talent Show. I truly had no idea or expectation (other than thinking “You know what, I might actually understand something!”–a definitely delusioned thought in hindsight) about the night before walking in. I was way more than pleasantly surprised!

However, I do have to preface this post a little. My first encounter with Arabic included me being so completely lost that I laughed when everyone else in the room laughed because they actually understood the jokes (5% percent of the time) or praying for English subtitles (95% of the time). About ten minutes after included people explaining the references to me, as well. Poor Maha–now I know why she is so lonely and doesn’t like falafels. But I definitely laughed at the Oklahoma weather video. Tornado jokes are pretty much universally understand by any native Okie–the hilarity of Oklahoma weather has no language barrier!

I do definitely remember being wildly intimated at points, though. Sitting in a big room filled with belly-laughing people, missing punch lines, and trying to explain  that I literally know one word of Arabic, “no,” (because I deduced it contextually after ten videos) makes me a little nervous about how the heck I’ll actually learn this language.

I’ve had people ask me, many times over, in the past several months with wide-eyes and slightly dropped-jaws “Why are you wanting to learn Arabic? Isn’t that going to be so hard for you?” And every time I was more than excited to defend my potential third language and brush the worry-warts off my shoulders. But tonight made me realize how much is in store for me with Arabic. It’s wildly thrilling, but actually a little terrifying for the first time so far. And I haven’t even started yet!

But while I was typing up that last little paragraph filled with my first inklings of nerves and fears, one thought popped into my head that helped restore some faith in myself (it’s definitely about the fearless woman who started this whole journey for me).

Jaci, you better come back to hear me say my first words in Arabic to you (after mutually freaking out about reuniting for about five minutes):

"لقد غاب لك."

EAA: Come Back with a Vengeance

Hello folks, it’s been a good long while.

To begin, this semester has kicked me in the butt. Never again will I take three 5-hour classes thinking all will be well–I’ll known what terror and stress is in store! But that’s besides the point for this post.

I feel as though I have surely shirked my GEF responsibilities this semester. All though I have kept up with my requirements, I do really miss posting every week about the roller coaster ride of a time college life is. My classes have eaten up much more time this semester than last, so the crazy, over-involved, stressed-out-of-my-mind-because-I’m-doing-too-much self has faded away a bit. Whoohoo! I’ll take my victories where I can get them! However, there was one thing this semester I was wildly looking forward to.

After coming back from Rio de Janeiro, I applied and got accepted into a little study-abroad advocate-type program, called Education Abroad Ambassadors, that focuses most intensely on educating students and spreading the word about OU’s opportunities for studying abroad.

Unfortunately, not a ton panned out in this group for me. I loved and lived for what EAA stands for (not the acronym [Which OU has taught me most to love. They are just so convenient!]), but the few meetings we had and the big plans to get us “seasoned study abroad vets” on the prowl to enlighten OU about the wonders of studying abroad just never really came to life as much as I anticipated.

Our meetings were full of hope and our schedule seemed packed to the brim in the beginning. Us Latin American study abroad-ers diligently plotted on how to steel away the semi-delusioned Arezzo-bound kids (but I’m being a little hypocritical, I might be going there this summer with PLC!), but I think that this just might have been the start for the EAA. I thoroughly hope that EAA comes back with a vengeance next semester and that the majority of the events aren’t during PLC anymore (done with PLC after the Italy trip, so that’s a sure-fire yes), because this program is too important and potentially wildly impactful to let slip under the rug.

It is mind boggling to me how so many people still don’t know how accessible studying abroad really is here at OU–believe me, I sat those folks down for a long talk. (This honestly did happen on multiple occasions throughout this semester. Ha!) So maybe I was an Education Abroad Ambassador with and without the formal group. The world just deserves to know how AWESOME studying abroad is!

*especially in Rio*

 

Capoeira & Me

January 12th, 2017

That Rochina Capoeira lesson was really, really cool to me. In the beginning I was really embarrassed and nervous. The first warm-up was running for Pete’s sake—that’s one of the only things I have never been able to do, especially without my lift! But as we went on through the lesson and even afterwards after the five of us relished in our secret fun that everyone missed out on, I was wildly impressed with not just Capoeira and its history, but how it was being used in neglected communities like Rochina. The thing that stood out the most to me was how quickly one of the Capoeira leaders stepped in to help me after I managed to communicate that my leg was janky. I cannot remember his name, but a guy came over and individually stretched me. We stretched our arms, wiggled our hips, and worked on balance—all in compensation for me not being able to do the first usual warm-up routine.

That means something. Those Capoeira instructors are accustomed to helping people at all different skill-sets and levels of ability be able to learn Capoeira in a way they are able to by adapting to their own body’s individual abilities. Take me, for example. I couldn’t run, I have never been able to. I was so bad at kicking and whatnot because I have poor balance. I couldn’t even do a cartwheel #1 Because I was really scared and #2 Because I haven’t done one in probably over a decade. And that’s saying something because I’m only eighteen! They didn’t care at all. In fact, regardless of how horribly I executed a move or completely missed one of the parts of the routine, they would still high-five me and cheer me on. And so would Emily! I’m going to go ahead and include Emily in this bit because she taught gymnastics since she was twelve. She knows what it is like to handle kids, let alone people in general, who are trying to learn and develop new skills. It is incredible how encouraging they are. They were dealing with a touristy white girl who looks as able-bodied as possible. Instead of trying to get me to perform at their expectations, which many sports do, they instead met me where I am. Even when we would break into the big circle where everyone got to highlight what they were good at, they made sure the skills I was going to show off were what I could do. I moved my little energy ball around like a champ, squatting like a master and keeping hyper-focus on the tiny orb sandwiched between my palms. Instead of asking me to do cartwheels like Emily and mega-kicks like John, they took me for what I am.

It was obvious that they didn’t just do that with me, though. There was a little boy, he couldn’t have been older than two, whose name was Phillip. Phillip looked like he had, in a blunt way to put it, something wrong with him. His eyes were too far apart to be normal and his face was a little distorted in other aspects. They treated him like they treated me, with a little extra attention and care. The instructors would take any opportunity to let me and Phillip highlight the fact that although we are different, we are still capable of doing anything, maybe just in a little bit of a different way. Four fierce five all discussed after the fact how we immediately felt as if we were welcomed into the Capoeira community with open arms. It is incredible what that Capoeira class is doing, even if on a small level. They are not only providing an alternative for kids to direct energy into a healthy, wholesome medium (instead of joining the trafficking community), but they are doing it in a way that is all-inclusive and non-competitive. Capoeira is also uber-cool because there is no age or even skill division. That is something I talked about in detail with my father. In our relatively large Capoeira class there was the Maestro, probably in his fifties or older who has mastered the dance/fighting activity, to people like me, a total novice in the field who I just having the time of her life slinging her body around and sweating her eyeballs out.Capoeira was way-cool for so many reasons. That is definitely one of the most memorable experiences from the trip.