In all of the shocking and alarming news of this past year, one thing that really stuck out to me was an announcement about climate change. According to UN scientists, we only have about 12 years before we can no longer stop or control the effects of climate change. What’s even more shocking about this is that it was only in the news for maybe a week before people stopped talking about it. This is serious. We are on course to destroy our planet beyond repair and we barely have a decade to fix it. It may feel like this is too overwhelming to deal with on a personal level, and like it’s too far out of your control, but there are things you can do that can make a difference no matter how small they are.
Even though larger entities such as corporations, governments, etc. contribute a majority of the emissions causing climate change, it is the lifestyle of consumers and everyday people that allow these entities to continue their practice and keep the cycle going.
Here are some things that you can do to live a more sustainable lifestyle and prove that it is possible.
- Vote in officials that believe in and care about climate change.
- Recycle- Not just paper, bottles, boxes, but look into how you can recycle things like batteries, crayons, and cell phones
- Cut down on use of or completely cut out use of single use plastics- buy reusable bags for groceries, bring a washable container for your lunch, buy reusable straws, take a reusable cup to starbucks
- Limit meat and dairy consumption
- Plant trees
- Walk, bike, take public transportation, carpool
- Petition companies to change their practices/ Don’t buy from companies with unsustainable practices
- Make your own household cleaners
This is just a small example of little things you can do to make a difference. It may not seem like much, but if enough people made these changes, we could see a significant change.
I have been preparing all semester to study abroad at the University of Hertfordshire in England this Spring but it didn’t feel real to me until my Pre-Departure Orientation in October. What is pre-departure orientation you ask? Well it is a ton of information preparing students to study abroad crammed into 2.5 straight hours. Sounds a little intense right?
I, however, found this meeting to be so interesting and informational and I loved every second of it. I have been doing so much research on my own this semester to prepare myself that some of the information wasn’t new to me, but it was nice to hear the things I found repeated by someone with first-hand knowledge of the area I’m traveling to.
Some things were new to me, and I thought I’d share them here for any other students looking to study abroad.
- studentuniverse.com is the best site to find affordable international flights
- You can find an affordable converter/adapter combo for your electronics on amazon. This is really important for charging laptops or other things that use a lot of electricity- you don’t want to ruin it or take out the electricity in your building.
- maps.me lets you download maps for when you’re away from wifi and get lost- which is more likely to happen than you may think
- If you can, talk to students from the university you are going to or other students on your home campus that have been there. There were a couple University of Hertfordshire exchange students at the orientation that I was able to talk to and it was so nice to hear first hand what I could expect from the University. I have also been in contact with OU students since the orientation that have been to UH and they have given me tips that you can’t necessarily find on pinterest blogs or google.
I’ll try to update this if I remember more tips, but these were the most useful to me and I hope they will be for any other students wanting to study abroad!
This semester, I tried for the third time to participate in OU Cousins. I made sure to sign up on time this year, but was unable to participate in the official matching ceremony because of class conflicts. Because there were a disproportionate number of international students to OU students, this left me unmatched and without a cousin once again. However, this did not deter me from getting involved in the group. Even though I didn’t have an OU Cousin of my own, I was still able to attend the OU Cousins Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I went together and we sat with a couple other OU students that hadn’t gotten matched as well as an exchange student Sarah, who was from Malaysia and wasn’t able to attend with her own cousin. Before we ate, we watched a quick video that gave a more accurate depiction of the history of Thanksgiving, which I think is extremely important. Of course I have nothing against the idea of Thanksgiving being a time where family and friends come together and spend time reflecting on what they are thankful for, but I think it’s important to also recognize how glossed over some aspects of US history can be. The food was delicious, we had a traditional meal of Turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, etc. It was so nice to share such a heartwarming occasion with new friends and talk about what traditions each of us have this time of year and how important it is to take the time to remember what we are thankful for.
Because I love the movie Coco so much, I decided to go to OU’s Day of the Dead festival at the Lloyd Noble Center. The experience I had was very similar to the feeling I get when watching the film. There was an aura of community and family at the festival. There were people from different walks of life that were able to come together and celebrate family past and present. In such divisive times, I think it’s so important to hold on to moments like this when people are able to come together with a common purpose.
The festival itself was so much fun. There was live music, rides, and amazing food. I waited an hour for street tacos, but they were the best darn tacos I have ever eaten. I don’t regret a thing. There were booths selling a multitude of things, but one of my favorites was a booth selling skull keychains made of recycled records. Most important though was the ofrenda. I loved that they had a place for photos of loved ones lost so that the community could come together and support each other during this holiday.
October 11 was International Day of the Girl, a day supporting gender justice and youth activism around the world. At OU I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the Center for Social Justice that featured panelists from organizations around campus and they discussed the importance of promoting social justice through their groups and what they’ve done to empower women in the community. The group Girls Supporting Girls talked about how they go to schools throughout metro area and talk to girls about what feminism is and steps they can take to promote justice and equality in their community even though they aren’t old enough to vote. I think it’s important to encourage young girls and women to become activists at an early age and learn to fight against injustices in the world around them. The earlier they become aware of what they have to face in the world, the more prepared they will be to face any “ism” (sexism, racism, etc.) that may come their way. Another panelist, Jada Scott of Theta Nu Xi made an important point that issues of inequality aren’t just one particular group’s issue, inequality is a human rights issue. When we start to recognize each other as human despite any differences we may have, we can come together to enact lasting change.
I want to start off by saying that the movie Coco is beautiful and wonderful and if you haven’t seen it yet you definitely need to!
I saw Coco for the first time last semester. One of my roommates and I rented it from a cute little video store down the street from our apartment along with a few other movies and made a day out of it. Fast forward to this semester and I see a flyer for OU’s Mexico week featuring a showing of Coco in Spanish and I knew I had to go. Firstly, because I just love the movie so much. And secondly, because I knew it would be important to watch this film in the language of the culture it’s based in. I think it is so important that they released a Spanish version of this movie along with the English one. So many people in this country are quick to judge people from Mexico, especially those who don’t speak English, based on misinformation and just blatant lies spread by ignorant people.
Coco centers around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s a holiday that is about celebrating family past and present and I feel like that is something that people from all cultures and backgrounds can relate to. The film does such a good job of presenting this aspect of Mexican culture and the Spanish version is even more beautiful than the English in my opinion. I don’t want to go into too many details about the movie itself because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet. However I will say that it is so important that movies like this are being made. It’s easy to just sit back and listen to prejudice and misinformation and accept it as fact, but when you take the time to watch, listen to, read, to just absorb aspects of cultures outside of your own, you open yourself up to so many rewarding experiences. You learn how special this world is and how important it is to not dehumanize people that are different from you. People who have different beliefs, practices, cultures are still people.
There is no doubt that Black Panther has had a profound impact around the world, some may argue even more so than Wonder Woman. Black Panther is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time in the US, beating Titanic. It features strong male and female characters of color and embraces aspects of various African tribes. The Dora Milaje of Wakanda resemble the Maasi people of Kenya and Tanzania. The Basotho People of Lesotho in South Africa are represented by the Wakandan border tribe in the film. Even though Wakanda is a fictional country, by drawing on real African traditions, it gives a new perspective not often shown in Hollywood films. Too often stories like this are not told, or if they are, they are white-washed beyond recognition. Black Panther has given so many people the opportunity to see themselves on screen, and the success it has had in the box office proves that film-goers want to see these stories. It is also the first US film in 35 years to be shown in Saudi Arabia, breaking a ban on US films in the country. Films can have such a huge impact on how we see ourselves and the world, and I am so happy that new stories are finally being told. It’s refreshing to me that Hollywood is finally trying to break out of its cycle and give us new and interesting stories that don’t further marginalize people.
The second session I went to for Global Engagement Day was Student Stories from Abroad. This session was SO helpful and made me even more excited to start my own journey next spring. The GEF’s on the panel went to primarily European countries, which was helpful since that’s where I want to study. They studied in Estonia, Spain, and Germany just to name a few. They shared tips on what types of currency to bring (cash vs. credit/debit card), what to pack, how to find affordable phone service, apps for navigation and so many other tips. Hearing their stories made my upcoming journey feel more real to me. Up until now, studying abroad was something for Future Brynna to think about, but now that time has finally come. I am beyond excited, but the realness of it also make me worry (thanks anxiety!). Thankfully I know I have a support system of other GEF’s that have already gone abroad that can help me through it
Global Engagement Day happens every spring and is a day filled with sessions where Global Engagement Fellows share their study abroad experiences with other GEF’s and any other OU students that are interested in studying abroad. Luckily I was able to attend two sessions this year. The first was Women, LGBTQ+ persons, and Minorities abroad. This session was so informative and to hear stories from other GEF’s about how they pushed through struggles with their identity and still had a meaningful experience was amazing. Even though I am planning to study abroad in very westernized countries, I am still nervous about navigating safely as a woman in new places. I also worry about managing my anxiety without my parents being 30 minutes away. But knowing that other people have gone through similar circumstances and made it through makes me feel better. I just have to learn to not put so much pressure on myself or on the study abroad experience. Just like back home I will have good days and I will have bad days, but that does not mean that I can’t still have an amazing time.
After two years of being a Global Engagement fellow, I am finally preparing to take my trip abroad next spring! I currently have three applications open for Spring 2019 in Hertfordshire, England; Reading, England; and Aberdeen, Scotland. My top choice is Hertfordshire because it works the best class-wise with my major, it’s a smaller town so it won’t be too overwhelming, and the dates of the program work best with my schedule. But I still want to have my options open in case something falls through. Directly after my semester in the UK, I plan on doing OU’s Journey Program in Italy for the month of June. I am nervous about being away from home for so long considering the furthest I have traveled outside of Oklahoma is Las Vegas, Nevada, but I am also so excited for the new experiences I am going to have. I can’t wait to explore England, Scotland, and Ireland (and visit the small town of Brynna in Wales!) along with surrounding countries like France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and as many others as I can fit into my schedule!