Today, I watched the TED Talk An Independent Diplomat by Carne Ross. It was really good, so I suggest you watch it (link below) before you continue reading.
First of all, Carne Ross seems like a really cool person. He’s lived a cool life and I feel like I could listen to him tell stories from it all day. Now that that’s been established, I’ll talk about the TED Talk. Ross spoke about his experience as a diplomat and the circumstances that led up to his creation of Independent Diplomats. It was basically his view that the war in Iraq was started for reasons other than that were claimed and his disillusionment with the process of diplomacy that caused him to abandon his position as a British Diplomat and redefine his life. He became an independent ambassador to Kosovo and created Independent Diplomats, a group of people that serve as diplomats to disenfranchised groups/countries. His hope is that his group will be able to bring “voiceless” people to the UN to discuss their situations with policy makers. He states two observations about the world: It is fractioning, and the states hold less power than ever before.
I think what Ross is doing is necessary. The UN was created as a way for countries to talk about their problems. If most of the conflicts are intrastate and both sides of the conflict are not in attendance to communicate about the problem, then the UN isn’t really doing it’s job. By bringing in rebel groups to discuss their desires and issues, the UN is serving it’s purpose of facilitating discussion to prevent conflict.
My time as a Global Engagement Fellow has been wonderful, but not perfect. As a Junior Pre-medical student, my life is about to get crazy. I’m taking the MCAT in January, applying for Fulbright and doing my committee interviews this spring, applying to medical school and studying abroad in the summer, and hopefully going on interviews in the Fall. With all of this, I won’t be able to study abroad for a semester like I originally had hoped. In addition, I’m cramming most of the most difficult classes in my degree program into the last two years. With this in mind, I came up with a list of advice for future Global Engagement Fellows, or anyone studying abroad, who is majoring in science or is hoping to go to medical school. Enjoy!
- Plan Your Entire College Schedule- This is super important. Sit down with an excel spreadsheet before you even come to OU, look at your degree checksheets (ou.edu/checksheets) and plan out every class that you are ever going to take. Of course you can just write “Spanish Elective” or “Upper Division Humanity”, but keeping track of what classes you are going to take when is necessary. Plan out your study abroad. Which summer are you going to go? Which Semester? What classes will you need to take/can you get out of the way during that time? Thinking about this and knowing this will let you know which study abroad programs might work best for you. All plans can and probably will change 10 times in your years at OU, but that’s okay. It’s just important to be thinking all the way through to the finish line instead of just a few semesters ahead.
- Don’t Take an Easy First Semester- This piece of advice is directly contradictory to what most of the academic advisors will tell you, so here’s my take on it. If you’re a person who knows you’re going to have difficulty adjusting to college, by all means take an easy first semester. This could be that you didn’t have the best study habits in highschool, you expect to have a lot of problems with homesickness, or anything else. If that’s you, then the most important thing is getting adjusted. If you aren’t that worried about needing time to adjust, don’t waste a semester on easy classes. If you’re a premed student, I would recommend starting out with Zoology and General Chemistry right away. If you are a science major, start in on those major requirements right away. Trust me, future you will be very happy.
- Save your General Education Classes– This goes along with my last bit of advice. Instead of taking an easy first year and getting all of your gen eds out of the way like most advisors recommend, space them out all the way through your college career. Take a few harder classes and a few easier classes each semester. As a senior you will be so happy that you’ve already taken Quantitative Analysis and that in the midst of your thesis, all you have to worry about is Understanding Music. This also is important as a Global Engagement Fellow Specifically. If you’re pre-med, most medical schools do not accept study abroad credits for medical school requirements. This means that you won’t be able to take your science classes abroad and instead will be taking gen eds and minor classes. Save your gen eds and get your science classes out of the way so you don’t end up taking a semester of useless credits. The exception to this rule is OU programs abroad. If your science class is with an OU professor at an OU study abroad campus then it will count for medical school. I highly recommend looking into these programs.
- Study Abroad as Early as Possible- I highly recommend studying abroad the summer between your Freshman and Sophomore year. This will likely be the most convenient time to study abroad for the summer. In the future you will want to be spending your summer doing internships, research, and/or taking classes and it will be much harder to fit in. Plus studying abroad so early will put you ahead of many other OU students and putting that on your resume will increase the amount of opportunities you have. For the semester, get it done as early as possible. If you’re a pre-med student, it’s basically impossible to study abroad for a semester after the fall of your junior year. So that leaves Fall and Spring of your Sophomore year and Fall of your Junior Year as your options. If at all possible, do it as a Sophomore. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re more involved on campus and don’t have to give up jobs/leadership positions to go abroad.
- Get Relevant Experience Abroad– If you do research, look into a program that will allow you to do research abroad. If you’re a pre-med student, find a program that lets you shadow a medical professional abroad. International Experience in your field looks amazing. This is pretty self-explanatory.
It’s been another great semester in World Literature Today Book Club. I’m really glad that I chose this as my international club because it fulfills my passions for reading and international awareness. This semester we have read several really amazing books including The Vegetarian by Han Kang, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić, and The Life of Elves by Muriel Barberry. Reading international literature is a great way to learn about the culture of different places. Through the characters and the author’s handling of the characters you learn about values, customs, and milieu of a particular place at a particular time.
That is precisely the goal of World Literature Today Book Club: to spread international awareness and connectedness through literature. Taking this mission, we have decided to add a volunteer component to our club. One initial idea that we’ve decided to pursue would be to spread this mission to local children. In order to do this, we’re going to contact the Norman Public Library System and see if we can come up with a plan where WLT Book Club can read international children’s books to local kids and give small age-appropriate presentations to the children about the countries where the books they are reading come from. I’m very excited about this program and have taken on the role of Volunteer Coordinator so I can try to get it set up during Christmas Break and the first part of the Spring Semester. I think it would a fun way to get people involved in the international community from an early age and get children excited about other countries. Hopefully this program will become a success.
Looking forward, I think that WLT Book Club has some room to grow. Currently we only have about six regular members, so spreading the word and increasing to 10-12 members would make for a more complete organization. I’ve enjoyed my time in WLT Book Club this semester and look forward to participating next semester.
Well…I’m not in Chile. I was supposed to spend this semester abroad, but because of a family emergency I had to come back to OU so I can fly back home as necessary. It’s already half way through the semester. I’m disappointed that although I’ll be finishing my minor in Spanish, I won’t get to have the opportunity to be immersed in the language. I’m disappointed that I won’t get to spend a semester living a new culture with a host family. I’m disappointed, but life happens and I know that I made the right decision for myself and my family. Things with my family have started to settle down and it looks like everything is going to be okay. It’s with this sigh of relief that I’m finally able to look towards the future again and start planning out what happens next.
Although life didn’t work out in such a way that I will have the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester, I hope to be able to go on another summer study abroad trip. I was very excited to peruse OU’s study abroad website and find a summer program through the College of Arts and Sciences called Economics in London. If I decide to go on that trip, I will earn credit for two upper division Economics electives which will count towards that major. I am thrilled to have discovered this option that will allow me to complete classes that are applicable to my degree.
Starting to plan for my last summer here at OU, it feels like life is moving so quickly. In less than three months I will be sitting down to take the MCAT. Shortly after that will be a committee interview and piles of applications. Hopefully by the end of it all I’ll be going to graduate school. My plans have changed so many times throughout this journey, but once again I’ve revised my path and I see a way to reach my goals.
An update on my International Organization:
For the Spring Semester of 2016, I’ve still been the President of World Literature Today book club. We started off the semester by reading The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. This was by far the best book I’ve read in quite awhile. It was written in Chinese, and translated to english. It won the Hugo Award for Science Fiction in 2015. A Chinese film adaptation will be released in a few months. The second book we read this semester was the Arab of the Future, a graphic novel by Riad Sattouf. This book is primarily a memoir of the relationship between a boy and his father, as he lived in Libya, Syria, and France as a child. The last book we read this semester was Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou. We read this book in order to prepare for the Puterbaugh Festival, of which Alain Mabanckou was the winner. Overall, it was a good year. I’m not an english major anymore, so I love having the chance to read and talk about literature with other people who are interested in it like I am. In addition, I love this club because it let’s me experience modern international literature in a way that I would never be exposed to otherwise. These books that I’ve never heard of turn out to be amazing and new and exciting, and they let you experience different literary cultures that we don’t have in the United States. I’ve adored being the President of World Literature Today this year.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, I went to see “Schindler’s List” as part of the University of Oklahoma’s Holocaust Remembrance week. That was the third event of the day, which was specifically devoted to remembering the “Righteous Among the Nations”. That term is an honorific used by the State of Israel to recognize non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Schindler’s List is a film that was released in 2003. It was directed by Stephen Spielberg. It shows the story of how in Poland during WWII, Oskar Schindler became one of the Righteous Among the Nations by protecting his Jewish workforce from the Nazis. This is the second time I’ve seen this movie, and honestly I wasn’t looking forward to it. It’s an amazing movie, but watching it the first time was so emotional, I didn’t want to put myself through that again. The horrors and tragedy it portrays leave you shaken and cold inside, and remind you once again of the horrors that human beings can commit. By the end of the film, you’re emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want to watch it again. But I did. And once again, I was watching that terrible world and imagining what it would be like to live during WWII. I think at the end of the day, that’s the point of a week like this. To remember. I think that the point of this purposeful remembrance of tragedy is twofold: for one, we honor those who died and those who sacrificed, and for the other, we painfully make ourselves remember the cruelty that humanity is capable of, and we tell ourselves that this time we won’t let history repeat itself.
On Tuesday, February 9th I attended a musical performance/lecture in Kaufman room 210 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences “Focus on Arts” week. Three faculty members of the Spanish Language Department -Christina Audas, Armando Rivera, and Chris Kneifl- preformed songs from different Latin American traditions for a small group of students and faculty. Different regions represented were Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. The different rhythms and musical instruments were unique and told stories about the cultures from which the songs originated.
The performance was lively, intimate, and informative. In between discussing the cultural significance of different songs and instruments, Ms. Audas would sweet everyone away to another time and place with the melody of her songs, some of which she even wrote herself. Mr. Rivera was amazing on different percussion instruments. He played the bongo with such skill that it appeared an extension of his body. One of my favorite things said was, “come and experience the soul”. I thought this was apt because music is the soul of a culture, and by listening to the songs of a people, we got to experience the soul.
I just watched the video, “The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It”. I will attach the link below. It’s a video from the Sundance Institute and I thought it was very interesting. It documented the communication between teenagers in North Philadelphia and teenagers all over the world. They used technology like their phones and computers to Skype with these other teens and ask them questions. The film was very poignant because the teens were so innocent as they brought up and challenged hot issues such as racism and identity.
I think that people still fear what they don’t know, and in a lot of cases throughout history that has been people from other nationalities. This video subtly makes a point that with the technology available today, there really is no excuse to not get to know people from other cultures. It proves hope for a future driven by interconnectedness instead of fear and ignorance.
I’ve always liked Spanish. I took classes in high school and I did well. I’m doing well in my classes at the University of Oklahoma. But that won’t mean anything when I actually find myself in a Spanish-speaking country. I’m now less than a year away from studying abroad somewhere in South America Fall 2016. So working on my Spanish has become a bit of a priority as a prepare for my semester. I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the methods I’m employing on my quest to improve my Spanish before I go abroad.
1. Reading. I love to read, especially literature and fiction. I’m always looking for an excuse to spend my time curled up with a book instead of actually doing the homework I need to be doing…and what could be a better excuse than learning Spanish! I’ve read several things in Spanish so far: En el Tiempo de las Mariposas and La Casa de Calle Mango. My Spanish Professor was also awesome enough to recommend several of her favorite books to me.
2. Watching Television. Who doesn’t like Netflix? I’m currently watching this great show on Netflix called La Reina del Sur. It’s like even more dramatic Weeds. I love it. I’ve been trying to watch it without subtitles but my Spanish isn’t really there yet. A good compromise for me was to turn on the Spanish subtitles instead of the English subtitles. Who knew binge watching trashy TV could be so useful?
3. Speaking. I’m not currently getting a lot of experience speaking in Spanish outside of the classroom, and I have a feeling that will be the hardest thing for me to adjust to abroad. I’m considering participating in CESL next semester so I have someone to practice with.
The International Organization that I’ve chosen to participate in these past two years has been the World Literature Today Book Club. I’m actually lucky enough to have been elected President this year. Basically, each month we read a new book (we select modern pieces of world literature) and then discuss it over some delicious food. One of my favorite parts of the club is the multidisciplinary perspectives that we have accumulated. We have several English majors, a Journalism major, people from the College of International Studies, students majoring in the hard sciences like me, and even several grad students and adults from the community of Norman. These prospectives provide many lenses through which to look at a piece of literature. I’ve always loved reading and English, and now that I’m not majoring in English I love this opportunity to read literature and still feel productive. It also provides me with the opportunity to experience other cultures through literature that I probably wouldn’t have heard of without this club. We’ve read some very good books this semester: The Bridge on the Drina, The Last Illusion, and The Best Small Fictions. We’re currently reading The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu. It was the winner of the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. So far it’s really good and I can’t wait to discuss it after Winter Break. I definitely encourage and GEF fellows that have a passion for International Literature to consider joining.