Realization a Month into Studying Abroad!

As of today, I’ve been studying abroad in Italy for almost two months! I can’t believe it’s been so long since said goodbye to my friends and family (or since I’ve had tea café ). I love living here. Arezzo has become my home and I cherish all the incredible experiences I’ve had traveling in Italy. Also, the people in my program are so cool! It’s crazy to me that I didn’t even know them a month ago and now I have such good friends.

As I mentioned earlier, Arezzo has honestly become my second home. I have absolutely fallen in love with the people, the land, and just learning from the different culture. It’s like I developed a daily rhythm, this is my new normal. I’ve mastered the art of dodging the fearless drivers, ordering my food in perfect Italian, and have had my fair share of experiences sprinting through train stations.

However, being so far into the semester, I’m beginning to come to the realization that I haven’t yet had the experiences I anticipated. I’ve been so distracted by homework and traveling that I feel like I haven’t been able to develop the relationships I thought I would with local Italians. So far, I’ve became friends with a University of Siena student who lives in the monastery with us. I’ve also had dinner at the home of a local Italian family’s home. I get to learn a lot about the differences between our cultures and norms through these interactions. Although, I’ve loved having the opportunity to getting to know these Italians, I would love to be able to make these connections on my own. I think building relationships on my own will help me fulfill the comprehensive experience abroad I was hoping for. To do this I think I’ll try to make more active efforts of getting to know locals and just switching up my routine once in a while. Updates coming hopefully soon!

Love,

Hima

 

Naples, Pompeii, and Capri!!!

Ciao a tutti!

I’m currently studying abroad at the OU campus in Arezzo, Italy for the fall semester. For our third week into the semester, the entire program took a weekend trip to Naples, Pompeii, and Capri! Leaving Arezzo early on Friday morning, we were able to arrive to our first stop in Pompeii by around noon. We explored the ruins of the city of Pompeii and were able to learn a lot about the history with the help of our incredible professors. In Pompeii we visited buildings and areas which once functioned as the city’s Forum, houses of citizens, an amphitheater, and temples. My favorite part of the ancient city was ironically the beautiful view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

For the second day of our trip we visited the gorgeous island of Capri. By taking a ferry from Naples, we were able to make it to the island in only an hour. Once we arrived we quickly switched from the giant ferry to a boat which was going to give us a tour around the island. On the tour we got to see caves, beaches, and the numerous million-dollar houses and yachts of Capri. My favorite part of the tour being the quick swim we were able to take in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. My least favorite part being the seasickness of course. Nevertheless, the tour was incredible and afterwards we were able spend the remainder of the day on our own. Me and my friends decided to split a taxi and make our way up to the town of Anacapri. There we shopped, ate a delicious meal, and got gelato of course! Anacapri was perfect. The architecture was stunning, and the environment was peaceful. After adventuring through the town, we decided to take a chair lift to the highest point in Capri. There we were able to enjoy the most spectacular views of the sea, the beaches and the horizon.

 

 

 

The weekend trip to Naples, Capri, and Pompeii was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to these destinations!!

Food Security and Sustainability

Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Unfortunately, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, millions of people around the world are still suffering. In order to be apart of the international efforts to end this world hunger, we need to ensure we first address local food insecurity.

In order to find out more about what OU is doing to solve this issue, I attended a panel discussion held by the OU Housing and Food services. In the discussion many members of the staff discussed how they are promoting environmental sustainability and providing healthier options for students within their own areas of expertise. One the efforts I found the most surprising was the purchase and maintenance of a Leafy Green Machine. This machine is a pre-assembled hydroponic farm built entirely within a shipping container. Using vertical farming methods, the farm is able to produce 1,000 plants a week. It also only uses 10 gallons of water a day! Solutions like this to provide cheap, locally sourced nutritious options for the community are bringing us closer to fighting the battle against food insecurity

International Students’ Experiences at OU

Earlier this month was the annual Global Engagement Day. At the event, I attended a lecture entitled International Students’ Experiences at OU. The discussion featured two international students who shared with us their transition to life at the University of Oklahoma.

One of the international students was from Angola. As a conservative, Catholic man from Africa, he claimed he experienced drastic culture shock attempting to adapt to the liberal atmosphere on campus. He managed to overcome any cultural differences by maintaining an open mind and listening to  other perspectives. The other international student was from Malaysia. She described the most difficult part of transition to be learning to adapt her accent so she could communicate with other students easier. Both international students agree the transition to OU was difficult at first but they’ve have come to enjoy their time here. They are both active members of OU Cousins and the International Advisory Committee. They claim that these organizations have immensely helped with their transition to campus by provided them with support systems and “a home away from home”.

The students concluded their discussion by emphasizing the importance of creating a welcoming atmosphere for all students on campus. They recounted on their few offensive interactions with American students and provided tips to help minimize these experiences for other international students. They both agreed in order integrate American and international students, everyone needs to just be genuine and considerate of each other’s emotions.

OU Cousins

This semester I decided to join OU Cousins. OU Cousins is an organization on campus which strives to break down the barriers between American and international students. The program matches international students with American students according to hobbies, majors, and countries of special interest. Once paired, students are given the opportunity to spend time together at monthly events. My OU Cousin is an international student from Rwanda. I love getting to know her and meeting her international friends as well. So far, OU Cousins has been an incredible experience. I have really enjoyed meeting people who come from such different backgrounds with varying life perspectives.

International Cyber Security

 

On March 8th, Ronald Diebert came to the University of Oklahoma to speak about the threatening presence of digital espionage on civil society and the role the Citizen Lab plays in discovering these human rights violations. Deibert is currently a professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He also is the director of the Citizen Lab, “an interdisciplinary laboratory focusing on research, development, and high-level strategic policy and legal engagement at the intersection of information and communication technologies, human rights, and global security”1, at the University of Toronto. Throughout his lecture, Diebert argues the necessity of the Citizen Lab’s research by providing numerous examples of spyware being used to target innocent individuals.

Deibert explains the various types of spyware the Citizen Lab has researched to be highly advanced, extremely difficult to trace, and easily concealed. One of the examples he uses to illustrate the complexity and relentlessness of the attackers behind the spyware focuses on the targeting of Carmen Aristegui, a Mexican journalist and investigator. Because Carmen would not open suspicious links sent to her phone, her eighteen-year-old son, Emilio, soon also became a victim. A highly sophisticated spyware called Pegasus would send Emilio texts trying to persuade him to open the corrupted links by impersonating the United States Embassy claiming there were problems with his Visa. Carmen would also receive texts claiming her son was in danger in an attempt to urge her to open the links. Deibert claims that not only were these texts immoral but they were also illegal because of the numerous occasions in which they impersonated US institutions. He also believes that the Aristegui family was being targeted by the Mexican government because of Carmen’s exposing investigations on the government.

Deibert also goes on to stress the implication of this “silent epidemic” sweeping the world. He claims that democracy is in retreat as this booming surveillance industry exponentially grows unregulated. He concludes his lecture by providing some suggestions that he believes could help prevent these ongoing human rights violations. For one, we need to continue to support research facilities like the Citizen Lab because their coordination and collaboration successfully exposes targeting and espionage abuses. He states that the technological industry needs to strive to further protect their users from falling victim to advanced spyware. Deibert also states that our international norms must shift away from accepting these violations; we must hold offenders liable for their actions. He concludes his lecture by once again stressing the need for change. Looking towards the big picture, if we want to aim to make change happen, the collective mindset, practices, laws, ethics of the international system must be modified.

Although the threat does not directly affect me, I strongly agree with Dr. Diebert that these basic violations of a human’s privacy and safety should not be occurring. As an average citizen, I would not know how to defend myself from these violations, so it is comforting to know that institutions such as the Citizen Lab exist to prevent these attacks. But I agree that further action needs to be taken by governments and the technological industry to also prevent these invasions of a persons’ privacy. Governments that use advanced spyware and illegal methods of coercion on their own citizens or even any citizens need to be held accountable! Serious crimes are being committed that deserve to have serious repercussions. This lecture was an enlightening experience, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to educate myself on this major issue.

China’s Innovation Drive

On April 11th, Dr. Scott Kennedy came to the University of Oklahoma to speak about China’s innovation drive and its implications for the United States and the rest of the world. Dr. Kennedy is a leading authority on China’s economic policy and its global economic relations. His areas of focus include industrial policy, technology innovation, business lobbying, and multinational business challenges in China. Kennedy has been conducting his research on China’s innovative growth for over 30 years. He has gathered findings for his research through his personal experiences in China, interviews with experts, and analysis of statistics regarding China’s economy. Throughout his lecture, Kennedy argues that China’s investment in its innovative growth will have serious consequences for competing countries of the world. However, he also argues that some methods China uses to boost this growth may pose as more destructive than constructive for its own economic sectors.

Dr. Kennedy begins his lecture by briefly illustrating the technological advancements in China in the past 30 years based off his own experiences. He reflects on his first visit to China around 30 years ago and focuses on the quality of transportation. He remembers the trains being very slow moving, not very advanced, and difficult to access. Kennedy then compares this experience to one he had a few years ago when he returned to China. The quality of transportation in the more recent trip was extremely advanced, digitalized, and easily accessible. He claims that the experience was entirely different the second time and nothing in the United States compared. Kennedy uses this personal anecdote as the basis for his very first argument: China’s increasing advancement is surpassing the rest of the world. He draws on the implementation of China’s strategic plan, Made in China 2025, as a cause for this initiative to upgrade the country’s industry. Kennedy further supports his claim by using statistics exemplifying China’s technological advancements, research and development spending, and Global Innovation Index as superior in comparison to the rest of the world.

The second argument Dr. Kennedy makes highlights the flaws of China’s technological and industrial advancement methods. He states that China’s increase in patent spending is counterintuitive because the country only gains a nickel for every dollar spent on a patent. He also claims that China lacks in originality when it comes to innovation. The country loses money because it buys designs from other countries instead of executing its own ideas. These flaws raise the question if China’s attempts to innovate are constructive or destructive on its economic sectors. Kennedy then goes on to point out that the entire economy is dependent on government funding. Without the government’s subsidies the market would not even exist. Kennedy concludes the lecture by clarifying that the research he has conducted only affirms that China’s innovation drive is booming. However, now his research is directed to seek answers to new questions that are raised. What are the implications of Chinese success? How will this success shape American government policy?

The arguments made in Kennedy’s lecture were convincing because they were well supported by strong, reliable data. His graphs proved that China’s GDP was the fastest growing and its research and development spending was the second highest in the world. Kennedy also provided evidence of China’s technological advancements by referring to specific Chinese companies attempting to increase domestic innovation. I agree with his claim that although its infrastructure is quickly developing and surpassing some US advancements, China should be weary of the tactics being used to promote this technological surge. The entire economy should be dependent on consumer profits, not government aid. As someone with limited knowledge of China’s technological and economic advancements, I found Dr. Kennedy’s talk to be very enlightening.  It was interesting to learn about a topic I am completely unfamiliar with, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to educate myself.

 

Asian American Student Association

One of the requirements I have to fulfill in order to be a Global Engagement Fellow at OU is to be involved with an international organization. This semester I decided to join the Asian American Student Association. The organization strives to “promote the cultural diversity of OU through activities that educate and celebrate the rich heritage and traditions of Asian-Americans.” The club is a great way for me to celebrate and learn about other Asian cultures while also strengthening my own. AASA also has a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I enjoyed being a member of the club this semester and am excited to for what next semester has to offer!

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Women’s Education Rights

At the beginning of semester, I attended a lecture by Shiza Shahid, founding CEO of the Malala Fund. In her speech, she briefly discussed her life growing up in Pakistan and eventually moving to the US. Shahid claimed that she was more fortunate when it came to the quality of her education than most young girls and women in Pakistan. She went on the explain that in Pakistan at the time, the Taliban had issued an edict banning girls from attending school.  Unaccepting of these rules, as a college student at Stanford University, Shahid would return to Pakistan during the breaks and to hold a secret summer camp for young girls. At the camp, Shahid created an atmosphere where young girls could feel empowered with knowledge while also being able to relax. In 2012, one of the young girls from the summer camp was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for openly advocating women’s education rights.

The young girl, Malala Yousafzai, miraculously survived the attack. She then went on to co-found the Malala Fund, an organization promoting Malala’s perseverance and advocacy for women’s education rights. The Malala Fund seeks to obtain a future in which women and girls all around the world can learn and be leaders without fear.

All women everywhere deserve to be educated without having to fear for their life. We  all have the power to step up and be a catalyst for change, like young Malala Yousafzai. At the lecture, Shiza Shahid said something that really stuck with me. “There are moments in your life in your life where you have to chose who you are.” I hope when these moments present themselves, I choose to lift up others and advocate just treatment of everyone.

Day of the Dead Street Festival

On October 29, I attended the Day of the Dead Street Festival hosted by the Hispanic American Student Association of OU. The festival celebrated Day of the Dead, a hispanic holiday focusing on the gatherings of friends and family to remember the deaths of loved ones. The day seeks to support the dead through their spiritual journey. The event was packed with lots of citizens and students enjoying the beautiful festival. There were lots of attractions such as musicians, arts and crafts, lots of food vendors, and carnival rides. It was so amazing the experience the hispanic culture by listening to the musicians and eating from the authentic food vendors. The Day of the Dead was  a beautiful celebration I loved experiencing.