USA vs. Scotland

Even though the UK is an English-speaking country, there are still a lot of differences between the United Kingdom and the United States. Here are some of the most obvious ones:

  • No stop signs: That is right. I have not seen a single red octagonal shape with big white letters stamped across it during the almost two months I have been here. There are a lot of roundabouts and interesting 4 way intersections that I can not even begin to describe. The most alarming aspect about not having stop signs at intersections is when I’m crossing the street at 8 in the morning walking to class and I see out of my peripheral vision this car zooming towards me. In the U.S., most cars will begin to slow down several hundred feet ahead of the stop sign in order to prevent a sudden stop. But, in the UK, I have these fear of uncertainty if they will actually stop in time or if they will stop at all since there is no big red sign reminding them. The most awkward thing is playing the who is going to go first game with the car. With no certainty that the car will stop and let the pedestrian cross or continue to turn, I often find myself putting one foot into the street then often retracting until there is a sure sign from the car.
  • Interesting crosswalks: At large intersections, there is a median in the middle of the road for pedestrians. But unlike most medians in the US, there are fences along the median that creates an almost Z-shaped path for the pedestrians. When crossing, pedestrians are supposed to cross one lane and then wait at the median and then cross the other lane. Pedestrians are only give the green light to cross one lane at a time while the other lane is still allowing cars to turn into.
  • Computer keyboards: Who knew that there were different types of English keyboards? When I walked into the university library to go print something, I needed to access my email account to retrieve the document. The first time I tried log in, it said I typed in the wrong username and/or password. I retyped the password again and still it said I was wrong. Finally, I looked at my username and I noticed that the @ sign was wrong. Finally, I realized that the @ symbol isn’t on the usual key on the number 2 key.
  • Separate hot and cold water taps: Getting warm water in the UK is near impossible. The hot water and cold water comes out of two separate taps and there is no way to adjust the temperature of the water. At least in my building, the hot water is scathing hot. In order to get warm water, I have to keep alternating between the hot and cold water tap. One of my flatmates said that she has to plug up the drain in the sink and run both taps in order to get warm water to wash her face. Whenever I need to wash my hands, I have to either pick the freezing water or the scathing water. I have never been more grateful for one faucet with adjustable water temperature in the U.S.

Living in Scotland has definitely been interesting adjusting with the small changes. I find it fascinating the similarities and differences between the United States and the UK.

Scotland!

So, it has been almost a month since I have arrived at Scotland. As the plane was descending into Glasgow, the most beautiful landscape appeared out of the tiny airplane window. There were mountains covered in lush green trees with crystal blue lochs in the valley. Fun fact: there is only one lake in Scotland, but there are over 31,000 lochs. An immediate difference that I noticed is the language. Yes, American and Scottish people both speak English with different accents, but I did not realize just how different Glaswegian (the Scots dialect that is spoken in Glasgow). The first time a native Glaswegian spoke to me, I truly could not understand a word he was speaking. It sounded like a completely different language. When they speak, they drop so many letters in the words and use so much slang to the point where I just stand there and nod pretending I understand the conversation. Even now, I can only understand a few words that they are speaking and most of the meaning is lost to me. Hopefully by the end of the semester, I will be able to understand Glaswegian better.

I’m currently living in a 12 person flat in student accommodations.  At least in the U.S., the word “flat” is considered the same thing as an “apartment”. And when most people hear the word “apartment”, they image a housing accommodation with a few bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and living space at minimum. When I first arrived at my flat after a long airplane flight, I was shocked to discover that the “flat” was simply a typical dorm with an additional kitchen. There is a long hallway with 12 single bedrooms and then a kitchen in the middle. Unfortunately, due to being “fire hazard”, we are unable to put in additional furniture. There is a good mix of international students in our flat: 3 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from Quebec, Canada, 1 from Azerbaijan, and the rest from the U.S.

Uni has been an interesting experience. The first week was a hectic adventure trying to get classes approved and finding classes. Unlike in the U.S. where classes are at a set time and location usually either on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule or a Tuesday, Thursday schedule, at the University of Glasgow, class times and location change on a daily and weekly basis. For example, my Gaelic class meets in a museum one day and then in the medical school another day. And for other classes, we may meet in the mornings on some days, but on other days we meet in the afternoons. I had the hardest time finding classes that didn’t have time conflicts with each other. This is most likely due to the fact that there isn’t really a general education requirement here and non-exchange students typically only take courses for their major. There is a greater emphasis on self-learning here than in the U.S. Back at my home university, there would typically be homework due daily or weekly, but at Glasgow for most of my classes there is just two term papers due and a long list of “suggested reading” to do on our own time.

University of Glasgow 

University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow Cloisters

TUW Cultural Show: Borderless

On March 10. 2018, OU’s TUW hosted a Cultural Show at the Union in order to showcase various countries and cultures that their members originate from. For this year, the theme was Borderless and there was an emphasis on while each culture is unique, we have much more in common that unites us than divides us. There were all sorts of performances from a fashion show, dancing, singing, stand up comedy, and even a short telenovela skit. My favorite act was a song called Moltiva sung by Martina. Apparently the song is extremely popular in Europe and even won the Eurovision, an European singing contest. The student was such a good singer and the song really moved me that I even looked it up on Youtube after the event. The most unique act was the skit by Norma and Karina. It was a short skit in a form of a spanish telenovela but was relevant to OU. Besides the occasional sound issue, the skit was very well executed. I wonder how long it took them to write the script and practice it. Overall, it was a very wonderful event and I definitely look forward to  next year.

Arabic Fashion Show

On April 20th, the OU Arab Student Association hosted an Arabic Fashion Show in order to celebrate their culture as well as to educate the public that while we typically view the Arab world as one entity, there are many diverse cultures within the Arab World. It was a night of great fun and food. It was interesting to see all the different types of clothes that different Arab countries have. I learned that what we consider the “typical” Arab outfit, it is actually clothes from one country and some other Arab countries wear vastly different clothes. Besides the fashion show, there was singing and dancing. While I couldn’t understand the words being sung to the song, it was very enjoyable and there was such a great energy in the room when everyone else in the room would sing the chorus together.  At the end, the performers started to perform a very popular group dance and soon everyone joined in. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get a better glimpse of what Arab culture really is.

North vs. South Korea: An end to an era?

Recently, I, and the I am sure most of the rest of the world, were shocked to learn that North Korea and South Korea are willing to sit down together and discuss peace talks. Definitely experts in this area could claim that they saw it coming, but I was genuinely shocked to hear the news about this. I feel like that we have created this image of North Korea being a ruthless dictatorship that won’t bend to anyone else and their willingness to eventually end the Korean War was very out of left field.  This past few weeks marks a historical event where it was the first time a North Korean leader ever step foot in South Korea. That action, to me, represents a lot; the North Koreans are willing to be reasonable even to step foot into their enemy’s sovereign soil. One of the most important points in the meeting was to have a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The fact that North Korea was willing to dismantle its nuclear program was shocking to me since I remember not even a few years ago when the America and the American public was worried about North Korea’s nuclear program becoming advanced enough to bomb other countries. This is such a historical and unique event that I can only watch and hope that events will unfold in the correct decision and maybe one day the two Korean countries might become unified again or at least be peaceful toward one another. The biggest question I have had is what caused North Korea to extend this temporary olive branch and will it be successful?

ICDG

This past semester, I had the honor to be a co-moderator for the Informed Citizens Discussion Group (ICDG) with my fellow Global Engagement Fellow, Noah Coen. It was wonderful to see returning members from our previous group in the fall semester as well as many new faces.  We had many interesting and unique discussions from gun laws to hypothetical situations such as: would you rather be a strawberry with a human brain or a human with a strawberry brain. At first, it was obvious that Noah and I were the co-moderator and we had to start every conversation and the other members would occasionally give an opinion. By the end of the semester, everyone was so comfortable with each to the point where I felt like Noah and I were no longer leading the group and everyone became an equally contributing member of the discussion. This semester we had members from various majors and it was great hearing about their different opinions as well as the wide variety of news topics they found important during the past week. Unfortunately, both Noah and I are studying abroad next year so we are no longer moderating next year, but we fully plan on doing it the year after we come back. Since I met some of the most amazing seniors through ICDG and tomorrow is graduation, I felt the need to say that being a member of ICDG was one of the best decision I made as a freshmen. I got to meet some very thoughtful and intelligent people, participated in interesting late night discussions, and made some amazing friends. I wish all the best of luck to everyone graduating this year and I can’t wait to see where life takes them in the future.

The Iran Deal

Well, it is that same time of year again where classes are done, finals are finished, and it is the last of the semester, and I’m gonna mass release my 5 blog posts right up to the last minute of the deadline. Days ago, Trump announced that he plans on pulling America out of the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal was a deal that was created in 2015 in order to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for less sanctions. As part of Trump’s election campaign, Trump promised to remove the United States from this agreements. While I am highly uninformed on this topic, I believe that while the Iran Deal is not perfect, it is better than nothing in order to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. I can not imagine a having a unstable country having nuclear weapons in an area long often troubled with conflict. According to a Washington Post article, the ramification of Trump’s decision has already occurred.  Tensions between Israel and Iran rose dramatically with Israel being put on “high alert”.  It will be interesting to see how Trump’s decision will affect the results of the Iran Deal and if the other countries are able to continue with the agreement. The one thing I do know is that the French president Emmanuel Macron is a psychic. He accurately predicted that the United States will pull out of the Iran Deal and his second prediction is that that decision will lead to war. It is now a simply waiting game and to see the events unfold to find out if Macron is a true fortune teller.

The Nuclear Relations between U.S., China, and North Korea

On Wednesday October 18th,  the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies hosted a talk about “The North Korea Challenge in US-China Relations” with guest speaker Dr. Jeffrey Lewis who is a professor and Director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. It was definitely a very interesting and entertaining talk regarding the China’s relation with North Korea’s nuclear program and how that impacts China’s relation with the United States. Dr. Lewis first gave a very brief yet detailed timeline of North Korea’s nuclear program. He explained that the United States keep track of North Korea’s nuclear program based on the types of images that are released and from satellite. Based on the shape of fumes, time of take off, height, shape of the missile, these analysts are able to deduct the type of nuclear missile North Korea has. I found this very impressive. A very important point from the talk that I learned is that there is a massive gap between how the U.S. views North Korea and China and how they see themselves. The United States don’t take them seriously since we still have this view that they are still aren’t technology advanced enough. Meanwhile, these countries see themselves as catching up to the United States. Therefore, we need to start taking them seriously. They are now strong countries with advanced nuclear programs. Also, a fun fact that I learned is that China’s relationship with North Korea isn’t as tight as we might assume. China sent a letter to North Korea saying they shouldn’t launch the missile, but North Korea ignored them. Also, Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed to send China a message after the uncle started having warm relations with China. From this talk, I learned that international relations is a very tricky and complicated field with many motives and factors that are in play.

U.S. and North Korea. Oh my!

For the longest time, the United States has been on shaky ground with North Korea. With the current presidential administration, it has deteriorated even more. I don’t think that Trump has a filter between his brain and his mouth and realizes that he is the President of the United States and is the figure head of America. Watching the recent Twitter/speech back and forth insults between Trump and Kim Jong Un, while slightly funny and entertaining, is also unnerving. Two nuclear powers with one being the dictator of a country and known for executing people are flinging insults at each other. North Korea has been practicing their missile launches more frequently and has now announced that they are able to hit anywhere in the United States. That thought is pretty daunting. Instead of trying to negotiating peace and try to get on more friendlier terms, Trump simply retaliates by publishing an even more bold statement. While it is comforting to know that the United States is prepared to counterattack a North Korea missile, it doesn’t change the point that we are trying to aim for world peace, not start another world war or have a repeat of the Cold War. I am still waiting for the day when one of Trump’s comments about Kim Jong Un or North Korea finally crosses the line, angering Kim Jong Un to the point of finally carrying out actions he speaks of.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has had a very rough year. Located in the Caribbean Sea,  it got damaged by hurricane after hurricane with very little time to recover. The worse damage was caused by a direct hit by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, around September 20th. It has caused massive blackouts across the island as well as many other problems such as no running water, food, and medicine. It is the aftermath that I believe caused devastation for its people.  It has taken an extremely long time for buildings and infrastructure to be restored and get its people back to a normal life.  After a MONTH after the hurricane hit, 88% of the population still doesn’t have electricity.  Puerto Rico is a United States territory, a little fact that many people often forget. When a natural disaster occurs in the U.S., people from all parts of the country pour in aid and money to help restore the area as quickly as possible. I feel like that Puerto Rico did not receive the same type of treatment that Houston got when Hurricane Harvey hit. A lot of this has to do with our national government and the current President. Trump, being his typical self, did a lot of big talk but little action or at least not enough. Even now, months after the disaster, Puerto Rico has a very long way to go before it has full restoration. I don’t think we understand the extent of damage done since it has been speculated that the number of deaths reported is drastically lower than reality. Hopefully, Puerto Rico will eventually recover and take this opportunity to improve buildings and infrastructure for the island.