In March, I went to an info session on the OU in Rio de Janeiro Study Center. This was a really casual event outside Dale, but it was fun to learn a little more about the programs offered in the study center and how that is different than the Arezzo campus. When I was talking with them, I wish I was staying longer at OU, so I could go to Brazil and have new experiences there as well. It is always great to see study centers become more known on campus. I know most people know about OU in Arezzo, but it’s exciting to see new locations gain attraction.
I think the study centers are a great idea especially for the students not wanting to go completely by themselves. I went to the OUA campus with PLC a while ago and was really glad I wasn’t on my own and that I had a group of Americans with me. I am glad OU is expanding their campuses to all over the world. This truly gives OU students the comfort of OU students and professor but still provides students opportunities to experience new things and get out of their shells.
This past semester I have also been working with a boy from Jackson Elementary, and he has advanced so fast in his English abilities, which is very impressive. This boy started the semester in a 1st grade reading level and is now able to read 3rd grade level books with a little help. The language transformation this boy has had in the past couple of months is amazing and shows how immersion into a language can be beneficial to language abilities.
I always think it is interesting to think about what this kid is going through now and compare it back to my time abroad even though the experiences are so drastically different. This kid has been thrown into a new environment with a new language, different people, and different norms. I must admit is quite like me going abroad by myself not knowing anyone, but the most important difference is that he in no way asked for this crazy change in his life. I think it is impressive that this kid has experienced a life changing move and still wants to learn and participate in his surroundings and is being successful at it too.
For global engagement day I attended the Women, LGBTQ Persons, and Minorities Abroad. During this discussion, it was interesting to hear about their experiences aboard especially because I never realized the different ways people are forced to act to ensure their safety in different places. My study abroad location was in Spain and very different than the different locations some of these individuals went. One of the stories that struck me was when the student studying in Morocco had to hide certain traits about himself because being gay was not allowed. With the female student who studied in Africa, she couldn’t show her legs or anything of the sort in public. These experiences are very foreign to me especially with my study abroad experience.
When I compare my upbringing to my time in Spain, it is very different. Spain is extremely liberal especially when comparing it to the culture in small town Oklahoma and even more so with Morocco. It is crazy to think about the different spectrum over all the cultures of what is considered appropriate.
This past Spring break I was able to go to Germany and got to experience and learn about German culture. One interesting thing I learned was the different regional foods and drinks typical in the different states. I was in Darmstadt during most of my stay which is in Hesse and is about 20 min from Frankfurt. The most typical drink in this region is Apfel Wein, or apple wine. This drink is quite similar to white wine, but it does have a slightly different flavor. I am by no means a wine expert, so I can’t go into great detail, but it is rather good. I would recommend anyone try it if they have the chance. Apple wine is normally served in just a ordinary glass, which is very uncommon for the typical red and white wines. There are actually two different types that can normally be found in restaurants but the most normal is see-through and a little sweeter. All in all, a pretty decent drink and definitely worth a try if you are in Germany and especially in Hesse.
This past semester I was paired up with two new girls at Jackson Elementary, and when I first met with them they did not speak a word of English. This was really a challenge because all the students I have had were at least able to answer easy questions in English. These two girls though were so willing to learn, and I could tell were so excited when I came to help them because I could actually communicate with them on at least a basic level.
In past years, I have usually had the kids read a book and then we would draw out the words we didn’t know to give the kids a visual representation as well as auditory, but this wasn’t an option. It honestly took me a while to figure out how to approach teaching, but I ended up starting with the alphabet and bingo-like games so they could start with vocabulary and pronunciation. These girls still have a long way to go, but they will definitely get there.
I went to the contra dance in Norman on December 1st. Contra dance is very similar to folk dance, and going to this dance was a little out of my comfort zone. The dances were a lot longer than anticipated and I was actually pretty tired by the end of it. I surprised by the technique and moves that were involved in it, and I think that was obvious because a couple of the regulars had to help me quite often. I am glad that I experienced a contra dance. I think it’s neat that they are becoming more popular in Oklahoma and it seems to make people happy. Participating a different tradition or norm from a different culture is always something you can learn a lot from. I don’t have any plans on going back to one of these dances, but I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in Contra dance.
I went to the fancy dance concert in Catlett and the Oklahoma fancy dancers performed during the first half and the Siberian Natives performed during the second. The performances were great and I learned many new things about their cultures. They had the opportunity to bring the Siberians here because of the program, Peer to Peer, which was funded by the embassy in Siberia. The goal of Peer to Peer is to bring people from two different sides of the world together and connect them by what they have in common, which is being indigenous people. This helps preserve their cultures. The whole concert lasted around two hours and there was singing, dancing, and playing instruments. They also got the audience involved and brought them on the stage to participate a dance.
The most interesting thing I saw was the Siberian throat singer. A week before actually I had learned about them in my Language Across Culture class and I was really surprised the sounds they can make with their throats. It is a super low sound that isn’t similar to anything I have heard before. Hopefully the clip I attached works and you can hear the sounds.
As I have said, I am volunteering at Jackson with 2 students to work on their English. I always enjoy helping in any way I can, but at times it can be difficult to really engage them and find the best way to teach them especially at that age. They do not know what type of learner they are or anything of the sort. I have recently begun having them read stories while picking out vocab for them to practice through either pictures or writing the words. Additionally, the two boys have different levels of English so it is difficult to make sure one is still challenged while the other one is still gaining confidence in his English ability. Although this is a constant challenge, I am excited to continue next semester.
In the past couple of years, Canada has experienced some French-Only laws specifically in Quebec. The situation that caused such an uproar was when an Italian restaurant was fined for using Italian words on their menu… Little much don’t you think? This was later described as Pastagate. But this circumstance can be compared in many ways to the English-Only laws that have come about in the US recently.
Quebec’s government cares so much about things being in French because it is their heritage and culture. In the recent years, 50% of the new generation across Canada is taking English as their main language, which causes Quebec, a strong French speaking community, to make sure their heritage is preserved. This example involving Canada is different in comparison to The US because the culture and language Quebec is associated with the most is under threat. This is very different than the dominant use of English here. While that is an important difference, there are many similarities in attempting to make one language seem more important than others. As for Pastagate, I think they definitely took policing too far and I think the government knows they went too far as well looking at the reaction of the people. It is still policed more than it should be, specifically looking at the restaurant that is required to display French in a larger font than any of the other languages on his windows. It is always interesting to see how some regions want certain languages to dominate and the extremes they might go to in order to ensure that.
I feel like life has come full circle now because this semester I was assigned to tutor at my old elementary school here in Norman. I am even working with one of the teachers I was around all the time when I was at school there. This semester I was assigned to work with 2 boys once a week. I had actually worked with one of them before so that was kind of nice because we could just jump into things. I had found that his English had majorly improved since I had last worked with him, and he was doing better in school.
Since I have studied abroad, I have a new respect for these children who come to the schools not knowing any English. It was a struggle when I got to Spain even after years of studying the language and having others around me who couldn’t speak fluently either. I can’t imagine going into a new country as these boys have and probably their families as well. It makes me happy to help them out in anyway I can.