Continuing with my experience in Würzburg, we also attended a catholic church service. In this region of Germany, Catholicism is the typical religion, and it is considered to be one of the most religious areas. This experience was extremely new and different for me as I had never experienced a catholic service even in English. During the service, we sang different hymns in which I constantly got lost and no doubt butchered the pronunciations in the seldom times I found our place. This part wasn’t that different than my experience in churches but going up and taking communion was quite different. I had never taken communion in the manner of going up to the front and I had no idea if I needed to say anything… Which I didn’t, but no one knew I didn’t speak German. This was both cool and kind of nerve-racking at the same time. I felt like one of the crowd – a German crowd, but not knowing the proper thing to do or possibly say was quite intimidating. It all worked out in the end, and I, of course, had over thought everything in my head, but this experience was quite everlasting. I got to experience a different religion in a different country, which I never pushed myself to do when I was in Spain.
This past spring break I went Germany and spent half of the time in Würzburg, which is a town in the Franken/Bavaria region there. My boyfriend’s family lives there, so we were there visiting the family. During our visit we celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday, and I noticed they celebrate slightly different than us. They still do the cakes and food, but they do things in a different order. It is very typical to start around 15:00 with cake and coffee for the guests. They also usually have drinks such as orange fanta, carbonated water, and apfelschörle (which is half apple juice half water, either carbonated or still) in the middle of the table. Then there is usually a few hours break in between the cakes and the actual dinner which is different than the normal order of food in the US. The break is usually filled with the kids playing games of some sort and the adults just talking which is quite similar to the US at gathering such as this.
I have recently seen Les Misérables and I always forget what a moving musical it is, and the powerful message is portrays. The musical takes place in the 1800s in Paris when there are many uprisings due to an increasing pay gap and a decreasing working class. Over this Christmas break, I am going to be in Paris and having even just a little history behind a city can make such a visit even more meaningful. While I have been to Paris, my first visit was rushed and spontaneous, which was still an amazing experience. I am excited though to take a little more time before I go to understand more of the historical events that have happened in Paris such as the revolution in the 1700s, the uprisings in the 1800s depicted in Les Misérables, as well as the many important meetings and treaties that have been signed there.
On this trip to Europe, I will also be visiting Brussels, as well as Amsterdam. I am excited to know more about these cities in order to enjoy more than just the pretty buildings and structures.
Currently I am reading a book called Momo by Michael Ende. This is technically a children’s book, but the overall meaning it has stretches beyond the typical children’s book. This book was originally written in German which makes the meaning even more interesting to me. The main message revolves around time and how adults can so easily get wrapped up in work and prioritize not “wasting time”. The book basically tries and gives the message that taking the time to use our imaginations to tell stories or spending time with each other is what a life is really about. Looking specifically at the German culture, we know they generally have such a strong emphasis of efficiency and time. Knowing this fact, depends the overall meaning.
This photo was taken at The East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall in Germany. It is one of many paintings there that have political and social messages. Many of these paintings’ meanings are driven home by the fact that they are on the wall that separated East and West Berlin. While each of these paintings are photo worthy, “How’s God? She’s Black” stuck out to me. It was the only painting I saw on the wall that had an obvious feminist message that went against the assumptions of everyday life. In the image’s description, which I couldn’t fit in the original photo, explains how this piece was dedicated to the civil courage for the oppressed and brought light to how a black lesbian woman was almost gassed in a train station in 1990. This painting shows that women, regardless of color, are just as capable and strong, and should be respected in the same regard as men.
This painting, or graffiti might be a better word for it, does not need to be analyzed or examined by a specialist to understand the intended message. Four words are all that it takes to create the feminist meaning in this painting. “How’s God? She’s black.” These two sentences would be considered basic by an English speaker, but their juxtaposition exposes a strong feminist message to the audience that is hard to ignore, especially when the words take up half of the painting’s designated area. One of my favorite parts is the handwriting. It’s nothing special, even childlike, much like the sentences themselves. This gives off the impression that the idea that God is a black woman is plain and simple, just a normal idea.
Examining the first sentence, “How’s God?” shows nothing of real interest. How’s God? God is everywhere. God is great. God loves you. In my head, those are the typical responses, but the response of “She’s black” challenges the idea of who God is and his typical image. Is God a bearded white man? Or is God a black woman? God is constantly described with words such as all-powerful, righteous, strong, the ruler of the universe, etc. Throughout history, these words have had no association with either women or black communities, but this painting does just that. It forces the image of God to be a black woman who is powerful, divine, and strong. This painting challenges the way we view women, and it normalizes women in a “man’s role” using the most important job imaginable. The image of God being a white man is an assumption commonly accepted, but this painting demands that theory to be questioned.
The ideas put forth by “How’s God? She’s Black,” encourages social change by going against stereotypical ideas of gender and race. This painting identifies the assumptions of today and forces women and women of color to be seen in the same light as men, to be seen as equals. “How’s God? She’s Black” focuses on the images of race and gender, but in a sense, it gives the message we are all equal and can accomplish anything, which brings in the significance of the Berlin Wall. Men and Women, East and West Berliners, yellow, black, white, purple people… In the end, we are all human beings and we should be treated and respected as equals.
This past summer I took a German class in Berlin for a month. I really enjoyed this class as is was extremely different than another class I have taken before in school. It was made up of people ranging from 15 to 50-year-olds, which is extremely different from the 19 to 24-year-old range almost all my classes have been in so far. Another interesting aspect is that this class was taken in a language learning center and the students were taking the course because they truly wanted to learn the language. It is true that students in the university courses want to learn, but many times, courses are taken just to complete degree requirements. That being said, the vibes in this class were extremely positive and at times intimidating because everyone would spend a lot of time outside of class studying and practicing. At the end of the class though, my German level drastically went up.
This semester I have had many classes in Sarkeys, and it looks as if the study abroad programs have grown. There are now many offices over there that support different study abroad programs. I knew there were many different options to study abroad, especially having looked for my semester in Spain. Half way through the semester there was a study abroad information session in the Sarkeys basement, and I got to learn about the new opportunities offered. The one I was most surprised about was an option in Romania. I had no idea that this country was an option when I was looking, but it is exciting to see OU promoting new locations to study abroad. I always enjoy going to the information sessions because I can always learn about something new.
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.