The Lion King

I had the wonderful experience of seeing Disney’s The Lion King live today. And can I just say – wow! It was absolutely amazing and I honestly wish it had lasted forever. Now, I normally wouldn’t write about stuff like this on here. An American musical written by American writers, preformed in Oklahoma of all places! But I think The Lion King is a worthy exception.

Working under the assumption that everyone (and their brother) has seen The Lion King Disney animated film at some point in their lives, I’m not going to summarize it. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Right now. Turn off your computer, find a copy and watch it.

Instead I want to take about the stage performance, and how it was different from the Disney movie. First of all Rafiki – played by a woman!!! – spoke most of her lines in an African language. Sorry, I don’t know which one, and I don’t want to guess the wrong one! It was gorgeous, and unlike anything I’ve seen in a musical before. The performers really embraced the African culture they were trying to convey.

My favorite part of the musical, however, was the songs “One by One” and “He Lives in You Reprise.” Obviously the vocals and music were amazing but, in those two songs, some of the actors left off their animal costumes and just sang, danced, and dressed as they would if they lived in Africa. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it was breathtaking. I feel like I got a glimpse into African culture from seeing this musical and I know that I want to learn more. I’ve already started reading and researching, and even planning and saving for a trip to Africa. What better way to learn about a culture than to see it for myself? I haven’t decided where to go specifically, and it probably won’t actually happen for a couple years, but if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Travelings is supposed to broaden your understanding of the world and of different people. So far this has proven true in my experience, and I can’t wait to learn more about the many different peoples who call Africa home!

IRG

IRGs (or Informal Reading Groups for those in the know) are groups that read and discuss different novels once a week for part or all of a semester. They can be about pretty much anything, and they can be run by any student or faculty member willing to take on the challenge.

This semester, that was me!.. With a little help.

Jaci (GEF director) and I co-moderated an informal reading group centered around middle eastern children’s stories. It was a pretty amazing discussion and we covered some interesting topics over the course of the 8 week IRG. The two books were The Breadwinner and Habibi.

The Breadwinner is a book about a family who lives in Pakistan when the Taliban took over. They struggle to survive until the father, and only adult male, is arrested. Women were not allowed to work, or even leave their houses, alone. So the 12 year old daughter, Parvana, cuts her hair and pretends to be a boy to take care of her family. She has to mature far faster than any child ever should, and she sees some truly dark things happen, but she does her best to make sure her family can keep on living.

Habibi, on the other hand, is about a 15 year old girl, Liyana, and her family. The father is Israeli and the mother is American. They have lived in the United States for all of Liyana’s life, but decide to move back to Jerusalem at the start of the novel. Habibi is the story of a young American girl who has to learn to adjust to a completely new culture that has very strong opinions about what a young woman can and cannot do.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I won’t say anything more about the books, but if you haven’t read them, you should. My group and I had several really good discussions about anything from “what would you do to keep your family safe” to “how much should you be willing to adapt in a new place” to “why is green an important color?” Not all of our discussions were serious, we all had fun too! But it interesting to examine a region that has seen conflict for generations through the eyes of children.

Global Story Time

Global Engagement Day came! It was actually pretty cool. I hadn’t had to go to one before, because my freshman year we didn’t do it, and last year I was studying abroad, but I did enjoy it! Jaci (the not-for-much-longer GEF director) voluntold me to make a digital story for one of the session, which I did! Its about my friends from study abroad and I think its pretty cool! (just ignore the giant water mark in the corner)

I also went to the GEF story time. It was a sort-of informal get together for us to sit around and talk about the best (and worst) parts of study abroad. We caught up with each other, we asked questions, and we hung out. It was awesome.

The best part (for me) of the whole thing was that one of the presenters for story time was one of my friends who had also studied abroad in Italy. He didn’t go to Arezzo (his loss) but we could still reminisce together about the country and culture that we both fell in love with. I am totally confident in saying that one of the best parts of the Global Engagement Fellows program – besides studying abroad – is the community that we have made with each other. There will always be someone for me to talk to who understands why I have such bad wanderlust now, or why Italian food just isn’t the same anymore, because they have had either the same, or very similar experiences themselves. It’s one thing to travel all over the place and completely change your world view, but its even better with 200 people cheering you on!

Reunion

My friends and I are planning a reunion!

More details: Some of the super cool awesome friends I made at the University of Hertfordshire are trying to plan a get together this summer! I don’t know if it will happen yet, but here’s hoping. Basically this all started when one of my friends got accepted into a study abroad program in Traverse City, Michigan. That got everyone else thinking, that’s not to far. So now all of us who live in the western hemisphere are looking at our budgets and summer plans, trying to figure out if this can actually happen.

Honestly, at this point, your guess is as good as mine. But I don’t really think it matters. We’ve managed to keep is decent touch for almost a year without seeing each other, and I think that speaks volumes about the friendships you can make while studying abroad. It was one of the best times in my life and I will be forever grateful for both the experience and the amazing people I met.

I can’t wait to see those guys again. Traverse City, here I (hopefully) come!!!

NISO Experience

Before the semester began I got to help out with the New International Student Orientation (NISO) Experience! It was pretty cool actually! The event itself was called Crimson Connection, and I got to see how all of it played out.

We started a day or two before orientation with training and getting the information packets together for the students. We also got our team names for the day; mine (the most awesome team) was Team National Weather Center!

So the day of Crimson Connection arrives and I help all the students get registered and send them up to the involvement fair. Then it was a long day of presentations and important information for them, and lots of answering questions and giving directions for me. But it was still a lot of fun.

I think the best part of this experience was getting to help out new students the same way I had people to help me during my study abroads. Traveling to a new country can be incredibly nerve-wracking, especially if it is the first time you’ve gone or you go by yourself. It was really incredible to be there to help ease the transition for some of those students. I hope they all have a great semester!

Fulbright Fun!

As a Global Engagement Fellow I am required to apply for a Fulbright my senior year. As a (mostly) normal person I really want to be accepted. So I’ve already begun planning my application, scoping out potential people to request recommendations from, and hanging on Jaci’s every word as the OU Fulbright Coordinator.

Of course the first step in the Fulbright Direction is to pick a type of program: Research, Graduate School, or English Teaching. Then you pick one specific program to apply for – which I’ve done! But that will all be in a different post. So far I’ve just been gathering as much information as possible about Fulbright until my application opens on March 31st. The Fulbright application includes:

  1. Biographical Data
    • Name, place of birth, age, etc. This is the boring stuff really.
    • Brief explanation of your future plans on returning to the US
  2. Statement of Grant Purpose
    • The who-what-when-where-why of why you want to participate in your specified program at your specified location.
    • Must demonstrate clear reasoning on why you need to go to this location and cannot complete a similar program in the US
    • 2 pages, single spaced, 12pt Times New Roman
  3. Affiliation Letter
    • Letter from the institution or program on official letterhead, and in English,  signed by the author stating that they are willing and excited to work with you
  4. Personal Letter
    • Gives the reviewer a picture of you as an individual
    • Concentrates on how your background has influenced your development and how that relates to your program
    • 1 page, single spaced, 12pt Times New Roman
  5. Foreign Language Forms
    • Includes a Language Self-Evaluation Form and a Foreign Language Evaluation Form
    • Not always required (depends on the language requirements of your country/program) but highly encouraged
  6. References
    • 3 Reference letters attesting that you can carry out the project you proposed, not character references
    • They are confidential. You do not get to read them
  7. Transcripts
    • Complete record of higher education. They must be received from every institution where you received credit for coursework

I can’t count the hours I’ve spent planning for this and talking to Jaci, trying to gather her insight and tips. The most important thing I’ve gathered from her is that the Fulbright committee wants to get to know you. Your goals, your reasons for applying, your personality. Not what you think they want to hear. And they seem to have an amazing ability to detect bullsh*t.

I just hope I remember that when I start pulling together my own application!

India Appreciation

I want to go to India soooo bad!

I have for years! Originally I thought I would study abroad in India (but that obviously didn’t happen). I just find their culture and traditions fascinating. The meaning behind everything their jewelry and dances and clothing is absolutely beautiful and I want to go loose myself in it! I’m hoping if I get the Fulbright that I’m applying for (application opens in 4 months! EEK!) I’ll get to take a vacation in India, since I’ll be so much closer than I am now.

So naturally, when India Week rolled around on campus I got very excited. I only had time to go to one event for the week (curse my jobs!) but luckily it was the one I wanted to go to the most! The Indian Student Association had their philanthropy last Wednesday night and it was a Henna night! All proceeds from the Henna went to their charity – providing housing for homeless children in India – so I didn’t feel bad at all about going all out!

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The girl that did this beautiful design on my hand is part of the Indian Student Association and we spent the whole time talking about India! She gave me tips on when to visit and where to go, she even suggested some new Bollywood movies for me to watch (after we talked about how awesome Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is). She’s pretty awesome and I’m happy to say that we are now friends! I’m super excited to watch some new movies over Christmas Break!

Pay it Forward

One of the requirements of the Global Engagement program is joining an International group every year. For the past two years I have gotten involved with OU Cousins, but I decided to take a different approach this time around. This year the GEF program formed several different advisory boards, such as Mentoring, Recruitment, and Social Media. If you’re on an advisory board that counts as your international group for the semester/ year!

I’m actually on the Recruiting Board and the Mentoring Board, but it’s fall semester so we haven’t done much recruiting. What we have done is welcome a new class of Global Engagement Fellows to our OU family, some of whom wanted a mentor. That’s how I met five of the most amazing freshmen. I’ve been (trying) to help them with pretty much anything they need help with, as much as I can.

Honestly, when I signed up to be a mentor, I didn’t know what to expect. I still don’t. It’s kind of weird to be helping someone “get their life together” when I definitely don’t have mine together yet. But as these girls ask me questions, I’m constantly surprised by how much insight I can normally offer them. I hope my mentees are getting as much out of this program as I am. I don’t know if I’ll do it again next year, but I know if I do I’ll learn even more cool things about myself and I’ll me another group of awesome people!

 

Study Abroad Fair

So I recently volunteered to help at the study abroad fair, which was very interesting. I may or may not have decided to help to fulfill my PITF service requirement, but that’s beside the point.

I actually enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would, despite the fact that it was about 100 degrees  outside, because I got to do my two favorite things: talk to people and shamelessly plug Study Abroad. For about half the time I talked to people who came to the Europe tent, since I went to Italy and the UK. I spent the rest of the time at the question booth, giving out prizes to the people who could answer random questions about different parts of the world. I also ran into the professor who taught my Organic Chemistry class in Arezzo, and he remembered me! Which is good since I plan to ask him for a reference for my Fulbright application.

All in all it was a fun event. I just hope some of those people I talked to will actually take the plunge and go.

I’m Back!

Well I’m finally back at OU! I just finished up my second week of junior year, and I can tell it’s going to be an interesting 12 months.

While I was sad to leave Hatfield and I am definitely still missing my international friends, I am beyond ecstatic to be back! I missed my beautiful campus, my crazy friends and wonderful sorority sisters. I missed the library and all of the awesome tech we take for granted in there. I missed my fellow ChemE students and all of the crazy classes we have together. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I was missing OU until I got back. But I’m here now and that’s what matters.

OUFall

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of all my friends. One of the problems with being friends with international or study abroad students is there’s always a little bit of uncertainty about when or where you’ll see each other again, even if you’re from the same university. For example, my friend Alexis studied abroad for fall 2015 and I left as she came back. Over the course of about nine months we saw each other once for lunch to exchange Christmas presents. Another example is my friend Patrick; he is going to Germany for the 2016-2017 academic year. With the exception of about two weeks during summer, by the time he comes back to OU it will have been about 21 months since we last saw each other. I know another girl who is spending the year in Ecuador who I haven’t seen in ages. Studying abroad is great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it can create some absentee friendships. On the other hand, sometimes it works out! I know several people who studied abroad the same semester that I did, so we didn’t really miss each other.

I’m not trying to be a debbie-downer. I love traveling, meeting new people, seeing new places, and learning new things. I am so happy that I decided to study abroad and, now that I’m back, I’m happy to be here too! However much I miss my friends, in the end it’s worth it, but until everyone is back together, it’s just not quite the same.