In English Composition II, we have to write four papers over a societal issue. I have two classmates who are writing about the high cost of tuition for international students in American universities. I have read at least one paper from both of them. Both students were good at explaining how international have to pay more in tuition and fees and have fewer opportunities to work since they are not American citizens. Both were good at showing the reader how international face additional struggles. International students can be homesick, they don’t always have a strong support system, they can face culture shock, and often they are taking university level courses in their second or third language. However, something that bothered me about both of my classmates’ projects is that they don’t provide any solutions. They both call for more compassionate treatment towards international students by lowering education costs. But I fail to see how we will do this. International students disproportionately study business and STEM, which is beneficial for the United States as we are in a STEM major shortage as our economy rapidly shifts. However, why would the government or schools want to lower the cost of education for international students? What incentive do they have? The stereotype is that international students have a lot of money from their parents, and many don’t; however, there will always be countless international students whose parents can afford American education. There will also always be international students whose parents cannot really afford American education, but sacrifice everything anyways for their child to receive their education. College is a business, and international students are a good demographic for charging a lot a money. What would have to change to make the lives of international students easier?
Our second book that we read in our reading group was Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye. In this book, we follow 14-year-old Liyana on her move from St. Louis, Missouri to Palestine. What stood out to me the most from this book was the feeling of going to a new place that you don’t exactly belong to. Liyana’s father is a native Palestinian who moved to the states for medical school, but Liyana spent her whole life in the United States. When she moved overseas, she had her mom, her dad, and her brother, but she did not adjust well when she first arrived. She did not understand the cultural differences and wanted to continue interacting with the world the same way she had her entire life.
When I was seven, my parents told me we were going to China to visit for five weeks. I had never been to China before, and I did not fluently speak Chinese. Remembering the culture shock I experienced in China, I can relate to Liyana’s move. Something that Liyana conveyed in a truthful and real way was that when you’re traveling with a few people who share your worldview, traveling isn’t as lonely compared to being the only one who shares your same approach to life.
Liyana felt like she did not know this version of her father, who now followed the social norms of Palestine fairly closely at times. Relating this back to personality psychology, this brings up the old question: what makes a person’s personality their personality? Personality is not always stable across time and across situations, so maybe people have exactly have a set personality, but rather an ability to adapt to different situations. I would consider this as something good that can come of out traveling: just learning how to adapt to different situations and cultures.
Last weekend, I decided to visit a good friend and fellow GEF, Sara Fisher, in Daegu. She is also doing an academic year aboard but in a different city. She has visited me a couple of times in Seoul, and so I thought I should go see her too.
After a three and a half hour bus ride, I arrived at her university, Kyungpook National University. I was here during the summer for the KNU Global Summer School program and I remembered the campus very well. I met her outside her dorm, and we greeted each other like long lost sisters. There was jumping and a little screaming. (It’s a good thing no one saw us…) Because I was feeling a little hungry, we decided to get coffee and bread at a place fittingly named ‘Coffee and Bread’. Afterwards, we chilled in her dorm room until we went for a quick round of karaoke before dinner. We had Korean barbecue, which is never bad. After walking around a little, we decided that we should both get some rest.
The next day we met for lunch. We had one of my favorite foods, ddeokbbokki which is spicy Korean rice cakes, After lunch, we had to go for coffee, and she took me to one of the cutest coffee shops. Although the interior was small, the coffee was amazing! I got a Strawberry Blooming Creme Latte, which to this day is the best latte I’ve ever had. It was very aesthetically pleasing and very delicious.
The rest of my visit flew by with more walking, talking, and eating. We told each other everything that had happened to us while we were apart and also shared many laughs. I had a great time visiting Sara, and I definitely will be back to Daegu to see her again!
Before coming to Korea, I thought I would never get tired of being in a new country and being able to explore my surroundings. However, I found myself missing home a lot more than I thought I would. So, during winter break (which I have to add is two and a half months long here in Korea) I decided it would be best to go back to the States. Although I knew I could have spent that time traveling or meeting new people, I felt that it would be good for me to have a break from the loneliness of living abroad.
The one thing I missed more than my family was my mom’s cooking. Growing up with a mother who cooked not only every day but also amazingly tasty food has definitely spoiled me. During break, I ate my weight’s worth of Vietnamese food, and it felt great!
I also decided to go back to work as I knew I would be bored without anything to do. If you know me, you know that I always complained about work. The long hours were rough, but dealing with hungry people is even worse. However, this time around, I found myself really enjoying work. A semester aboard made me miss not only my family but the people I work with. And so, I made an effort to engage with the other employees. We would joke around and laugh at even the smallest things. I found myself building stronger friendships in those two months than in the three years that I had been working there. I was a little sad when I had to say goodbye to them.
At the end of February, I packed up my things again for Korea. This time I brought less clothes and more food. I realized that I missed American food too, and so I packed myself a big jar of peanut butter and oatmeal, both of which are expensive and hard to find in Korea. (However as I’m writing this, my oatmeal stash has run low which means I must hunt for more soon.)
This semester, I am staying in the school dorms. It is a lot cheaper than the previous place I lived at but it is also more lonely. I have Korean roommates, but they are so busy with their lives and plans that I rarely see them. Also, I think the language difference makes them scared to talk to me, and so we only exchange greetings and then go about our lives. However, this semester I have made more international friends than I did last semester. I’ve met some very same-minded people who are in Korea to learn about the culture and experience the unique Korean lifestyle. I am excited to hang out with them and do some crazy things! Although last semester, I enjoyed my time in Korea, I hope this semester brings me some more new and unforgettable experiences!
I attended the Chinese New Year celebration hosted by the Chinese Language Club. Instead of just practicing how to say different Chinese foods as I do in Chinese class, I got to eat the food. The variety of dishes included dumplings, sticky rice balls, eggs with tomatoes, and eggplant. I was reminded of how much our senses of taste and smell are linked to memory. While eating the food, I remembered eating authentic Chinese food back in my home in Bartlesville and even growing up in Ohio. The room was filled with chatter, some in English and some in Chinese. Students and adults alike were playing Chinese chess. The intoxicating smells of the dishes came together in this glorious olfactory symphony.
Good food reminds me of good times and I am grateful that OU provided me a way to experience this good food to remind me of home. It also makes me look forward to eating yummy food when I go to China next spring.
The Breadwinner is the first book of two books my reading group is discussing for this semester. It is a children’s book set in Afghanistan when the Taliban maintains much control over the daily lives of the people. Something that this book set out to accomplish was to remind us what we have in common with other people. This book did an excellent job of showing me how the main character, Parvana, and her family are not just some distant people completely unlike myself. Even though this story is fictional, Parvana felt very real to me. The dominant narrative I hear about everything and everyone in the Middle East is that they one homogenous, distant, foreign, and violent mass. Granted, that is not the only narrative I hear, but it still one that has shaped my perception about Afghanistan in a very real way. Parvana dealt with situations completely unfamiliar to me, such as digging up human bones for money, watching prosthetic limbs be sold regularly in the street market, and not knowing whether or not her family members were alive. But at the same time, she experienced things that felt more familiar to me, such as being jealous of her sister’s hair, wanting to have more freedom, and admiring her father.
Children’s books are so simple to read, but sometimes the lessons they present, big and small, remind you of how simple it can be to learn things.
I attended a discussion panel hosted by the Religious Studies Association this past Wednesday. It was a refreshing reminder to me of how different religions can bring peace, meaning, and happiness into people’s lives. On the panel were Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, and Muslim students. All of them promoted interfaith discourse and exploration. All of them exhibited values of kindness, compassion, faith in both God and humanity, and tolerance. They talked about how religion overlaps with culture, relationships, and politics, and how it doesn’t. They made me realize how incredibly hard it must be to keep your religious beliefs in a society where you are the minority. Some of the students talked about having knee-jerk reactions to Christians for a while, but settling down and finding a deeper understanding and peace. The panel was supposed to be about how religious views can affect views on social justice, but what stuck with me was how fundamental religion can be to a person’s identity. Religion can provide a sense of belonging and community, but not being a part of the dominant religion within a community can lead to feelings of ostracization. For that reason, I am glad that OU is a fairly diverse place with different student organizations for different religions.
This year I was able to join Korean Student Association again. I have enjoyed all the events they have had. We ate lots of yummy food and played fun games. I can not wait for next semester because I plan to dance for Korean night again and there will be even more fun events too.
I have been learning Japanese since last year. I have wanted to learn Japanese since I was 11 so, I am happy to ne learning it now. I really enjoy watching old Japanese music shows but I haven’t been watching them lately because I have neen busy and also because I have watched all the ones with subtitles and I wasn’t able to understand without subtitles. But lately I have tried to watch un-subtitled ones and I can actually understand most of it. Of course I can’t understand all of it but I can say I understand about 75% of it. I never thought I would be so good at Japanese in just a uear and a half but I am so happy that I am. I hope to go to Japan soon and I will actually be able to communicate in Japanese.
I went to the International Bazaar on the South Oval. It was very fun. I got to try Baklava for the first time and it was very yummy. I also got to show off my Korean writing skills that I learned in Korea this summer which was really cool. There was also face painting and cool performances from many international organizations. My favorite performance was from the Angolan Student Association. Sadly I couldn’t stay long because I had a lot of classes that day.