Coming Home

I wanted to dedicate my final Puebla blog post to coming home. Being back in the US (specifically, my hometown in New Jersey) has been a bit challenging, but the transition has actually not been as difficult as I had anticipated. I think this is probably because I never truly left American culture while I was in Puebla. I spent most of my time surrounded by Americans, and half of my classes were in English. I even lived in an apartment (and shared a room) with other girls in the OU in Puebla program. Still, adjusting back to life in the United States has been a process. I’ve noticed myself maintaining certain habits I developed in Mexico, and even missing certain things about living there.

Of course, the most obvious difference between daily life in Mexico and in the US is language. I still sometimes say “gracias” when the waiter brings my food out or someone holds the door for me. I typically only have this problem while I’m in public. In Puebla, I always spoke Spanish when out and about, and reserved English for when I was home or with American friends. So now, when I’m talking to my family or friends back in the US, it feels totally natural to speak in English. But when I’m out at the grocery store or my favorite coffee shop, I have to remind myself of the language I should be speaking. However, being in a place where I can communicate fluently has given me back a certain level of confidence that I didn’t even realize I had lost while I was in Mexico. I feel much more secure knowing that I can easily understand and respond to just about anything that might be said to me. I used to take for granted that I could express myself in English pretty much effortlessly. After having this ability taken away from me for a few months, I certainly learned to appreciate it!

While I’m very grateful to finally be home, I do miss some things about Mexico. First of all, their fresh produce was so much better than anything I can find here! Around Puebla, there are carts selling fresh mango and fruit juice on just about every corner. We lived within walking distance of several farmers’ markets, where we could always go to pick up some very affordable fruits, veggies, eggs, or tortillas. And of course, I’m ruined for American Mexican food. Chipotle simply can’t compare to the real thing. Also, I loved Mexican currency! It’s actually really pretty—all of their bills are brightly-colored and feature intricate designs and pictures. I’ll include a picture of my personal favorite: the 50-peso bill. In comparison, American money seems kind of bland. Finally, I miss the weather in Puebla and dreary New Jersey really doesn’t help. So far, it’s rained all day every day that I’ve been back. In Puebla, it gets up to about 80°F every day (never too high above that) and there’s usually plenty of sunshine. It’s very pleasantly dry; if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s humidity.

Overall, I’m relieved to be back home. Living in another country took a lot of effort, and was even a bit isolating at times. I can only imagine how much more taxing it would have been if I hadn’t been surrounded by fellow OU students. But I’m glad I had the experience—it gave me a new perspective on life that I know I’ll carry with me for a long time to come.

The 50 peso bill
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Cancún

As our final group excursion, OU in Puebla went to Cancún. We spent a few days at a beach resort, unwinding after a long semester. I was shocked by how large this resort was—I was constantly getting lost and needing to ask for directions. It seemed to be the size of a small town! Unfortunately, I had to spend most of our trip doing homework. But I still managed to spend some time exploring, and enjoyed being out of the city for a few days.

By far my favorite part of the trip was a tour of the natural wonders of Cancún. Our program director arranged for us to be picked up at 8 am and taken to several destinations in Playa del Carmen. Of course, at times the experience felt a bit touristy, but it was still pretty exciting to see some of the non-beach attractions of the Yucatán.

Our first stop was a cenote. On our way there, our tour guide explained exactly what we were going to see. 65 million years ago, when the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs slammed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico, a ring of sinkholes formed around the impact. These sinkholes are called cenotes, and many lead to incredible underwater caves and river systems. When we arrived at the cenote, it just looked like a small pond in the middle of the forest. But we soon found that the hole was extremely deep! We took turns jumping in and using the zipline system the tour company had set up. The water felt so good—it was crystal clear and comfortably cool. We were given snorkel gear, and got to spend 20 minutes swimming around and looking at the colorful fish and plants living in the shallower parts of the cenote.

Next, our group stopped at the mouth of a much smaller, mostly covered cenote. It looked like a cave, with the floor covered in several feet of water. We put our snorkel masks on, and followed our tour guide into the (freezing cold) cavern. As uncomfortable as the temperature was, I found I was quickly distracted by the incredible rock formations surrounding us. Our guide explained that the cave connected to a system of underground rivers. At first, I didn’t really understand the concept of an underground river, or how the cenote could feed into one. After paddling around for a few minutes, I finally saw what he was talking about. One second, I was looking down at the rocky cave floor; the next, I was floating over an abyss. There were a few powerful lights installed around the cenote, so I could see about 50 feet down into the gaping hole beneath me. Our guide told us that this was actually the mouth of one of the many underground channels that make up one of the largest underground river systems in the world. Understandably, the Mayans used to believe that these caves were the entrance to the underworld.

After exploring the cave, our group spent a few hours snorkeling in a small inlet on the gulf. The water was warm and it was a nice way to wind down after such a busy morning. We got to see a lot of interesting marine life, including a manta ray, a squid, a starfish, and a ton of exotic fish.

The shallower part of the first cenote we visited
The shallower part of the first cenote we visited

I’ve never been the type to go to resorts or spend much time at the beach, but I’m glad I got the chance to see Cancún. I especially enjoyed learning about the history of the Yucatán, and getting to see firsthand the natural formations and wildlife that the region is known for. It was a great way to end a semester full of firsts!

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Goodbye OU

Today is the day. My gown is hanging on the door draped in what I have accomplished these past 4 years.  As I look at the stoles and chords and medals that drape over that black robe, I could not be more proud. It’s funny how everything I’ve done here at OU can be symbolized by material draped across my shoulders.

When I look back at these four years, I’m happy to say that what I’ll remember most is my experience with the international community.  Every year I have met new people from all around the world. I have friends from Germany, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, France…the list goes on and on.  I had no clue that I would be going to school in Oklahoma  but leaving with friends from all around the world.

The Global Engagement Fellowship has been an integral part of my experience here and I’m not just saying that because this blog is a part of the GEF requirement. I truly believe that this program exposed me to like minded people who love interacting with the international community.

I am going to miss walking through Farzaneh Hall and sharing the class rooms with people from all around the world.  I’m going to miss how easy it is to go to an international event and learn about some one else’s culture. I’m going to miss the multicultural experience that the college of international studies provides.  All this means is that I’ll have to remember how important this is to me and make sure I continue to immerse myself in the international community wherever I end up next year.

 

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48th Annual Eve of Nations

It’s that time of year again! Every year I look forward to the largest international event in the state of Oklahoma, Eve of Nations.  This year is the 48th year and I’m so glad I got to experience it.

This year I experienced the event from the stands rather than from back stage.  Sitting in dark lloyd noble arena watching different international student groups go on stage and perform took me all around the world.  With every performance it made me long to travel. The culture was addicting, I wanted more, I wanted to experience it first hand. By the end of the night I had added new countries to my bucket list of places to travel to just because the dances were so fun and energetic. I

I am so thankful OU IAC puts on this event every year. It provides a way to travel the world without ever leaving your seat.  I have been blessed with several international travel opportunities, but not every person as that opportunity so Eve of Nations can be that opportunity.  It truly is necessary for people to get out of their comfort zones and experience different cultures and countries.  It adds to the human experience. This event opens the eyes of those who have only experienced Oklahoma or the United States. It opens their eyes to what’s out there.

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Global Engagement Day: After Undergrad Opportunities

I have been to many “After Undergrad” talks, but today, for some reason this one hit me a little harder.  As part of Global Engagement Day, I attended the After Undergrad Opportunities forum on Fulbright and the Peace Corp.  Unfortunately, I did not apply to Fulbright so hearing about the opportunities that come with it made me a little sad I didn’t apply.  In the past, I told myself, I’ll apply in 2 years, I’ll apply next year, and so on, but this year I couldn’t. I missed my chance.

I originally thought I would be spending one more year here at OU getting my masters degree.  When this was still the plan, I was going to apply for Fulbright my last year.  But as life has a tendency to do sometimes, it changed and my plans had to change as well.  I decided to graduate in four with just my undergraduate degree meaning I had missed the chance to apply for Fulbright.

I am so excited for my other friends who have been granted their Fulbright scholarships and I’ll have to live vicariously through them.  In the meantime, I just have to take every opportunity to travel that I can get so that I don’t feel as though I missed out.

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Phi Beta Delta Induction

It has been an incredible honor serving as the marketing chair for the Phi Beta Delta honors society this year.  My final act as Marketing Chair was at our spring induction ceremony where I shared with the new inductees the meaning behind the symbols in our crest.  As I read aloud what the crest symbolized for our honors society, it reminded me of what I value and what I have stood for these past 4 years at OU.

The globe represents the international perspective of the Society’s members. The torch symbolizes the leadership and influence of the Society. The sun stands for the energy from which all cultures draw strength. The book symbolizes the coining and sharing of knowledge. The shield represents the preservation of academic freedom.

The Society’s motto — “Scientia Mutua Mundi ” is inscribed at the base of the crest means “World’s Shared Knowledge.”

These past 4 years, I have traveled the world, I have been involved with international students and groups, I have studied many different cultures and will be graduating with a degree in International Studies. “World’s Shared Knowledge” is what my education here at OU has been. I’m happy to be a part of a society that honor those traits and to have served as marketing chair with the goal of seeking out others who share these traits as well.

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Informed Citizen Discussion Group

This semester I was a part of one of the Informed Citizenship Discussion Groups at OU. We met weekly to discuss various issues and events going on in the international community. Generally, we would read an article before meeting and then would have an intelligent discussion about that article. I particularly enjoyed my group because everyone was respectful of each other’s opinions but at the same time, we were willing to challenge each other’s opinions. I learned a lot about other ways of thought and I learned how to be more open minded. Overall, this group brought a lot of intellectual growth to me over the course of the semester.

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North Korea Releasing Prisoners

Just this week, North Korea released three American prisoners. This event is significant because North Korea generally is not sympathetic to Americans. This if the first tangible gesture North Korea has taken to signal a willingness to work with Americans. Furthermore, releasing the prisoners came just before a meeting between North Korea and the United States to improve relations. This shows that Kim Jong-Un may be more inclined towards negotiating with the United States. However, future nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US may be more difficult after we just left the Iran deal.

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US Exit of the Iran Nuclear Deal

Recently, President Trump announced that the US is leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal and will be reinforcing sanctions on Iran. President Trump claimed that he was fulfilling his campaign promise by pulling out of what he claims was an unfair deal and that he is maintaining his hardline approach to negotiations. I am incredibly saddened that we have left the agreement because it indicates our unwillingness to compromise with foreign nations to promote peace. I personally thought each side of the deal was fair and that it did a good job of enforcement. The deal called for rigorous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and stripped away sanctions Western powers had placed on Iran. I am most upset because the deal took a long time to negotiate and it will be difficult to create a similar deal that will lead to nuclear disbarment.

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Arabic Talent Show

I also attended the Arabic Talent show where many students from various Arabic classes at OU performed. The performances included students showing videos of skits they had made, students singing songs in Arabic, and students reading poetry. My favorite performance was a group of students who made a comical skit about how the Arabic class they were supposed to take was cancelled because not enough students signed up for it. They joked about how without Arabic class, their time at OU would be incomplete. One thing that I particularly noted was that each performance included the perspectives of different countries in the Middle East. Oftentimes, people tend to group the countries of the Middle East together, claiming that they are very homogenous. However, after viewing these performances, you quickly realize that each country in the Middle East is unique.

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