I have had the privilege to know UWC scholar Amer Begović for 2 years through the exec team of OU’s High School Leadership Conference, or HSLC. This year, Amer stepped forward to offer an amazing breakout for high school juniors, creating real-world scenarios high school students are facing all around the world, and giving students attending HSLC the opportunity to brainstorm and create solutions to these issues. Not only did this activity raise awareness to the issues impacting the international community, it allowed high school juniors and facilitators like myself to understand the magnitude and complexity of issues international students face. The issue I was able to facilitate for was for the nation of India, which has issues with teachers not showing up to teach because they are paid regardless in public schools, creating a deeper gap in social class by impacting education accessibility. This was an issue that I have seen firsthand in rural villages of Guatemala, and it was incredibly impactful to work with students to see their vision for how to solve problems like this in the future. I am in awe of the rising generation and their commitment to global advancement.
The people we meet often open our eyes to worlds we did not previously know about. A friend of mine in my sorority is Persian and had posted about Khayyam Day at OU, which celebrates the Persian Poet Omar Khayyam and the statue of him that stands outsite Farzaneh Hall, home of the David L. Boren College of International Studies. This intimate event served authentic foods such as Dolmas, pita, lamb kababs and more, and a volunteer practicing Farsi calligraphy wrote student names. It was a great and simple opportunity to support the Iranian Student Association on the OU campus.
I was privileged with the opportunity to promote Eve of Nations and sell tickets for the event on the South Oval this spring. It was a rewarding experience because not only did I get to advocate for a unique international event on campus as a non-international student, I got to interact with students who are on the International Advisory Committee, chairs of the event, and other international students. The weather was permitting, so we were able to table outside in the south oval. It was a rewarding experience to learn more about the event and educate others in the process, and made attending the event that much more meaningful.
One of my favorite spring events is hosted by the global engagement program, Global Engagement Day. This year, I had the honor to sit on a panel of students to provide helpful tips to freshman wrapping up freshman year and jumping into their sophomore year. The other panelists had so many great tips to offer students on maintaining focus, studying abroad, seeking out help from professors and university employees, and how to balance school life, social life, and involvement at OU. The biggest tip I have for students is seeking mentorship. I think this is a pivotal factor in the formula to success in college and life. Having mentors and advocates walk alongside me has made the biggest difference in my success in college, as well as in my recovery from failure. Having people who challenge and sharpen you is truly a blessing, and something I was grateful to share with students at Global Engagement Day this year.
Eve of Nations is an event that has been hosted by the international advisory committee of OU for 48 years. The event this year was held on April 12, and was a spectacular showcase of the cultural unity and diversity that exists within the OU family. The event consisted of cultural cuisine, a fashion show, and talent showcase of a range of multicultural groups on OU’s campus. I attended this event with a group of students I attend church with in Norman at Antioch. Our church has a large body of international students from OU who attend, and it was wonderful to sit alongside my friends to support our international community both within OU and in our church body. My favorite part of the performance was at the very end, when a student sang “we are one” and other international students stepped forward to share self composed poetry about unity and how we can all be advocates of the nations on out campus and in the community. I was brought to tears as students shared personal encounters of the insensitivity of people and what their cultures, religions, and home countries truly stand for, and how we can stand with them. This is a must-see event for me from now on, and I am so grateful to attend a university that focuses on the incredible things international students bring to OUr campus.
Today was the annual day of the dead street festival at the University of Oklahoma. A fellow global engagement fellow, Eva Sparks, and I attended the event and we were both surprised to see the size and popularity of the event. There were a plethora of food trucks, carnival rides, and vendors of all kinds outside of Llyod Noble participating. We saw everything from the Innovation Hub, to IBC students, to a mariachi band playing Bruno Mars and other covers. After taking Spanish as my language at OU for 3 semesters, it was rewarding and exciting to see El Dia de Los Muertos celebrated right in front of me. It is something that I have learned about from my hispanic relatives and from my classes, but never truly experienced for myself. It was a great time and seeing a different part of the OU and Norman community at this event was such an enriching and rewarding experience. This is something I look forward to participating again in the future and bringing more friends to!
The OU cousins pairing ceremony was a new event for me this year, and it was one of my favorite things I have been a part of this semester. This event acted as a giant mixer for international students and OU students seeking OU cousins for the fall semester. During this event, we shared stories and experiences, had the chance to meet a large group of international students, eat ice cream, and finally pick our OU cousin! It was such an exciting experience that was only shortened by the immense amount of homework my new cousin and collectively had to finish that night. I am excited to spend time with Ziya and see where our friendship grows during this semester.
Ou cousins is such a unique program that the University of Oklahoma offers for our students from the United States to bond with the international community. This year is the first year they have permitted co-ed pairings for OU cousins, which is very different and equally exciting. It opens up new avenues to know the International community and it is truly an honor and privilege to be an OU cousin. This semester, my OU cousin is Ziya Arat, an international student studying MIS at OU for a semester from Turkey. Ziya is incredibly funny and loves life in America, and at OU. I am so excited to be his OU cousin this semester and walk with him through his OU experience.
Italy week at OU in Norman is always such a fun week full of international events- and this year, it involved my favorite dessert! Tiramisu is a dessert I have been making with my Grandmother for as long as I can remember, and it has even more sentiment attached to it after I had the opportunity to travel to Italy through OU this summer. The event was held in the Farzeneh hall kitchen, and involved students watching a tutorial of how the dessert is made and getting to try it! I always love attending these events because it allows me to interact with a wide array of students- this year, many international students attended this tutorial, and it was such a fun experience to share alongside them. I cannot wait to make tiramisu with my family over the holidays soon.
I had the opportunity to take Global Activism, Art and Leadership at the OU Arezzo campus over the course of 3 weeks this summer, and I will be forever changed by the time I spent abroad through OU. I completely altered my expectation of the classroom experience, challenged how I thought and processed education and learning, and changed the way I travel.
Going and meeting Italian activist organizations was one of the most memorable and unique parts of my study abroad experience. Going with my friends who have leadership experience at OU added a dynamic to the experience that was different than going alone because they were all active participants in the conversations facilitated by the organizations we had the opportunity to converse and engage with. We met with Libera, an Anti-Mafia activist group, as well as Oxfam and others. These groups are active in the current refugee crisis along with other issues in Italy. They work to find solutions and raise awareness for the issues that matter to them, and genuinely wanted our help to raise awareness for the problems at hand.
Seeing firsthand the art and historical artifacts in Italy was just incredible. From touring Pompeii with Dr. DuCleaux to seeing the Vatican, Colosseum, and museums like the Uffizi and Duomo, my perception of the Roman and Italian world changed immensely, as well as my perception of history and our active involvement with it. I can truly say after being abroad that I returned as a student ready to participate in hands-on learning experiences, face challenges and problem-solve on campus, and engage with a move diverse population of students on OU’s campus.