The Highs and Lows to Studying Abroad

At the beginning of your studying abroad adventure, you’re hit with constant highs. Everything you do is exciting, new and fresh. Then, all of a sudden, you’re hit with the lows. You’re experiencing something thrilling and incredible, but why do you want to be at home, sleeping in your own bed while watching Netflix. These moments are a part of everyone’s abroad experiences.

Homesickness. Friends, family, girlfriends, and of course the pets are all missed. Yes, they may come visit, but as soon as they leave, you realize you won’t see them for another two months. In many countries, and especially Italy, the food is the same everywhere you go. Pizza, pasta, and more pizza, that’s all there is for the most part. A greasy burger is no where to be found. And water? Why do I have to pay for water every time I go eat? It’s these little, frustrating things that can bring any experience down. But the highs. The highs are what get you through it all. Island hopping, flying to a city you’ve never gone before, meeting new people, new cultures, these are the experiences that make it all worth it.

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The Cold War

The infamous Cold War: Russians, Cubans, missiles, corruption. This is what most people think of when they think of the Cold War; however, it was much more than this. Dr. John Fishel reflected on his personal experiences living during the Cold War, both as a soldier and a student. Growing up today is much different that 50 years ago. Technology and health have both drastically improved. During Fishel’s military years, all branches of the military were basically cut off from one another and no communication took place between them. But Fishel was one of the first people to have a joint mission between the various branches. The end result of this alliance increased the efficiency of the military and the government.

The second main take away from this lecture is Fishel’s experiences after the Cold War. Oddly, his main opinion post-Cold War was a specific date in August 1992, a date known to very few. For the first time, while being a professor at an American institute, there was a foreign exchange student from Russia who happened to be a former officer in the Russian army. In Fishel’s eyes, this marked the end of the Cold War.

When I think of the Cold War, I think of the tension and the hatred amongst democracies and communist countries. To Dr. Fishel, he saw it as a light at the very very end of a long tunnel. The initial pure intentions of the U.S. Government ended up with the hostile nations of Russia, China, North Korea and Islamic Nations.

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The Power of Global Brigades

This summer I had the opportunity to provide medical and public health to many communities across Honduras. Global Brigades is the largest student-led global health movement who’s goal is to empower communities as they move their way out of poverty through an integrated approach. The 3 main approaches of Global Brigades is the change lives, better lives and save lives. They achieve this by providing clean water and new sanitation projects for better hygiene, develop businesses within the community, and allow access to health care. As of today, Global brigades has treated 1,143,070 patients and 17,771 people have access to clean water.

This is experience has made me felt so humbled, grateful and inspired. In Global Brigades, we tell people that you’re never going to be prepared for what you’re about to experience until you have experienced it yourself. We say that it’s going to change your life and you’re going to hear/make stories that you will never forget. But still, you’re never prepared. With that being said, there are no amount of words to describe what I felt on this trip. All I can say is thank you to the people of Honduras for welcoming with open arms to your beautiful country. I can’t wait to come back one day.

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Mexico

Over the past month I had the opportunity to travel throughout Mexico with my dad to various cities and meet people from different communities. The people are Mexico are some of the most kind and generous people I have ever encountered. I think it is important to reiterate this cause in this post-Trump world, people get the wrong impression of Mexico and immigrants. In fact, most Mexicans are willing to go out of their way to help you, even if it’s just finding the closest market. They will literally walk with you straight to the market so you don’t get lost in the confusing streets (especially since most towns don’t have street signs). It’s crazy spending so much time in Europe/Spain and then going to Mexico and Honduras. The quality of living is so much poorer in some regions and it is honestly very eye-opening. What would be a trip to the Mont in Norman is equivalent to a week’s food for most families, which is crazy to think.

Also, yes Mexico is quite dangerous, but that is only if you are doing something reckless and put yourself in danger. One experience my dad and I had was that we were leaving his small hometown at night in a rural part of Sinaloa, as we made our way down a gravel road, a truck stopped us and out came four Sicario’s with machine guns. We did not make a scene and told them we were passing through to head to the airport. Without any interrogations, they let us pass since we did not cause trouble.

The possibility of this happening was so low that everyone from my dad’s family was shocked they even stopped us and they live there. As long as you don’t pose a threat and aren’t flashing off your money, Mexico is a place you will never want to leave.

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The Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh

The University of Oklahoma hosted a lecture detailing the refugee crisis towards the Rohingya. A member of Amnesty International spoke about the horrific events that the Rohingya endured. In Myanmar, the military burnt Rohingya villages and drove the people out of their homes just to build their own military properties. The refugee crisis started in the early 1980s when the government took away the citizenship of all the Rohingya people. All the people must obtain a government ID card to be able to move anywhere in the country. Over 670,000 people have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh as the violence continued to increase.

The remaining Rohingya are still being driven out of the country by the military with the tactics of starving the remaining people and destroying all their access to food.

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The Difference Between America and Ireland

Recently, I saw an article somewhere online that listed Ireland as one of the happiest places on Earth. Over the summer I had the opportunity to go to Ireland, and although I only spent three days there, my opinion completely coincides with that of the article. Out of all of the countries I have been to (I’m up to 14), I made more friends and had more pleasant encounters in Ireland than I did in any other country, and I spent weeks or months in other countries. The people of Ireland are more social and outgoing than the people in a lot of places I have been. Everywhere I went I met new people that came up and introduced themselves and initiated a conversation, which is something I usually had to do if I wanted to meet people in other countries. It is more normalized in Irish culture to talk to complete strangers than it is in America. The social aspect of Irish culture is something that I think attributes to the country being named one of the happiest, because they always want to go out and meet new people instead of being at home, which is something I think America could use more of. On a night out, anytime I was on my phone an Irish person would come up to me and politely tell me to put it away and enjoy where I was and what I was doing at the current moment, which is something I learned to appreciate. It made me notice how little time the people of Ireland spend on their phones, and how much time they spend enjoying the presence of others, which is something that is sadly starting to become rare in the world. My experience also made me realize it’s not always where you are that matters, but who you’re surrounded by. Aside from all this, it was also one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The Cliffs of Moher are a must see. I left Ireland way happier than I was when I arrived. I already can’t wait to plan my next trip back.

 

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Italy Week

What a flashback! During Italy week, I ate pizza with the Italian professors, watched friends do the Nutella challenge, and attended the class on olive oil and cheese. Italy week was a great opportunity to meet up with other OU in Arezzo students that were in Italy the same time as I was. Although I already took a full semester class over olive oil, we did not cover cheese which we all wanted to. I took the opportunity to do this one and I am so glad I did. We were taught about the food industry across Italy and how it varies based on the region. Every region is different in the way they process and make the cheese. We tasted pecorino and bufala cheese (water buffalo milk cheese) which I had not tried before. The entire Italy week brought a flashback to my time in Italy, now all I need to do is go back!

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Day of the Dead Festival

OU held its annual Day of the Dead festival on October 29th. This is the University’s most attended event other than sporting events. My roommates and I went this year and we walked around since it was our first time going. We looked at the rides, ate at the food trucks and listened to the music. Coming from a Hispanic background, the Day of the Dead festival has always been a special day especially to my father. However, in America it is not nearly as celebrated as when he lived in Mexico. Here, death is hardly talked about and it is often avoided, in Mexico, it is a large celebration to help support the spiritual journey of a friend or family member who has passed away.

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OU Cousins

Being a part of OU Cousins has given me the opportunity to build a connection with someone from across the globe without leaving Oklahoma. This program matches students to you based on their hobbies, majors and the country which interests you the most. This year my OU Cousin was Elias from Frankfurt, Germany.  Over the course of the fall we were able to attend the Thunder basketball game. In addition, I took him and his friends to an OKC Energy game since their favorite sport is Soccer. Unfortunately, Elias was only here for a semester so we are unable to attend the many events in the spring. The best part of OU Cousins is it has given us a connection that we will both always remember. We are both friends on Facebook and he has said that I can come visit him whenever I want, and that if I am ever in Frankfurt, I will have a place to stay.

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Arabic Flagship Talent Show

This year I attended the Arabic Flagship Talent Show for the second year in a row. Last year was a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up again. Students from every class depending on their language level performed to show their advancements. It is one of the most entertaining part of the semester, and the food is delicious! The event took place in the Thurman J White Forum building, which is the perfect venue for this show. Like last year, I attended this event with my Arabic friend. This year’s show had poetry readings, singing and the best part, the skits which were both humorous and dramatic. This talent show really intrigues me and even influences me to possible take an Arabic course.

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