Sadaf Imani 2016-05-13 05:34:27

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are, right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road” -William Least Heat-Moon

This quote always comes to mind before and during my travels. As I am sitting on my bed writing this post, my almost-packed suitcase sits on the floor next to my bed. By this time tomorrow, I will be on a plane which will be headed to Munich, Germany. From there, I will be headed to Iran.

It’s difficult to explain how I feel because although I am very excited to see my relatives and friends after six years, I am also afraid of not being able to “fit in” with them. To most people, six years may not seem like a very long time; however, that consists of 30% of my life thus far! Throughout those years, I’ve grown so much as an individual and I cannot even begin to imagine the person I would have become had I not immigrated to the United States. My fear of not being able to “fit in” with those whom I grew up with comes from this very fact–I have simply matured and grown in an environment so very different than my home country, with people of all religions, ethnicities, and values.

Back to William Least Heat-Moon’s quote–it’s the perfect combination of words that has helped ease the stress of traveling for me. Also, it has allowed me to be present in the moment and greatly appreciate all of the amazingly beautiful and magical views I have witnessed throughout my travels. How is that relevant to my upcoming trip to Iran? With the mindset that this destination will be a new one, I will have the ability to express myself more easily and be whoever I’ve grown to be in the past six years without having to worry about how my friends and relatives will react to our differences.

Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to update my posts during my stay; but with so many relatives and friends, so much good food, so many places to visit, and such little time, I’m not sure I can make any promises!

Here I come Summer of 2016!! (or at least a part of it)

Also, here’s a video for a little inspiration. My heart feels full already:

Featured image by boredpanda.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half-way done!

As this semester is coming to an end, I have been thinking about how much I have grown since I first started attending the University of Oklahoma. I remember the fear and anxiety I felt before starting this journey. I was afraid I would not be able to achieve my goals, because I did not believe in myself enough to remind myself everyday of how much I am capable.

Yet here I am today–halfway through this journey of four years–as happy as I could be with my progress and with myself as an individual.

While transitioning from high school to college, I experienced the best kind of “cultural shock”. Although the coursework in college was and is much more demanding than my homework assignments in high school, I have been able to learn how to efficiently manage my time between classes, assignments, and my social life. This simple task of time management has been one of the most rewarding skills I have acquired in college thus far. This skill has allowed me to realize how capable I am of completing tasks in a well manner in as little time as possible; thus, helping me feel more productive throughout each day.

The most rewarding part about learning how to manage my time is feeling assured in my ability of succeeding in any environment. During my study abroad journey, I hope to travel on my breaks and weekends as much as I can, thus this skill will allow me to stay on track during the time I am away from my university.

I look forward to the next two years of college, and I hope to gain more useful skills while studying abroad in order to grow more as an individual.

 

 

Fall 2016 CESL partner

As I’ve mentioned before, my CESL partner is from South Korea. Chang Gyo has been working very hard throughout the last few months working on time consuming and tedious projects. Every time we meet, I am just amazed by his persistence and hard-working attitude. Regardless of the language barrier, he has been able to present his work in a very well organized and easily readable manner. One day, he asked me to meet so he could practice his presentation skills and correct his pronunciation of certain words. As he was going through his slides, I noticed the appealing graphs and images he had used. He then mentioned that all of the graphs were created by him from his data over the past few months. I was so shocked yet very proud of how far he has come since his first semester at OU. I mentioned to him that his English has greatly improved, because his presentation sounded very smooth and was easy to follow.

If you currently have a CESL partner and feel as if you’re not much help to him/her or don’t have much time to meet in general, try to encourage them and praise them for their hard work. Sometimes a small amount of encouragement is all they need to help build their confidence.

Global Engagement Day Spring 2016

Global Engagement Day is one of my favorite days because there are numerous opportunities for GEF members to spend time with one another. It is a day to take a break from classes and exams and catch up with friends and get involved with international events!

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend all of the events on this day due to my schedule; however, some  GEF members and I spent time talking about study abroad tips, while those who had studied abroad had the opportunity to share their stories.

Andrew’s story was my favorite because of how interesting his experiences had been. From volunteering and living at a farm to traveling to different countries he did not know the language of, he shared his story and talked about how much he learned from his experiences.

Another member talked about her study abroad journey to China. It seemed that she really enjoyed her stay, but she said she doesn’t want to live in China in the future.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to other people’s perspective over different cultures. I’m really excited to study abroad myself and make memories along the way. After many many hours of planning my future semesters’ schedules and thinking about what classes I need to take in order to graduate on time, I’ve finally decided to study abroad during the Fall of 2017. Once things become more definite, I’ll definitely update on this!

 

Wadjda–the story of a young girl in an Islamic country

Firstly, I would like to thank Sarah Smallwood for arranging this movie night at Gray Owl Coffee and thank Gray Owl Coffee for allowing us to set up  this event at their location.

Wadjda is a Saudi Arabian film that showcases a small part of the life of an eleven-year-old Saudi girl. She struggles to fully express herself in an environment where the people constantly criticize and question her passions based on her gender. As I was watching this film, I found myself smiling at times because of Wadjda’s sweet yet daring personality; however, I also felt my face warm up  at times because of the way the men in the film treated women and spoke to them.

Foreign films are quite eye-opening because not only do they focus on a very specific issue/topic, but they also relay their message in a very concise manner due to the cultural differences between the audience and the characters in the films.

Since I have spent more than half of my life in the Middle East and have traveled to a few countries in that region, I was able to understand the characters and some of Wadjda’s struggles better than those who have never lived in the Middle East. One scene that comes to mind is the scene where the girls brought nail polish to the school and were putting it on in secret. This scene reminded me of my own childhood, because we were not allowed to wear nail polish/makeup to school due to strict rules in the school environment.

If you have not watched this film, I suggest you give it a try. Wadjda’s persistence and likable character will keep you interested throughout this short film. Here is the trailer:

Fall 2015 CESL Partner

My CESL partners and I still keep in touch, but unfortunately we have not had as much free time to spend with one another. The last time I met them we went to a coffee shop and chatted for about two hours. This was not nearly enough time to catch up, but we plan to have lunch together sometime in the near future. Hopefully we’ll be making some Korean food so I can learn how to cook them myself! I’ll make sure to keep you updated and post some pictures when we do make them. Speaking with them reminded me of myself a few years ago–they both have improved greatly on their English and I’m so happy for them both. When I commented on their improved English, they didn’t really believe me just like I did not believe when people would compliment me on my ‘good English’ after a year of living in the States. Now that the Fall semester is over, I’m sure we will have more time to spend with one another and hopefully get on with that Korean meal! (;

 

Racism: it is well and alive

When the topic of racism comes up, a group of people become frustrated or go through various negative emotions because they have either experienced racism themselves or have heard of/seen their friends and/or family members experience racism.

Another group of people, however, tend to hastily dismiss the topic because they think this issue has been settled and taken care of  decades ago.

Dear reader, let me tell you this: In today’s society, racism is very well and alive.

Now I have been well aware of this fact for years, but it was not until a recent event that it suddenly hit me very hard.

As you may or may not know, aviation is a very expensive major because of the flight fees. To give you an estimate, just my flight fees for my first flight course equated my tuition and fees for one semester of college. That is A LOT of money. Now being the responsible college student that I am, I have applied to numerous scholarships and continue to do so and have received a few thanks to the generous donors. I have to say that it makes me that much more motivated to see that such wonderful people want to see me succeed and give me their hard-earned money.

During a recent scholarship interview, I felt discriminated against from the moment I sat down in front of the panel until the hand shakes and “thank you for your time” farewells. The chairman of the scholarship organization first asked me where I was from as I was sitting down on the chair. I replied to his question as anyone else would when asked that question. I was a bit confused, however, because I had clearly wrote about my past experiences and immigration process in my scholarship application.  “Maybe he does not remember my essay out of several other applicants'”, I thought to myself. After some small talk, all three individuals on the panel spent about five minutes reading my application while I had to sit in silence and watch them. I had never experienced this before–all of the interviews I had attended in the past included many questions from my application as they skimmed through it.

I don’t want to give you a headache so I will get to the point of this post. On my application I had stated that I have over three hundred and forty volunteer hours. One panelist asked what I spent those hours doing, so I explained to him that I volunteered at OU Medical Center and Norman Regional Health System for a few summers, while volunteering at a local gym and other events in the community such as the 2013 Moore tornado, distributing food to the homeless, etc. Here comes the juicy part….

“Did you spend any of those hours volunteering for a church?” I was taken aback by the chairman’s question. After a few seconds of pause, I explained to him that I am not a Christian, but I have volunteered at churches before around Thanksgiving time. He then concluded the ‘interview’ by asking me what religion I practice. Was this even legal? Did this really happen to me?

In all honesty, I was angry at first–angry that they put me through such an awful ‘interview’ and could not see past my race and religion. Then I was disappointed in myself–disappointed because I spent my time and energy trying to impress people that only saw the parts of me they did not like.

I want to finish off by saying that if you have ever experienced a similar situation, please do not let the ignorance of others get to you. You are worthy and deserve equal treatment. Those who cannot see past your race, religions, gender, etc. and cannot see your accomplishments don’t deserve your time and tears. Stay strong and keep going. There are still individuals that want to see your success and will help you stay on your path.

 

 

Open Mic at Second Wind Cafè

Tonight I had the opportunity of meeting some new GEF members and reuniting with some good friends I had not seen in months! I really enjoyed the stories of those who chose to share them; however,  Hannah’s story really made me feel warm inside and even sparked my interest to visit Tanzania sometime in the future. I don’t want to re-tell her story because I might miss a few details, but I remember how happy she was when she talked about her host Baba (dad). She described that he waited for a very long time to pick her and her friend up because he was worried about them. Isn’t it wonderful to see that someone that is not of your blood cares about you in such a way? I’m not sure if I will have a host family when I study abroad, but if I do, I hope that they welcome me into their family with open arms and love me as one of their own.

How being “globally engaged” will bring success to my career

Being “globally engaged” is very critical in today’s society and one’s career. If people were to think of themselves as only citizens of a certain country, then there would be no growth in diversity. All human beings need to view themselves as world citizens, meaning that they would speak up when they witness an act they are against, such as racism, sexism, ableism etc. Now this is only one small part of what it means to be engaged globally. When we as people see others’ problems as important and decide to take action to make those problems go away, we can grow and make those political and geographical borders fade.

It is important to understand such borders in order to eliminate the idea of superiority and inferiority between different groups of people. What I mean by this is, those who are more globally engaged will come to see all people as both equal and worthy. Not only will this improve one’s global awareness, it will also help one in his or her career.

In the future, hopefully I will  travel to many countries and spend a significant amount of my career interacting with people of all ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. Being globally engaged is a great helping tool for me to develop relationships with others and feel more connected to them.

 

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Cactus Tasting

I attended a cactus tasting event in Hester hall today. The room was packed with people and there was a table set up in the front, where different cactus dishes/drinks were being prepared. We first watched a video about how cactus is prepared and the different ways it can be eaten. Here’s a short video:

At this event, cactus salad and cactus juice were prepared. For the salad, the cooked cactus was cut into pieces and mixed with chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. As for the cactus juice, pieces of cactus and coconut juice were mixed together in a blender. Here’s a picture of my share of the salad and the juice:

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Cactus does feel and taste like okra. I would definitely try it again!

Sadaf x