I’m excited to report that I’ve decided to study abroad again. As graduation looms before me I realize that the two wonderful experiences I had abroad aren’t enough, so I’m going to (hopefully) study abroad in Germany in the coming fall. I’ve already studied abroad once in Europe (Italy), and I considered going to a different region to expand my horizons. However, studying abroad in Australia/New Zealand is like $5000 more than Europe given my scholarships. Additionally, most Asian universities have very different timetables for their semesters and make it near impossible to fit with my schedule. And my lack of Spanish skills makes it difficult to study abroad in Latin or South America. But regardless of all that, I’m thrilled about spending 4 months in Germany.
During my semester in Italy I made two separate trips to Germany, once to Munich and once to Berlin. But both of these trips were short weekend jaunts and didn’t give me the chance to immerse myself in the culture and experience all that I wanted to. So fingers crossed that next semester these blog posts will be coming from Germany!
Like like semester, this semester I was once again involved in ICDG (Informal citizens discussion group). I enjoyed my experience with it last semester, and given how many important world events are happening (Brexit, the continuous fight between Democrats and Republicans, and numerous other interesting events), I thought it would be fun to get involved again. This semester we had a between even male-female ratio, which is something I wish my group had had last semester, as I think it helps bring different points of view to the table. We also had a couple international students involved from different regions of the world, so I was always curious on their take of national and international events. We talked everything from politics, to climate change, to new inventions. If you’re looking for a fun and thought-provoking club to get involved with, then ICDG is the club for you!
One of the biggest international events of October was the disappearance and murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a Saudi dissident who wrote for the Washington Post. While in Istanbul, he visited the Saudi Arabian consulate, only he never came out. After weeks of speculation and accusations, Saudi Arabia admitted to his death, claiming a fight broke out. However, many people believed that the Saudi Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) orchestrated his death due to his opinions on the Saudi Arabian government.
This discussion with Dr. Landis and Dr. Shehata was mainly focused on the inner workings of the Saudi government and what actions (if any) the United States could take. Due to my study abroad experience in Turkey, I am fascinated with Middle Eastern events and talks, and this one was not a disappointment. I learned about how the Crown Prince is the power behind the crown and has helped make social advancements in Saudi Arabia (he pushed for women to have the right to drive). So while he is a socially progressive Saudi prince, he is also to blame for multiple diplomatic crises. While neither Dr. Landis nor Dr. Shehata agree on what the U.S. can do, they both agree that a close eye needs to be kept on the Crown Prince due to his power and involvement in numerous disturbing events.
This week was Italy week at OU. As one of the many students who studied abroad in Arezzo, Italy, I love that this week brings Arezzo alum together, which brings back many fun memories of my semester there. While I love all of the free food I got to eat during this week-long celebration of Italy, my favorite event was the Lizzie McGuire movie. I vividly remember some of the people in my program getting together on our first weekend there and watching this movie (and then when we went to Rome a couple weeks later we watched it again). Some of my best memories from college were during my semester abroad, so I love when I get the chance to discuss and reminisce my experiences while eating delicious Italian food.
Looking at my previous posts, I’ve come to realize that a lot of my events either involve a movie or free food (I guess the university knows its audience). And this event is no different. While I haven’t been to Rio, nor do I plan on participating in OU at Rio, I’ve always loved learning about other cultures and talking to people that have visited places I’ve never been. That being said, this week I attended a couple different events hosted through Brazil Week, and my favorite one was when they showed the movie “Rio.”
Not only did I get to see a good movie that I’d never seen before – not to mention the free popcorn – but I also got the opportunity to talk to people that had studied abroad there and had the chance to go to some of the Olympic events in 2016. As someone who has never been to Rio nor been to an Olympic match of any kind, I was a little envious.
Next week is Italy Week, which I’m pretty excited about. What I love about these country weeks is that is exposed students to aspects of the respective culture of that country and does it in a fun way. I hope the events at Italy week are as good as the ones I went to this week.
2018’s Winter Olympics is by no means the first Olympic Games I’ve watched – and definitely not the last. It is, however, one of the first Olympic games that I’ve really noticed the internal and foreign relations that affect and are impacted by the games. I remember the Sochi and Rio games very well, and I recall memorable moments from the London and Beijing games. But I don’t remember too much in the way of how the American government – or the American people – reacted to and interacted with the host governments. During the Russian and Brazilian games, we heard about the lack of facilities, the state of the venues and hotels, and other issues that impacted the games. Maybe I was just too starry-eyed by the amazing athletic feats, but it seemed to me that the athletic events at the recent Olympic Games were almost overshadowed by the U.S., South Korean, and North Korean governments relationship.
I know that the location of the games opened the door for more conversation outside the realm of athletics than usual, but in many cases I thought that the politics were center-stage as opposed to the events and the athletes. Between the Russian doping scandal and subsequent banning of Russia from the games, to the rumor that the U.S. wasn’t going to send athletes to the games, to the back-and-forth of North and South Korea joining forces on certain team events, I felt that the athletes were not the main focus before, during, or after the games (save perhaps Chloe Kim’s amazing gold medal performance that delighted Americans and South Koreans alike).
I’m guessing that the games during the Cold War and the games immediately preceding and following WWII were also focused on the politics and relations of several major nations to the extent that these Olympic Games were. With that thought, I’m wondering if relations between some of the major world players (ie: the U.S, China, Russia, and the Koreas) will warm following the Olympics or if they’re destined to continue to deteriorate to points seen during the Cold War.
This semester I finally got involved in a group that I’ve been interested in since I started at OU – the informed citizen discussion group. ICDG is a club at OU that groups approximately 10 people together – of different backgrounds and political beliefs – to discuss current world events and the foreign politics that relate to them. My group had a heavy female majority, which really surprised me. (In my experience, clubs that relate to global politics typically have more males).
Given the major world event that was occurring at the beginning of the semester, our group spend a ton of time discussing one of my favorite topics…the Winter Olympics! We discussed everything from how awesome Chloe Kim was, to Adam Rippon’s twitter, to the effect the Olympics would have on North Korea-South Korea-U.S. relations. This group ended up being a lot more informal and fun than I anticipated. It also made me aware of a lot more current world events that I had no idea were going on. Overall, I really enjoyed this group and am definitely considering getting involved in it again next semester.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend the international student organization talent show, Eve of Nations, and I enjoyed it so much that I went again this year. Similar to last year, the show opened up to a talent show featuring wardrobes from countries all across the world. The talent show included 10-12 student organizations, such as the Angolan Student Organization, the Malaysian Student Organization, and ASEAN.
Each talent was fun to watch and very entertaining. The Chinese student organization featured a dancer and a student writing calligraphy; the Omani student organization did a dance and drew a pretty good portrait of D.Bo. Many of the other organizations focused on local/native dances to popular western or local music. While all of them were very good and featured talented students, my favorites were the Malaysian and Angolan student organizations. All of the students looked like they were having a great time and featured great music!
If anyone hasn’t had the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it! If I’m on campus next spring I’ll will definitely be going again.
A component of the Global Fellows program involves participating in Global Engagement Day every spring. While the past couple years I participated as a panelist, this year I opted to attend the sessions instead. My favorite this year was the the panel concerning post undergraduate opportunities, specifically the PeaceCorps and the Fulbright programs. I’ve toyed with the idea of applying for the Fulbright program, but I recently decided to get my Masters at OU (which would give me a fall semester graduation) and I wasn’t sure how that would impact my candidacy/options for the Fulbright.
At this session hosted one of the staff members that runs the pre-PeaceCorps at OU and a Fulbright participant from Purdue University. Listening to the former Fulbright recipient discuss his experiences and the opportunities he had as he conducted research for his P.h.D. in South Africa was inspiring. He encouraged everyone interested in the program to look into the different options available, as there was a program that could meet everyone’s needs. Motivated, I began doing more research into the many opportunities available through the Fulbright program.
This discussion is finally helped convince me that even with my Masters degree and an abnormal start date, there were still several further-study programs that I was both eligible for and interested in. As such, I will now by applying to Fulbright for a study program that begins in the spring of 2020 (which as I’m writing this I realize how far away that date actually is).
For my first international event since returning to OU, I got the opportunity to attend an interesting talk about recent political history in Brazil and its implications on the upcoming presidential election. The talk was led by Mark Langevin, from George Washington University. I will admit that I knew little about the political situation in Brazil before this talk, and the beginning of this discussion was mainly me playing catch-up. Mr. Langevin offered a quick synopsis before diving into the topic.
Up until the 1980’s, the Brazilian government was mainly viewed as corrupt and ineffective, from both Brazilians and the outside world. However, the political tides began to change, and with the election of President Lula in the early 2000’s, the country entered a new political era. Lula made moves to address the political corruption and kickbacks in his government. Additionally, this period also saw economic growth. When his chief-of-staff succeeded him, there was hope that the growth in Brazil would continue; however, this was far from the case.
Like most of the world, Brazil suffered from the global recession that started in 2008. President Rousseff (Lulu’s successor) betted on the future by trying to counter the recession. While this worked initially, when the recession continued the strategy began to fail. The 2008 recession ended up being one of the worst in Brazilian history. In May of 2013, Rousseff had a 78% approval rate; within three years Rousseff would be impeached for breaking budgetary laws.
With this movement towards government change, the idea that this was a newfound period in Brazilian politics. However, with the imprisonment of Lula two years after the end of his presidency and the impeachment of his successor, Mr. Langevin believes that the growth and change Brazil saw from the early 2000’s – 2012 was an anomaly and that Brazil will convert back to its pre-Lula state. One of Brazil’s greatest obstacles is overcoming internal corruption within the government. It is crucial that the fight for government accountability and corruption be non-partisan. While the Brazilian presidential election is later this year, Mr. Langevin is not optimistic about the results.