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.
As part of my scholarship requirement, I am involved in various international organizations on campus. This year, I participated in the Global fellows mentoring program and OUA Ambassadors. The mentorship was a continuation from last semester, where I kept the same group of freshmen I was matched with. As with last semester, it was difficult to communicate and meet up with my mentees due to schedules and overall communication issues. While I like the idea of the mentee/mentor program, I think it needs some adjustments to be as effective and helpful to the incoming freshmen. Since this was the first year the program was enacted, there some difficulties that were unexpected or certain things to be tweaked. While I Weill not be able to participate in the program since I will not be in Norman next year, I look forward to getting involved again once I get back to OU.
One of my favorite international events that I attended this year was Eve of Nations. I’ve wanted to go since freshman year, but haven’t been able to go until this year…and it was even better than I imagined. I was only able to attend the show, but I really wished I had also gone to the dinner (it looked delicious!). Many international groups in campus performed music or had a fashion show, after which the student organizations had a dance talent-type show. The Native American group that sang/danced and this drumming (I believe Japanese-style) were simply amazing, but were not part of the overall competition.
While all of the groups were very talented and creative, the ones that really stuck out to me were the Angolan Student group and the Indian Student association. The Angolan group stylized their performance as a story through song and dance, depicting a slow blossoming love story (there was even a Lion King inspired part!). The Indian student association’s dance was very interesting because the music they danced to was a mix of more traditional-sounding Indian music with Western influences. For instance, they performed to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”, but tweaked it to sound more traditional. The performances were absolutely amazing and watching it made me wish that I had been able to attend the previous years’ Eve of Nations.
An international event that I really enjoyed was the Water Scarcity dinner and panel talk. The panel included two men who created a documentary about water and food access in China, a woman who works with fisheries in New Orleans, a PhD student, and a professor who specializes in water in the Middle East. The talk opened with each of the panelists discussing their experiences with the growing water issues that are plaguing are planet. These were followed with what these professionals thought should/needed to be done to help slow down the increasing water scarcity. I really enjoyed listening to the perspectives of the men that created the documentary and learning about their experiences while in China.
Their documentary focused on a rural village in China that stood up to the government to protect the river next to their community. The Chinese government wanted to dam up the river, which would have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. By coming together and forming a grassroots environmental movement, the villagers and other activists persuaded the government to abandon the project.
On International Women’s Day I attended a panel discussion that focused on the ongoing Ukrainian war with Russia and researching forgotten Soviet histories. While I usually love almost any talk about history, I found this talk a little bit difficult to get into. The lady in the panel talked about her research in hidden archives about the Russian Revolution in the 1910’s.
You could tell that she loved her work, but she had a hard time keeping the audience’s attention. One thing I did enjoy about her talk was how she re-discovered footage of a women’s march that took place after the revolution. Even more interesting, she located the granddaughter of the leader of the march and talked with her about her grandmother.
The guy on the panel was much more engaging with the audience, at least in my opinion. He is a visiting Ukrainian professor, so he talked about the continuing conflict with Russia from a more personal standpoint. While I know that the conflict continues and not much process has been made in terms of peace, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I have not really kept up with the conflict. With so many other things going on in the world today, such as the prolonged Syrian conflict and all of Europe’s political and economic issues, the Ukrainian conflict had fallen off my radar.
Anyway, to go back to the talk, the professor talked not only about the Russian issue, but also about all of the democratic, educational, and societal improvements the country has had in recent years. It was nice to learn even with all of the uncertainty with Russia, the government and its people remained dedicated to continue pushing forward and focusing on areas that needed improvement within the nation.
Each year, the Global Fellows program hosts a day-long event that connects students who have already studied abroad to students who will soon be studying abroad. The event includes several different panel-talks. This year, I was involved in the STEM talk and the story-time talk.
The STEM talk focused on the struggles of studying abroad as a STEM major. From figuring out what program works best for your major to getting classes pre-equated, the students who hadn’t studied abroad asked questions specific to studying abroad in technical majors. Because the talk was so early in the morning, there were only 5 or so students who came to the panel. While not crowded, it was nice having such a small crowd, as it made it easier for each student to have their questions answered and made the talk pretty informal.
The story-time talk featured myself and several other students who have studied abroad. The purpose of the talk was to share informal stories of our experiences abroad (though at some points it seemed that we were all trying to one-up each other). Listening to everyone else’s stories only sparked my desire for more adventures abroad and gave me ideas for new experiences.