Global Fellows Mentor Program

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.

Eve of Nations

IMG_9779One 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.

Food and Water Activism in Global Asia

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.

The Forgotten Panel Discussion

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.

Global Fellows Day

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.

Study Abroad….Again?

As an engineer, figuring out how to study abroad for a semester without delaying my graduation was surprisingly easy with the OUA program. And since I went abroad for my summer program after my freshman year, my summer in Turkey didn’t hurt my chances for an internship. While I’m so grateful that I had these opportunities, I’m still jealous when I hear of other people going abroad.

Last month, OU had its Engineering Career Fair, and I was fortunate enough to get offered an internship position with a company outside of Atlanta, Georgia. However, instead of the traditional 2.5 months in the summer, this internship is going to be 6.5 months, taking place over the summer and during the fall semester of 2017. Within my school of engineering, classes are only offered once a year. Since I will be missing my fall courses, I will not have completed my prerequisites for my spring classes. In light of the fact that I won’t be able to take classes in my major in the spring, I’ve decided to go abroad again!

While nothing is official yet, I’ve fallen in love with several programs in Europe and New Zealand. All of this research into programs reminds me of my freshman year when I was planning my trip to Turkey and Italy. Both of these programs, however, were with other OU students. All of the programs I am currently considering would involve me going to campuses not run by OU, leaving me with no other OU students. Even though I’ve studied abroad before, the thought of going somewhere without knowing anybody is pretty daunting!

I never would have taken off a year just to study abroad again, so I so excited that my long internship gives me a reason (and one that my parents are ok with) to go abroad again. I can’t wait to experience a new country, culture, and have more experiences of a lifetime!

International Organizations

This semester I had the opportunity to be involved in several international-orientated organizations, including the Global Engagement Mentorship and OUA Ambassadors. Due to school and other various commitments, I was not able to get as involved as I would have liked; however, I had a great time meeting new people and doing what I could in these organizations.

This semester the faculty member in-charge of the Global Fellow program started a mentoring group that paired upperclassmen with some of the freshmen global fellows. These groups were paired by major, interest, or preferred study abroad locations. For my group, I asked to be paired with other STEM majors, as it can be very difficult finding programs in the STEM field that won’t delay graduation. Due to timing and other factors, I was not able to meet up with all of my mentees; however, I was able to talk and connect with all of them. Talking with the freshmen about their plans to study abroad made me a little jealous and refueled my desire to go abroad again!

I was also involved in OUA Ambassadors, which I was also a member of last year. With the new monastery in Arezzo, the university is looking to expand the program. OUA Ambassadors members are all students who have studied abroad in Arezzo. The organization is responsible for putting together events (mainly during Italy Week), to highlight the program to other students and talk about their experiences in Arezzo.

Both of these groups have been so much fun to get involved. As someone who has studied abroad, two of my favorite things is to talk about my experiences and to encourage others to go abroad, and I love that both of these organizations give me the opportunity to do that.

St. Elijah Food Festival

Last week, my roommate and I attend in the St. Elijah Food Festival in OKC. Since studying abroad in Turkey and Italy, I have fallen in love with Mediterranean food, and I was so excited to get to eat some of this delicious homemade food! 14717042_879580592142769_6662792706525728307_n(Pictured above is some of their amazing homemade baklava)

While I was there, I was able to try some of their sfeeha, cheese talami, cabbage rolls, humus, pita bread, and some baklava. The food was so good that I caved and bought their recipe book. (My roommate and I have made some of the recipes and they turned out surprisingly well.)

We also had the opportunity to tour the church and learn about the congregation’s move from Jordan to the U.S. and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. The church’s decor and overall atmosphere reminded me a lot of a Greek Orthodox Church my study abroad group visited while in Turkey.

 
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I had a great time eating the Mediterranean food and learning about the church’s beliefs and move from the Middle East to Oklahoma City. I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves Mediterranean food and I look forward to going again next year!

Iran and the World

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a discussion faciliatated by Dr. Samer Shehata with Iranian Ambassador Mousavian. They discussed many different topics, most of which I have little outside knowledge on. One topic that they talked about in great detail was the somewhat recent nuclear treaty between the US and Iran. The speakers seemed to have different takes and opinions on what the nuclear deal means for future US-Iran relations. The Ambassador seemed optimistic about the future of our nation’s relations; however, Dr. Shehata seemed more reserved in future relations.
From what I was able to understand (and this is according to the Ambassador), the nuclear treaty is a win-win for both nations. This treaty requires transparency on both sides and ensures a peaceful program. Under this treaty, the nuclear sanctions against Iran have been lifted and Iran now has the same rights as other nuclear power nations. This deal is the most comprehensive treaty between the two countries to date and is a win for other nuclear countries, not just the US and Iran.
One thing Ambassador Mousavian really stressed was that the Middle East, as a whole, is on the verge of collapse. (It surprised me that he had this opinion and even more so that he was willing to share it.) In his opinion, it is up to the 5 big world powers and the four regional powers to prevent the collapse from occurring. He didn’t specify which nations were the regional powers, but from context clues I assume he meant Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Furthermore, there are four main points that the nations within the Middle East (in particular the four main powers) must reach a consensus on. This are: the right of the people to choose their own leaders (eliminate minority rule over the majority), diplomacy on war, plans to help with reconstruction in the region, and the fight against terrorist groups without discrimination.
There are still many major political differences between the US and Iran. The response in Syria is an area of contention, as is Hezbollah. While the treaty did not addresses many of the nations’ issues outside of nuclear power, it does show that the US and Iran are able to negotiate and reach compromises, which bodes well for future relations.

Middle East Roundtable Talk

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a get together with other Global Fellows and international students from the Middle East. There were 15-20 of us, chatting over coffee and doughnuts, sharing our experiences. I think Jaci had a great idea when she decided to create small, informal sessions to let students talk about their international experiences to other students (and get credit for it!).

(For those who don’t know, I studied abroad in Turkey for a summer a couple years ago and visited Morocco for several days while studying in Italy last year. )

Several people who went abroad with me to Turkey were there, and it was great being able to talk and catch-up with them. It made me realize how many adventures I had forgotten since coming back to Norman. It was also really interesting to hear people’s perspectives who were born and raised in that region and American students who spend much longer in the Middle East than I did.

I really enjoyed seeing some of my fellow study abroad students that I hadn’t seen in forever and meeting other people who share a similar interest in the Middle East. I love talking about my study abroad stories to other students who have studied abroad, and listening to their adventures in return, so for me this was one of the best international events I’ve been to.