I’ve made my decision! I’m going to Australia as part of an exchange program with Monash University!
I’m planning on taking one biology class, and three international studies classes, I anticipate that the unique biodiversity of Australia will make the class interesting, and different compared to biology classes taken at OU. I thought that the process of pre-equation would be very difficult, and many people told me that I should just wait until after I come back, and bring back literally everything to submit to advising and admissions. However, I sent links to course descriptions to biology advising (my IAS advisor gave me the email of the biology advisor in charge of study abroad equations), and after a few emails back and forth, I got two of the courses I wanted to take approved. The process was not difficult, but it did take a little longer than I expected.
The IAS classes that I’m taking were much easier to get equated, and I’m so excited to take these classes from a non-US point of view.
This semester, one of the main goals of OUIS was reaching out to other South Asian organizations on campus. There are many other organizations that seek to represent groups similar to ours, and we believe that joining together and making connections is one of the best ways to create a sense of community.
One example of this is Diwali Night. Traditionally held by another Indian student organization, Diwali Night this year was cohosted by OUIS. I believe that this act built bridges between the undergraduates and graduates of the Indian community at OU.
Beyond Diwali Night, OUIS has held three general body meetings, which are usually social activities centered around a theme, and sponsored an “India Week.” The novelty of being just a member and not on exec has worn off a little, and I really feel like this group has helped me reconnect with my heritage, as well as keep me informed in an international sphere.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the President’s Associates Dinner featuring Joshua Landis. I had attended the event freshman year (link here), but missed it last year, so I was determined to make it this time. Dr. Landis is said to be one of the best professors in the College of International Studies, and the friends of mine who have taken his classes have nothing but positive things to say, so I was very excited to hear him speak.
I’m in President Boren’s government class this semester, and heard a lot of the beliefs that he shared with us in class echoed in his opening remarks. Soon, Dr. Landis’s lecture began, and I realized quickly that this was delivered in a similar style to a professor lecturing a classroom. I appreciated this, however, as Middle Eastern history is not my area of expertise. Dr. Landis spoke about the historical context behind the current situation in Syria, beginning with pre-colonization all the way to the present day. I learned a lot from his talk, but I also realized how little I knew of the history and geography of this region.
There were some aspects of his speech that I had trouble with. For example, he advocated an isolationist policy for the United States, but I’m not sure that this is the best course of action. I understand that given the US’s history of rushing into the Middle East, waging pointless wars, and setting up countries for future instability, we must be cautious in how we proceed, and maybe not act rashly or unilaterally, but whether the only other alternative is to stand by and observe the implosion of a country remains to be seen. Furthermore, I believe that Dr. Landis spoke about the history of the region in a somewhat biased fashion: some of his statements could easily be misconstrued as him labelling certain sects of Islam as “good” and “bad.” One of my friends who also attended this talk felt similarly, and stated that he continued a long history of this manner of labelling. Yet, as I have said previously, I have very little education in this area, and probably cannot hold an educated conversation with Dr. Landis.
The lack of capitalization of this title indicates my current mental state. I am applying to three different study abroad programs and I have no idea which one I would choose if I got into all three. All three programs are in three different countries, and one of them is in a completely different part of the world than the other two.
One of this programs is in Australia. I would love study here because of the unique landscape and opportunities to study biology. In addition, I can take some classes on international studies from outside the American perspective. The program an exchange program with Monash University and is located in Melbourne, Australia. I love the metropolitan location, and would be excited to experience life down under.
The next program is based in New Zealand, and is an exchange program with Victoria University of Wellington. This would be so unlike any other program in other countries, and I don’t think I would get a chance to visit this part of the world and live like a local again. The biology may be similar to that of Australia, but would be very different from that of the United States.
Finally, I’m applying to a program in Austria. The university is in Graz, which lacks the same metropolitan appeal of Wellington, and Melbourne, but is centrally located in Europe. I could travel within Austria, as well as abroad. However, one of the major drawbacks of the program is that I do not speak German. Although I have an affinity for learning languages, I do not think that I can learn German to any level of fluency only in six months.
I’m really unsure of where to go, and I’ll have to figure it out soon, but until then, I guess I’ll continue making pro-con lists.
I am halfway through with college.
That’s weird and scary and kinda cool.
In honor of this occasion, I would like to take a few seconds to look back.
When I came in as a first-year, I wanted to master Spanish and begin learning German. Then, German seemed to fall too far outside of my priorities, and I continued with Spanish alone. I was briefly enamored with the idea of studying Russian, but this never blossomed into anything either. After my summer in Spain, I came back with the determination to keep up with my Spanish, and while I have by no means forgotten everything, I am not as fluent as I once was. Now, Arabic has caught my eye, but I also want to learn French. I do not think I will study another language in college, however, because I want to devote that time to other pursuits.
As a first-year I also wanted to study abroad in Germany and Spain. Now, I am looking at less-frequently traveled options, like South America and Oceania. This shift has partly to do with the fact that I’ve already seen a lot of Europe, and partly to do with the fact that I may not get the opportunity to travel to these countries in the future.
I have had research positions, and have accomplished quite a bit, but there is still so much more for me to do and see. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me.
Last year, I was on the exec board of OUIS. This year, I am a member. Stepping down from that position was a decision that I did not make lightly, but it truly was in my best interests. Still, it feels weird to go to the meetings and not know what is coming next, or to not know what is going on behind the scenes. Serving on the board of a large group in my freshman year really did teach me how much effort goes into planning events and keeping an organization running slowly. I learned how to work with others to achieve a common goal outside of an academic or professional setting. Above all, perhaps, I learned that great things can happen when a group of people come together with a similar goal and build off of and grow with each other.
Yet, it is nice to have extra time free each week. It’s also really refreshing to be able to just go to meetings and not have to bear much responsibility for running them. I can now choose not to go to an event, and don’t have to worry about keeping members engaged, or working around their schedules. So while I know that OUIS taught me a lot about being just a member.
As a sophomore, I have some time before I have to start thinking about Fulbright. I haven’t really decided on an area I would like to go to, or a field that I would like to study. I have some research experience under my belt, as well as some travel experience, but going to the latest information session really opened my eyes to how wide the program really is, and how many different directions I can go in. This frustrates me because there have been many times that I have been studying something for a class, or reading an article, and my mind wanders into potentially researchable questions. I don’t know how I will go about limiting myself to just 1.
One of the most interesting things that I found out in the presentation, however, was that formulating the Fulbright proposal could potentially count as Honor’s Research. This would help me out by giving me more time to dedicate to my application, while also knocking out an honor’s requirement, and it is one thing that I will have to look into more.
In my opinion, voter apathy is one of the biggest enemies of the American political process. Millennials, on the other hand, are shaping up to be one of the most politically engaged youth generation that the United States has ever seen. Perhaps because I am a student of international studies, I’ve always believed voting to be one of the most direct ways of engaging in politics, and could not wait until I turned 18 and my opinions mattered, and could make a difference. In order for democracies to work, as citizens and participants in the system, we must vote.
Through my life, I have met many different types of people with different beliefs: from conservatives to liberals, anarchists to communists. And I respect all of (well, most of) their opinions and appreciate the experiences that they have had that bring them to believe what they believe, I have never found a convincing argument against voting. While the current US political system may look more oligarchical than democratic, that is due at least in part by us not engaging in it.
This election was certainly the strangest one I lived through, and it’s stranger than all that I have studied. I’ve been following it pretty closely, and I voted for the candidate that I felt best represented my interests. I’m proud that such a candidate exists in this time, and that I was able to vote for someone that I wholeheartedly believe in. However, even if I didn’t like any of the choices that I had been presented with, I still would have voted because even if it’s to choose between the lesser of two evils, I want to have a say, and democracy often really heavily relies on compromise.
So, register to vote, and go vote! Make your voice heard, and together, we can be the change we want to see in American politics.
Before I went abroad last summer, I had grand visions of what traveling would be like. I thought that I could live similarly to how I lived in the US, I would just be in a different country. Besides, Europe isn’t that different from the Americas, right? Well, kind of, in comparison with Asian and African countries perhaps, but the differences that do exist are large. Below are some aspects of my life that have never really been the same when I’m abroad.
- Food: I’m vegetarian, so there isn’t as much variety in the food as what a meat-eater would find, maybe, but the differences I’ve experienced are quite big! I try to eat healthfully, with a lot of fresh fruits and mostly whole grains, but while some aspects of American cuisine have found global popularity, such as french fries, others really have not. What I eat largely depends on where I am, but I’ve found that I really don’t have a problem with that.
- Exercise: I make a very sincere effort to go to the gym at least 3 times a week, but never when I’ve lived abroad have I been able to replicate this. There simply have not been gyms nearby, and sometimes I choose instead to go on runs outside, but even this is so variable based on the weather (running out in the heat is no fun and I will not do it no matter how good it is for me).
- How often I talk to non-local friends and family: Let’s face it, when we go abroad, basically everyone that is not there with us is non-local, and it takes extra effort to communicate with them. I usually talk to my parents on the phone every other day, or every three days, but when I’m abroad, I’ll often go two weeks without talking to them at all, save text messages assuring them I’m alive. Friends are even worse. I won’t talk to anyone on the phone, preferring instead loooooong emails that serve kind of as diary entries that I recount the events of the day in. I don’t text my friends at all when I’m not in the US! I send fewer snapchats and respond to fewer GroupMe-s. You’d think that it would be the opposite, and that I would want to share more with them about my adventures, but the truth is, I’m so preoccupied with absorbing it myself that I don’t think to share.
I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that my life isn’t the same abroad as when I’m in the United States, quite the opposite in fact. Changing my life gives me more insight into who I am as a person, and I love that it gives the opportunity for growth.
Cultural groups vary a little bit from other international organizations. Cultural groups are (clearly) limited to a single culture, and are most often frequented by those who identify as fitting within that culture. There events relate more to tradition, and the people you meet within it tend to come from similar backgrounds as you. These sorts of organizations are, in my opinion, vital to preserving our heritage as second generation immigrants.
OUIS does this, and more. In addition to promoting Indian culture, serving as a network for fellow South Asians, and informing others about Indian customs, OUIS also raises money for an Indian charity that donates to the education of children in slums, and the fundraising events are geared toward helping this charity. There haven’t been as many events that took place this semester beyond general body meetings, but the organization itself seems to focusing on reaching out to other South Asian organizations on campus to build a better network within OU’s campus activities scene. Overall, I have enjoyed being a member of this organization this semester, and look forward to what the future brings.