Four years, two degrees, and a minor later

Wow, the past four years have just flown by! I look back at how I felt and who I was when I entered OU, and I feel older, wiser, and calmer. I definitely feel that I have drastically changed over the past four years, but in a way that has made me more like myself. I’ve studied two vastly different fields, and dabbled in many others, and though I’m still just as indecisive as when I first entered, I have a better feeling of what I like and what I’m not interested in. I’ve been a part of a few student groups, a few honor societies, and studied abroad twice. Given these experiences, I’m going to share some of the greatest lessons that I have learned over the past four years.

  1. Go for it. Whatever it is, just try. Regardless of whatever the circumstances are, if there is a chance, you should take it because life is a lot more flexible than you think. Allowing yourself to have diverse experiences and take risks helps you learn and grow, and though it sounds like a cliche, this has been one of my greatest takeaways from my college experience.
  2. Personal connections are key. Striking up friendships with people in the class or meeting professors will enrich your learning experience and motivate you to do better! Some of the best classes I’ve taken have gone so well because of the people in the class with me, or because of the respect and admiration I held for the professor.
  3. Diversity does you good! One of the best choices I made was becoming involved in activities outside of campus. Doing different things brings you into contact with people from all walks of life, and also facilitates greater involvement in the community! It’s nice to do things that remind you of the life that exists outside of academia!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m sure as I go on through life, I’ll realize what a transformative experience this was. What are some lessons you guys have learned?

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SASA – the last chapter

The South Asian Student Association has been such a rewarding organization to be involved with. In the time I’ve been with the group, it has grown and changed and really transformed in a way that I never would have imagined as a lowly freshman representative in 2014. The degree of my involvement over the years has definitely shrunk over time, but I’ve appreciated the people and the work that they do just as much, if not more, now!

This semester, I focussed on attending the social events and enjoying the company of all of the lovely people I’ve met over the years! I really enjoyed India Night and the general meetings, and spending time celebrating South Asian culture with some of the coolest people on campus. One of the most cliched aspects of South Asian culture is the film industry, and in honor of my graduation, I’m sharing some of the South Asian movies that have been most popular among members of SASA (in no particular order):

  1. Dil Dhadakne Do
  2. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
  3. 3 Idiots
  4. Rang de Basanti
  5. PK
  6. Piku
  7. Dangal
  8. Taare Zameen Par
  9. Queen
  10. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

It appears like anytime we want a movie night (even unofficial ones among friends), these ten movies come up every time! Have you seen any of these movies? Let me know your thoughts!

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College Advice

Here’s a handful of study tips I’ve picked up over the years! I hope they’re useful to others!

  1. Start studying early!
  2. Keep a clean living/working place.
  3. Visit professor’s office hours.
  4. Know your natural work schedule, and work within it.
  5. Take advantage of the time between classes and life’s little gaps, like bus rides.
  6. Keep in touch with your advisors so requirements don’t take you by surprise.
  7. Do (or at least skim) the readings.
  8. Review your notes once a day or at least every few days.
  9. Overlearn.
  10. When writing an essay, run your thesis and outline by your professor before you being writing!
  11. Keep a planner!
  12. Form study groups.
  13. Do practice tests and practice problems.
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Deal or No Deal: The Future of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

This past Tuesday, I had the fortunate of being able to attend a lecture conducted by the College of International Studies featuring Joe Cirincione. Mr. Cirincione is the president of the Ploughshares Fund, and the author of several books. I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to hear him speak, and I learned so much about this very important current issue.

Mr. Cirincione began his presentation by naming the nine nations that presently possess nuclear armaments, and reminding the audience that there has been a steady downward slide in the number of nuclear weapons, and that the world is presently at an inflection point. Trump, however, is expanding nuclear weapons. Mr. Cirincione sees North Korea as the most pressing nuclear threat and the most pressing national security threat, particularly after seeing the movement toward preparing for military action in North Korea. Moving on to Iran, Cirincione stated even though Israeli leaders support the Iran deal, Netanyahu does not. This nuclear agreement, according Cirincione, is incredibly strong. While many cite Iran’s reluctance to show photographs as evidence of potential foul play, these criticisms ignore the national embarrassment such photos would bring the country. However, Iranians are complying with the agreement.

According to Cirincione, the US government went into the deal due to mistrust of Iran, and the general consensus of experts comes out in favor of the deal: we must build on it! However, it is unknown which way this administration will go. The president must review and certify the US’s compliance and waive sanctions, but Trump doesn’t appear to like certifying, meaning Congress could impose sanctions in this window. The question remains: will Trump waive sanctions in May? We know Trump wants Europe to unilaterally tighten deal, and Europeans are working to find a compromise. Trump may decide not to lift sanctions, in which case, Europeans keep the deal alive by working with Russia and China, signaling a shift in the dynamic. The alternative, is Iran developing a nuclear program, and the only way to stop this from happening would be military action, which, according to Cirincione, would be an international security disaster.

Cirincione proposes four ways Americans can stay involved in the deal:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Stay informed
  3. Become involved in local activist groups.
  4. Keep the faith!

 

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SASA

New year new name!

I have been abroad for the past semester, and have not kept up with any of the happenings back at OU, apart from those relayed to me by my friends. Although I used to be quite involved in what was formerly OUIS, the past few years have seen me drift further away from leadership roles, to the point where I’m a member who occasionally misses meetings. It’s quite a shift for me, as I’ve previously detailed in my blog.

This semester, the focus has been on philosophy to a greater extent, and establishing connections with other organizations on campus to work toward the common goal of raising money for those who are in need. I believe that this is a great course of action to take, as it broadens the horizons of the group, and maximizes the impact we can have on our community. SASA has also strengthened the relation it has with ISA through cohosting meetings and events, which has also been beneficial in bridging the gap between undergraduate and graduate students. Personally, I hope that eventually, we see the merging of the two organizations, as that will broaden the network South Asian students have when joining the organization.

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US-China Lunch: Reform Contradictions Facing China’s New Leadership

Recently, I had the honor of attending a lunch hosted by the College of International Studies regarding US-China relations and the reform contradictions facing China’s new leadership. The talk featured Dr. Yukon Huang, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has a book coming out titled Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Wisdom Fails.

In his talk, Dr. Huang discussed China’s present leadership change, and the desire of the current administration to be transformative, modernizing China, and elevating China. While Trump is geared toward short-term issues, the Communist Party is thinking forward, to the midcentury. China has its work cut out for it: abroad, China has to deal with negative perceptions of the country and trade and investment tensions with the West, and at home, China faces deteriorating debt, growth slow-down, corruption, and income and lifestyle disparities.

Americans, on the other hand, fail to recognize themselves as the leading economic power, and cast aspirations on China. There is no relationship between US and China trade values, contrary to the perception of the US public. This raises the question: why do we think there is a connection? Although so many of the products bear the label “Made in China,” the label simply refers to assembly. Only a small portion of the money stays in China. Further, while many Americans believe that US companies invest too much in China, only 1.5% of America’s foreign investment goes to China, and the European Union invests more in China than the US does. Apple, the US company, actually has no investment in China, as FoxCon is a Taiwanese company.

The fact is, the more innovative a country is, the slower it grows. China tries very hard to be innovative. China’s growth is inspired by decentralized provincial competition. Economically speaking, Chinese officials aim to meet economic targets, which lead to reforms, and their success is rewarded by promotion, thereby motivating them to reach for targets once again. In terms the sociopolitical, the government attempts to contain social unrest through conditional autonomy, and repression with concession to maintain stability. One of the key aspects of the Chinese administration is the officials hailing from different provinces than those which they govern.

Growth began at special economic zones (SEZ) because incentives are given to the SEZs. The Chinese government pours money and incentives to the coast. Further, Dr. Huang corruption in China generates growth because the state owns all resources, and doesn’t get high returns. Corruptions allows the transfer of resources to the private sector.

Ultimately, Dr. Huang argues that the debt in China is beneficial because most of the debt went into finance this transition, which holds promise for the future. Dr. Huang concludes the talk by stating that China is unique, and unlike any other economy in the world. I look forward to reading his book and learning more on the topic!

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Ottoman Tolerance and its Legacy Today

Among the many talks I had the fortune of attending this semester, the brown bag lunch with Yaron Ayalon stood out as being one of the most relevant to my interests. A bit of background: the summer before I began classes at OU, I was offered a free book by the Honors College, and was able to choose between three books. I indicated that I would prefer a book on the world’s thinkers, but there must have been some kind of mix-up because instead, I received The Ornament of the World, a book on inter religious tolerance in medieval Spain. At the time, I was disappointed that I didn’t receive the book I had wanted, so I shelved the book and didn’t really look at it again for the rest of my freshman year. That summer, before I left for my Spanish study abroad, I grabbed the book on a whim, as I figured I’d need something to read on planes and trains and automobiles. To this day, I’m so glad I did because reading the book while in Spain and studying Spanish history was one of the coolest instances of synchronicity I’ve experienced!

My biggest take-away from the book is that tolerance has historical precedent, and, under the right conditions, is achievable today. This point was supported by Dr. Ayalon, who discussed tolerance within the Ottoman Empire. As we know, the Ottoman Empire comprised of a minority of Muslims governing a majority of Christians, and Dr. Ayalon argues, based on evidence that he has gathered, that religious leaders such as rabbis did not have a central role in the administration. Rather, local lay-leaders had the authority, and the pluralism of the Ottoman Empire allowed a double identity for religious minorities.

Although the legacy of Ottoman tolerance would disappear in the second half of the twentieth century, at some point in the past, there was peace and cross-cultural appreciation. Turkey’s attempt at being a modern-day emulation of the Ottoman Empire fails in this regard: there is no religious tolerance, and the country maintains a police state. Yet, in the present global political environment, historical examples of tolerance bear importance, as even though so much has changed, there is still a lot to learn from these examples.

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Fulbright Tips

I just finished the arduous process that is the Fulbright application, and after all the blood, sweat, and tears shed (all metaphorical, except the tears), I have some wisdom to impart. Since most of the people looking at this blog are fellow GEFs, I thought I would make a post about advice that I would give to new applicants, based on my experience.

  • Start early! This is good rule of thumb for life generally, but in this instance I’m referring to the letter of affiliation. If you don’t have a clear-cut affiliate from the outset, it’s very important that you begin looking around. I must have sent out at least 70 emails before I found someone who responded, let alone someone willing to sponsor my research.
    • If you study abroad for a semester, and wish to return to that country, or a country nearby for your Fulbright project, work on establishing that connection while you are abroad. This will save you a lot of grief later on.
  • Make multiple drafts, and have people read them. The Fulbright application requires a couple different essays, and the two have to be related, but can’t say the same things. As with any personal statement or statement of grant purpose, these can be tricky to write. It’s good to have people of different backgrounds read your essays before the interview because you don’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation. The interview is stressful enough, so showing people what you’ve written in a more casual, relaxed setting can help you hone the essays before hearing them critiqued in a high-stakes environment.
  • Be specific. My biggest interview take-away was the importance of specificity. The more detailed you are in your personal statement and statement of purpose, the better picture you paint for the Fulbright commission. Be clear in your purpose, and assertive in your reason for funding.
  • Relax! I stressed so much throughout the application process, and but beyond writing the essays and asking for letters of recommendation or affiliation, there was very little that I could do. The truth is, sometimes it’s tempting to play the numbers game, and apply to countries with high chances of success, choose programs that have high acceptance rates, but at the end of the day, you have to do what you are interested in. Have faith in your project, and have faith in yourself!
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Learning to Teach

I’ve been tutoring English as a Second Language at the Norman Public Library for a while now, and it’s been one of the most impactful experiences of my college career! Twice a week, I go to the library and meet the girls I teach, we spend an hour speaking in English and reviewing grammatical concepts, and we share the details of our week.

I’ve never done anything like this before; I have no prior experience with tutoring or teaching in any fashion, and although I was a bit apprehensive, it didn’t take me long to find my groove. There are so many resources out there for ESL learners and tutors, and the library has a marvelous support system for it’s tutors. The best part of the experience, hands down, has been working with my learners. The two women are so intelligent and accomplished, and have lived such interesting lives. It’s such a shame that there’s such a large language barrier because I’ve grown so much from my acquaintance with them!

If you’re interested in becoming a tutor, you can sign up at the library’s website. There’s an orientation to attend, and then you match with a student. Typically, you spend an hour a week with your learner, and you work together to meet their language goals. You work out a time and a place that works for both of your schedules after you’ve been introduced by the program coordinator at the library. We really, really need tutors, as there are a lot of people on the waiting list, so if you, at all, can spare the time and are interested, consider joining!

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Old Beginnings

My time in Australia is coming to an end. It’s strange; I feel like I’m just now getting comfortable. I’ve made friends, and the thought of saying goodbye to them is pretty painful. I really like Monash, and I’ve gotten pretty involved in some organizations here, that I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I’m not here to see their future.

I had similar feelings, to a lesser degree, as I was getting ready to leave Spain. There are a lot of differences between that study abroad experience and this one, however. I spent my time taking relatively easy classes and traveling through Europe, I made friends, but spent most of my time with people from OU. Other students did the same thing, and while we were all cordial to each other, and would often run into other groups in our travels, people mostly stuck with others from their university, even if they hadn’t met those people before. I stayed with a host family, and while they really did make me feel like a family member, it was very clear that I was a guest in their home, and I came and went mostly as I pleased (without inconveniencing my host family).

I come and go as I please here too, but I’m weighed down by assignments and a less reliable public transport system. There aren’t as many nearby places to travel to, and I don’t have three-day weekends. I go into the city pretty often, but schoolwork definitely gets more importance in semester-long exchange programs. In addition, I spend a lot of time around my residence hall, hanging out with other exchange students, all of whom come from a wide range of countries, and some local friends I’ve made.

I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. It’s a familiar feeling, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m not sure how to cope. I do miss my friends and family and country, and it’ll be really nice to be back stateside (and not have to wait 4 weeks for international shipping), but it’ll also be a large adjustment.

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