This semester, I took Women and Gender Studies. This class was truly eye opening and made me think of my womanhood in an entirely new way. The most impactful thing I learned throughout this course was the ideal of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the “understanding of how women’s overlapping identities including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.” As a person who desires to travel the world and embrace cultures of all sorts, it is vital I understand intersectionality and the plights of women everywhere. While I am a feminist, and stand for everything feminism is, modern American feminism in my opinion does not do enough to address the plights of women around the world. Women from other countries, women of color, and women with differing gender identities and sexual orientations are often not included or thought of when discussing women’s issues. This is damaging in the sense that it causes division among women. Inclusion is everything when trying to better society’s view and treatment of women. In saying all of this, as I travel the world I plan to take note of how each culture and society treats their women. Additionally, I plan to do better and not simply think about bettering my own experience as a woman, but bettering the experiences of women everywhere. I strongly hold to the belief that unless the women’s movement is working to help and benefit all women, that no women are truly gaining anything.
I attended the Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe event with guest Richard Heinisch. With the current political climate, I thought this event seemed interesting and I believe that now more than ever we must be fully aware of the world we live in and our leaders. Richard Heinisch started his presentation with the fact that populism is rapidly spreading across Europe and even the U.S. after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. Heinisch categorized the populist movement as having a blatant disregard for minorities, commonly making radical statements, being Eurocentric nativist, and making people call into question the principles of a democracy. Heinisch also asserted that the populist movement plays upon people’s fears to their advantage and loathe globalization. Altogether, what I received from Heinisch’s argument is that the populist movement is very problematic. The racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric that populist leaders use and the party adheres to are dangerous and disgusting. Populism is not inclusive, it is very exclusive, and simply hateful. I deeply fear the rise of populism and I hope that people everywhere will realize that the ideals this party bases itself upon are wrong and very harmful. As human beings, we should love and accept our neighbors and celebrate diversity and differences.
I attended the Arabic Talent Show again this semester. I enjoyed it so much in the fall semester and was very excited to go again! I know little to nothing about Arab culture, the Middle East, or the Arabic language, however the culture fascinates me. I hope to continue to learn more throughout my time at OU. The first act was Aziz belly dancing and I loved how lively and fun it was. The dancers were very talented and did an excellent job energizing the crowd at the beginning of the show. “The new roommate” video was very comical and since I do not speak Arabic in any shape or form, the subtitles were much appreciated. The skit was about several students who studied Arabic welcoming their new roommate who was from the Middle East. The skit displayed them showing her the OU way of life and getting her accustomed to America. While it’s common to think of myself and other American students being introduced to a new culture when we study abroad, it is not often that we experience someone else having to be introduced to American culture. I found this amusing and sympathized with international students in that moment. I also very much enjoyed a poem a girl recited. She spoke it in Arabic and English, and it was wonderful to listen to her beautifully speaking Arabic and then finding out the poems meaning when she recited it for the second time. I enjoyed the talent show and have so much admiration for the students that took part in it. The Arabic Flagship Program seems so great and I hope to get involved.
The Journey to Europe: Perspectives on the refugee crisis truly changed my perspective and touched my heart. The event began with a screening of the documentary 4.1 miles. The film shows the refugee crisis firsthand from the perspective of Greek civilians who have taken it upon themselves to go to sea every hour in order to save an influx of 200 refugees from drowning and ultimately death. The film was heartbreaking as you see people struggling for their lives, families being torn apart, and children dying. Not everyone is able to be saved though the rescuers put forth their best, and it’s devastating to watch these people in pure agony as they desperately try to flee from the war. 4.1 Miles truly humanized the refugee crisis for me. While I’ve heard about it countless times on the news and see the disturbing images online, my privileged life and living within the “American bubble” has prevented me from giving it much thought. After viewing this, my perspective changed. I began to realize how helpless these people are and it angered me that a country with as many resources as the U.S. is not providing much support. Following the screening, Dr. Smith, Dr. Raymond, and graduate student Stefanie Neumeier discussed their perspectives on the crisis. Dr. Smith spoke on how it is the European Union’s humanitarian and moral obligation to help refugees, just as it ours as citizens. He asserted that the uprising populist movement plays on fear and portrays refugees as dangerous. In reality, they are essentially harmless and facing some on the worst situations in the world and in need of aid. Dr. Raymond discussed how the top hosts of refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, and Jordan, some of the world’s poorest countries that do not have the resources to take on the mass amounts of refugees. Dr. Raymond stated that the burden is not being shared equally. I find this very unfair and saddening. Next, Stefanie Neumeier discussed the false perceptions of refugees. In Germany, refugees are no more criminal than Germans, and the real threat comes from hate crimes against the refugees by members of the far right. I learned so much from this event and since it has been placed upon my heart to help the refugee crisis in any way I can. I’m currently looking into going to Germany to hopefully work or volunteer within a refugee camp. I hope to attend more events like this and am thankful for my new perspective.
I attended the non-traditional study abroad session on Global Engagement Day. While the majority of students study abroad in Western Europe, the students presenting at this session traveled to places outside the norm, such as Tanzania, Uganda, Cambodia, Ecuador, and Israel. It was very intriguing to hear about the student’s experiences in these places that I know so little about. The students talked about how much they loved and embraced the cultures of these countries that were so different from their own. I found it the most interesting that almost all students presenting had done some sort of internship during their time. Felicia discussed how she able to give back to the people of Uganda by taking part in a water sanitation project, and Tanner discussed his work in Cambodia at a startup company. Hearing their excitement and passion for the projects they were able to work on was very encouraging to me. I hope when I study abroad that I am able to take part in an internship or public service project as well! I am also very interested in going to Tanzania, so I enjoyed hearing about Holly’s time with her host family and her adventures in Tanzania. I believe living with a host family is a great way to truly learn as much about the country, and have the best experience possible. Altogether the non-traditional study abroad session was a great motivator. I too wish to travel and study outside Western Europe and the usual places people choose, however the unknown is frightening and fills me with doubt. After this session and hearing the students’ great experiences, I am confident that I can travel to the places I’ve always dreamed.
The Arabic Talent Show was a great show with many entertaining acts put on by the Arabic Flagship Program. The show opened with a high energy dance routine. I loved the dancers sequined outfits and the way their energy was able to manifest into the crowd. The next “act” was a video made by students in which they depicted common cultural differences between Americans and those of Arabic descent. One part within the video depicted a girl turning down an elder’s offer of Arabic food, which caused much irritation from the elder. This part was comical and relatable because my grandma too becomes very irritated if you turn down her food and almost forces you to eat it. I noted this as a cultural similarity. A few students recited original poetry in Arabic, the most memorable being a poem about how Arabic had taken a ginger student’s soul. I truly wished I understood Arabic throughout the show because I would’ve been able to understand more of the comedic elements. Another memorable act was titled “Milk vs. Milk.” This act highlighted the differences in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic versus the Moroccan dialect. I found this act to be very interesting because I had no idea that there were two forms of Arabic with words of complete different or opposite meanings. Lastly, my favorite part of the talent show was the drum and guitar act in which two men played traditional Arabic music. The harmonies and sounds were so rhythmic and beautiful. All in all, the talent show was a great experience that I’m so happy I was able to partake in. I have much respect and admiration of the Arabic Flagship Program and loved seeing all their work, accomplishments, and how the entire program is truly one big family.
I attended OU’s Persian Poetry Night and it was very nice. The poetry night consisted of students in various Arabic classes reading famous Arabic poetry and then the same poem translated in English. The event also had traditional Arabic foods. The food was all very good which pleasantly surprised me since I’m not usually one to be adventurous with foods, and tend to stick to chicken fingers and fries for every meal. The venue was decorated to mirror the Persian culture, and the environment made me feel apart of the group and immersed in the culture. The poetry was mostly about love, nature, heartbreak, and personal growth. The language barrier made it somewhat challenging to enjoy the poetry because I could not understand the Arabic language, and the translations were not 100% accurate. Therefore, I couldn’t truly embrace the various poems’ full meanings. However, the arabic language is beautiful, and I was very impressed with the students performing the poetry because they made speaking Arabic seem so easy and natural. The judges at the event all expressed a common interest in the Perisan poet Hafez, and this event helped me gain an interest in learning more about foreign poets. I hope to attend more Arabic Flagship events in the future.
The International Experiences of Race and Diversity event was truly eye opening. The event was put on by The College of International Studies and Price College of Business. The dean of Price spoke at the event and I was very impressed with how much the dean valued diversity within Price, valued international education, and realized how greatly a global understanding impacts success. At this event a panel of 6 international students were asked questions about their experience on OU’s campus, in Norman, and in the U.S. as a whole. The 6 students included a girl from El Salvador, a boy from France, two boys from Africa, and two Indian students, one boy, and one girl. The students were asked about their time on OU campus and if they had faced any racism. I was happy when 5 of the students said they have had good experiences and have not faced racism, however when it was the girl from El Salvador’s turn, she spoke about how she exposed to anti-immigrant sentiment, the day after the election. It was heartbreaking that she had to listen to students in her own classroom speak about how they did not want immigrants in this country. Despite this, she said that her time at OU had been nothing but great and filled with good people. The students were asked about how it felt being a minority and they expressed how it was difficult and challenging at times, but how it was benefiting them as people. I related to this because this is how I will most likely feel when I choose to study abroad. The students also expressed how important it is for American students to be informed about the world and different cultures because that creates unity. This event was great for me and I loved hearing about the international student experience and what I could do to better it.
I attended the Journey Programs Launch Party in order to learn more about the Journey Programs and their study abroad opportunities. The featured programs were Journey to Tanzania, Journey to China, Journey to Brazil, and Journey to Italy. The presentation of each program was very intriguing and each program had interesting classes and great travel plans. In Journey to Italy, students would visit cities such as Arezzo, Rome, Venice, Florence, and Pompei, and experience Italy’s finest art. The Italy program also featured a “Understanding Italian Architecture through Film” class that I thought was very interesting and would love to experience. The Journey to Brazil program featured time in Rio De Janeiro, various islands, and learning about the environmental and intellectual history of Brazil. I was interested in the Latin American Environmental History class because I was completely unaware that Brazil had a rich environmental history. While The China, Italy, and Brazil all seemed like great programs that would offer a great experience, I was most interested in Journey to Tanzania. I believe I was drawn to this program because it was the most unique and included time with a host family in Arusha, which would greatly enhance the experience by being able to fully immerse yourself in the culture. The Tanzanian program also included a visit to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mount Kilimanjaro, and a safari to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. I talked in great detail to a student who attended the Tanzania trip, and the professors and they were all so passionate about its rich experience. This event has brought to my attention that I wish to study abroad in Africa and look forward to it.
This semester I joined OU Cousins to fulfill my international group requirement. OU Cousins was truly a great way for me to get involved and played an instrumental role in my happiness and success at OU my first semester. Through OU Cousins I was matched with Eva, a Greek student who attended a university in Germany, and had decided to study abroad for the semester at OU. I loved spending time with Eva and getting to know her throughout the 4 month she was here. We attended plays, had numerous dinners, went shopping, and shared our favorite movies. I loved seeing the excitement she had about things I tend to overlook being an American. She was amazed at the immense popularity of football, that a Victoria’s Secret was in every mall, and discovered her love of frappuccinos through Starbucks. It was truly special for me to be able to show her the “American way of life,” and it was equally special for her to teach me about Germany and Greece. Through OU Cousins I was able to gain a better understanding of the Greek culture, Greece itself, and Germany. The cultural differences that were major in my opinion were how amiable Eva was even to strangers. Eva explained to me that in Greece its custom and very common to greet all people you encounter. I loved this ideal and hope to be more willing to be friendly and greet strangers that I encounter in the future. Another major cultural difference that is common across the board for most Europeans is how open they are. Eva and her friends were so open about everything they thought and had no filter it seemed. While Americans view a “filter” as necessary in order to maintain relationships and avoid stepping on toes, I enjoyed being around people who were not afraid to speak their mind, because I believe it helps build better, stronger, more honest relationships. OU Cousins is indeed a great organization to be apart of. In Eva I gained a great friend that I know I will keep in touch with over the years.