Coming Back

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted an update, but life has been crazy. It’s been two months since I left Mozambique, two months full of class, work, stress, friends, and life. Sometimes it feels like it was just a dream or something that happened years and years ago, but other times I remember things–moments, memories, prayers–so vividly that I start to cry.

I really struggled with adjusting back to life here, so I decided to write this post. It will mostly be about my adjustment journey and things that I believe can help others adjust after a life-changing experience in another country.

So, the first few days back were weird. I was sick, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, and I honestly don’t remember much of it except that I was so tired I didn’t think I’d ever feel not tired again. I remember thinking in the airport when I saw my family, “They’ll never really understand,” and that thought made me feel alone. I quickly realized that while they truly would never understand, that they would be able to support me and help me through my transition back to “real life” in America. That’s the first thing I’d say to anyone struggling with adjustment: find a support system, whether it’s friends or family, because they can be your constant in a time of change.

After the first few days, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an amoeba, a parasite, and bacteria in my lungs. I was put on medicine and started to feel so much better. I continued to sleep a lot, but also made an effort to spend time with friends and get out of the house as much as possible. This was also a huge help in adjusting back, because my friends were interested in hearing all of the stories and seeing all the pictures from my travels. I was able to share about the experience that changed me so much, but was also able to connect with friends and look at the present instead of focusing on the past.

Then came the time to move back to OU. I think this change was really healthy for me because I was able to come to Norman and reconnect with all of the friends I hadn’t seen over the summer. I was also able to reconnect with my church here in Norman. When classes started, though, I found myself unmotivated and depressed. I think this was the hardest part of my transition: finding a purpose. I had spent so much time preparing and planning for my trip to Mozambique that it had consumed a lot of my life. Then I travelled to Mozambique and had a very defined purpose: to serve. It was easy to answer the question, “Why are you here?” in Africa, but not quite as easy in America. Why was I here? What was my purpose at the University of Oklahoma? My heart wanted nothing more than to catch a plane to Mozambique and pick back up where I had left off, trying to serve and love those kids so well. I struggled through the first two weeks of class, trying to find motivation to succeed and focus in my classes even though I felt purposeless. At the end of the second week, though, I went to church and listened to the sermon. The title was “Why Am I Here?” It pinpointed exactly how I felt, and the pastor explained that our purpose right now was to learn, to be light, and to prepare for the future. That really resonated with me and I left feeling much better about life. I knew that my purpose was to learn, to be light, and to prepare for the future, so I pursued that with everything I had in me. I got a job, started doing much better in my classes, and found that I could enjoy the present rather than wishing I was back in the past.

So, I hope that my experience can help someone out there who feels purposeless in the States. I encourage you to find a support system, to connect with friends, and to realize that you have a purpose right here and right now. You are here for a reason and trust me, you are not alone. If you experience depression, please please please talk to a counselor or someone who can put you in contact with one. It is not a sign of weakness to look for help, but rather a sign of strength. And finally, look to the Lord. He is the true giver of purpose, and He knows you and loves you completely. There is so much hope for you, and I know that while adjustment is hard, it is possible!

OU Cousins: How I Met Khaother

OU is unique in that it has an incredible desire to connect students from all around the world and allow them to become members of the global community. There are so many programs that allow students to learn more about different places all over the world. One such program is OU Cousins, which pairs an international student with an American student. My OU Cousin, Khaother, is from Saudi Arabia. She’s a business major who loves Disney movies and hugs and mozzarella sticks and Frappucinos. Khaother is one of the most generous people I know, and she’s taught me a lot about Saudi Arabian culture. Her favorite food is grape leaves (which are actually delicious) and she wants to go to an amusement park while she’s in the states! Hopefully some day soon we’ll get to go to Six Flags together and she’ll get to practice driving a car, something that women aren’t allowed to do in Saudi. I am so grateful to OU and the OU Cousins program for allowing me to meet such a sweet sweet friend and learn about a culture that I previously knew nothing about!

Why You Shouldn’t Ask Me If I Have a Boyfriend

disclaimer: this may or may not be a rant

Every time I come home from school for a weekend, I’ll undoubtedly hear dozens of comments like, “When are you going to bring a man home?” “Have you found that special someone yet?” “Any romance in the near future?” I was even asked by an older man when I was going to get my “MRS” degree. YALL. First off,  I am nineteen years old. I just moved away from my family. I don’t have a job. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with my life. I can’t even take care of a pet fish, let alone a boyfriend. Second, I am not paying thousands of dollars to get a guy. I’m paying thousands of dollars to get an education in a field that interests me. I came to college to learn, to grow, to make new friends. If God decides to make a boy a part of my life, great. But right now, that’s not what I’m looking for. I am completely content: my worth is not determined by the number of boys I bring home. I do not need a ring by spring to feel like I’ve accomplished what I came to college to do. Don’t get me wrong, boyfriends are great, but they are not what gives us value. It’s time to move past the old mindset that women are nothing without men, and realize that we are valuable, not because of the diamond on our hand, but because we have been declared so by the Lord. We are so so precious in His sight and He loves us infinitely! So next time you feel unworthy or undesirable because you can’t answer yes to the questions asked about your love life, seek the truth: if you know the Lord, you are His daughter, He loves you, and He finds you altogether beautiful. There is nothing more valuable than you.

Poetry Artist in Residence: Kerri Shadid

This week is International Awareness Week at OU, which means that there are a lot of international events happening all over campus. I attended one in the library of Hester Hall, the international studies building, which featured poet Kerri Shadid. She was incredible: give her a word and she’ll write you an entire poem. There were also snack foods from other countries–my favorite was Biscoff, a delicious European cookie that tastes almost like a ginger snap. The coolest part for me, though, was the world map placed in the center of the room. Black pins were placed in the places people had been and tan pins were placed in the places people were from. It was incredible to see how many places people had been to and how many places they had come from! OU’s international program is such an incredible way to meet people from all over the world and to learn about and experience other cultures, and I’m so grateful for it!

she wrote this in just a couple of minutes! she's so talented! so many fun snacks! the map love biscoff so much nom nom

Moroccan Mint Tea and Henna Designs

Morocco is an Arabic country in Northern Africa. Beautifully ecologically diverse, Morocco is characterized by regions of both mountains and deserts. Today, the Arabic Flagship program at OU held a celebration of Moroccan heritage, complete with traditional Moroccan mint tea and henna designs. Moroccan mint tea is hot green tea flavored with sugar and spearmint leaves and it’s completely delicious. It’s poured from a special teapot, which makes the drink especially foamy and flavorful. Traditionally, it’s served three times, and the amount of time the tea has been steeping gives each glass a different flavor. If you want to make it at home, it’s fairly simple:

  • In a teapot, combine two teaspoons of tea-leaf with half a liter of boiling water, then allow it to steep for at least fifteen minutes.
  • Without stirring, filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot, so that the tea leaves and coarse powder are removed.
  • Add sugar (about one teaspoon per 100 milliliters).
  • Bring to boil over a medium heat (this helps the sugar dissolve).
  • Fresh mint leaves can be added to the teapot, or directly to the cup.

While we were drinking the delicious tea, we were given henna designs. Henna is  a plant that, when mashed and mixed with water, stains the skin a dark brown color. It’s been used for centuries, and is still used in Morocco today, especially on brides. The paste is applied to skin, given time to dry, sealed with a lemon-oil mixture, then scraped off the skin. The stain deepens over time, but fades within about two weeks. It was such a cool experience and now I have a very unique stain on my left hand! Morocco is a country with so many unique and original traditions, and some day I hope to travel there!

henna is squeezed onto the hand drinking some delicious mint tea while waiting for my henna to dry coated with the lemon-oil mixture the finished product

Meet Khaother

Meet Khaother, my OU cousin. She’s an international student from Saudi Arabia pursuing a business degree from the University of Oklahoma. She is possibly the most adorable OU cousin ever–she loves Disney and frozen yogurt and going to the movies. My family loves her too, and she’s gone to football games with us, out to dinner with us, and even to the outlet mall in OKC with me, my mom, and a few of my mom’s friends. Khaother loves to hug people and, even though she’s a little quiet at first, she is as sweet a friend as anyone could have.

football games with the family and she'll eat orange leaf for lunch when we go shopping together she's super cute on snapchat too she's super cute and tiny and my whole family loves her

super secret spies

it started when i was five with the release of spy kids. i remember dressing in all black, throwing on a pair of black shades, and using a set of my mom’s headphones to carry out secret missions with my younger sisters in our backyard. in middle school, i started the Gallagher Girls series by ally carter and was, once again, transported to a world of secrecy and danger, where covert operations and secret missions were the norm. as i passed the through middle school and high school, that world seemed more imaginary than real–spies were characters, not real people. i still enjoyed spy movies but could no longer see myself as the pretend secret agent i had been when i was younger. last week, however, i had the unique opportunity of meeting michael sulick, the former director of the national clandestine services for the united states of america. now here was a man who had been a real-life international spy–he was a member of the CIA for over thirty years, working covertly in countries such as russia and poland. mr. sulick shared stories of his work, some humorous, others frightening and talked about the relationship between the CIA and other governmental organizations. he gave insight into the life of a spy, from their relationship with their family to the reports they have to write back at headquarters. it was quite possibly one of the most unique lunches in my life, and may have sparked a renewed interest in the occupation that captivated me when i was younger. super secret spies may not be so imaginary after all.

College So Far

College has been quite the adventure so far. I’ve been here for almost a month, and it’s been the craziest, most exciting month of my life. I’d like to say that things have calmed down a little bit,but I actually feel like the adventure’s just starting. Everything is different–the classes, the homework, the people, the teachers–everything. I live in a new home, I sleep in a new bed, I eat new food, and I live with new people. These beauties are my roommates. They are some of the sweetest, most loving people you’ve ever met. Their love for Jesus is evident, and they make life super duper fun.                                       2014-08-12 14.05.11     2014-08-19 19.59.42  IMG_0208

Crafting has also become a part of life. Before college, sure, I knitted the occasional scarf, but I never did crafts or painted or anything of the kind. In the past few weeks, though, I’ve painted approximately seven canvases and different other things to brighten up the dorm room. I have to say, the sign we hung up in our bathroom is probably the most inspiring.

IMG_0147  IMG_0225  2014-08-15 14.24.02   

I’ve made a lot of new friends in college, but I’ve also grown closer to old ones. This is Ashley. She is the most random, hilarious snow bunny I know. Whether she’s sitting in my lap in the front seat of a random person’s car, taking selfies with my dorm cactus in the Walmart parking lot, doing shots of Starbucks passion tea with me, or complimenting black guys, she’s having fun. She is without a doubt one of my best friends and I’m so excited we get to live at the same place for the next four years! (p.s. she’s turning 19 on Monday so tell her happy birthday)

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I’ve gotten to have so many incredible experiences at OU so far, and I’m excited to see what the next four years will bring. I’ve been on the field at a football game, joined a sorority, gone to a rave, and had so many other super exciting things happen. I am so blessed and know that God has great things planned! Thanks for reading!