Continuing with my experience in Würzburg, we also attended a catholic church service. In this region of Germany, Catholicism is the typical religion, and it is considered to be one of the most religious areas. This experience was extremely new and different for me as I had never experienced a catholic service even in English. During the service, we sang different hymns in which I constantly got lost and no doubt butchered the pronunciations in the seldom times I found our place. This part wasn’t that different than my experience in churches but going up and taking communion was quite different. I had never taken communion in the manner of going up to the front and I had no idea if I needed to say anything… Which I didn’t, but no one knew I didn’t speak German. This was both cool and kind of nerve-racking at the same time. I felt like one of the crowd – a German crowd, but not knowing the proper thing to do or possibly say was quite intimidating. It all worked out in the end, and I, of course, had over thought everything in my head, but this experience was quite everlasting. I got to experience a different religion in a different country, which I never pushed myself to do when I was in Spain.
This past spring break I went Germany and spent half of the time in Würzburg, which is a town in the Franken/Bavaria region there. My boyfriend’s family lives there, so we were there visiting the family. During our visit we celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday, and I noticed they celebrate slightly different than us. They still do the cakes and food, but they do things in a different order. It is very typical to start around 15:00 with cake and coffee for the guests. They also usually have drinks such as orange fanta, carbonated water, and apfelschörle (which is half apple juice half water, either carbonated or still) in the middle of the table. Then there is usually a few hours break in between the cakes and the actual dinner which is different than the normal order of food in the US. The break is usually filled with the kids playing games of some sort and the adults just talking which is quite similar to the US at gathering such as this.
I have recently seen Les Misérables and I always forget what a moving musical it is, and the powerful message is portrays. The musical takes place in the 1800s in Paris when there are many uprisings due to an increasing pay gap and a decreasing working class. Over this Christmas break, I am going to be in Paris and having even just a little history behind a city can make such a visit even more meaningful. While I have been to Paris, my first visit was rushed and spontaneous, which was still an amazing experience. I am excited though to take a little more time before I go to understand more of the historical events that have happened in Paris such as the revolution in the 1700s, the uprisings in the 1800s depicted in Les Misérables, as well as the many important meetings and treaties that have been signed there.
On this trip to Europe, I will also be visiting Brussels, as well as Amsterdam. I am excited to know more about these cities in order to enjoy more than just the pretty buildings and structures.
This semester I have had many classes in Sarkeys, and it looks as if the study abroad programs have grown. There are now many offices over there that support different study abroad programs. I knew there were many different options to study abroad, especially having looked for my semester in Spain. Half way through the semester there was a study abroad information session in the Sarkeys basement, and I got to learn about the new opportunities offered. The one I was most surprised about was an option in Romania. I had no idea that this country was an option when I was looking, but it is exciting to see OU promoting new locations to study abroad. I always enjoy going to the information sessions because I can always learn about something new.
For global engagement day I attended the Women, LGBTQ Persons, and Minorities Abroad. During this discussion, it was interesting to hear about their experiences aboard especially because I never realized the different ways people are forced to act to ensure their safety in different places. My study abroad location was in Spain and very different than the different locations some of these individuals went. One of the stories that struck me was when the student studying in Morocco had to hide certain traits about himself because being gay was not allowed. With the female student who studied in Africa, she couldn’t show her legs or anything of the sort in public. These experiences are very foreign to me especially with my study abroad experience.
When I compare my upbringing to my time in Spain, it is very different. Spain is extremely liberal especially when comparing it to the culture in small town Oklahoma and even more so with Morocco. It is crazy to think about the different spectrum over all the cultures of what is considered appropriate.
I went to the contra dance in Norman on December 1st. Contra dance is very similar to folk dance, and going to this dance was a little out of my comfort zone. The dances were a lot longer than anticipated and I was actually pretty tired by the end of it. I surprised by the technique and moves that were involved in it, and I think that was obvious because a couple of the regulars had to help me quite often. I am glad that I experienced a contra dance. I think it’s neat that they are becoming more popular in Oklahoma and it seems to make people happy. Participating a different tradition or norm from a different culture is always something you can learn a lot from. I don’t have any plans on going back to one of these dances, but I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in Contra dance.
I went to the fancy dance concert in Catlett and the Oklahoma fancy dancers performed during the first half and the Siberian Natives performed during the second. The performances were great and I learned many new things about their cultures. They had the opportunity to bring the Siberians here because of the program, Peer to Peer, which was funded by the embassy in Siberia. The goal of Peer to Peer is to bring people from two different sides of the world together and connect them by what they have in common, which is being indigenous people. This helps preserve their cultures. The whole concert lasted around two hours and there was singing, dancing, and playing instruments. They also got the audience involved and brought them on the stage to participate a dance.
The most interesting thing I saw was the Siberian throat singer. A week before actually I had learned about them in my Language Across Culture class and I was really surprised the sounds they can make with their throats. It is a super low sound that isn’t similar to anything I have heard before. Hopefully the clip I attached works and you can hear the sounds.
As I have said, I am volunteering at Jackson with 2 students to work on their English. I always enjoy helping in any way I can, but at times it can be difficult to really engage them and find the best way to teach them especially at that age. They do not know what type of learner they are or anything of the sort. I have recently begun having them read stories while picking out vocab for them to practice through either pictures or writing the words. Additionally, the two boys have different levels of English so it is difficult to make sure one is still challenged while the other one is still gaining confidence in his English ability. Although this is a constant challenge, I am excited to continue next semester.
I had the opportunity to attend an OU Cousins event at the Kappa House to meet international students. I got to meet a lot of students I wouldn’t usually have the chance to talk with. Even though there was football on the lawn projector, most of the attention was on the cheese bread and the wings that were provided. When I first arrived at the event, I got to talk with two girls from England. Since my friend just visited England, I had many things to talk with them about, but the most entertaining thing was the terminology they used. We frequently had to stop each other and clarify certain words. I always knew that even though we spoke the same language that there were certain words that were completely different. It was just crazy to experience it first hand.
I was able to go to the welcome ceremony held for the arrival of the Tibetan monks during this past semester as well. I was intrigued to see what would happen at this kind of event because the last place I could have ever imagined Tibetan monks to come visit would be Norman, Oklahoma. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole event, but the Tibetan monks started with a blessing, which was then followed by a cultural Native American dance. The speaker explained the garb of the dancers that were about to come up. Another interesting part was when the public could join in the dance as long as you stayed with the appropriate gender. The monks happily jumped in when they were allowed, as well as some of the other audience members. In this way, it was strange to watch how these cultures from opposite ends of the world collided with ours in one place. I always love to see the acceptance and support of different cultures especially by obviously different people.