October 4th, 2018
This morning, just after class, I went to the International Advisory Committee’s International Bazaar. The IAC has this event a couple of times a year, where different international students in different international organizations are able to set up tables and share their country and pride with others. I spoke with a girl from the Iranian Student Association who was selling handmade and hand-painted Iranian dishes. Her friend is the artist, and she hand draws a mandela-esque (think symmetrical and geometric) design onto a shallow bowl. Then she uses colorful shiny paint that creates an intricate, beautiful design on the piece. She also hand painted a vase as well. They were beautiful pieces that I could not afford, but it really cool to see a way that someone is able to remain in touch and close to their culture and who they are through this art.
Then I met two girls from the Turkish Student Association, and one of them was wearing a fez. I got a bunch of trivia about Turkey wrong, and then they offered me some food! I had some tea and a cookie. There is so many different student associations that I honestly had never heard of. The Ex-Yugoslav Student Association gave me some candy, I talked to a guy from the Peruvian Student Association. There were representatives from the Indian Student Association that danced in front of everyone, and Focus Africa was an African Student Group that emphasized rethinking Africa. I talked to a guy whose favorite event just happened recently on Empowering Women in Africa. It was fun to hear other students hold onto their culture through their student associations and this bazaar. I loved feeling their pride in who they are and know they feel comfortable expressing that pride on campus.
March 14, 2018
Latino Flavor is an annual event that the Hispanic American Student Association holds every year, and I was so excited to attend this semester. I had heard such good things about the event from last semester, and I had many friends who were extremely involved in putting on the event.
The entire week, HASA spends time promoting Latinx cultures and holds small events the entire week to lead up to their large event in the Molly Shi Ballroom. From llamas on the South Oval to cultural performances during a luncheon, I had a great time attended so many of these events.
LatinoFlavor provides so much food from so many different countries. I got to try so many different foods and desserts. I had Spanish Paella and more. I also got the chance to watch a mariachi band play while eating and drinking and tasting so many different foods.
I learned a lot about expanding my pallet and just forcing myself to try something new and different than what I was expecting or what I already liked. I also got to see so much passion from students about their culture from dancing, food, friends, to pride.
The Integrity Council hosted a Bollywood movie night a few weeks ago as a part of Integrity Week. They showed a movie called Three Idiots, and I would highly recommend any readers who haven’t seen it to give it a watch. Three Idiots addressed a lot of themes related to the intense stress present in high pressure academic environments. Some of these themes were related to academic integrity (hence the reason that the integrity council hosted the showing), but there were also many scenes related to mental health and suicide. That being said, the movie overall was very fun and the ending seemed to encourage the audience to follow their dreams rather than worrying about other’s expectations.
One interesting thing I noticed while watching the film was that the characters alternated between speaking English and Hindi. India is the second most linguistically diverse country in the world, so this made me curious as to the roles English and Hindi play in cross-linguistic communication in India. Another linguistically interesting aspect of the film was a scene in which a character who is not entirely fluent in Hindi gives a speech written in “high Hindi” which he doesn’t understand. He was reciting a memorized speech which was written in a register of Hindi which is very formal and not often spoken. The main characters took advantage of the fact that this register was not intelligible to the person who would be giving the speech in order to tamper with the script we would be memorizing beforehand. It was very interesting to see how language could be used to construct a prank in this way.
Recently a linguistics professor, Dr. Samuel Beer, who completed his undergraduate work at the University of Oklahoma, returned to OU to give a talk on his research. He also visited my Phonetics class and gave a guest lecture on that same day. Dr. Beer studies a severely endangered African language: Nyang’i. In fact, there is only one partial native speaker of Nyang’i still living today. Dr. Beer’s research has involved gathering recordings of Nyang’i from the last remaining speaker in order to write a grammatical description of the language. This has also afforded hm the opportunity to study language death in Africa. In his lecture, Dr. Beer discussed the three ways in which languages die:
1. Attrition: speakers losing competence in the language over time
2. Interrupted acquisition: children being unable to acquire fluency in the language.
3. Interference: speakers primarily speaking another language
While the first two cause a dying language to retain only those features which are essential or especially characteristic of the language, the third will cause the dying language to adopt features of the interfering language as it dies. Due to a variety of factors, from the fact that most linguists speak European languages to the effects of colonialism, most study of language death has been done on languages being replaced by English or other European languages. This has had the unintended effect of causing all recorded cases of language death to document that as 1 and 2 are causing a language to retain only it’s core characteristics, it also becomes more and more similar to English (due to 3). This has the potential to cause researchers to mistake core features of dying languages cross linguistically with interfering features from European languages.
In Dr. Beer’s research, Nyang’i is being supplanted not by a European language, but by another African language: Karamajong. Thus study of both Karamajong and Nyang’i has the potential to provide valuable insight into how different interfering languages effect language death, as well as correct some misconceptions present in the current understanding of language death. While there are many endangered languages in Africa today, these languages are not being supplanted by colonial languages, so Dr. Beer ended his lecture by emphasizing that this is an area which could really benefit from further research.
One of my favorite things about OU is that we are an institution that prioritizes international relationships not only on an individual level, but also on an institutional one. One such example of those relationships exists between the College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Scholars (of which I am a member) and the University in Clermont-Ferrand, a town in France that our new members visit the summer after they join the organization. Because of this relationships, we also try to welcome the students of Clermont-Ferrand when they end up studying abroad here at the University of Oklahoma. One such event that we had this year was a study night where we shared food, played games, and studied together. There were not too many students that ended up showing up, but those that did seemed to be engaged and to enjoy the event.
I got the chance to speak to one of the students about the differences in coursework between Europe and the United States and while the experiences seemed to mostly be similar, I was also struck that the idea of general education was pretty foreign to these students (pun intended). One student, a biology major, was unsure why she had to take a literature course when that wasn’t her field of study, especially considering that she had studied these things before university. This made me wonder about the salience of general education courses in education systems that actually value and fund education… in a European system that pays teachers well, invests in schools, and generally promotes education as a means of mobility, is general education necessary at the university level? A lot of research indicates that general education courses at universities are remedial at best… so maybe it is time to reconsider where they fit relative to our international counterparts.
I’m not sure why, but this year, the Student Government Association and the International Advisory Committee have been much better connected this year than in previous years. This relationship was exemplified by a recent mixer that we hosted between the two organizations, where members of both organizations came together for food, conversation, and fun. It was incredibly well-attended (especially for an event hosted late in the year) and provided an opportunity for the difference branches and faucets of both organizations to better explain their mission and the resources they could provide for the other group. I particularly enjoyed being the MC for some of the icebreakers that we played intermittently. It was exciting to see the members of IAC engage and question a lot of what SGA does, because we don’t grow as an organization by being unresponsive to the needs of students, especially those that have a history of not being well-represented.
This was also a excellent opportunity for some of the international students who hold office in SGA to discuss what they saw as the barriers to entry that other international students faced to getting more involved. We also discussed the necessity of their being an SGA presence at the NISO event that happens at the beginning of every year to make sure that international students are aware of what SGA does on campus and how they can benefit from those resources/get involved themselves. All in all, I think that it was a uniquely successful event that saw two different groups of students come together to better plan for the future. A lot of similar events on campus would have seen low turnout, would have been self-congratulatory, or would have failed to accomplish its mission. I think that it speaks to the students in both organizations that it was indeed none of these things.
April 22, 2018
Last week, I attended a lecture given by Italian Egyptologist on Mystery Religions and Plague in Egypt.
“The Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor has worked in the Funerary Complex of Harwa (TT 37) and Akhamunru (TT 404) since 1996. Over 4000 square meters in scale, the Cenotaph of the Great Majordomo of the God-Wife Harwa (7th Century BCE) is one of the largest monuments ever built by an official. The fine decoration is inspired by an archaizing style with innovative tendencies that make it a masterpiece of the cultural movement known as “25th Dynasty Renaissance”. Furthermore, texts and images from the site trace a virtual journey through cultural notions of life, death, and resurrection. Some of the ideas expressed by the “Journey of Harwa” remind and anticipate peculiar features of Greek Mystery religions. The most recent field researches led to the discovery of a 3rd century AD phase with unique archaeological traces of the so-called ‘Plague of Cyprian’. The results are at the center of a multi-disciplinary and international project.”
Many of themes and ideas that were brought up in this lecture overlapped with information that was brought up in my Origins of Christianity class. I learned a lot about archaeology and the mystery surrounding it all fascinated me.
The speaker was incredible humorous and passionate about the work that he had done in Luxor at the Tomb of Harwa. I have never been particularly interested in Egyptian History, but as he showed images in his gorgeous powerpoint, I was imbued with a great yearning to see places that were very different than ones that I had seen before. I could imagine the heat and the sun beating down on my skin, as I joined research to unlock puzzles of the past that had never been known before. I thoroughly enjoyed his lecture and even sat next to my Latin professor.
Last semester, I attended an event that hoped to inform and update the audience on nuclear warfare and dangers that loom in the present. Ronald Reagan once said that nuclear weapons should be completely baned. No one can win a nuclear war.
Currently, North Korea is the most pressing nuclear threat in the world, especially to the United States. They exploded a hydrogen bomb and an intercontinental missile that can launch anywhere in the world.
When the clock was moved two minutes until midnight, rumors of a United States preemptive strike against North Korea arose, and worries started especially during a time when the United States is under the Trump administration. There were whispers of a “Bloody Nose” strike to “teach North Korea a lesson” and keep them in place.
During this lecture, the Olympic Truce remained strong. But the Olympic Truce would not last forever. At the time, Joe Cirincione believed admending the existing Iran Nuclear Agreement was the less risky approach. He believed this is the strongest nuclear agreement that he has ever seen, except there are no pictures of restrictions of Iranian nuclear progress.
He underscored two ways that students can remain involved in politics and nuclear issues: be aware and stay informed.
During this semester I have had the pleasure of participating in the Puterbaugh seminar, centered around the works of this year’s Puterbaugh recipient, Jenny Erpenbeck. A German author, playwright, and opera director, Erpenbeck gives an intimate perspective on historical events and the meaning often carried in personal possessions. When she came to campus this semester to accept her award, she gave a keynote speech entitled “Blind Spots.” I believe that World Literature Today will be publishing the text of her speech in an upcoming issue.
Born and raised in East Berlin, Erpenbeck was a young college student when she saw the wall come down and her world change around her. Now seeing firsthand the refugees stranded on the streets of Germany, stuck in a limbo with no work and no home, Erpenbeck is concerned with their treatment and the way the world is reacting to their situation. The speech was eloquently composed and excellently delivered, reminiscent of her written work. I highly recommend taking the time to read her speech slowly and thoughtfully when it is released. Erpenbeck doesn’t pull any punches, but she isn’t overly dramatic either. She addresses head on the ignorance and hypocrisy that are present in so many discussions of recent international events. Her take is so different from the ones I’ve heard before that it makes me wonder what other sides of the story aren’t being told. What else lingers in our blind spots?
Throughout the semester, the College of International studies hosts informational lunches as part of their LEAdership Fellows program (LEAF for short). These lunches cover a wide variety of skills that are helpful for students preparing to engage with international community. The session this past week discussed the etiquette of fine dining. Many families eat their meals in a relaxed environment and college students are so pressed for time that they almost always eat on the go. As a result, students often have little to no experience eating meals in a formal environment.
When a student goes abroad, either studying abroad before graduation or working abroad after, they are ambassadors of the United States and of the University of Oklahoma, whether or not they wish to be. The ability to conduct oneself with grace and ease when dining with superiors or peers that one wishes to impress is therefore a vital skill to learn.
This lunch focused primarily on formal sit-down occasions, ones that usually include multiple forks and cloth napkins. Besides the usual rules, we also discussed the differences between the American style of formal dining and the European style, as well as how to prepare for the often radically different traditions found in Africa and Asia. Since a silent dinner is usually an awkward one, we considered the art of small talk and how to converse with dinner guest from different backgrounds with opinions that might not necessarily agree with our own. Having attending that luncheon and learned how to acclimate to certain formalities, I feel much more comfortable with the idea of dining with others in a foreign country.