Germany: Integrating Immigrants

Earlier this semester I saw a photo exhibit, Germany: Integrating Immigrants. This exhibit, part of Germany Week at OU, was designed to help viewers learn about the ways Germany helps immigrants successfully build their lives in a new country.

The exhibit began with a short video in a classroom in Kaufmann hall. The video described the experiences of several immigrants and refugees in Germany and the paths their lives had taken and the careers they were able to pursue successfully. A series of posters began outside the classrooms and continued down the hall of the second floor of Kaufmann and in the lobby of Farzaneh a few buildings away.

Before seeing this exhibit, I had known that Germany has had relative success in helping immigrants integrate into society, but through this series of infographics I learned about the specific ways that the German government helps newcomers. For example, there are plenty of German language courses offered as well as an app designed to help refugees learn German for everyday situations. The US government does not seem to offer similar services. Integrating Immigrants brought that to my consciousness and caused me to consider what life is like for immigrants to the US.

International Student Day of Prayer

I am a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at OU, which is a campus ministry under the larger umbrella of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. IFES has chapters in 160 countries, reaching over half a million students worldwide. To celebrate the work God is doing all over the world through IFES and to show our chapter how we can join them in prayer, we take part in International Student Day of Prayer each year.

This event begins on a Thursday night for us, during the time when we normally would meet for our Large Group Bible Study in Zarrow Hall. Instead, we have a carry-in potluck, where people bring dishes from all over the world. This is especially fun for many of our international students who get to bring something from home to share! We begin with the meal and fellowship, which is always a great time.

Afterwards, groups of students begin presenting on the IFES region that they researched. They share information about what countries have chapters, the culture of the country, and what the chapters’ specific prayer requests are. Some groups are able to bring in items from those countries, if they or someone they know has been. One of our InterVarsity chapters at OU focuses specifically on South Asian students, so they typically prepare a dance to perform at the event.

Overall, this event is a great time and a wonderful way to be reminded of God’s presence around the world!

“The Idea of an Immigrant”

Earlier this semester, I attended a lecture at the Honors College entitled “The Idea of an Immigrant,” where Dr. Allyson Shortle from the Political Science department presented the last few years of her research. Through primarily surveys, she has shown that an American’s perception of who an immigrant is (especially where they come from) can help us predict how they feel about immigration overall. For example, an American from Arizona who imagines the average immigrant to be European is more likely to vote against Arizona SB 1070 (a strict immigration law) than an American who views an immigrant as Central or South American.

The answers to some questions surprised me and showed me how little the average American knows about immigrants to the U.S. One survey question asked, “How much of the U.S. population is undocumented immigrants?” Responses ranged wildly, with some guessing up to 10%. The actual answer is somewhere closer to 0.19%. Another question asked, “Do you think all immigrants should be deported?” This question was not asking about undocumented immigrants specifically, but immigrants overall, and yet 20% of respondents said yes. To them, I recommend this NYT article on why exactly America needs immigrants.

The last aspect of this lecture that stood out to me was Dr. Shortle’s frequent use of the phrase “Racial Hierarchy”. Even though I know racism is pervasive and affects different groups at different rates, seeing and hearing it explained as a hierarchy with each region ordered was an eye-opening moment for me. It goes to show just how much work there is left to do in America before we are truly a nation accepting of diversity of all kinds.

The Nuclear Relations between U.S., China, and North Korea

On Wednesday October 18th,  the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies hosted a talk about “The North Korea Challenge in US-China Relations” with guest speaker Dr. Jeffrey Lewis who is a professor and Director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. It was definitely a very interesting and entertaining talk regarding the China’s relation with North Korea’s nuclear program and how that impacts China’s relation with the United States. Dr. Lewis first gave a very brief yet detailed timeline of North Korea’s nuclear program. He explained that the United States keep track of North Korea’s nuclear program based on the types of images that are released and from satellite. Based on the shape of fumes, time of take off, height, shape of the missile, these analysts are able to deduct the type of nuclear missile North Korea has. I found this very impressive. A very important point from the talk that I learned is that there is a massive gap between how the U.S. views North Korea and China and how they see themselves. The United States don’t take them seriously since we still have this view that they are still aren’t technology advanced enough. Meanwhile, these countries see themselves as catching up to the United States. Therefore, we need to start taking them seriously. They are now strong countries with advanced nuclear programs. Also, a fun fact that I learned is that China’s relationship with North Korea isn’t as tight as we might assume. China sent a letter to North Korea saying they shouldn’t launch the missile, but North Korea ignored them. Also, Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed to send China a message after the uncle started having warm relations with China. From this talk, I learned that international relations is a very tricky and complicated field with many motives and factors that are in play.

Diwali Night

OU’s own India Student Association (ISA) hosted a Dhamaka Night, also known as the annual Diwali Night on  November 3rd, 2017. The event was split into two places: the dances and performances were held in the Reylond Performing Arts Center on the North Oval and the dinner afterwards was located in Jim Thrope Multicultural Center.  The performances were amazing and I was shocked to see so many people attend this event, the auditorium was nearly full! It was so cool to see all these talented students perform various types of dances and performances as well as hear the various types of Indian music. The food was amazing. It was typical Indian food that I do believe was catered from a local Indian restaurant. I was able to try an Indian desert called gulab jamun, which is a ball made of sweet mild solids that is deep-fried. The outside of the desert is brown while the inside is a creamy white. Thankfully we got there early since as we were walking out of the building, the line for food stretched all the way outside of the building and around the parking garage. They definitely needed more space to sit people and probably more food. I hope that there was enough food for everyone especially those who had to stand in the freezing cold. Overall, it was a really fun night with friends and getting to get a taste of Indian culture and cuisine.

The Ebola Crisis in West Africa

I attended a lecture by Dr. Paul Richards called “Ebola in Sierra Leone: a Humanitarian Crisis in Historical Perspective.” I had actually read his book Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, so I already had pretty good idea of what he was talking about. He basically just discussed how the history of region had impacted the way the crisis was handled. The people from the inner part of the country did not tend to trust the government, so they were more inclined to try to contain the problem on their own and refuse outside help. There were also revolts at hospitals because people thought the disease was just a conspiracy to try to kill more people. He also talked about how people from central Africa already knew how to handle Ebola because they had already dealt with it on a large scale before, so once people started talking to African experts from that region, they were able to better treat the patients, and the death tolls declined significantly.

International Fall Festival (Again)

Like last year, I went to the international fall festival, and it was pretty much the same thing again. It was ridiculously cold and windy out, so I didn’t stay long. Plus there wasn’t much to do anyway. About the only thing really international-y about it is that a bunch of international people show up and the mini petting zoo is fairly exotic. I did get to pet a baby kangaroo, so that was pretty cool. Other than that there wasn’t much to do except drink lukewarm hot chocolate and stand around being cold… Unless I felt like getting my face painted, which I didn’t. I think it’s really geared more towards the children of the international people living in Kraettli than towards the college-age international students.

Drug Trafficking in Mexico

This semester, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Professor Morales-Rodriguez about the negative effects that drug trafficking has had on the citizens of Mexico. Professor Morales hails from Mexico herself, and regarded it fondly during her presentation; however, she explained that the continued prominence of the drug trade has had various negative social, political, and economic effects in the country and is to the extreme detriment of the Mexican people.

As one might expect, the drug trade in Mexico has caused severe violence in the country, and many innocents have fallen victim to it in one way or another. Furthermore, many individuals have gone missing during the reign of the drug cartels in Mexico. Professor Morales noted that many young women were particularly susceptible to being kidnapped.

Unfortunately, the Mexican government has never been stable for any extended period of time, and in the absence of legitimate government many cartels have seized political power (although unofficially). Due to the political influence of drug cartels in the Mexican government, there has oftentimes been a high level of corruption in the Mexican government. Therefore, the Mexican government has historically reacted with relative indifference to the atrocities committed by the cartels during the drug trade.

While current Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto has taken a more proactive approach to solving Mexico’s drug problem, there is still a severe lack of government involvement in abolishing the drug trade and punishing the cartels.

The drug cartels have morphed Mexico into a country in which many parents fear to send their children to school, or let them play outside unsupervised. However, in many communities the drug cartels have had an unexpected positive influence which further complicates the issue. Given that the Mexican government has oftentimes failed to invest in communities, leaving them in dire economic circumstances, some cartels have actually improved the schools and hospitals in local communities in return for the communities permission to carry out the drug trade without local protest.

Dr Morales noted that if the United States’s goal is to cut off the flow of drugs entering the nation, then we should not focus our energy on building a wall on our southern border, but instead focus our attention on assisting the Mexican government and investing in Mexican communities so as to minimize their susceptibility to the influence of drug traffickers.

Is Europe the Real ‘Digital Champion’ of the 21st Century? Towards a Sustainable Model for the Global (Digital) Economy.”

On October 18, I attended a lecture by Andrea Glorioso, a member of the EU Digital Economy Delegation to the US, as a part of OU’s ‘Germany Week.’ Here is what I learned & some questions that this fantastic lecture left me with.

One misconception that I had about the EU before last Wednesday was that the growth of the digital world would help to make a more united Europe. I assumed that more efficient communications and widespread use of the Internet would bring European countries closer together and give citizens more access to the institutions of the EU. However, while the EU may benefit from the above developments, it is surely being hurt by another byproduct of the digital age– online shopping. Mr. Glorioso said that when viewing the numbers of online purchasing in Europe, 70% of orders were with a company of the same nationality as the shopper, while only 4% of orders crossed national European borders. He then explained one reason why: an online business of one country can view the IP address of a shopper and charge more if the shopper is from a different European country.

Online purchases in which the seller has access to a trove of customer information enable racial and national bias. Although this action pales in comparison to more grave instances of racism and division, it nonetheless proves the existence of values contrary to the European dream of unity. Not to mention, it also hinders the flow of business and goods among European countries. It is startling to reformulate my view of the Internet as a tool for positive social change (overall) to a real challenge to the economy and unity of the EU. I’m sure there are other elements of “going digital” that have hurt the EU in some way (such as the dissemination of “fake,” Euro-skeptic news), as well.

With the above conclusion in mind, I would like to ask what power the EU has to prevent online businesses from this kind of price changing. Depending on what legal power the EU possesses or how it would have to approach solving this, is there currently any talk of or even work occurring on legislation for this issue?