OU Confucius Day 2018

In the year prior, I was excited to see the Confucius Insititute host this event about my culture. This year, I did not take any pictures unfortunately, but I took a sister from my sorority to witness this event. I did miss the dragon dance, but I got to view some of the booths. My favorite booth this year was the one about caligraphy. I do have a Chinese name and so did my sister, so we both practiced writing our Chinese name with a brush and ink.

 

I did not try the food though because I realized that OU Housing and Food Services made the food. Having worked in Housing and Food Services my first year, I know that the Asian food that they made was nowhere close to the authenticity of my culture. In the future, I hope they will find a venue that would provide better idea of how my culture’s food tastes.

Cyber Warfare: the Gateway for Authoritarian Regimes?

During the Spring semester, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Ron Deibert of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab about the power and influence of Cyber Warfare in the modern age — and issue that is undeniably prevalent in our day-to-day lives today.

Before breaching the issues of cyber warfare and internet security more broadly, Dr. Deibert first explained what his work has focused on throughout his career — explaining that it has primarily centered around the human rights concerns that have developed in the digital age.

Dr. Deibert explained that while these concerns vary rather significantly (touching on everything from media censorship to government surveillance to cellular privacy)  they are all equally important, and perhaps most frightening, equally at risk.

Dr. Deibert went on to discuss how the media and the internet have evolved throughout the last two decades — pointing out that with every year our societies are becoming more and more connected on the local, national and global levels.

Dr. Deibert posited that while there are certainly benefits to this new-found connectivity, it comes with innumerous risks that could potentially outweigh the benefits. Perhaps one of Dr. Deibert’s most insightful points was that our level of global connectivity is increasing at a rate that outpaces our capacity to secure our data.

What I found to be most interesting about Dr. Deibert’s presentation was the way in which he linked this lack of cyber security with the resurgence of authoritarianism in the present-day political arena.

Citing numerous examples from recent campaigns in Europe and the United States, Dr. Deibert concluded that this rise in authoritarianism is due in large part to the increasing prominence of digital media in the modern world, and the government’s virtually unlimited capacity to not only survey but also directly influence the media and thus propagate their nationalistic agendas.

 

 

Voces Inocentes

This past spring semester, I attended a showing of the 2004 Mexican film Voces Inocentes. The film depicts the events of the Salvadoran civil war; however, unlike many war movies, it does not focus so much on the war itself as the tragic effects that the constant threat of violence had on the impoverished people of El Salvador — and specifically the Salvadoran children.

The film is primarily centered around an eleven-year-old boy named Chava, who is deeply afraid of his twelfth birthday. Like many of his peers, Chava fears that turning twelve will mean he will be forced to join the military voices against his will — as a child soldier.

Each week at school, all of the twelve-year-old boys are rounded up by a group of soldiers and escorted onto military vehicles and away from their friends and family without so much as the opportunity to say goodbye. On rare occasions, the boys do return to their village; however, they do not return as children, but as young men — hardened by war and violence and death.

On one such occasion, one of Chava’s friends returns to the village fully clad in military gear with an AK47 rifle strapped across his chest. Initially, Chava and the other village boys are thrilled to see their old friend, but as the day passes by the boys become more and more aware of their old friend and one-time classmate’s new position.

As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the young boys have few options before them — they can either join the rebel forces prior to their twelfth birthday (thereby avoiding the government draft) or they can bide their time until the military comes and abducts them from their schools and forces them into the military.

However, Chava’s mother hopes for a better life for her son. Knowing that the war will continue to rage on — permeating her village (and El Salvador as a whole) with violence — Chava’s mother is adamant that she wants her son to leave the country all together, even if that means that she is forced to part with her eldest child and, likewise, Chava is forced to part with everyone and everything that he has ever known.

I think that, in today’s political climate, we are quick to lump all immigrants into the same box — as trespassers in need of a firm reprimand and a ticket back home. Many believe that all immigrants are coming from Latin and South America willingly — as if they want to leave their homes and families behind to start over in a foreign country with no connections.

Of course, more times than not, this is not the case.

Nobody simply chooses to leave their home, their family, their life, out of boredom.

This film was a firm reminder to me of the conditions that many people around the world — and specifically in Latin and South America — are forced to endure. A reminder of the impossible choices that mothers are forced to make — whether to send their children off to war or to a foreign land. A reminder to look at all immigrants with a certain measure of empathy and compassion, as opposed to a blatant dismissal of their dignity and human rights.

After watching this film, I find myself even more distraught over President Trump’s immigration policies. However, I find myself equally as determined to fight for a better solution for not only American Immigrants, but also those that are unable to escape the violence and war that plagues their communities and threatens their families.

 

Eve of Nations (2018)

The Eve of Nations was a spectacular showcase of many countries’ cultures. It had a fashion show of every country that the University of Oklahoma represented. For instance, my pledge brother from Malaysia wore his traditional clothing and posed on the stage. It was a very informational and amusing showcase of the type of cultural students at present in the University of Oklahoma. From Asia to Europe to Africae to South America, the University of Oklahoma has no end to the type of student present there.

After the fashion show, I saw the talent show that only several countries participated in, but that allowed me to witness the talents of the countries that decided to showcase their talents. In addition to that, some countries do not have enough students to accurately display their talents. The beauty of this showcase and their talent show is that it provides money to those organizations. Many organizations need money to keep them going and to give them more money to create more projects.

My favorite thing about the Eve of Nations was seeing the varying types of students at the University of Oklahoma. I had no idea that there were that many diverse students at the University of Oklahoma. I really enjoyed that there was also food accommodated at the event, although some of the food were not the best. I hope that the Eve of Nations showcases even more countries the next year.

Mr. and Mrs. Asian OU (MMAOU)

Mr. and Mrs. Asian OU is a pageant for the to showcase the Asian community. This pageant shows the culture of Asians in terms of fashion, talent, and questioning. This was a really interesting, yet informing pageant. For the fashion show, I learned about the culture of their wardrobe that were distinct within each of their cultures.

I think that this pageant showcases the talent and culture of the individuals and gives each participant a chance to showcase the philanthropy that they are supporting. Being in this pagaent ensures that Asian Americans reach out to the community and are good role models for those around them. Winning this pagaent not only means a lot to the individual, but a lot towards their community service.

With that being said. . .

a huge congratulations goes towards my fraternity brother, Huy, for winning Mr. Asian OU. He followed suit of the preceding Mr. Asian OU as they are both pledge brothers of the Lambda Phi Epsilon International Fraternity.

The Asian American Student Organization (AASA)

 

 

Global Engagement Day 2018 Talk

This semester I had the opportunity to present my study abroad experiences at the annual Global Engagement Day at the University of Oklahoma. In this blog post I’ll summarize the information included in my talk.

The main points I went over were as follows:

  1. Why I chose to study where I did
  2. How I prepared for my trips
  3. Some highlights of my time abroad
  4. What I learned about myself
  5. Advice for other students planning to study abroad

One the primary reasons I chose to study abroad in Taiwan and Germany is that I speak Mandarin Chinese and German fluently. Additionally, Taiwan is well known as a major manufacturer of electronics that are distributed on a global scale. Germany on the other hand has earned a reputation for high standards in engineering practices.

In terms of preparation for my trips abroad, a major conclusion from my research was that cash is king for the locations where I was planning to study abroad. I also spent a significant amount of time going through the process of pre-equating my engineering courses so that I would not be too behind on my engineering coursework when I got back to OU. I asked several people for advice, including my sister who had previously studied abroad in college and a missionary who had lived in China for several years.

The major highlight of my time at the National Taiwan University of Taiwan was my involvement in a university group called International Companions for Learning. Through the program I had the opportunity to lead weekly Skype session for a Taiwanese elementary school where I taught the students about American culture. The university even paid for a free trip to the actual location of the school towards the end of the semester! My time in Germany was filled with travel on the weekends when I didn’t have lectures to attend. I was able to visit a new almost every two weeks! In Europe traveling to a different country is equivalent to traveling to a different state in the United States. A cool part of my experience in Germany was that I stayed with a local host family for my last two weeks. My host parents were extremely friendly and taught me many things about Germany that I would have otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn.

I learned many things about myself during and after studying abroad. One was that all of my strengths and weaknesses I have while at have at home in the US are significantly magnified while abroad. A good example of this is being introverted, so if you tend to avoid parties on the weekends, you probably won’t go out of your way to party while abroad. Of course, this might be different for other students abroad, but this was my personal experience. I also learned that I really find myself to be more fulfilled when I enjoy the journey or process of something rather than staying focused only on my goals. A good example of this is my spontaneous trip I took to Geneva in Switzerland. I originally had not planned to visit the city, but the flights back to Germany were cheapest from there. It turned out to be my favorite city of all out of the ones I visited in Europe. Finally, I have learned that no matter what my future career is, I want it to have a significant international component.

In terms of advice to students who are thinking about or planning to study abroad, my primary advice is to plan thoroughly but not obsessively. On the one hand, you don’t want to be in a stressful situation you could have planned for, but on the other hand, there is a certain value to just wandering around for the sake of adventure. Obsessive planning leads to disappointment when plans quickly change. Also, it is important to have fun outside of classes, which may or may not be a hard things depending on what kind of student you are. Make sure to have a support network back home, because contrary to what you might hear from others, studying abroad does not only consist of positive moments (even though that might be a common portrayal). Last piece of advice is specific for those studying abroad in Europe: Make sure to check all modes of transportation. At least for Germany, train tickets are often more expensive (sometime significantly more expensive) than flying by plane (you might have heard of Ryanair and the likes). Flixbus is a great options if you don’t mind taking longer to get to your destination.

That’s it for this blog post! I’ll be posting quite a few more blogs soon detailing what I’ve been up to during the past semester.

Chinese New Year Celebration, Take Two

This year, I also went to an OU sponsored Chinese New Year celebration. I learned how to make dumplings, so that was fun. It’s way harder than I thought it would be. My roommate was making ones that looked absolutely perfect, but mine looked pretty pathetic. My roommate also performed on the guzheng (pronounced goo-jung), which is a Chinese stringed instrument. She’s pretty great at it. There were several other performances too. It was a good time.

Yet Another Belated Chinese New Year (Surprise, Surprise)

As always, I went to the Chinese New Year celebration at my roommate’s Chinese Baptist church. As always, it was lots of fun with lots of great dancing and singing and food. As always, I am posting about it several months after it happened. Yeah for being busy.

I really don’t have much new to say about it. Except that I learned how to count to nine in Chinese. They did a raffle, and they were reading off the digits on the tickets, so my roommate taught me the numbers. I don’t remember any of them anymore though. Oh well!

TUW Cultural Show: Borderless

On March 10. 2018, OU’s TUW hosted a Cultural Show at the Union in order to showcase various countries and cultures that their members originate from. For this year, the theme was Borderless and there was an emphasis on while each culture is unique, we have much more in common that unites us than divides us. There were all sorts of performances from a fashion show, dancing, singing, stand up comedy, and even a short telenovela skit. My favorite act was a song called Moltiva sung by Martina. Apparently the song is extremely popular in Europe and even won the Eurovision, an European singing contest. The student was such a good singer and the song really moved me that I even looked it up on Youtube after the event. The most unique act was the skit by Norma and Karina. It was a short skit in a form of a spanish telenovela but was relevant to OU. Besides the occasional sound issue, the skit was very well executed. I wonder how long it took them to write the script and practice it. Overall, it was a very wonderful event and I definitely look forward to  next year.