GEF Social Media Board Continued

This semester Sarah, Moriah, and I kept up with the GEF Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. However, this time around was a bit fragmented due to Jaci’s departure. Despite that, we still brainstormed some pretty stellar ideas and met with challenges, as well.

Style vs. Substance?

So, this is something that I’ve debated on for awhile, regarding my own personal social media especially. While the goals and outreach differ for an organization’s account vs. one’s personal account, the power of look is undeniable in both. When mindlessly scrolling through my feed, a photo’s bold colors or a flyer’s spunky font tend to draw me in and then I consider the content. Variety, too, is an important factor in what makes a feed effective and eye-catching. It would be easy to fill our Instagram (I’m solely focusing on this platform because it is, in my opinion, the most visual) with only the text-heavy posters advertising various IAS events. While it’s great to spread the word and help out Fellows looking for International Events, I think that this limited approach would diminish the potential of our ‘gram. Which is why I want to start photographing the people and proceedings of these events, along with other the other faces of our program, to humanize & personalize our presence on social media! ALSO, TRAVEL PHOTOS LOOK AMAZING. SO Fellows, please please please send them our way!!!!

 Hear me, Hear me! (and please respond, too)

Arguably the greatest challenge running the GEF social media is getting feedback and engagement from other Fellows. This program values communication as a tool for global fluency and connection. Obviously, open communication and socialization with those we meet abroad is key– but something that is sometimes overlooked is the importance of communication at home as a part of this global awareness. Jaci intended for us to initiate and facilitate friendly debates on the Facebook page over relevant international articles. I think that if these online exchanges were to take off, we could each really expand our repertoire of knowledge and perspectives. For example, while I keep up with European politics, I know nothing about global health or scientific research in, say, the horn of Africa. The beautiful thing about this program is that its members cover a wide array of majors and interests– and we gotta share them with each other! Unfortunately, we tried two or three times to post an article with a following blurb expressing our own opinion and a discussion question, but never received much response. Not that I blame people; my schedule during the semester can be a grind and sometimes all of my brain-power is drained by classes and choir and what to make for dinner. I’m hoping that with a little persistence and even more Fellows in the fall, online discussions will take off.

Foreign Film Club – The Kite Runner

At the next Foreign Film Club meeting that I attended, we were able to watch “The Kite Runner” which emphasized the country of Afghanistan. This movie is based off of a novel by Khaled Hosseini, published in 2003 and the movie was first screened in 2007.

I think that the movie is such a pure story that involves the lives of two young boys. Throughout the movie we see themes of friendship, loyalty, the effects of bullying, family, corruption, betrayal, as well as past vs. present. It was honestly a heartbreaking movie, which I believe that every person can relate to in some way. I highly recommend this movie to any person and would give it an 8/10 rating.

Foreign Film Club allows me to hang out with other Global Engagement Fellows as well as learn about the world in a cool and fun way. I am eager to return to Foreign Film Club next semester, and I am excited to see which other movies we see throughout the semester.

Movie Trailer:

P.S. I also thought it is interesting that many of my posts this semester are related to Afghanistan.

International Group: Egyptian Club

This semester I joined even more international groups because I am now a member of the Arabic Flagship Program. As a result, I joined the new Egyptian Club which met every Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30. The club was led by three students, two of whom are from Egypt and another who is their close friend who has visited Egypt once and is studying the language. The club was a chance for students to learn more about Egyptian culture and practice our language skills.

I had so much fun hanging out with everyone every Tuesday. The moderators — Lamis, Caroline, and Youssef — are all so entertaining and humorous and kind. Lamis and Youssef really did a great job of introducing us to Egyptian culture, especially youth culture. Each week was a new topic and we covered everything from music to television to politics to history to slang. I have to say, I think when we went over Egyptian slang was my favorite meeting because it was really fun to learn vocabulary that we would never cover in class, but I also really enjoyed the day when we watched an episode of Bassem Youssef’s show. Bassem Youssef is the “Jon Stewart of Egypt” and watching an episode of his political satire show inspired me to read his recently released book which gives an account of the Arab Spring from his (admittedly biased) perspective. (It’s called Revolution for Dummies: Laughing through the Arab Spring, and I recommend it if you want a good laugh and also a little insight into the Egyptian revolution.) Attending Egyptian Club was always such a great way to spend my Tuesday afternoons because I was in great company and I learned some really interesting things.

I am definitely going to join Egyptian Club again next semester. I am really looking forward to learning more about the Egyptian culture and learning how to talk like an Egyptian so that I don’t get laughed off the streets with my formal sounding Arabic.

International Group: The Informed Citizens Discussion Group Fall 2016

For my sophomore year of college, I decided to shift from an international book club to a discussion group which focuses on diving into the deep issues of current events, both domestic and foreign.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group(ICDG) is an organization on campus which organizes small discussion sections to spread awareness and understanding of pressing issues from all around the world.

I was initially attracted to the group because I have a deep-rooted interest in current events and global affairs. Since I was old enough to understand the dynamics of politics and related issues I have been drawn to talking to anyone and everyone about what is occurring in the world. Since starting college and with the introduction to larger classes, there have been less opportunities to sit down and have a discussion with a group of equally invested individuals.

I decided to join the Informed Citizens Discussion Group because I knew of a few other Global Engagement Fellows who were involved in the program and really enjoyed themselves. I signed up for the Wednesday time slot which held a meeting every Wednesday from 4:30-5:20.

The experience was exactly as I have imagined and hoped it would be. Every week I was able to engage in conversations about a wide array of current events. The group gave me another reason to stay up to date with articles and be actively involved in seeking out information about news.

Being the presidential election season, the discussions were definitely interesting, to say the least. I am glad to have been able to be a part of a gathering of students who were each so passionate about what they were discussing. Most of the students held generally liberal views, yet there was a pleasant sprinkling of differing opinions which kept the meetings from becoming an echo-box of reinforcement.

Discussions ranged from talking of Kim Jong-un’s recent theatrics to an in-depth analysis of the Oklahoma state questions which were on the ballot in November. We discussed the human right’s abuses being carried about by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, the cabinet appointments that president-elect Donald Trump has been making, the formation and rising prominence of the ‘Alt-Right’, the death and history of Fidel Castro, immigration reform and polarizing issues.

The discussion group taught me to sit and listen rather than thinking of only of what I am going to say next. It was interesting and exciting to sit and listen to 10 different voices and opinions engaging with each other. Some were very conflicting while others were reinforcing and supportive. Being exposed to differing thought processes encouraged me to be introspective, analyzing my own opinions and the reasoning behind them. Surprisingly I found myself taking a different stance on a topic by the end of a discussion session, more than once.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group gave me a safe spot to engage in serious conversation once a week with no ties to grades or repercussions for having a lack of understanding on a topic.

I look forward to continuing participation in the group for the Spring 2017 semester, especially as the Trump presidency begins to take hold and effect the United States and global community.

“While we’re on the topic of destroying America…”

Last week I had my last meeting with my international group for GEF…

I am so grateful.

I was a member of one of the Honors College’s Informed Citizens Discussion Groups this fall semester. To be clear before I give you my low-down, I disliked my own group within ICDG, not ICDG as a whole (although I did eventually removed myself from the ICDG Facebook page because of how this election was handled). I am not the person who just straight-up hates things that go against my grain, but I really struggled with ICDG.

My feelings for my particular ICDG group can be exemplified by the title of this post. That little melodramatic snippet is actually a serious quote from one of the two consistent members, excluding myself, of the group during our last meeting. The group was discussing Trump’s potential Cabinet.

To go through my many griefs, I’m bringing back my number list.

  1. Not exaggerating, I spoke at the maximum three times throughout the entire semester, not including when I was on trial for my political affiliation (see 2). Within only a few meetings, I realized that anything I wanted to contribute to the conversation would instantly be pounced on. Since I didn’t spend all of my free time protesting on campus or beefing up on my Bernie Sanders knowledge, I was basically not “well informed enough” to have legitimate opinions in my extremely biased group.
  2. Either during the first or second meeting, I was persecuted. Upon openly sharing with the group that I am a conservative, one girl, while refusing to look at me without a face of disgust, said, “I have never met a Trump supporter before.” To make things worse, another guy just pointed at me and said, “Well, there’s one.” With that one casual comment, I could tell that those people branded me a racist, earth-hating, money-hoarding, sexist, delusional scum bag by the looks on their faces. I was then questioned for the rest of the meeting–their expressions then turned into those face people make when they are watching some ridiculous animal at a zoo. Regardless of political beliefs, I was appalled with the sheer lack of respect.
  3. The Facebook page was sheer chaos. Although I admit I must be biased because I grew up conservative and have remained conservative through the liberal college experience, I try to understand other opinions with as much respect as possible. Once Trump was elected president, the page was filled with posts about the world ending, what condolence food was being brought to which group, and ideas on how to void Trump’s win. Besides the presidency, there was one conservatively bent comment on a post about Black Lives Matter, or something of the like, that I particularly remember. Instead of the author of the post respectfully countering with support for his opinion, he attacked the character of the commenter who said that all lives matter. I removed myself from the page after that.

Believe me, there are many more complaints, however, I owe them some thanks. They sure as heck strengthened my beliefs–despite listening to the most biased group of people I have ever encountered for a whole semester.

Jaci’s Reading Group

At the end of last summer, someone in the GEF group chat mentioned that Jaci was hosting a reading group this semester. My friend Noah attempted to get people to sign up with him. I thought he was cool, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to get to know Jaci better. I signed up without really looking at what books we were reading. That was a mistake. The first book we read was an in-depth look at refugees around the world (published in 2006); the second was the story of a Syrian refugee who returned to Syria three (!) times (published in 2013). This wasn’t exactly light reading.

The first book covered many different kinds of refugees from different areas of the world. The author had been working with refugees for many years. With this book, we talked primarily about the circumstances surrounding the refugees: why they left, where they could go, how they could get there, and what problems they faced in their new homes. In Britain, for example, refugees had a difficult time finding a community or even someone who spoke their language. In Australia, refugees often were forced to live in camps. In addition, many countries developed strict guidelines for anyone wishing for the protections of a “refugee” instead of a common illegal immigrant. This book was a good mix of facts and personal stories.

The second book was about a Syrian woman who fled to France, but traveled back to her homeland three times. She provides a rare glimpse into modern Syria and how it has shifted. With this book, we talked mostly about the political issues surrounding it. There was a young woman in my group who is majoring in some form of Middle Eastern Studies, and both of the group’s moderators had personal ties to the region. Though we would start each week by discussing the book, we would inevitably end up discussing a political or cultural nuance.

Before this group, most of what I heard about refugees or Syria was from my conservative parents; most of it was centered around ISIS. Reading these books was emotionally draining but important. They helped me realize that refugees and the Syrian people are just that: people. They have hopes and aspirations, friends and family, homes and homelands. They are not a xenophobic stereotype or a liability; they are human and should be treated as such.

International Group: Arabic Drama Club

This semester I have joined a few international groups on campus, and my favorite by far is the Arabic Drama Club. Every Friday from 1:30 to 2:30 me and some of my friends from my Arabic class walk over to the Arabic Flagship room in Kaufman Hall to watch and discuss Arabic films.

The room is always full of Arabic learners of all different levels watching Arabic films (with the subtitles on!) and having conversations about the films. Our discussions are led by Noha Ghaly, the faculty sponsor, who also happens to be my Arabic professor. So far we have watched several different movies including Captain Abu Raed, Terrorism and Kebab, and Excuse My French. We are in the middle of watching Excuse My French, but so far it is my favorite of the films. The movies deal with a wide range of topics, but they all show different aspects of Middle Eastern culture. Watching the movies has really taught me a lot about some divides that exist in the Middle East, but they have also given me insight into Arab humor because we have watched some comedies. Watching the movies is a great way to learn more about Arab culture and to improve listening skills. The club is something that I always look forward to attending because it is a really great way to wind down the week.

Somehow we have even found the time to record and produce our own Arabic “movie” in the Drama Club! Every year there is a talent show hosted by the Arabic Flagship Program, and — like last year — the Drama Club is once again participating. We have made a video that parodies one of the movies we have watched, but the catch is that it takes place at OU. I helped write the script for the video, and I am really excited to see how it turns out when it is played during the talent show this Friday. It includes jokes about the lack of parking on campus, and I expect the video will garner some laughs.

I’m really glad that I joined the Arabic Drama Club because it has really turned out to be one of my favorite extracurriculars on campus. I joined on a whim, but I know that I will be sticking around for many semesters to come. I recommend joining if you looking for a way to practice your Arabic skills in a stress-and-judgment-free zone. It’s never too late to join!

Informed Citizen Discussion Group

When deciding on my international group to be apart of,  I had some difficulty. I have always wanted to be involved in basically everything I can get my hands on. College has been a learning process in that I realize I can not be involved in everything. In fact, there are many things I want to be a part of that I have had to say no to simply because there’s no way I could fit it in. Alas, I ended up settling on Informed Citizens Discussion Group, aka ICDG.

From the first time I arrived, I knew it was going to challenge me. You see, I am a fairly conservative millennial with Republican political preferences. I was the only person in the group who leaned this way which didn’t come as a surprise because the majority of the campus tends to lean much farther left. Within five minutes of being there, without knowing anyone’s views, a girl made a joke about hoping ICDG could reform any and all Republicans on campus.

I think the discussions were a learning environment for everyone. I was able to show that there are some of us who hang out in the middle neither on one extreme or the other. I was also able to break a few stereotypes people in my group held. In turn, I was pushed to look carefully at why I believe what I believe. We all learned that people can be on complete opposite sides of an issue and that each one is fully justified in why they came to hold the opinion they hold. We dabbled in learning the grey area where many issues didn’t have people in the right or the wrong side- just different sides.

All together this was an interesting semester to be involved with a discussion group. Getting intelligent people with different opinions together to discuss everything from Brexit to the presidential election was stimulating and enlightening.

Follow Us On Social Media ;)

This semester, I collaborated with three other Fellows on creating and maintaining the GEF social media accounts. Get ready for a stronger Fellow presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr!

Here I am on social media writing about social media…. kinda funny, right? :p

As practically a newborn baby (this is only our the second year) compared to some of the 100-year-old organisations on campus, the Fellows are sadly not well-known. So, to fix this among other things, Jaci created the GEF Social Media Advisory Board. Sarah, Moriah, and I reactived/created multiple accounts online (@ouGEF, follow– trust me you won’t regret it) with the intention of spreading current international events to other Fellows, sharing the adventures and photos of Fellows abroad, and inform our followers of international happenings on campus!

Although we’ve only met a handful of times, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Sarah and Moriah and putting some love into the Instagram. I’m by no means an photographer, but I enjoy cameras and editing software (devising clever captions is half the fun, too). This has also helped me stay on top of requirements and events. Plus, it’s simply more involvement with the program I’ll be a part of for the next few years.

As for the actual operations of our little team, we feature interviews from students currently abroad, remind Fellows about the dates & times of meetings, and more. Kinship is a big part of the Fellowship, so one of our goals for the Facebook is to stimulate debates and conversations on a range of topics. Something I’ve learned is that getting people to view your posts is easy, but their feedback is not necessarily guaranteed. That’s okay, though, it only pushes us!

So, if you’re reading this, grace us with a follow for more things global at the tip of your fingers.

My First Ever Graphic Novel

For our February selection, the World Literature Today Book club read Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future. The graphic novel shares Sattouf’s unusual childhood growing up in France, Libya, and Syria in the 70s and 80s. 

For those of you who read graphic novels frequently, this may sound a bit lame but I was nervous when I bent back the cartoon-ed cover of Sattouf’s memoir for the first time. I had never read one of these before– is it like a grown-up comic book? Will there be a lot of symbols and images that I won’t understand? Will only dialogue be gruelingly dull? DO I NEED TO READ THE BOXES IN A SPECIFIC ORDER?!

Eh nah, no, surprisingly not at all, and nope! The story and characters left a lasting impression that equaled, even rivaled, that of a book. The simplistic illustrations said more about racial stereotypes and Syrian communities than a descriptive paragraph could. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Although the events of the novel occurred through the eyes of a child, I still received a chillingly dark and mostly accurate sense of the politics, oppression, and attitudes surrounding Syria and Libya at the time. Sattouf’s French heritage mixed in an interesting facet, as well. Tensions between the Western world and Syrians placed young Sattouf in an awkward position– his blond hair made him an object of fascination among his Syrian cousins, and his father’s political views prevented his family from fitting in comfortably in France.

I realized how much background knowledge helps your appreciation of a novel, especially a foreign one filled with politics and nuances, when we met up with Rob for our monthly meeting. He described the large market for Graphic novels in France, something I can’t fully understand because it is not nearly as prominent in the U.S. He told us about the distinctly French style of illustration that Sattouf employed (I never realized there were different styles of drawing with different meanings and uses in graphic novels) and emphasized how Sattouf was able to make seemingly offensive or distasteful images of Muslims because of the exaggerated, symbolic nature of political graphic novels (similar to political cartoons). He made a good point: when an American cartoonist uses a man with a sombrero to make an obviously critical message about Donald Trump’s attitude towards immigrants, his intention is not to bash Mexican immigrants or their culture, but instead Trump’s politics. Other discussions, including the Islam Fatwa, communism through the eyes of a toddler, and the use of color, were fascinating things that did not occur to me when I read Sattouf’s memoir myself.

Ultimately, that expertise and ability to bounce off of the idea’s of others is what gives a book club its worth. A group of people can all read the same thing, and offer completely different insight that draws on their own unique positionality. Reading the thoughts of someone of a foreign culture and generation enhances the experience even further.