Diplomacy Lab – Fall 2017

This fall, I was part of the Diplomacy Lab project through the Department of Entrepreneurship. The Diplomacy Lab is a public-private partnership through the U.S. State Department to utilize university students and courses to increase innovation in solving foreign policy challenges. The State Department will post the project proposal, and university professors can apply to host the project.

Two professors from Entrepreneurship applied and were selected to supervise a project this semester, and it immediately piqued my interest when I learned of the topic. The objective was investigating how the State Department can increase employment in Pakistan’s Punjab region through entrepreneurship. I applied and became one of seven students working on the project.

We began the research by splitting into two teams and building entrepreneurial ecosystem canvases of the U.S. and of Pakistan to see if there were resources we had here that we could export. From there, we began benchmarking and forming our recommendations, and we spent the last two weeks typing a large document and building a website that shared our findings.

Entrepreneurship is not seen as a career option for many in Pakistan, as they want the prestige and security that comes from having a job with a regular paycheck and more stability. This is true of many in the U.S. as well, although our history of successful entrepreneurs does inspire many young people to follow that track.

The group of researchers were a blast to work with, and I tremendously enjoyed getting to know a couple more professors in my department at the same time! I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and consulting throughout this project, and I know it will benefit me as I go on to be a consultant in my future.

ICDG

After being a member of Informed Citizens Discussion Group (ICDG) during my freshman year, I was excited to learn that I was chosen to be an ICDG moderator this semester with my fellow Global Engagement Fellow, Noah. Every Friday, we would meet to discuss any relevant new topics that occurred that week from domestic politics to the newest medical breakthrough to weekly updates about a baby elephant.  At first it was slightly forced to get the discussions going with the other members but over time and as we got to know each other, conversation flowed smoothly. What I love about this club is that as college students, we are very busy people trying to balance academics, health, and a social life, leaving very little time to read news nevertheless international news. We always seem to care more about events that happen close to home since it has the potential to impact us or people that we know, making the news relevant to us and thus important. Often times we forgot that other very important events are occurring elsewhere in the world. While it may not affect our lives directly, it still affects thousands of other people’s and we should still care and pay attention to them. We can always learn from other countries’s actions and events in order to not make the same mistakes as them. The best part about ICDG is that many people with various news interests come together to share about them. It is a great way to learn about what is happening in the world even if we don’t have the time to read the articles ourselves. I still remember learning about the Myanmar genocide from one of the members who has a huge interest in social rights. At the time, I have never even heard of the country Myanmar nevertheless about this tragic event occurring that was being overshadowed by America’s domestic drama. This club allows students to keep a worldly perspective and reminds them that there are more important events happening in the world than in college life.

On Being a Rio Ambassador

This semester, like last semester, my international group was being a study abroad ambassador for the OU’s sister program in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, also much like last semester, this group did significantly less than I had hoped for.

As I have written so much about, I loved every second of my time in Rio de Janeiro and would shout it to the whole world from the top of Mount Everest if I could. Because of this, two semesters ago I was thrilled to apply-for and become a part of the ambassador program. I have been more than ready to stand in front of classes, armed with dozens of the several hundred photos I took from my time in Rio, and explain how they would all be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime (which I genuinely believe it is) if they didn’t drop what they were doing to sign up for the next trip out. But even after several offers from me, this still hasn’t come to fruition. Additionally, we don’t have consistent meetings to discuss ideas or the like either.

What we do do, however, is band together when it is important, like during a big event to promote Rio, and show off our own enthusiasm about our experience. For example, we make a lot of appearances during Brazil week each semester, spend time at booths when we can, and some even act as liaisons in the CIS office, but other than this, unfortunately, we don’t get to do too terribly much. Now don’t get me wrong, this approach is important, but I think there is more we as ambassadors can do to spread the word about how Rio should be more of a contender in OU’s sister programs.

With this, I have an announcement! In order to attempt to bridge the gaps and try to get more people involved, I have volunteered to be the Rio Ambassador Chair for the next spring semester! Whoohoo! I am thrilled. After this semester, I learned that we simply need, as ambassadors, to be more connected to one another and more involved with the ambassador program in general. I have high hopes and already a few plans for myself in this position, and I can’t wait to keep y’all updated!

International Group: Egyptian Club pt. 2

Like last semester, my international group this semester was the Egyptian Club, which met every Friday from 1:30 to 2:30. Once again, the Egyptian Club was led by two Egyptian students and their close American friend who taught us about Egyptian culture, including underground music, children’s television programs, the Coptic religion, and the LGBTQ community. The Egyptian Club was always a great way to end my week on Fridays because the moderators are so knowledgeable and friendly and funny. Even though I was in the club last year, I continued to learn even more this semester.

My favorite presentation was on the LGBTQ community in Egypt. During the presentation, we learned important vocabulary for describing the LGBTQ community as well as organizations that support LGBTQ rights in Egypt. We discussed important figures who identify as LGBTQ in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as some common perceptions of the LGBTQ community in society at large. I really like this club because of the way it supplements my Arabic learning outside of the classroom. This presentation gave me tons of information that I later used in my own presentation on gender that I gave in my Arabic language class.

The Egyptian Club partnered with the Moroccan Darija Club to produce a video for the end-of-year Arabic Talent Show sponsored by the Arabic Flagship Program. The video played off the pretend rivalry that exists between the two clubs by humorously highlighting the differences in the two cultures in terms of hand gestures, language, and musical tastes. I think it was a fun way to conclude the talent show, and I would like to do a collaboration with the Darija Club again next semester.

In what is becoming something of a trend, I will be joining the Egyptian Club once again next semester. I look forward to covering new and different topics and revisiting old favorites like the important slang that I need in my attempt to talk like an Egyptian.

Manos Juntas – International Group

This year, I decided to take a different route when it came to the international group I would be a part of. In my Medical Spanish class, a couple of OU students came in to talk to us about Manos Juntas and how their group volunteers there.

The “Manos Juntas” Foundation, located in Oklahoma City, is an organization that helps low-income people get free medical care. On October 7th I went for the third time to collaborate with “Manos Juntas,” where I helped in the pharmacy. Although, I really wanted to volunteer in the triage room, all volunteer spaces were full and the only place that there was space was in the pharmacy. Since there was an Oklahoma Football game  at 11 o’clock in the morning, volunteer spaces were less crowded. That’s why I found open spaces in the pharmacy, and there seemed to be fewer patients in the triage room as well.

 
In addition, in recent weeks I have volunteered in “Manos Juntas” three times and have learned many valuable lessons along the way. By volunteering at this clinic, I was able to obtain a large number of individual interactions with patients, take their medical history and review their basic vital signs. All the volunteers were trained and helped the foundation as much as possible. As I am already fluent in Spanish, I was able to practice my translation skills and new medical terms that I had to learn through my “Medical Spanish” course. Through this experience I was able to meet new people and interact with many different cultures. During the time I was helping in “Manos Juntas,” I was able to develop new skills and gain a new vision in the medical field. Although I will not work directly in the field of medicine when I graduate, the experience I had will be beneficial in my life and in my career. I am planning to enter the medical field of law that contains medical malpractice. “Manos Juntas” is a great tool for me, especially because although I am not certified, I was able to see patients one-on-one, as well as help at the pharmacy.

 
Community service is an essential part of every student’s life, and should be practiced. Providing help to those in need is a great opportunity to interact with different communities, as well as learn about yourself. Specifically, if we are talking about “Manos Juntas” it is a great opportunity for college students who are in need of medical volunteer hours or just want to help.

 
I am very thankful I was able to be a part of something like this throughout my time at the University of Oklahoma. “Manos Juntas” has made me change my way of thinking, as well as knowing that I should always be lending a helping hand.

Manos Juntas: http://www.manosjuntas.com/Volunteer.html


OU Cousins

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving…

so I’m taking some down time to reflect on what I’ve been thankful for this semester at OU (and simultaneously tackle some long-procrastinated to-do’s). Apart from stellar professors and my internship, I am thankful for OU Cousins for introducing me to my French pal, Emeline.

Emeline is an exchange student from Rennes, France. We met via OU Cousins and decided to make it OrgSync official so that I could practice my French with her, but we soon learned that the French language was not the only thing we held in common! It turns out we both love kiddos, queso (I introduced her to this lovely cheesy dip, by the way), and Frank Sinatra. We are both equally curious about each other’s culture, and our conversations often return to questions like “What about this? Do you guys have this in your culture?” and “Please tell me this isn’t an American stereotype in France.”

I’ve showed Emeline some of the best cuisine Norman has to offer, attended an OKC Thunder game with her, carved pumpkins, and feasted on some free Thanksgiving food thanks to OU Cousins! I love that she is so willing to experience, taste, and encounter every free event OU has to offer, even if they are cheesy or not her cup of tea. Having a cousin that is so ready to make the best of her experience makes my job pretty easy (and fun)!

Luckily, Emeline will not leave until the end of spring semester, but even so, I hope to study abroad in France. She even offered to let me room with her in Rennes if I choose to study there! It’s crazy to think that this casual club involvement has helped me forage a friendship to be the foundation of my future time abroad.

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLtavGjAOJY

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.