I am still a Junior Active in my sorority as I have yet to cross a class before I was elected to be our Vice President of External Affairs. Although I have no regrets about such a rewarding position, it took up a lot of my time and having to work with other organizations was exhausting. I worked with other international organizations such as the Asian American Student Association, Filipino Student Association, Lambda Phi Epsilon (an Asian interest Fraternity), and Tau Kappa Omega (an Asian interest Fraternity). We as a whole represented Asian American Student Life (AASL). AASL won first place on our banner!! We participated in the major events with Alpha Chi Omega and Phi Delta Gamma.
As External, I also was in charge of hosting several mixers with other organizations. We have established promising relationships with new organizations and we have high hopes that we will continue to support each other in the future. I feel that we have sparked an MGC and NPHC friendship that will continue to foster the greatness in Greek like.
As a German minor, I sincerely appreciate how active the OU German Club is on campus. Every semester, the club organizes a variety of events to bring together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates of all skill levels in their mutual appreciation of German language and culture. Throughout the semester, the club meets weekly, usually at a local restaurant, for a Stammtisch. Stammtisch translates as regulars table. An old German tradition, Stammtisch involves sitting around a table weekly and discussing events both current and personal. The club’s Stammtisch is often conducted in a mixture of English and German.
Every semester, the German club holds one big Stammtisch, gathering together as many people from the department as possible. This year, the big Stammtisch was held at Das Boot Camp on main street. An offshoot of Royal Bavaria, Das Boot serves traditional German fare, including schnitzel, bratwurst, spaetzle, and gurkensalat. The Stammtisch filled most of the restaurant, tables pushed together and overflowing with people. I recognized several professors, graduate students, and undergraduates with whom I had shared classes, but many faces were new to me. We discussed classes and teaching styles, unusual German traditions and regional dishes, and swapped stories from trips to Germany or Austria. The professors are either native speakers themselves or have extensively developed their fluency in German-speaking countries. Most if not all of the graduate students have studied abroad at some point and the undergraduate majors are required to spend a minimum of three-weeks immersed in the language. Although Germany is geographically smaller than Montana, it is home to roughly 80 million people and the differences from one region to the next are astounding. The big Stammtisch is a great way to gather an otherwise scattered population and bring a piece of Germany to the middle of Oklahoma.
Another finals week, another semester of ICDG that’s wrapping up. Looking back on the last few years, I’m really happy that I’ve gotten to be in charge of ICDG. I think it goes a long way in elevating the public discussion on campus surrounding various issues, and even though the discussions have mostly turned to Trump and his impact on the world, I still find some purpose in it. This semester, my co-moderator and I got a chance to really educate some people that were not well-versed on current events. We had one student who didn’t understand the conservative/liberal divide, as she’d been discouraged by her parents from becoming too engaged on any issues. She also gained a better understanding of international relations and how different international organizations are able to coordinate responses to different crisis. Considering that’s the point of ICDG, we were really happy to get someone who wasn’t a politico to join. I’m looking forward to one last semester and hopefully some more education.
The ocean is a free space, not technically owned by any country, but some countries such as China have attempted to claim the ocean as part of its’ borders. However, since there is no distinct border for the ocean, countries often get angry with one another about the if ships cross each other’s territories.
For instance, China claimed a part of the waters as part of their own, but Taiwan has had that area for a long period of time. These disputes over unclear border lines cause a lot of turmoil in that countries that control the water has control of trade and ports. Trade is very important to a country as it helps raise its economic value. By trading its goods with varying countries, China can secure its financial issues by trading more. This raises its economy by selling their material goods at a higher price than what China makes them for.
However, because every country is determined to have a better trade system than another, further disputes are created about the border of waters. The power of having water territories means that those countries can maintain a higher influence in terms of economic supremacy.
What does this mean for countries that are less fortunate in receiving ships or sending ships due to fear or dangers of landing in another country’s territory? Those countries would only be able to trade by foot or with neighboring countries. The cons to this are that countries often have the same materials when they are so close together. For instance, the Middle East is known for having oil and therefore trading oil with another Middle Eastern country would be useless. If that is the case, the country then has an over abundance of those materials.
Trade is crucial for a country’s survival, being either with knowledge or material goods. I wonder what the consequences would be if international waters allowed multiple countries to pass through, but there are also too many dangers to that as countries risk attacks from varying countries that pass by.
ICDG is honestly one of my favorite student organizations on campus, and as I’m approaching the end of my second year as Chair, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on why the mission of the organization is so important. The idea that we’re becoming an increasingly disconnected society who’re obsessed with our phones and incapable of having conversations with others is pessimistic and cliché. Rather, I think the truth of the matter is that we’re increasingly unlikely to view people with opposed viewpoints as deserving of respect. In an era of political discourse primarily marked with discussions of basic human rights and oppressed peoples, it is almost impossible not to take politics personally.
The point, then, of ICDG is to provide a space for interested students to engage with others on any topic that they find interesting. Recently, the conversation has turned to a number of international topics, including the Iranian nuclear deal and the seeming truce between the Koreas. During these events, ICDG has provided an opportunity for students to state their opinions and feel heard in an environment that lacks a professor or other authority figure that can correct them from a place of power; at the end of the day, I think that’s one of the most important aspects of the organization. In terms of age and relative education level, everyone is pretty much at the same level. This allows for logic and free thought to prevail as opposed to dogma.
In providing a more explicit international connection for the purpose of GEF, I’ll also note that many of my group leaders have noted how much they appreciate the presence of international students at this university and in their groups in terms of elevating dialogue about national issues. Americans often have a singular paradigm through which we evaluate the rest of the world, and as such, ICDG makes significant gains when international students choose to engage and sign-up for groups.
Every spring semester the entire German department gathers together in a local park to feast on bratwurst and sauerkraut while celebrating the rapidly approaching summer break. I was unable to attend last year but since I recently declared a German major, I made a point of attending the grillfest this spring. Hosted by the OU German Club, the grillfest featured a wide variety of German food. Besides that aforementioned, there was potato salad and tomatoes and cucumbers with dill yogurt and a wide selection of bread paired with Italian soda and finished with some delightful cookies whose name escapes me.
It is now just a few months short of a year since I left Germany and the memory of daily life there grows unfortunately dimmer. However, eating such German fare in the sun surrounded by snippets of German conversions made me feel like I was in my own little slice of Germany in the middle of Norman, OK. I can only imagine what the experience must feel like for the German faculty who either were born in German speaking countries or have spent considerable time there.
Unfortunately, I also noticed that my confidence speaking German outside the classroom has been diminishing as well. Over this summer I will have to work on conversational confidence with my friends who are also learning German.
Chairing the Informed Citizens Discussion Group is a real treat, but moderating an engage group is honestly so much better. This semester, my co-discussion-moderator and I were lucky to have a core group of about 7-8 students who came back to our room in Cate once a week to talk pop culture and politics. We had a number of students from different home countries and it was fascinating to listen to them describe the news occurring in their own worlds. As the year progresses forward, it is going to find someone that can keep the program running in perpetuity… as I approach graduation, I want to make sure that ICDG is forever supported by the University and won’t die when I receive a diploma. It is vital that students find a way to actively engage with other students and respectfully argue with opinions that aren’t your own. I’d also love to see more representation from the international study body on both ICDG exec, the moderator team, and within the organization itself. ICDG can function as such an amazing vehicle of cultural exchange, and if I’m not doing enough to encourage that now, I certainly need to going forward. This semester specifically, I really enjoyed our conversations about the impact that the University President has on international students, which a student brought up when discussing what Boren had done for him as a student and expressing a hope that such support would continue.
A well-known topic of international discussion is the influx of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East into the European Union. As some countries try to close themselves off, Germany has notoriously opened their borders to hundreds of thousands during these past few years alone. Many German citizens and officials cite the unsustainability of their burgeoning economy, when coupled with their aging population, as an incentive to incorporate foreigners into the German populace.
While this may be the end goal, immigrants cannot rejuvenate German society while they remain dependent on welfare and without access to the labor market. As a result, German leadership is working to integrate them into the workforce. This process that was described in the photo exhibit “Germany: Integrating Immigrants” that the German Embassy displayed on campus this semester. The exhibition was part of German Campus Week, organized by several on-campus departments and organizations, including the OU German Club.
I was impressed by the diversity and depth of programs in place to help immigrants in all aspects of life. There were language and culture classes, of course, including German history and the current legal system. Immigrants who had been trained as teachers in their home countries could apply for a qualification program at the University of Potsdam which included a year of intensive German and training with German students and instructors. The program was immediately popular, attracting 700 applications for 45 spots during its first year in 2016. A school in Munich for unaccompanied minor immigrants has several psychologists working with the young refugees to help the often traumatized youth prepare for an independent life in a foreign country. In Berlin, rabbis and imams cycle around the city on tandem bicycles to counter Islamophobia and religious discrimination.
Germany as a whole seems dedicated to incorporating the large immigrant population into German society and the rest of the world should take note.