German Birthdayyy

This past spring break I went Germany and spent half of the time in Würzburg, which is a town in the Franken/Bavaria region there. My boyfriend’s family lives there, so we were there visiting the family. During our visit we celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday, and I noticed they celebrate slightly different than us. They still do the cakes and food, but they do things in a different order. It is very typical to start around 15:00 with cake and coffee for the guests. They also usually have drinks such as orange fanta, carbonated water, and apfelschörle (which is half apple juice half water, either carbonated or still) in the middle of the table. Then there is usually a few hours break in between the cakes and the actual dinner which is different than the normal order of food in the US. The break is usually filled with the kids playing games of some sort and the adults just talking which is quite similar to the US at gathering such as this.

Europe tour part 2

Prague 4/19 – 4/20

I spent less than 24 hours in Prague and it wasn’t all fun and games, but overall I had an amazing time and definitely recommend visiting!

Amanda and I left Berlin really early (like 6am early) to catch our train to Prague. We arrived around noon and it was a lot hotter than anticipated. I was already tired and dehydrated from the train ride and the previous almost full week of traveling so I spent most of the afternoon napping. Thankfully we had a break in hostels and found a really good deal on a room at a Holiday Inn through the app Hotel Tonight so I slept like a baby for a few hours.

One cool thing about this part of our trip is that we were able to meet up with some of our friends from the University of Hertfordshire who were also traveling around. We walked around for a bit together before grabbing dinner. Amanda and I then went and explored a bit before heading back to the hotel. While we didn’t see everything Prague had to offer, this stop taught be that I’m not invincible and as much as I want to push myself and keep going, sometimes I need to listen to my body and take a break.

Austria: Vienna and Salzburg

Vienna 4/20- 4/21

We had a little more time in Vienna because we were able to leave for Salzburg later in the day. We met up with our friends again for dinner on the 20th and explored the area around Heldenplatz which was gorgeous.

The next day was Easter, and while it was hard to spend it away from family, my friends made it easy to still have fun and make the most of the day. We went to Schoenbrunn Palace and wandered the market (where we bought delicious pretzels) before going to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

Salzburg 4/22

Salzburg was beautiful and incredible. We were close to the Alps and the views were astounding. We spent a couple hours just drinking wine at a cafe and looking at the view. It was so refreshing to have that moment to take everything in and reflect on my travels up until that point. It made me so thankful for the opportunity.

Next up in part 3: Belgium and the Resting Period

Boeing Planes

One major international event that occurred semester was the Ethiopia plane crash and the subsequent banning of the Boeing 737 Max. It was a major shock to hear about the plane crash. Due to the results of that investigation, many countries decided to suspend the use of that type of plane, which affected many airlines and flights. A few weeks after the incident that made international headlines, a man came up to me at a grocery store and gave his sympathies to me regarding the accident, stating that there were many Chinese nationals on the flight that crashed. I was very taken back, first by that the fact itself, and second, I found it weird that he was apologizing to me since I a from the same ethnicity, but I have no connections to anyone or anything from that crash. After talking to one of my professors, it was interesting to learn that China has been increasing their presence in Africa, especially in Ethiopia with manufacturing and helping with infrastructure. It is astonishing the level of globalization there is. One plane crash, the second of that type of plane, caused the recall of the type of plane, which affected so many different countries.

University Buddhist Association

This semester I joined OU’s University Buddhist Association. This organization is a space for people to learn about Buddhism and practice mindfulness. Although I am not Buddhist myself, I find the teachings to be very enriching. Monks from nearby monasteries often come and led discussions on meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. This skill is extremely important to achieve. At this stage of my life, school, work, volunteering, and student organizations are all prominent aspects daily routine. With all of these different moving parts of my life, I often find myself overwhelmed. By working to strengthen my mind and focus, I hope to find peace through mediation.

Mindfulness in Relationships

This semester, OU’s University Buddhist Association hosted an event titled Mindfulness in Relationships. This event featured a guided mediation and discussion led by the Abbess of Buddha Mind Monastery.

Before we began the guided mediation, the Abbess first demonstrated a counting technique which can be utilized to focus your mind while meditating. By counting and simultaneously rocking back and forth, you are able to synchronize these motions with your breathing. This technique allows you to focus on your breathing and therefore controls any wandering thoughts. Once we learned this method, we began our short 15 minute mediation. During the mediation I found it considerably difficult to keep my mind focused. It was just too easy to relax and start thinking about other things that had been clouding my mind (stress, anxieties, finals). However, the brief moments I was able to find peace were extremely relaxing. I enjoyed meditating. It provided a much needed escape from my everyday stresses. I am hopeful that overtime and with continued practice I will be able to master the art of focus.

After meditating, the Abbess led an extremely insightful discussion on cultivating healthy relationships in all areas of our lives. She emphasized that that moment you try to change someone, you suffer. Instead focus this energy on yourself. A person can only will themselves to change their behaviors. She provided an easy three step process for managing any problems in your relationships- romantic, friendships, family, etc. First understand the situation from both sides. Why do you feel the way you do? How does the other person feel? Then reach a compromise as a solution to the issue. What can both sides of the relationship do to resolve this issue? Finally, learn from this issue. How can you carry the lesson you have learned with you into the future?

Overall, this event was extremely insightful. The Abbess taught me very valuable life lessons within such a short time. The free vegetarian food provided afterwards wasn’t too bad either!

International Gun Control

With the increased prevalence of mass shootings in the United States, Americans struggle to find a solution to prevent these widespread massacres. The Democratic Party proposes introducing a background check in the process of buying a gun, effectively enforcing current gun policy, and issuing a ban on automatic fire weapons. This legislative policy aims to ensure that extremely dangerous guns do not fall into irresponsible hands. The Republican Party strongly opposes this policy and leans on the 2nd Amendment , the right of citizens to bear arms, as their counterargument. The party claims that regulating the possession of guns breaches the constitutional rights of citizens and would not be an effective method of prevention. The national debate over gun control has became increasingly controversial. However, the failure of the United States’s Congress to respond to the countless numbers of mass shootings allows these tragedies to continue. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of May 7th 2019 a total of 115 mass shootings have occurred in the United States.

Unlike the United States, for many countries worldwide the increased prevalence of gun violence has had a mobilizing effect. After a mass shooting which left 50 dead, New Zealand’s Parliament immediately voted to ban most semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles in the country. By reacting to the heartless massacre of innocent lives, New Zealand has taken steps to prevent another devastating mass shooting. In Germany, after two mass shootings in 2002 and 2009 killed a total of 31 people, politicians and lawmakers began tightening the country’s already strict gun control laws. By making it more difficult for people to buy and own firearms, the total number of gun deaths decreased. Similarly, after a man fatally shot 35 people in 1996, Australia enacted what some reports say was “one of the largest gun reforms in recent history.” The legislation was called the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), and it banned various forms of semiautomatic guns, rifles and shotguns. Studies proved that the law was effective in reducing firearm deaths.

These countries have responded to mass shooting with the effective legislative policy. Hopefully the success of gun control legislation within these countries can influence American lawmakers. Looking at this issue as an international issue, not only a national issue, can provide the necessary perspective to protect citizens from gun violence.

Europe tour part 1

My friend Amanda and I were fortunate enough to have our classes end before the University of Hertfordshire’s scheduled Easter Break and decided to use the free time to our advantage and explore as much of Europe as possible on our college-student budgets. For this first part of our journey we primarily utilized the Eurail pass. While the upfront cost was pretty significant (close to $500 for the any country 15 days in 2 months option), it gave us the freedom to hop on almost any train we wanted to. There were a few that we had to pay to reserve our seats on ahead of time, but with the pass we were still able to save money.

Amsterdam 4/15 – 4/17

We left England around 5pm on the Eurostar train. It took us directly to Amsterdam from London which was nice. When we arrived, we bought a pass for the tram system and headed straight for our hostel -Hostel Van Gogh- so we could rest up for the next day.

We woke up and ate breakfast at the hostel before going for a walk at a park nearby. The park had beautiful tulips and this interesting tree carving.

After the park we went to the Moco museum that featured a lot of Banksy’s artwork and had these floating tulips in the square outside.

Then we went shopping at local markets until it was time to meet Amanda’s friends that live in and near Amsterdam for dinner.

Berlin 4/17-4/19

After our day in Amsterdam, we left on a train for Berlin. This train was several hours, which let me finish one of my last papers. We arrived in Berlin and again headed straight for our hostel- Grand hostel Berlin- which is one of my favorites from our travels. The staff was really friendly and the overall atmosphere was so welcoming.

Our full day in Berlin was pretty packed. I went to a really cool film museum which was in the spacious Sony Center. It focused primarily on German film history, but a lot of the early German pioneers had a huge influence on American cinema and it was really cool to learn more about people I had only briefly heard about in classes back home.

Next up was the German Spy Museum. I have always been obsessed with spy movies and books and after taking a class on James Bond films last spring I was a little too excited for the interactive exhibits.

After the museums we went to Checkpoint Charlie and ended the day walking along the remaining section of the Berlin Wall which now functions as a gallery for street art. We ate dinner at scheers schnitzel which had amazing fresh food and a really chill atmosphere. There were signatures all over the wall from people who had eaten there before. Berlin was one of my favorite places but I wish I could have experienced it with my family. My dad has always wanted to visit Germany and it made me kind of sad that I was experiencing it without him and the rest of my family.

Next up: Prague and Austria in part 2

You Don’t Have to be ‘Living Your Best Life’ 24/7

Before I get into this post I want to say that I have loved my study abroad experience and hope that this post doesn’t discourage anyone from going abroad too. I just want to be transparent about something that I feel like isn’t talked about enough: every day of your study abroad experience isn’t going to be profound or life changing. You will have normal days just like you would back home and you will also have bad days that will be worse than back home because you don’t have your usual support system to calm you down and help you to the other side.

My first day in England was honestly awful. I arrived at 6am after an 8 hour flight with no sleep. Then when I finally arrived on campus (and so grateful that I had signed up for the uni-arranged transport) I found out that my accommodation wasn’t going to be ready for another couple of hours. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity I finally arrived in my room and tried to take a nap before venturing to the mall to buy sheets and other things I really needed but didn’t want to take up space in my luggage. It was around 4pm when I made it to the mall and already dark outside, which of course did not help my jet lag and disorientation. I bought my sheets without issue, but when I finally realized I was hungry and went to buy food, my card was declined. So I had to walk back to my room on campus to connect to wifi (I didn’t have a local number yet) to facetime my parents and set up an online virtual chat with my bank even though I had made sure to tell them before I left that I was going to be abroad. By that point I was too tired to walk back to the mall to get food and everything on campus was already closed so I decided to order a pizza. However, what I did not know was that the pizza delivery to the campus did not come directly to the flat, but instead to the nearby taxi circle. I waited by my flat door since I didn’t have a phone number that the delivery driver could call thinking I would be fine and be able to let them in the flat and get my pizza no problem. It wasn’t until a random person in my building came downstairs and told me about the delivery process on campus that I realized that my pizza was probably lost forever and I would likely go to bed hungry that night. I cried so much that day and I was so tempted to turn around and come back home. What I didn’t know was how quickly my situation would turn around. The next day, I was invited to go into London with a group by another exchange student from Oklahoma that I met at the airport. I was so tired that I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad that I did. That day I met people that I became really close with over the course of the semester and that day is one of my favorites simply because it turned my outlook around. Since then I’ve still had days where I’ve been really homesick and questioned my decision to study abroad, but with any big life step that’s normal.

Don’t let someone’s social media influence how you think your experiences should be. You may not love every part of the experience, but trust me, in the end it will be worth it.

Pinterest: How I Increased My Engagement by 4000% in One Week

If you use Pinterest for business-related purposes, you may have asked yourself at one point or another whether promoted pins are worth it. Will the conversion rates be high enough? Will there be a significant enough of an increase in site traffic to justify paying for advertising? I argue that yes, both high conversion rates and increases in site traffic are entirely achievable. In my case, by using Pinterest Ads, I was able to increase my pin’s impressions by 4300% in one week. More importantly, user engagement with the pin shot up by 3600%. Need proof? Take a look for yourself:

Before Promotion:

pinterest engagement impressions views increase grow

After 7 Days of Promotion:

pinterest engagement impressions views increase grow

The best part about all of this? I spent less than $10.00 to advertise on Pinterest for one week.

Note: I created my Pinterest Ads account on the same day that I promoted my first pin. The “0%” increases in “Total Impressions”, “Total Engagement”, etc., reflect the fact that the Analytics and Ad portions of my Pinterest account had not been established for a long enough amount of time to gather such information.

pinterest engagement impressions views
My Pinterest Ads overview banner. Total spent: $8.58.

Now you might be thinking, “Great, so promoting a pin wouldn’t be a complete waste of money – but what purpose would it serve?” My personal goal in promoting a pin for the first time was to jumpstart a small amount of traffic to my brand new website. Although there are plenty of free ways to gain exposure for and increase traffic to a website, I was aiming to see growth beyond interactions from people within the network I’d already established organically.

Here’s why promoting my pin got me the results I wanted:

1. I can now analyze Pinterest Ads’ summary of users who interacted with my pin, making it easier for me to specify (and further streamline) my target audience.

While I chose the keywords and phrases through which to target users who might be interested in my pin, Pinterest has now done the rest of the work for me. After a few days of pin promotion, Pinterest Ads automatically sorts user information into a downloadable Excel sheet. This data includes information such as where the engaged users’ genders, where they are from and what languages they are searching in. This takes a large amount of the guesswork out of deciding who to target when promoting similar pins in the future.

2. Unlike an ad on Facebook or Instagram, my promoted pin will continue to earn organic engagement through the users who first interacted with it.

Although Facebook and Instagram could be better platforms to appeal to different age groups, geographic locations, etc., than of the majority of Pinterest users, using Promoted Pins has plenty of advantages. For example, if I were to publish an ad on Facebook or Instagram, creating one would take more time and more money to achieve similar results.

Additionally, it is much more likely for your pin to appear on a user’s feed regardless of how long ago it was published. In fact, most pins achieve their highest rates of engagement between three and a half months and two years after they were first published (Piqora).

Piqora Study, Pinterest engagement

Compared to the chronological timelines of Instagram and Facebook, those extra months (or even years) of exposure provides you with a much better opportunity for your content: a longer shelf life for less money.

What can I do to increase my Pinterest engagement if I don’t want to promote a pin?

  1. Make sure all of your content is original and high-quality.
  2. Share the content with your Facebook network.
  3. Share that you’ve published new content in an Instagram or Facebook story.
  4. Put the link to your Pinterest profile (or pin) in all of your social media profiles.
  5. Join a collaborative group board on Pinterest to share your pins with a community of users with interests relating to your content.

Have you ever thought of advertising on Pinterest? Why or why not? Would you consider doing so after reading this post? Feel free to comment or send me a suggestion at

The post Pinterest: How I Increased My Engagement by 4000% in One Week appeared first on ALLISON DOOLEY.

The Noun Class System of the Bantu Languages: Part II

As this was my final semester of my undergraduate studies, I completed the capstone for the Linguistics major. For my capstone paper, I chose to undertake a data-based analysis of noun class semantics in Bantu languages. This post and the previous one summarize my research on this topic.

After completing my literature review of relevant research on Bantu noun classes, my next step was to design a methodology for my own data analysis. There are 556 documented Bantu languages divided into 7 subgroups of varying sizes. However, most analysis of Bantu noun class semantics thus far has been conducted on a very narrow sample of these languages, primarily focusing on widely-spoken languages like Swahili. In pursuit of a more representative analysis, I chose 1-2 languages from each subgroup for a total of 12 languages.. In the map below, the Bantu language region is shown in light brown; the dots on the map, which are separate from the legend, indicate the locations in which each of the languages in my sample are spoken. Same-color dots represent languages in the same subgroup.

Edited. Map source: Wikipedia,

After noting and comparing the semantic themes that appeared in the noun classes and singular/plural noun class pairings in each of the sample languages, here are the ones that were most common:

Class pairing/ monoclass Semantic themes
1/2 Humans, animates
1a/2 Animates, miscellaneous
3/4 Plants, trees, body parts, small animals, nature terms
5/6 Natural sets, body parts, nature terms, nouns derived from verbs, descriptors, miscellaneous
7/8 Small things, body parts, miscellaneous
9/6 Miscellaneous
9/10 Animates, plants, miscellaneous
11/10 Long/thin things, miscellaneous
12/13 Diminutive
2 Animates
6 Liquids, uncountables, bulk items/collections
9 Diseases, abstract nouns
14 Abstract nouns
15 Nouns derived from verbs
16 Locatives
17 Locatives
18 Locatives

After determining this possible semantic scheme for the noun class system of Proto-Bantu, I used my research from the literature review and my background linguistic knowledge to speculate as to the probable reasons for the development of this system in modern Bantu languages. The four reasons I defined were:

  1. Influence from other languages: Many Bantu languages are influenced by each other, by other African languages, and/or by colonial European languages, such as French.
  2. Collapsed semantic categories: When speakers lose a strong semantic distinction between two things, one of those things can move into the other’s noun class. A noun class shift for grammatical reasons could also incite semantic change. For example, in the language Pagibete, animals have moved into the human noun class, indicating that the distinction between animate and inanimate is more important than that between animal and human.
  3. Connotative manipulation: In some Bantu languages, nouns can be moved between categories to adjust their meaning. Nearly every language in my sample had a noun class to inflect a pejorative meaning, for example.
  4. Arbitrary nature of language: Sometimes, language changes without semantic, grammatical, or cultural reason. This could well be the case for Bantu noun classes.

I had never done linguistic data analysis on this scale before, and it was fascinating to learn the ins and outs of so many languages and look for patterns. Furthermore, I enjoyed the tidbits of cultural information I learned in studying these languages’ vocabularies, language samples, and semantics. While I am convinced that a Bantu language would be incredibly difficult for a native English speaker to learn, I now am more motivated to try!