Month: December 2015
Reflections on a Special Semester
This semester has been a whopper. I’ve learnt a lot – including the “proper” spellings of many words.
There’ve been quite a few listicles lately, so this will be more of a, let’s say… stream of consciousness post (throwback to our Faulkner unit, 11th grade English).
I came into this semester running away from some things – responsibility, a familiar (and therefore slightly less magical) place, my own fears. I thought a new place would bring a miraculous awakening of purpose, which was flawed logic. But surprisingly, this hope came true anyway.
Let me clarify – it had nothing to do with my move of house, university, country, and continent. It had nothing to do with buying a plane ticket and running away.
It had everything to do with surrounding myself with an entirely new environment made up of new people, new challenges, and new responsibilities. This could’ve happened anywhere. It could’ve happened back in Oklahoma. It was inevitable, this thing called “growing up.”
I learned how to pay rent, how to set up a recurring phone bill, how to grocery shop and feed myself (that could do with some revision, but I’m not dead yet), how to navigate airports alone, how to budget feeling comfortable in my new home for a year against wasting money on unnecessary home goods. Still, these are lessons everyone needs to learn, and lessons we all eventually do learn.
My first year in university was in many ways just a beta version of real life. I lived on campus in dorms with lots of slightly frightened kids far from home, eating from a pretty comprehensive meal plan. There was absolutely no need to leave our beautiful campus if I didn’t wish to, which was great – albeit slightly problematic.
In the end, all it meant was I learned these lesson a little late. That’s ok – what’s important was learning them eventually.
I’ve realized it feels great to finally feel like an adult. This has probably been my best semester yet. Along with growing up a bit, I’ve made new friends, come to really miss and appreciate the friends I have in Texas and Oklahoma, gotten to know a new place like the back of my hand, and, probably most importantly, figured out an academic path that makes me really, really happy and excited for the future. I might even be looking into enrolling in a master’s degree in computer science (keep that one hush-hush; we’ve seen my plans change pretty radically over the past 19.425 years). For once, I not only feel optimistic about my numeric results but also about the semester as a whole and all that I’ve actually learned about myself and the world around me.
The future is exciting, and what makes it so is that it’s still almost entirely unknown and flexible. Anything could happen, so long as I set my mind to the path ahead and charge forward with curiosity and excitement.
I can’t wait to jump into next semester ready and eager to learn even more! But for now, I see nothing wrong with spending winter break avoiding responsibilities, curled up in my pajamas drinking hot chocolate and watching movies with my family…
Until next time,
Asian American Food
I was able to attend the Asian American Food Buffet and WOW it was amazing! I’ve always loved fried rice, egg rolls, and beef with broccoli, but I never knew how much there really was! I can’t remember the names of all the variety of amazing food i tried, but I sure am glad I went! Since I’ve tried different Asian American foods, I just feel the need to try all types of culture’s foods. I can’t wait to see what my taste buds send me to next!
I feel that as a freshman in college it is natural for me to want to come home and see my amazing parents and cute sister. At least that’s how I felt for Thanksgiving. Of course I wanted to come home for Christmas, but now all I want to do is goo back to OU! I feel that I have learned so much about myself and others just being at OU for this semester. I want to stay and grow as a person and an adventurer of life! I just can’t wait to get back.
Places of Studying Abroad
In my last week of my Going Global gateway class we were able to talk to a girl who was in the Peace Corp in Georgia. This is not like Atlanta, GA, but the actual country of Georgia. This student studied multiple places in Africa and she thought that Africa was the place for her, but she was so glad she had the opportunity to join Peace Corp and travel to Georgia. I’ve always had certain places in mind that I want to study abroad, but because of her i want to step outside of my comfort zone and try some places I’d never think of. I’m glad I was able to meet her and gain some insight on studying abroad and Peace Corp.
новые горизонты (New Horizons)
My family has a long history of language learning. My grandpa was quadrilingual, my mother learned French and Russian, and I’m working my way up to their level. I only have Spanish so far, but Letters requires an ancient language, and I’m planning to minor in Russian. Given my double major, I don’t have five hours a week to spend in intro classes, so I’m studying it on my own.
This isn’t as hard as it could be. My mom and grandpa were both Russian majors, and my grandpa actually taught Russian, so we have a bunch of education materials sitting around the house. I’m already familiar with the accent and I have somebody to practice with. But I’m not used to self-directed study: I spent eight years learning Spanish in a classroom, with neat charts and clear curricula. I’m still working out how to organize all the resources I have, let alone working on a coherent plan with them. For now, it’s half an hour of writing Cyrillic script and reading printed Cyrillic every day, listening to Russian music whenever possible, and fiddling around with various Russian learning programs. I’ll start working with the LLC after break is over, but right now I’ll be happy if I can just learn the difference between Ш and Щ.
I’ve been studying Spanish for eight years now, and every time I think I’m finally making progress, I realize in short order how little I really know. I can talk for 20 minutes on the differences between regions of the US, and then be reduced to pantomime because I forgot the word for “deer;” I still have trouble with por and para; and when I introduced myself to the Spanish Club this year, I said I was “embarazada” for embarrassed. Me sentía avergonzada, to be sure, but I definitely was not pregnant.
Spanish has a lot of these false cognates, which look like a familiar word and then betray you. When I need a word I don’t know, I often give a Latin-seeming word a Spanish accent or add an “acion” to the end, and call it a day. This has not served me well: bigotes are mustaches, not intolerant, enviar is to send letters, not to be jealous, and un perrito largo is a long puppy, not a large one. There are even more if you count the borrowings in American Spanish that would scandalize Academia Real. It’s commonly accepted in some parts of the US that “carpeta” is really a carpet, rather than a binder, and “actualmente,” which normally means “currently,” is taken at face value.
Study Abroad Options
One of the good things about being on the AP track is the insane number of classes it let me skip in college. I’m a first-semester freshman and I came in with 36 credits; I’ll be done with my Gen Eds this year, and I got to jump ahead to junior-level Spanish classes. Spanish is one of my majors, and if it were all I studied, I could be done in two years. That’s great, because it lets me double-major with minimal stress, but it’s also terrifying, because it means studying abroad isn’t just a blip on the horizon. It’s a distinct event that has to be planned now. On my Spanish track, I’ll be able to take a semester abroad by Spring 2017. And since I’m a debater and competitions are only in the US, I’ll be too busy going to Nationals in junior and senior year to take a semester off.
I’m a planner, so I’m already looking at all the possible options for my semester. It has to be in a Spanish-speaking country that’s relatively cheap, and it can’t be one where the locals are likely to know English. Spain is right out; it’s got the Euro and tons of Europeans know English, plus I never learned to conjugate “vosotros.” My best option seemed to be an exchange program in Peru, until I ran into the OU in Puebla booth at the study abroad fair.
I’ve knocked OU’s foreign centers in the past; they’re an easy way to stick with OU students on OU property, learning from OU teachers in English, and not really connect with locals. I’ve talked with plenty of Arezzo alumni who don’t know a lick of Italian. But what drew me to Puebla is the homestay option. Most study abroad programs either leave housing arrangements up to the students or stick them in a dorm specific to foreigners, so that you live with and socialize with largely English speakers. But living with a local family gives you constant exposure to the language and culture. It’s a great way to pick up colloquialisms and truly connect with the country.
On Trump and Refugees
By now, there’s almost no point to writing about Trump’s stance on immigration. Everybody knows he hates Mexicans and thinks Syrian refugees are going to import ISIL to the US. But there’s another component, which is the history of American immigration. Trump’s claim of restoring America to its “Great” roots is part and parcel with his stance on foreigners.
Up until the 1950s, immigration to the US was seemingly written by the Trumps of its day. You could only get in if you were a WASP, a Black person shipped in as a slave, or within the racial and ethnic quotas for just about everyone else. Asians basically couldn’t immigrate for centuries; United States v. Bhaghat Singh Thind, in which an Indian sued the US for citizenship on the grounds that Indians were of the Aryan race, reached the Supreme Court. (He was ineligible.) Native Americans were neither recognized as sovereign nations nor American citizens. And during World War II, not only were Trump’s proposed Muslim internment camps made a reality for Japanese-Americans, but countless refugees were turned away because of their ethnicity.
Eastern Europeans and Jews, those most endangered by the war, were considered undesirables and few were allowed to immigrate. Desperate refugees did make their way to America without visas, but were largely turned away; the 908 Jews who tried to immigrate on the St Louis were treated as the illegal immigrants they technically were. They were returned to Europe and many died in the Holocaust, a fate that could have been avoided with a simple offer of asylum. Syrians and Iraqis are in the same boat today. They’re persecuted for their ethnicity at home and turned away because of it abroad. Shunning them can gain political points for a politician who conveniently ignores the needless deaths that result. And I, for one, think that to truly make America great, we have to break this chain of xenophobia.
Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Change
The concept of social entrepreneurship is something that I find fascinating and that I will be continuing to research (maybe even attempt? spoiler alert) throughout my college experience. It is one of those niche things that I didn’t know much of anything about before school and now it is one of the main things I think about. College is crazy and wonderful about introducing people to things like that.
During some of the many hours I spent contemplating the net effects of global social entrepreneurship, I had the chance to hear speaker Ani Vallabhaneni speak on the venture he co-founded, Sanergy, which provides solutions to the sanitation crisis in Kenya through the sale of flush toilets. Hang tight, this gets a little nerdy.
This luncheon contained a ton of valuable insight for me on the ways which social entrepreneurship can be more effective. For example, Mr. Vallabhaneni shared their experience with the donation of toilets, where they returned two months later to find many out of service and many more simply unused because the people had no ownership. At that moment, Sanergy shifted gears and instead began selling the toilets. This gave buyers ownership and connected them to the mission (improved public health) in order to convice them to buy.
Mr. Vallabhaneni also shared that it is good in some cases to have more breadth than depth in partnerships, but public health is not one of those cases. Because a significant portion of the population must make the switch to flush toilets before any disease reduction can be seen among the population, Sanergy has focused less on expanding outward and more on developing depth in Kenya.
This correlates with the concept of “embeddedness”– the level of connection a social business has with the community and population it is striving to aid. By creating ownership and developing many relationships, Sanergy is creating a highly embedded model which will in turn be more successfully scalable to other communities than a business which had a wide reach but no depth within communities.
I could talk for a lot longer about social entrepreneurship (especially after completing a 36.3 page paper on it this semester… eeek) but for the sake of my readers, I will just say ask me if you want to know more. We can grab coffee and talk about Westernization and globalization and capitalism until the sun rises, and it will be fun.