Meeting My OU Cousin

Now that I have gotten settled into living on the University of Oklahoma, I have been able to truly appreciate the diversity of opportunities that are available. As a Global Engagement Fellowship, I knew that I wanted to become involved in the international community on campus. One such opportunity was the OU Cousins program, which pairs American and international students. It is a wonderful way to experience another culture, and to welcome people into our own.

My cousin is studying at OU for a semester. She comes from a university in Hokkaido, Japan. It is in the largest region of Japan, and is surrounded by a vast mountain range. Aside from the obvious geographic differences between her home and Oklahoma, our conversations have opened my eyes to the enormous differences between our cultures.

Over lunch, I asked my cousin what some of the biggest differences were between here and Japan. She first mentioned the way strangers interaction in public settings. In her words, we Americans are “friendly.” For example, when she purchased her lunch, the cashier had chatted with her while they waited for the computer to complete the transaction. In Japan, the people serving your meal have a strict, script-like dialogue accompanied with many bows and smiles. I got the impression that she viewed the people in Oklahoma as being more friendly and open to conversation.

The list of differences went on and on. Our methods of transportation are different, the way our classes are taught, the way our cities and buildings look, and more. When I asked what was the most similar between our countries, she couldn’t give me an answer!

Our conversations have left me with a deep respect for my cousin. It takes such courage to leave everything you know for a semester and immerse yourself in a culture so different from your own.



Week 2 Story: To Answer a Prayer

I wish… like my ivory girl.

Venus closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. This day was always difficult, when every believer called on her for the blessing of love, but this plea was the one that caught her attention. This prayer, so heartfelt, was unlike anything she felt from a human for centuries. Venus focused even more intently, listening for the voice that caught her attention. It had faded, almost to nothing, but was not gone. The human had not given up hope yet.

“If you can grant all things, you gods, I wish as a bride to have one like my ivory girl.”

It was a man in Cyprus, making his offering to Venus at his festival. But Venus could hear hesitation in his words, and she looked into his thoughts to hear what he was not brave enough to say. She saw this man, Pygmalion, carving stone into the likeness of a woman in his memory. She wasn’t perfect but Pygmalion looked at her as if she were. Venus could see in his memory how his love for his creation grew day by day. Venus saw Pygmalion’s true prayer in his thoughts and in his heart.

I wish as a bride to have my ivory girl.

Impressed by his devotion, Venus granted his wish. She watched as the fire expressed her intent and Pygmalion ran to his statue. His love gave the statue life, as Venus intended, and as long as Pygmalion continued to love her, she would stay alive.

Venus watched as the two began their lives together, pleased with their happiness. She couldn’t see the future, humans rarely did what was expected anyway, but she imagined they would be happy together for many years. While their story would probably not be remembered – and who would believe it, even with the gods?- Venus would remember the man who’s love was strong enough to bring his ivory girl to life.

Author’s Note: This story is based on Pygmalion by the Roman poet Ovid. In this story a sculptor, Pygmalion, carves the likeness of a woman. He falls in love with his sculpture and asks Venus, the goddess of love, for the girl as his wife. Venus answers his prayer and the sculpture comes to life. In this story I changed the point of view from that of Pygmalion to Venus.

Bibliography: “Pygmalion,” Roman myth by Ovid. Web Source.

Image: Photo of Lely’s Venus. Source: Wikimedia

About Me

My name is Anna Hong and I attend the University of Oklahoma as part of the Class of 2021. I was born in Los Angeles, California, but for the past decade, I have resided in Colorado Springs, CO. Why did I choose OU? My stepfather and a multitude of his family members are alumnae of the university and encouraged me to go to the University of Oklahoma. Leaving my family and friends in Colorado, I moved to Norman, Oklahoma for a fresh start. Below is a list of things about me and an explanation of where I want to travel and why.

Ethnicity: Chinese

Favorite Food: Noodles/Pasta



Reading Autobiography

Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me right before I was tucked into bed each night. I was blessed to have been the first-born child of a teacher who believed that a love for reading was the gateway to a love for learning, so I was read to on a regular basis until I was old enough to begin reading on my own. My favorite book when I was younger was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, so I begged my parents to read it to me almost every night. Other favorites included The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

Once my siblings were born, my parents had less time to read aloud to me, so I began to read simple books on my own. My elementary school teachers read aloud to me for the first few years of school; my third grade teacher, Mrs. Davis, sticks out especially in my memories for her “famous” reading style. She would read in a way that made the characters and the scene come alive and allow you to forget for a moment that you were sitting on an itchy carpet square in a windowless room. A few of my favorite books from Mrs. Davis’ class were The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the books from The Boxcar Children series. There weren’t many books I didn’t enjoy reading as a child because I would read any book I could get my hands on. The only one I can remember not enjoying was To Kill a Mockingbird, but only because the first time I tried to read it I was in the fourth grade and didn’t understand its significance or meaning.

Reading has always been extremely important to me, even forming some of my earliest memories. Ironically enough, my mom would take away the book I was reading for a day as a form of punishment because it elicited more of a change in my behavior than did spanking or grounding. I remember reading a book every other day in the sixth grade because I would sit and wait for two hours every day with my mom as my sister underwent extensive physical therapy, and reading was my only form of entertainment. Curling up with a good book is still my activity of choice when I have a free hour, and the love for reading instilled by my parents and teachers has not diminished with time.

Reading Notes: Anthology

I finished my first weeks reading! Let me tell you, some of those stories were interesting. But I think a few of them have potential to be the source for my first storytelling assignment later this week. I think I have three different options for my story, based on the readings.

The first one I could base it on is the Metamorphosis story about Pygmalion. I like the idea of this story, and I’ve actually read it before, but it bothers me that so little is revealed of what the characters are thinking. I also think the story would be improved with more details after the statue comes to life. It’s kind of creepy when it just ends with Pygmalion kissing her right as she becomes human. So I think it would be interesting to give it a go at improving the story.

I also really liked the character dynamic in the Trickster story about the Jackal. This character reminds me of the chaotic good theory, where someone strives to help people and is willing to disregard the law if necessary. I think that would be a cool trait in a main character, and a nice challenge to depict in a realistic way.

Finally, the Beauty and the Beast story caught my eye. It’s always been one of my favorite fairy tales and I’ve read countless different versions. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. I’m not sure how I felt about it, but I think it definitely needs more detail. It didn’t really make much sense as is, but it would be cool to add my own ideas into it.

All of these would be cool to work on, so we will see where inspiration strikes when I get to work later this week.

Image: Generic stock photo of book. Source: Pixabay

Reading Options

Let’s talk about what I’m going to be doing this semester. I really like that I get to choose what to read each week because I know that I’ll enjoy whatever I pick, so I’m really excited to get started! I was looking through our “Untextbook” and some of the sections really caught my eye.

  • Cupid and Psyche looked really interesting. I’ve always been curious about Greek mythology and I’ve read a story about this couple in the past. I think it would be cool to get more details and context about them.
  • This section about Women Saints looks especially interesting, because I’m always open to reading about awesome women who were ahead of their time, especially when they also rely on a strong faith to help them through.
  • The Arabian Nights is something that I’ve always wanted to ready but I’ve never really found a good translation of it. I’m really excited to get started on this one in particular because I’ve read a fractured story about Scheherazade and she seemed like an awesome woman!

These are obviously just a few that caught my attention, and I’m excited to read a lot more than just these stories. But this seems like a great way to start!

Image: Stock photo of book. Source: Pexels

Let’s Talk About Homesickness

There’s a disease that follows adventures. It isn’t one we like to talk about directly either. Somehow, by admitting it, perhaps we are making ourselves look like bad global citizens or travelers. Because it is swept under the rug and forces each person to deal with it in silence instead of solidarity, we do not realize how often it occurs no matter if it is your first or your fiftieth trip.

I’m talking about homesickness. It’s a complicated issue that takes many, many forms and can look different for each person each time. Sometimes it shows up as feeling alone-even in a city of four million or more people and with good friends always down for a chat or an adventure. It can be anger at just about everything from the fact your roommate left you to take the trash out..again or at the city in general because why must everyone drive so absurdly? It can be tears, yelling, stomach aches, locking yourself in your room to watch Netflix, or spending more time facetiming home than experiencing the things around you.

As complex as it is- the things that solve it can be even more varied. For some it is a call home- a quick chat with your baby sister who wants to walk you around the house. Other solutions may be ice cream, a familiar homemade meal, getting out and about to remember why you chose to come to the city, a hardy laugh with your friends, or a journaling session. Some may need a day to reset by themselves; others may want to talk it out with friends.

For me, as I begin my third week in Puebla, it has taken most of the forms I have mentioned. It comes in waves. Sometimes it happens so strongly I feel it will consume me, other times it is a quick bite of pain. The most random things seem to bring it on: little girls in princess costumes that remind me of my sister, teenagers in a hoodie my brother owns, seeing the company my father works for pasted on the side of something in the supermarket, the hardest times are when nothing at all happens and it begins to sink in that I miss home.

I love it here. I do. But just as much as I love it, I miss home. That is okay. That is natural. I take it on, I allow myself to feel it and deal with it in whatever way I need to, and then I get back soaking in every minute of this experience that I will get to take back to my home. I will go home different that I came. Some day, not too long after I leave I assume, I will begin to feel a homesickness for this place too. It will be a temporary home, but I know it will be a home that deeply impacts my life.

There is no specific time you must be traveling to experience it. There is no way that it must manifest to be true homesickness. There is no one thing you must do to make yourself feel better. You are not weak for feeling it. It does not make you any less of an adventurer, because no matter how strong the wanderlust is, eventually you will feel the ache for familiarity. Embrace it, work through it, and venture on.

GEF: Humans of Spain (My Second Mother)

Amatxu is like a second mother to me. When I first visited Spain for four months, Amatxu acted as my tour guide, my hostess, my friend, my pep squad and, ultimately, a new-found family member. I last saw her face-to-face in July of 2017 and – knowing that she is always craving to visit somewhere new – I asked her,
“Where would like to travel to next?”
I imagine that (if you read the first couple of lines) you can already guess what her answer was. The thing is, as a loving, encouraging, caring woman, Amatxu hasn’t received the amount of luck I believe that she deserves.
Amatxu was born in Bilbao, Spain. She grew up in that region during the last few decades that Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, was in power. The area, “Basque Country” and its language, Euskera, were targeted by Franco’s regime. The teaching and speaking of Euskera was banned across the region, and the locals who were encouraged to report their neighbors to the police if they were heard speaking it.
One particular story, recounted here through BBC News, tells of a grandmother who was reported to the police in this region. Before releasing her, her captors shaved all of her hair from her head. The cruel situation led her to stop speaking Euskera for the remainder of her life, leaving her family members deprived of the ability to learn and to pass on the language.
Back to Amatxu’s story: Amatxu grew up in an extremely conservative family. By the time she was a young adult, Amatxu wanted to acquire her driver’s license. As required by the regime, all women needed their father’s permission to travel and to obtain a license, among other things. Amatxu’s father, a traditional man, asserted that none of his daughters would be driving – period. This was just one of the many instances that Amatxu was denied her right to see the world.
Later on in life, Amatxu got married and had children. By the 1980s, Franco’s death caused his weakened regime to crumble. Amatxu had been able to acquire her driver’s license, and had moved to Alcalá de Henares, a suburb of Madrid, around this time. She has lived in Alcalá for more than 30 years, and has almost as much pride for the medieval city as she does her hometown. In that town, which is rampant with UNESCO World Heritage sites, she has raised her two children as a single mother for the majority their lives.
However, bad fortune has caused Amatxu the need to “girar la tortilla” many times. Three separate motor accidents have left her with pain and chronic health issues that have kept her from working a full-time job for more than 20 years. Additionally, ever since the recession in 2008, the Spain has been in economic turmoil. With a current unemployment rate of 24%, well-paying jobs are near non-existent. Amatxu’s son in particular fell on hard times, not being able to find consistent work until March of this year. He has two children, a five-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy; Amatxu has been using her He was unemployed for a total of two years.

8/27/17: Bachata and Barbecue–Not Your Average Dinner Party

Tonight marked the first all-college dinner party hosted in the Dunham Residential Dining Hall and boy, was it something. Despite being the most recent addition to the list of student residences, the Residential Colleges already boast the highest proportion of international students of any of the lodgings on campus. I live on the fourth floor with my roommate Emilio who is also an international student. Suffice it to say that Emilio’s resume abroad would make even the most seasoned traveler jealous: born in León, Mexico, he spent eight years studying at a boarding school in Germany (UWC, an institution that many other international Sooners claim as their alma mater) and has spent time in Italy, France, Belgium and–so it seems–practically everywhere else.


Emilio on the right. A rare photograph of our dorm before it looked like a tornado blew through.

The majority of Floor 4 is also comprised of international students, so the dinner’s constituents were nothing if not a melting pot. I met students from around the world–Kazunori from Japan, Anna from Norway, Chenxin from China–all of whom shared stories and experiences from home and gave me entirely new points of view over a family-style plate of barbecue chicken. Afterwards, Emilio even showed me some of the basic steps of Bachata, a traditional style of dance in Hispanic culture and, while I’m not a pro by any means, I am considering going out for the Latin Dance Club next week.

I’m sitting in a dorm room nearly six hours from my home in Kansas City and, for the first few weeks here, that thought had been weighing pretty heavily on my mind. I felt alienated, a state away from my family and two from my best friend. It’s hard to throw that same pity party for yourself when you’re sitting at a table full of students who are separated from their loved ones by an ocean or a continent. Suddenly, your six-hour drive home over break becomes enviable to the girl who’s staying in Norman over Christmas because the plane ticket home is too expensive. I don’t mean to end this post on a somber note because it shouldn’t. Meeting these international students has been a boon for this homesick freshman. Sure, getting Baked Bear with a guy from Sudan won’t change the distance to KCMO, but it helps everything seem smaller and makes home feel just a little closer to Norman.

A picture of the fam. Mostly for homesickness reasons.
My cat, Charlie. Entirely for homesickness reasons.

Time Strategies

Since Mythology and Folklore is an entirely online class, I’m going to need to work on my time management and self discipline to make sure I complete all of my assignments on time. I like to think that I already have good time management skills, but I know that I can always improve on them. Right now I mainly depend on my planner to keep my on track. It has space for planning out my day by the half hour, making a to-do list, and a notes section. It also has some other features, but the to-do list is my favorite and the one I use most often.

I think that to-do lists are the most effective way for me to complete tasks in an organized and efficient manner. This article by Lauren Marchese explains that the most likely reason I feel that way is because the chemical Dopamine is released in my brain every time I check something off my list, which is kind of conditioning my brain to associate being happy with completing tasks. Kinda cool, right?

One caveat with my fancy planner is that I have a bad tendency to only write down the “absolute necessities” that I need to study: homework assignments due that night or reading that I need to get done right now. Or I’ll go all out and write down every single thing that I need to get done, ever, and be completely overwhelmed. This article by Amanda Collins talks about how students can create a realistic study plan and tips that might make it easier to stick to. The biggest thing for me will probably be practicing consistency. I’m pretty organized when I have looming deadlines, but if I can stick to a study schedule those deadlines might not seem so intimidating any more. I’m excited to give it a shot!

Image: Stock Photo. Source: Pexels