Much like past semesters, this Fall I was a part of Egyptian Club. It was different than other semesters, however. In the past, Egyptian club had had many members, but for some reason this semester few people attended the meetings regularly. Although this was unfortunate, it gave us a unique opportunity to engage with the material more closely. Whereas past semesters the meetings were mostly lectures, this time we had the chance to ask more questions and veer away from the topic towards another one. We could follow the cultural implications and historical origins of what we were learning about instead of having to limit the meeting to one topic for the sake of time. For this reason I actually enjoyed this semester’s Egyptian club more and while I hope we have more members next time, I’m glad I had this opportunity to ask in-depth questions this fall!
Month: November 2019
My favorite places so far…
I have tried to travel as much as I can while also trying to be as active and present in Paris as possible.
I have travelled around western, central and eastern Europe and have enjoyed all the different cultures, foods, and people that each country has had to offer to me.
As I wrote in my earlier post, I travelled to 5 cities in 5 different countries in 10 days at the end of October. It was truly so exhausting but so rewarding to just get to explore so much and have the opportunity to do so.
I sound like a brat when I say that I travelled “too much” and that I was so exhausted that I truly could not even enjoy Berlin because I had been traveling for so long. But, you think when you come for a semester that you have all the time in the world to travel as much as possible, but that proves to be very false. My time here has flown.
Anyways, now I want to speak about my favorite places I have travelled. My top two favorite places that I really cannot say that I have a favorite are Budapest, Hungary and Edinburgh, Scotland.
The reason why I cannot say that I have a top favorite is because these two places were so extremely different and both an absolute blast and amazing. Budapest’s culture is so different from anything I had ever seen before and is a place filled with so much history, amazing food, and amazing people and sights to see.
While on the other hand, Edinburgh is just magical. It was raining the entire time while we were there, which I would normally be mad about anywhere else, but in Edinburgh, it is truly part of the experience.
I loved the buildings here, the accents, the food and overall just the feeling that this beautiful city makes you feel. I also have always loved Scottish accents so when I heard people speaking I freaked out. Also, because I have travelled so much and have heard a ton of different languages, being able to hear English, even though sometimes I absolutely could not understand what they were saying, was so nice and so comforting.
I recommend both places because they oftentimes get missed over when people are planning trips to Europe because everyone focuses on London and Paris and Rome, but these places hold just as much history and culture.
It is now almost the end of November and truly time is flying by. I cannot believe that in less than a month, I will be back home in the United States.
I honestly have mixed feelings over the idea of going home. Although I absolutely love it over here and truly love the culture and liveliness… I miss so much back home that now my mind somewhat focuses more on that.
In the past 3 weeks, I have stayed in Paris and have not traveled. At the end of October, I travelled to 5 cities in 5 different countries in 10 days. It was such a cool experience but man it was so exhausting. My friends and I decided that for most of November, we would stay in Paris so that we could explore the city that the entire time we intended to learn the most about.
But, being stuck in one place for awhile sometimes gets a little, I wouldn’t say boring, but steady. As well, being here, I do not have much school and sometimes truly run out of things to do. I also just feel like I do not have much of a purpose.
I miss queso, I miss my friends, I miss always having the confidence to walk into a restaurant or store and know that I will be able to speak to the person working there. Overall, I just miss home.
Especially with the fact that Thanksgiving is this Thursday, I am really missing home and my family. I see on people’s Snapchat and Instagram pictures of them with their families and with their animals and just being back in their hometown and I am soooo jealous.
I am sure that once Thanksgiving passes I will be back on track, focusing on living the most out of the remaining days I have here in Paris, but I am definitely starting to get more and more ready to come home.
Words Have Meaning… Kinda
This past semester has been my first without a foreign language class. My interest and desire led me to pursue a minor in German, but my steady focus means I finished all those requirements last year. While I appreciate the opportunity to focus on math and prepare for my future after graduation, I miss the constant challenge, the neverending pile of vocabulary and grammatical structure to master, and the feeling of success that accompanies each milestone.
Language contains nuances that you simply do not see until you’re looking in from the outside. It shifts and changes according to the needs of the people who speak it. As a result, it contains clues about the population’s values and offers an intimate cultural perspective that is difficult to achieve any other way. As obvious as it may sound, I did not realize until I immersed myself in German that English has these same properties. New words are introduced at a breathtaking rate, spread and accepted by the general population through the Internet. Misunderstood words and phrases are used incorrectly by a large enough percentage that the new understanding becomes an acceptable informal term.
In the midst of studying for a language test or grappling with a difficult written analysis in your target language, it can feel as though one will never achieve fluency. Although this is a personal goal of mine, I still have a long, long way to go. One of the difficulties is that fluency, as I define it, is a moving target. I could speak and understand formal German perfectly, but I would feel lost the first time I stepped into Germany, or even listened to a German pop song. Contractions, informal phrasing, and slang are just a few of the difficulties and they change almost constantly.
One of the current issues with German is that words are gendered, making it difficult to refer to a group of mixed genders. Although one could use the plural form for both genders, similar to saying “ladies and gentlemen” in English, the length and inconvenience has lead many to drop the feminine and just using the masculine plural. The issue, of course, is that women’s presence and experiences are already being overlooked, with negative consequences, and this language doesn’t help. Many are advocating for a standardized neutral form, but it is difficult to push linguistic change.
While I may take one more German class at OU, any future language learning I choose to undertake will most likely be self-guided. While there are a plethora of resources available through libraries and the Internet, I will need to exercise care to ensure that they are accurate. Without a fluent instructor at my disposal, I plan to rely on examples of native speakers, particularly through entertainment, in order to guide my understanding of informal structures as I progress.
Experience: What Can You Do with It?
So you’ve studied abroad. You have navigated foreign streets and public transportation systems, figured out how to create meals from the strange selection available at the local grocer, adapted to surprising academic expectations and unfamiliar classrooms environments. You battled through homesickness, saw a million new places, and made memories you will never, ever forget. Now what?
Towards the beginning of the semester, the study abroad department teamed up with Career Services to host an information session for students returning from an education abroad experience. Studying in a foreign country can be amazingly enjoyable, but you’re also bound to pick up some practical skills along the way. A representative from Career Services discussed the numerous ways to sell this experience as an asset to future employers.
One of the most important things I learned from this presentation is always to list your time abroad on your resume. Even if the work being pursued is strictly domestic, employers will see that you have experience being self-sufficient in uncomfortable situations and navigating unusual circumstances. If the experience gave you the opportunity to strengthen your foreign language skills, this should also be included. You may not use your secondary language every day in the workplace, but listing it on your resume lets employers know that you are sensitive to the subtle differences that occur in communication, even between different English-speaking areas. Furthermore, if your employer knows that you possess these language skills, they will turn to you first if they ever need someone to work with or in an area that speaks that language.
While one’s resume is a great place to introduce study abroad, the best place to describe the particular benefits to prospective employers is during an interview. Everyone has a different experience and only you are able to tie the struggles you overcame to the challenges you will be prepared for in the workforce. Consider your potential workday and generalize the obstacles you will face. In all likelihood, you’ve handled a similar situation before.
El Fin de Semana en La Ciudad de Mexico (11/23/19)
This weekend was an interesting time because I went back to Mexico City for the Coca Cola Flow Fest. It was a festival with many Latinx singers who come from many different countries. I enjoyed this experience because I rarely listen to Spanish music, but being at this concert made me want to listen more to help me improve my listening skills. I love the vibes of Latinx music because it’s very energetic and fun to dance to. It was incredible to see many people gathered together to enjoy good music. The power of music is immense because music is a language. This was my first time going to a festival, and I’m so glad I went, especially in Mexico! The next day we explored more of Mexico City by visiting the Zocalo, church, and Templo Mayor. Templo Mayor was very interesting because a lot of the things I’ve learned in my anthropology class and Mexico Magico class were seen in the museum. I was so excited to utilize what I’ve learned in class and add more to my understanding.
This Friday, OUIV’s International Student Ministry hosted a “Friendsgiving” event. The goal was to share Thanksgiving traditions with our international student friends.
I always enjoy these events, especially the opportunity to meet new friends. There were international students staying for only a few more months, students who moved to the US for their degree, students who had previously studied abroad, and everything in between. It’s always fun to see what shows up for dinner, too! This year, in addition to the staples – turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc. – we also had a huge pot of macaroni and cheese and delicious stir-fry.
Sharing traditional American food with international students amuses me. It’s funny to look at the things we take for granted as “normal” with new eyes. Truly, cranberry sauce paired with mashed potatoes and turkey is strange. Not to mention pies made out of things other than fruit and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top! I can say with certainty that they’re extra fun when shared with ISM friends – what a great crowd!
Life update: next semester, I plan to study abroad in Clermont-Ferrand, France! As this semester draws to an end, it’s starting to feel more and more real that I will be in France in less than two months. In this post, I would like to write an introduction to the city of Clermont-Ferrand, both for anyone reading and for myself.
First, the location! Clermont-Ferrand is located in the center of France, about four hours south of Paris by train, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
The city has a population of about 150,000 people, making it comparable in size to Norman. It sits at an elevation of about 1,500 feet on a plain in the Massif Central. Although the city itself is on a plain, it is surrounded by a chain of volcanoes known as the Chaine des Puys. The most prominent of these volcanoes is Puy de Dome, which overlooks the city.
The most famous sights in Clermont-Ferrand include two cathedrals, Notre Dame du Port and Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, and several parks and gardens. Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption is particularly famous because it was built completely out of black lava stone, giving it a distinctive appearance.
The tire company Michelin is headquartered in Clermont-Ferrand, and for most of the 1900s played a central role in the city’s economy and industry. More recently Michelin’s presence has decreased due to outsourcing of labor. The city’s economy currently is fueled by food processing and production, engineering, and technological and pharmaceutical research facilities.
There is so much more to learn and discover about Clermont-Ferrand than the basic facts that I have outlined, so I can’t wait to explore the city in person this next semester and to share what I learn on this blog!
Note on sources: The information in this post, including the photo of the cathedral, comes from the Wikipedia article on Clermont Ferrand ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clermont-Ferrand ).
This past October, Dr. Afshin Marashi, a professor in the International Studies Department and Farzaneh Family Chair in Modern Iranian Studies, presented a lecture entitled “Exile and the Nation: The Parsi Community of India and the Making of Modern Iran.” The current book he is working on goes by the same title, and in this lecture he presented several of the major themes.
The book centers around a diaspora Iranian community in India known as the Parsi community. The Parsis practice a religion called Zoroastrianism, a pre-Islamic Iranian religion. During the rise of Islam in Iran, non-Muslims were often persecuted for their alternative religious beliefs, including the Parsis. Many of them left and immigrated to India, where the community continues to thrive to this day.
It was fascinating to hear that the Parsis have been very well off in their new home; many times we hear stories of diaspora populations that have an extremely difficult time adjusting to their new environment and becoming integrated within the local social and economic spheres. But the Parsis were pioneers in global textile commodity, and many of their communities are quite wealthy.
It wasn’t until many years later that contact between Iran and the diaspora Parsi community began. The Parsis were very charitable toward their homeland and donated large sums of money to Zoroastrian schools in Iran. There was also contact between the Parsis and Iranian intellectuals that helped to spark a neoclassical movement in Iran. This movement focused on reviving Iranian heritage and culture.
Sounds of Crossing
Toward the beginning of the semester I attended an incredible lecture entitled “Verses and Flows: Migrant Lives and the Sounds of Crossing,” by guest speaker Alex Chavez. He is a writer and musician whose work focuses on the aural dimension of space and how this relates to borders and the lives of immigrants.
His lecture was structured in a very unique way; he incorporated videos of the musicians he spoke about and read examples of the verse poetry that they use to convey their experiences and cross space with their voices. The impact of this was very powerful, because rather than simply speak about the passion of this music, he presented it to us in its true form to experience firsthand. Dr. Chavez read the lyrics in Spanish with slides of the English translation in the background, which also allowed us to hear the rhythms and rhyme schemes in their most authentic form.
The idea of sound being important within communities resonated with me, as I believe that making music has the power to help us transcend hardships and see the world in a positive light. For many of the migrants, music is the medium through which they are able to talk about their struggles and share them in solidarity with their community.
My favorite quote of the night:
“Distance is poetic when intimacy is interrupted”