Growth Opportunities

As has been noted throughout the year, it’s been really hard to get out and get involved in what’s happening in the world. Add to this my tendency to not avail myself to many of the educational opportunities offered by various international organizations, and it would have been easy to miss out on a lot of knowledge. However, I can safely say that I learned more about German culture and history this semester than any other, in large part through the efforts of the OU German Club.

            This was the first semester in which I took two German courses – German Literature and Film (focusing on the 20th century) and Business German. These two courses helped keep me apprised of upcoming German Club events while also providing educational about various facets of German culture. In Business German we were provided the opportunity to read Max Weber in the original German as well as analysis done by Konrad Adenauer on the “salaried masses.” It was fascinating German philosophical (and economic) thought that has gone on to transform the world. Further, German Literature and Film exposed me to some of the primary German artistic movements of the 20th century and provided me with a lot of context surrounding Germany’s process of overcoming their Nazi past.

Besides the classroom instruction, the German Club events provided numerous opportunities to examine various other facets of German culture. The first event I attended was a forum on internships in Germany. As I interned with the State Department earlier this year, I was invited to share my experiences, as did another student who had participated in a remote internship over the summer. The short story is this: if you can intern in Germany, you probably should.

            The German Club brought in an outside speaker for the second event I attended this semester – a discussion on the history and current state of gaming in Germany. This lecture was fascinating, for several reasons. First, the discussion included lots of interesting information about some of my favorite modern board games. For example, I hadn’t known that my favorite board game of all time, Settlers of Catan, was created in Germany. Second, the speaker discussed the evolution of board games from simple entertainment commodities to a form of artistic expression in their own right and the accompanying push by game developers for recognition. I had never thought about the process and difficulties of bringing new games to market, and I didn’t realize that for most of gaming history, game developers did not receive much popular credit for their work. Finally, the discussion ended by noting one of the largest trends in computer games in Germany: agricultural simulations. In these games, players (frequently living in urban areas) simply drive farm equipment (harvesters, tractors, etc.). This trend is notably ironic given Germany’s long history of war games.  

            Although my course-load prohibited me from attending all the events I found interesting, two other events deserve honorable mentions. One event was a lecture covering one of the continuing challenges of German reunification – legal uncertainties regarding the proper ownership of houses in former East Germany. Another was a bake-along event for the traditional Viennese cookie, Vanillekipferl. (Although I didn’t attend this event, I did bake some Vanillekipferl, and they were fantastic. Would highly recommend.) In short, The OU German Club provided many high-quality opportunities for myself and other students to expand their knowledge of German culture and history, and I’m excited about continuing my involvement in events that they host.


A Technological Triumph

In spite of all the darkness in the world in 2020, one recent, inspiring example of international is the cooperation between BioNTech (a German biomedical firm) and Pfizer (a United States biotech company) have jointly created the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for emergency use by the FDA. Obviously, these are not the only firms who have acted to create a COVID-19 vaccine – Moderna (another US firm) has also created a vaccine now being deployed, and other multi-national firms (e.g. Astrazeneca, partnering with Oxford University) are also in the process of creating a vaccine.

            The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is particularly noteworthy because it highlights what can be accomplished through international cooperation. As noted, while this partnership is not unique, it first demonstrates that international cooperation can produce remarkable results. More impressive than being the first vaccine to receive approval by the FDA is the creation of any effective vaccine within 9 months of starting. I’ll confess that nine months ago whenever a COVID-19 vaccine was first discussed, the prospect that one could begin deployment before 2021 seemed preposterous. And yet it was accomplished; and that deserves recognition.

While the creation of a vaccine is a testament to the incredible results possible from international cooperation, effective dispersal of the vaccine is also going to require tightly coordinated efforts from governments around the world. COVID-19, although it has impacted some nations more than others, is not the problem of a single nation; it’s a truly international challenge. Indeed, as international travel picks up, if COVID-19 remains a substantive problem for any nation, it will also remain a problem for all nations; as was evidenced earlier this year, COVID-19 won’t just remain in one place. Clearly then, dispersal of the vaccine will require coordinated international efforts to ensure that all nations have access to the resources required to surmount the challenge provoked by COVID-19. Certainly, COVID-19 has not always (or even mostly) brought out the best in us. But I hope that as we look back at the dispersal of the vaccine (and hopefully at COVID-19 as well), we can see the tremendous potential of coordinated international efforts.


Life in the Matrix

            I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that COVID-19 has changed, and will continue to change, the world. These changes are too numerous to exhaustively cover in a single post, so I’ll simply note the one that stands out most in my mind. COVID-19 has, in ways not seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall, divided country from country. This division – seen primarily in travel bans – can be seen as a macrocosm of the pandemic-mitigation measures implemented across the world.

            Although I have lived in Oklahoma for the past four months where social distancing measures and mask mandates are, at best, loosely applied, I’ve still noticed that I’ve felt more isolated in previous years. Attending classes on Zoom and doing homework in my house (or more specifically, my bedroom) made it easier to separate from the outside world. My world just felt small, constrained, and isolated. It was so easy to forget that there’s a whole world outside of my bubble. This isolation – or at least separation – from the ‘rest of the world’ extended to my connection with other countries. Although international news was much more common than in “normal” times, the world outside of Oklahoma (and on a larger scale, the US) seemed much farther removed. Nations aren’t just a plane flight away. Rather than a “community of nations” – which has arguably never really existed – the world seems more starkly divided into its disparate parts. The world (certainly the accessible world) just seems smaller.

These isolating effects of COVID-19 aren’t just constrained to individuals – they’ve been seen in international relations in ways that seem unique in my lifetime. It was shocking earlier this year when Poland, the Czech Republic, and ultimately most European nations closed their borders to others in the EU (and naturally, the rest of the world). Indeed, only this week, France has closed access to UK citizens after a new, and more contagious, strain of COVID-19 emerged in Great Britain. These aren’t warring nations – these are allies. The closures aren’t due to strained international relations – it’s in the interests of public health.

Now, I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion of pandemic mitigation measures. I don’t know what the right answers are – I don’t think that widespread (or universal) shutdowns are the solution, but ignoring the problem seems riddled with errors of judgment as well. One idea seems critical, whether it’s considered on an individual, societal, or international level: going in alone is destined for failure. I lived the first half (or ten weeks) of my fall semester trying to succeed alone – in part driven by pandemic cautions. In mild terms, it blew up in my face. Across society – whether one looks at the United States or other nations around the world – COVID-19 has laid bare deep-seated divides. As already noted, nations have erected barriers against allied nations in hitherto (in my experience) unexperienced ways. I concede that barriers might have to be temporarily enforced between nations; however, it’s critical that we (as nations) not create an island, insulated and independent from all others. Fundamentally, that’s not representative of how the world works. While each citizen might possess limited power to influence policy, we can (at a minimum) remain informed of events from around the world, act when we can to alleviate the sufferings of others, and refuse to (mentally) sequester ourselves at a time when (physical) sequestration is required. We must not resign ourselves to the blue pill, to a matrix of our own creation.


Jahrestreffen 2020 des BWS

When it comes to being involved in international organizations in the COVID era, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, there are less events and Zoom meetings get tiresome. But it also allows for participation in events that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend. 

When I studied abroad, I was graciously awarded a stipend from the Baden-Württemberg Stipendium. As a part of that organization, I am able to still be plugged-in to the study abroad community as an alumni. On December 18th, the organization had their first ever annual get-together via zoom. For an hour, I felt like I had been transported straight back into the thick of Germany and German academic culture. 

The get-together consisted of a choice of five lectures and discussions on international topics, which I found to be very nostalgic of my interaction with student organizations in Germany. I attended a seminar titled “The AfD and the challenge of right-wing populism in Germany and elsewhere,” led by a professor from the University of Mannheim.

I had a lot of thoughts about the topic covered, which I don’t think I could do justice in a blog post. It felt a little on-the-nose for our current political climate. While one can’t directly compare right-wing populism in Germany to right-wing stances in the United States, it was interesting to hear a different country’s take on a similar situation. It was also fascinating to me that the conversation inevitably turned to US politics. I was reminded that our election was watched closely on the “world stage.” My peers had a lot of thoughts about the recent election.

I don’t know that I would ever attend a seminar on politics in the US at the current time, because the discussion has been exhausted over the past months and is so emotionally charged. One of the main takeaways from this seminar was that we need to hear the other side’s argument in order to address our differences before conflict occurs, both in Germany and in the US. It was a refreshing outside perspective and a fun way to engage with my peers across the world.

International Travel

One thing that I have been extremely interested in this semester is international travel and how that has been affected by the pandemic. This has affected so many people and I have been interested in what other countries are doing to protect themselves and work to open themselves back up for travel. One thing that really interested me is that there are some countries, such as Taiwan that are accepting study abroad students and are open for travel again. I think this is because they are in general a much cleaner country. I know someone who traveled there a few years ago and they said wearing masks when you are ill is the normal thing there, so they were much more prepared for the hit that COVID took. I am interested to see how countries continue to open back up for travel as the vaccine begins to be used and hopefully COVID cases begin to decrease.



Another Instagram live event I got to go to was also through the oupueblo account and it was on dancing. I got to watch people showcase Hispanic dancing and how that is such a big part of their culture. Dance is something that has always fascinated me because it is something that I do not participate in or know much about but is so vital to countries culture. I really enjoyed getting to experience this part of their culture.


Understanding the Global Community

This semester I was able to take the course Understanding the Global Community where I was able to broaden my views of the world and look at different perspectives and understandings of the world. This class helped me to look at events happening around the world from multiple perspectives and helped me to learn to analyze those perspectives. I really appreciated getting to look at issues from a global view and not just an Americanized view because that is hard to do. I also really appreciated getting to learn about COVID around the world and dive in a little to how other countries have been handling it and what has worked well and what hasn’t. This class helped me a lot with critically thinking about events around the world.


Tour of Pueblo

This semester, getting involved in international events looked much different. One opportunity that I had was to get a tour of Pueblo, Mexico via Instagram live. I got to see many of the sites and experiences that students who study abroad there get to have. I got to see the city and learn a lot about the culture. It was really cool to get to be involved in this and get to see somewhere from my phone. They also talked a lot about the OU school their and the opportunities that they typically have to study abroad there. They showed a lot of spots that students who study abroad typically frequent. The experience was really cool and I was glad that I got to do it.


Tips For Staying in a Youth Hostel

Keeping up with this blog gives me so much nostalgia for my time abroad.

While in Germany, I and a friend visited Vienna on a school holiday. We booked a youth hostel inside the city within walking distance of the bus station and the city center. One night, we shared a room with another girl who was also studying abroad (from where, I cannot recall). We were early into our time in Germany and this was the first big trip we had taken. After hearing this, the girl gave us a list of tips for finding/staying in youth hostels while traveling. I wrote some of them down that I found especially useful.

Staying in hostels while traveling was not only cheap, but provided some of my favorite travel memories. But it was much less fun when I wasn’t prepared. While going through old notes on my phone, I stumbled across the list again. It’s short and sweet, but may be a helpful resource.

  • My favorite place to book was Make sure the hostel has >1,000 reviews.
  • Read at least two reviews to make sure there aren’t any “red flags”.
  • Another benefit of reading reviews is that many hostels don’t provide soap, towels, and/or sheets. (If there’s any doubt as to what is provided, just bring your own – it beats paying an extra 15 Euros for a towel!)
  • Bring some sort of shower shoe!
  • Check to see if your hostel has luggage storage. This way, if arrive before your check-in time or are out-and-about, you don’t have to worry about your suitcase.
  • In the same vein, have a luggage lock so you can secure your zippers or lock a storage cabinet/locker.
  • (addendum: invest in some earplugs. One time some friends and I booked a hostel, not knowing it was located on top of a club – trust me, you won’t need them until you NEED them.)

Por que las precuelas y secuelas de Star Wars son realmente buenas

El título de este blog me causaría problemas con mis padres. Cada vez que aparece Star Wars, defienden con vehemencia su creencia de que la trilogía original es la única trilogía que vale la pena ver. Para ellos, las otras seis películas de la saga son películas terribles.

Estoy aquí hoy para presentar mi argumento de por qué eso es categóricamente falso.

No soy ni un experto en cine ni un crítico publicado, pero defenderé las precuelas hasta el día de mi muerte. Cuando comenzaban a salir los DVD, la única película de Star Wars que teníamos en DVD era el Episodio II, The Clone Wars. Esta película y el Episodio I son los más criticados de toda la saga de 9 películas. Pero el Episodio II fue mi infancia. Incluso hasta el día de hoy, creo que podría citarlo palabra por palabra. La historia es asombrosa, ver a Anakin y Padme enamorarse a pesar de que va en contra del Código Jedi. Pero el elemento más importante de esta película es el desarrollo del personaje de Anakin. La mayor parte del mundo sabe que Anakin eventualmente se convierte en Darth Vader, pero comprender quién es y cómo se convirtió en uno de los villanos más notorios de todos los tiempos es fundamental para apreciar realmente la saga.

También dentro de las precuelas está la historia de la Orden Jedi y la República. Sabemos en la trilogía original que los Jedi están extintos aparte de Obi Wan Kenobi y Yoda, pero no tenemos idea de qué sucedió para destruir una religión entera. Y como persona de historia, simplemente no puedo aceptar eso. Las precuelas son necesarias para comprender y apreciar completamente la lucha de los rebeldes en la trilogía original y la verdadera maldad del Imperio.

Más razonable para mí son las personas que odian las secuelas. A veces, cuando se hace una secuela de una película, todos desearían que no hubiera sido porque no estuvo a la altura de la película anterior. De alguna manera puedo estar de acuerdo con esto con respecto a la saga Star Wars. Sin embargo, la historia de Rey Skywalker y Ben Solo es demasiado buena para ser criticada como un intento desesperado por continuar la franquicia. Tienen personajes profundos y dan cierre a la saga. Comenzamos a comprender más la Fuerza en esta trilogía y tenemos una comprensión más profunda del universo de Star Wars. Sin embargo, debo estar de acuerdo con la crítica de que los escritores inventaron nuevas reglas con respecto a la Fuerza y ​​el poder de los Jedi que simplemente no encajan en la trilogía original. La Fuerza no tiene el poder de resucitar a la gente de entre los muertos, sin importar si la estás usando para bien o para mal. Los Sith no se han mantenido en un planeta secreto. Esas cosas son ridículas y merecen críticas. Sin embargo, si puedes mirar más allá de esas cosas y ver la increíble historia y el desarrollo del personaje, las películas están increíblemente bien hechas y filmadas.