On February 5, the OU Center for Peace and Development hosted a discussion called “Women, Human Rights and Insecurity in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones” where Dr. Izabela Steflija spoke on her book about women as war criminals. Women have received very little attention when looking at post-conflict zones and especially in peace talks.
What I found interesting was the fact that the topic has been almost entirely avoided. Drawing attention on women war’s crimes brings attention that many people do not want to see. Women can be complex political actors and when ignoring them, you are not recognizing the significance of women and basically the equality of women to men. Something I found interesting was the fact that Dr. Steflija noted that most women if they acted in violence were because of men. Everything appeared to be because of men and was caused by men, therefore once again making women the minority of the conversation. One example is that women who join ISIS are called jihadi brides. These women are immediately being associated with men and not being associated with ISIS because of their beliefs.
It seems ironic that these women join terrorist organizations for their own beliefs but use this idea of being a bride as defense in court. How can one stand for equality and the right to believe what they want but the minute that they are being punished, back out?
When I first watched this discussion, I thought that the topic would be focusing on how women exhibit their agency following post-war conflict, but it focused more on women who were part of these war crimes and how they instead defended themselves following the conflicts. It was interesting to me to see women at the head of leading genocide and racist movements and while it was not the kind of equality discussion I was expecting, it did show me that women are in fact able to lead such horrific movements.
On April 29, the IAS college hosted a Zoom event called “The Past, Present, and Future of US-China Relations.”
As somewhat expected, relations between the US and China are constantly up in the air and the COVID-19 pandemic has not done much to help the relations. Both being international superpowers, there are bound to be tensions and disagreements on how to deal with certain global issues.
Specifically, I will be talking about a very important topic of China-US relations: trade. Throughout both recent presidencies of Trump and Biden, there have been tariffs targeted against China as well as just significant trade battles. Throughout the past four years I would say, the trade war between the two countries has been extremely damaging for not only the nations involved but the rest of the world. Whether it be supporting Hong Kong protests, closing of the boarders for people who have been to mainland China, or even labeling abuse of Uyghurs people as genocide, relations with China are really at an all time low.
Listening to this event and overall doing a lot of research following, I am not sure what I can say about what is to happen. Obviously as we see COVID-19 regulations slowly lifting and traveling starting to return, could these two international superpowers come to agreements or are things too bad for reparations ever to be made?
For over a year now a lot of people have been isolated from activities that they would normally be involved in. This includes students who were involved in the global community here at OU. I originally had plans to travel to Yamaguchi, Japan before the lockdowns initially began. Since then it has been very hard to tell how things will develop. Initially Japan was dealing with the situation very well, but over time they have had a few slipups and their rollout of the vaccine has not gone very well so far. One of the most important things for me to do over this time period has been to stay engaged with news coming out of Japan and the rest of the world as a whole. This situation has taught everyone how connected the world really is as a situation in one country could affect the rest of the world.
The vaccine rollout here in the US had a lot of initial hurdles, but seems to be on a good trajectory now. Japan, in contrast still has a long way to go with their vaccination rollout. This is troubling as I am still planning on studying abroad there this coming Fall. Japan has had a history of problems with vaccinations, so I think that is part of the reason it is taking so long to get going. I think that once a couple of vaccines are approved there then they will be able to speed up the vaccination program a lot, but until more vaccines get approved I am very worried.
On April 14th I got the opportunity to go to the online version of the global engagement day. It was a good chance to see some familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in a while. I even recognized ne of the students presenting about their study abroad experiences from my Japanese class. His experiences were really interesting to me as I haven’t actually heard too much of the experiences of anyone who has went to Japan. I feel like he talked about some really practical stuff that will be helpful if I am able to travel abroad.
This semester, I had the opportunity to have OU in Arezzo as my client for my Public Relations Capstone: Campaigns. Having OUA as my client, I truly was able to rethink my study abroad as we were encouraged to find out how to have more OU students interested in studying abroad and specifically studying in Arezzo.
Study abroad is so significant to my college experience and it just breaks my heart that not everyone has the opportunity to study abroad. We realized in meetings with OUA professor Kirk Duclaux that a lot of underclassmen do not know about study abroad and really are not told about it. That being said, our mission was to find better ways, in a PR manner, to encourage more students to both look into study abroad and actually become interested in it.
We came up with different media posts to share on OUA’s media accounts as well as OU’s international Instagram accounts overall to gain more traffic. I was able to apply what I learned from study abroad and also my experiences from dealing with advising appointments and Visa things in order to come up with a successful campaign for OUA.
Something that we realized was that there was a disconnection between OUA trying to reach people in the US while people at OU were not doing the greatest job spreading the word of OUA. We were able to do loads of research and determine that OUA’s alumna were their greatest spokespeople back on OU’s campus and therefore should be used constantly.
This opportunity was so amazing for me because we were able to further encourage study abroad while also allowing me to relive my study abroad experiences and see how I could encourage others to look into it.
It’s hard to come up with just one international event to talk about right now in the world. We are surrounded by COVID-19 still and to top that off, everything in our world is just messed up. International conflicts face us left and right and I am by no means trying to make these conflicts seem less serious than they are but it is just heart wrenching to see that as the world continues to modernize and we continue to have uncomfortable conversations, tensions continue to rise.
I am by no means stating that these conversations are the reason for tension as tough conversations need to be had and issues need to be sorted but it seems like the world is getting hit left and right with new tensions amid the pandemic.
From a more personal note, something that I have observed is how different the United States deals with the COVID in comparison to the rest of the world. While COVID-19 is not necessarily an international event, it is a conflict that has completely changed our worlds for the past year and therefore it of course is going to be the topic of this blog post.
As said before in my blog posts, I studied abroad in Fall 2019 in Paris, France. I had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people and gain a group of friends from all over the world. My main group consisted of two friends from Canada, two from Germany, two from South Korea, one from Australia, one from The Netherlands and one from Poland, and ME, the only American! That being said, we all had completely different views on a lot of different topics and since being back in the states, we continuously talk about how COVID is being dealt with in each different place.
Obviously, my friend in Australia has a completely different experience than us as they are isolated from the rest of the world and have had the opportunity to feel just the slightest bit of reality. However, the minute another case pops up, they immediately shut down again.
In Canada, my friends are always in shock that people are going out and truly have been in a full-time quarantine for over a year. As well, things are rather similar in Europe.
Then I look at the United States and specifically in the South. Going to school in Oklahoma and being from Texas, COVID mandates have been more loose and overall things are not on full lockdown. Having these friends from all over the world have given me an opportunity to both compare the United States to the rest of the world but also just learn what life is like for my friends all over the world.
The title of this blog sounds rather morbid but that really is not the case! While I was part of the international French club, I really was not granted the opportunities to better my French here. It was not super active and overall this semester made me realize that French might just not be in my future… You would think that after studying abroad then I would for sure be fluent in French but that is so far from the case for me.
Looking back on my last four years at OU and my decision to undertake a French minor, I wouldn’t say that I have any regrets but honestly my mindset has changed. I wish that I did not choose French club as my international organization and I wish that I tried to reach out more in the IAS college and find something that was both more involved and also further grew my understanding of international cultures and my interest in just the idea of international growth.
I graduated yesterday so I am obviously feeling very nostalgic as I look back on the past four years and see what I think I did right and what I wish I worked more on and I can say wholeheartedly that I wish I found another international club.
As of Thursday, May 13, the CDC has officially adjusted their COVID-19 mitigation guidelines for the United States to say that those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance, indoors or outdoors, except in healthcare settings and where mandated by state or local policies, signaling to many that the worst may be over. However, while I do feel optimistic about things in the US improving further by the end of the year, I also don’t necessarily think that we should be acting like things are 100% back to normal, especially as hundreds of thousands are still becoming infected daily and dying in other countries.
For example, India is one of the hardest hit regions at the moment, with cases growing by over 300,000 from May 11-May 12, and deaths increasing by over 4,000. While population size and an overwhelmed healthcare system are factors, especially in more rural, poverty-stricken areas of the country, it is proof that just because things are improving closer to home does not mean that the pandemic is anywhere close to being “over”. Variants are circulating, and even though so far vaccines seem to be providing at least some immunity against them, they are not a complete cure.
In my opinion, if anything, the shared trauma faced by the world over the past year should be an indication that world leaders should work together to ensure that things such as vaccines and other healthcare aspects are widely available to ALL, not just “all in wealthier ‘western’ nations” to ensure a healthier, more collaborative world. However, unfortunately, this may not happen. Heck, even within the US, especially last year but it hasn’t completely stopped, governmental leaders were putting economic profits over lives, hence our situation being what it was. Otherwise, we could have been like Australia, who imposed much stricter lockdowns but are now even closer to pre-pandemic life conditions than the US is.
As for me, even though the guidelines are changing, I don’t see my habits changing much, at least for the immediate future. I might be more likely to actually go into a store instead of ordering everything online, and once concerts start coming back more I will be going to one eventually, because I do want to get back to my life, but it would be selfish to completely disregard our collective experiences of the past year in order to do so.
And, to conclude my posts about my study abroad experience, I will discuss said experience’s early conclusion thanks to the freaking COVID-19 pandemic that we are still dealing with today. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, but that does not make lost potential experiences sting any less.
As the spread of COVID-19 began to increase in countries such as China and Italy, I was definitely monitoring the situation through social media, but even as late as the beginning of March, I didn’t think that things were going to go the way they did, with everything shutting down and whatnot. Even that last weekend before things changed rapidly, which was around March 7, my flatmates and I had gone into London and visited multiple crowded places such as the Camden Market, and everything still seemed normal considering how much things were about to change.
I would consider March 11 to be the day that marked the beginning of the end, so to speak. It was the day that the WHO officially classified the virus as a pandemic, and it was also the day the NBA saw its first initial shutdown after the OKC Thunder/Utah Jazz game was cancelled right before tipoff due to Jazz player Rudy Gobert testing positive for the virus. I remember sitting in my flat in Hatfield and seeing all the tweets about the Thunder game, and that was definitely a sign in my brain that stuff was about to go down, but even then, I didn’t realize I was going to have to come home so soon. The next day, March 12, the first University of Hertfordshire case had been confirmed, and by Friday the 13th, of course, all of their courses had moved online at least through the end of the Easter holiday in April, though this later extended further, and I had booked a plane ticket home for Sunday the 15th.
I am extremely grateful to have been able to have the experience that I did. My main, and pretty much only, regret, is that I did not experience more while I was over there because I thought I had more time. For example, in early February, most of my flatmates went on a weekend trip to Oslo, Norway because a couple of them had gone through the wrong gates at the airport and therefore had the wrong visa stamps for the length of time they planned to stay and therefore had to leave the country and come back. That weekend, however, I had elected to stay behind and go see Birds of Prey at the local movie theater on opening weekend instead, because I was planning to save all of my international travelling for the two-week Easter holiday in April… clearly that didn’t happen. I don’t regret my plans from that weekend in general, especially since that ended up being my last time in a theater too, but I definitely would have at least explored other parts of the UK a bit more if I had known at the beginning that I would be flying back home two months early.
That’s another thing that I felt conflicted about at the time, and still do today, to be honest. I am extremely sad that I didn’t get to have the same full travel experience that my older sister did the year before, and definitely plan to remedy that at some point when international travel becomes safer again, but I was also in turn given an opportunity to spend extra time with my parents that I wouldn’t have gotten to have otherwise. How quickly everything changed was definitely a bit traumatic, especially having to say goodbye to all of my flatmates two full months before I had planned, but as I said earlier, I do think that everything happens for a reason, and I also believe that those first couple of months of lockdown would have been even worse if I had gotten stuck over there or if otherwise I hadn’t been able to spend it with loved ones, especially as our ferret Snowberry became somewhat of an emotional support animal.