British Elections

Last week, the United Kingdom held its Parliament elections. While I don’t following British politics closely, I was surprised and not surprised that the Conservative party won majority in Parliament. After the outcry with Brexit, I assumed that the UK would return to a more liberal Labour party similar to what happened in the United States in the midterm elections with Trump. During the midterms, the Democrats won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. I guess the UK did not follow that trend. It will be an interesting few years now that the Conservative party has majority and the PM is Boris Johnson.

International Bazaar

On October 31st (Happy Halloween!), the International Advisory Committee organized the International Bazaar where different international student organizations were able to showcase their culture through food and jewelry that the students made themselves. It was great to see all several different cultures showcased next to each other to notice their similarities and differences. I had originally gone to help a friend run the SGA booth to promote implicit bias. While we were there, we decided to try some of the sweets that were being sold and appreciate the craftswork of some of the cultures being represented there. I had a great time there and was glad I had spontaneously decided to attend the event.

Confucius Institute Day

A unique aspect of OU is its Confucius Institute in partnership with Beijing Normal University. In addition to providing educational resources and opportunities, it also hosts several cultural events on campus to promote Chinese culture. On September 25th, the Confucius Institute hosted the 13th annual Global Confucius Institute Day Celebration. A 4-hour program, it was filled with many different cultural and musical performances, crafts, calligraphy, and a food tasting. Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, I was unable to stay for the entire celebration. I was very impressed that they were able to organize such a large event on the South Campus so smoothly and promote different aspects of Chinese culture to the many students who passed by and stopped to watch a performance or a craft station.

Hong Kong Protests

One of the biggest international events that has been occurring this semester is the protests happening in Hong Kong. It started when an extradition bill was introduced, allowing criminals to be tried in China. This led to a public concern of the loss of Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic values from China. The people of Hong Kong started to mass protest in the streets. What started as a peaceful protest, has now, after several months, led to violence from both the police and military and the protesters and even some deaths. China’s response was interesting, claiming that the protests were caused by foreign influences. On the other hand, the United States, a supporter of Hong Kong, was hesitant to declare a position despite public outcry from many political leaders. I was taking the course Understanding the Global Community during this semester and we would often refer back to current events such as this one when discussing the state and the existence of a global community. Only time will tell if these protests will lead to long-lasting change.

ICDG

This past semester, I was a co-moderator for not just one, but two groups for the Informed Citizens Discussion Group. It was really interesting to see the contrast between the two groups since we often started off talking about the same major events that occurred during each week, but would eventually diverge into different topics. My co-moderators and I tried to tailor the topics to our members. During the month, we discussed a wide variety of topics from international politics to the impeachment process to healthcare and animals. Especially with the upcoming election cycle, it was interesting to hear how most of the members agreed on the overall stance of a topic, but each person had slightly different ideas on how to achieve or solve the problem. I had a wonderful semester discussing national and international events and staying informed during a busy semester.

Boeing Planes

One major international event that occurred semester was the Ethiopia plane crash and the subsequent banning of the Boeing 737 Max. It was a major shock to hear about the plane crash. Due to the results of that investigation, many countries decided to suspend the use of that type of plane, which affected many airlines and flights. A few weeks after the incident that made international headlines, a man came up to me at a grocery store and gave his sympathies to me regarding the accident, stating that there were many Chinese nationals on the flight that crashed. I was very taken back, first by that the fact itself, and second, I found it weird that he was apologizing to me since I a from the same ethnicity, but I have no connections to anyone or anything from that crash. After talking to one of my professors, it was interesting to learn that China has been increasing their presence in Africa, especially in Ethiopia with manufacturing and helping with infrastructure. It is astonishing the level of globalization there is. One plane crash, the second of that type of plane, caused the recall of the type of plane, which affected so many different countries.

School Shooting

A lot of tragic events has happened this past semester from the shooting in New Zealand to the bombing in Sri Lanka. While I’m not saying those are not equally as important and devastating, the school shooting at UNC shocked me the most. Maybe it is because the incident occurred on their last day of class, and I, myself, was in the last week of classes as well, but it hit close to home. It is sad to know that this sort of violence doesn’t just occur in the US. A few months prior, there was a school shooting in Brazil where 5 students were killed. It made me think that this could have occurred in any campus, even my campus and there would have been no effective way to prevent it. It is sad that we now live in a time where school shootings have to be prepared for. I remember back in elementary school the only drills we practiced were the fire drill, tornado, and earthquake. But, as I graduated to middle school and then to high school, we were shown a video about the Columbine shooting and then we gradually had regular drills for what to do in case we had an active shooter in the building. Every student in my high school is issued a student ID during registration before school starts. Even though we had them, we never really used them unless it was for standardized testing. That all changed after the Sandy Hook shooting. It then became mandatory that all students must be always wearing their ID on a lanyard around their neck and must be always visible and doors between school buildings would now be locked so students must show their ID to a camera in order to be let in. While some students found creative ways around the regulation such as printing their ID on a t-shirt and wearing said shirt around, it was sad how this was now part of the daily routine. Teachers in first period now had the responsibility to check that every student had their ID with them every single day. Now in college, I still carry my ID everywhere to be let into buildings and for exams, but on such a large and open campus, there is no way to prevent a person with bad intentions to getting on campus. Just this semester, I had to listen to multiple professors at several different points throughout the semester to address another school shooting, thankfully elsewhere, and one professor even spent precious lecture time to discuss logistics on what to do if an active shooter entered our classroom. It is sad how frequently school shootings are occurring. I don’t know if they are occurring more, or if the media is reporting these types of incidents more publicly. A school should be a safe environment to teach the future generation. Instead, it has turned into a place of potential fear. 

The Decline of ISIS

Near the end of the semester, I attended a talk called “Jihadi Salafism and the Decline of ISIS: What’s Next?” by Cole Bunel, who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Islamic Law and Civilzation at Yale Law School. Especially since this talk occurred a few days after the incident in New Zealand, it was interesting to hear Dr. Bunel’s opinions the relationship between the mosque attack and ISIS’s need to retaliate with an attack in Sri Lanka. Even though ISIS has lost major cities, they are still organized and Dr. Bunel believes that they will most likely retreat and keep fighting. At the end of the lecture, there was an open question and answer session. During it, a debate broke out between two adults. One adult, a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman brought up a point that when researchers present to the public, they need to be careful about using Arabic words since the media can twist it. For example, the word “jihad” means struggle in Arabic, and the Arabic woman said that back in her home country she would use that term multiple times a day, but now media has twisted the meaning of the word so that when people hear it, they associate it with terrorism. She says that she is fearful of speaking Arabic in public because of other people’s assumptions. Another man, an ex-Muslim from Turkey, interrupted and counter-argued that we should create another language for researchers just because the public is misinformed, but rather we need to use it more often to educate people. While this man has a valid point, he presented his argument very rudely. I think that both people have valid points. Non-Arab speakers often associate foreign words in the context, and most Americans usually only hear Arabic words from the media about terrorism. We need to educate people to understand that words are part of a language to communicate and just because a terror group uses a language, it doesn’t mean that all people who speak that language or that language is bad.   

Ethiopia with Dr. Mains

As part of being on the ICDG Exec Board, each member is supposed to host discussion with a professor event each semester. After some coordinating, I was able to host a discussion with Dr. Mains, who is an Anthropology professor and a Fulbright Fellow in the Honors College. His research focuses on the youth and infrastructure development in Ethiopia. Dr. Mains was kind enough to forward a few articles on the topic before the discussion. On the night of the discussion, we actually had a much higher attendance than expected and many people asked well-thought questions. It was interesting to learn about the conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt regarding hydroelectric dams. Ethiopia is upstream along the Nile River compared to Egypt. Due to their want to increase their economic development and meet their need for more electrical power, Ethiopia is planning on building one of the biggest dams. This creates concern for Egypt, who is downstream of the dam, and heavily depends on the flooding of the Nile River to support their agriculture and survival. Only time will tell how these two countries will resolve the conflict. Dr. Mains drew an interesting parallel how a few decades ago, the United States outsourced their manufacturing to other countries such as Mexico and China. Now, China is considered a powerful player and is outsourcing their manufacturing to Ethiopia. Despite the parallel, Dr. Mains doesn’t believe that Ethiopia will become a powerhouse any time soon. I had a fantastic time discussing with other students and Dr. Mains about Ethiopia’s development.

ICDG Exec

This past semester, I had the great fortune to be on the ICDG Exec team and be a co-moderator with another GEF fellow. While our group size was smaller than past semesters, we had some very interesting discussions. We had a couple international students in the group this semester, so it was very interesting to hear from their perspectives about global events occurring in their own countries and how the media can put a different spin on events. One girl in my group, her parents are from Pakistan and I learned a lot from hearing her talk about the recent events of the tension between India and Pakistan. In the past, I’ve always been aware of the long conflict between the two countries, but I never fully understood how the conflict originally began. Especially with the current political climate, a lot of the discussions were mainly focused on national news. Near the end of the semester, we had a lot of fun debating and predicting about the presidential candidates.  I am looking forward to my last year of ICDG starting next semester!