One thing I love about OU is that even if I am able to easily become acquainted and learn about different cultures and organizations, even if I am not a member, or fall into that cultural group. For example, on April 20th, I attended the CelebrASIAN event on the South Oval, which was a part of the Asian/Pacific Islander/Desi American Heritage Month. At this event, I was able to talk to people who are involved in this organization and get to know more about the culture and lifestyle of people who are of the Asian/Pacific Islander/Desi American descent/heritage. I do not know much about these cultures, so being able to talk to students about it was a great experience. I look forward to attending more international events on the South Oval and expanding my view on the world next semester.

Afghanistan and the United States

I have realized over the last two semesters how many opportunities OU provides us with to become connected with cultures outside of the United States, and it continues to amaze me. For example, last month the Ambassador of Afghanistan was in town for a reception during OU’s International Awareness Week. During this reception Hamdullah Mohib spoke about the current political system in Afghanistan, how it is growing, and the plans that are in place. For example, he mentioned that the number of diplomats has increased from 3 to 45, showing progress in the democracy of Afghanistan. The Ambassador stated that although the parliament is not exactly where they want it to be, there is a plan in place in order to reach that goal.

Hamdullah Mohib also spoke about the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan to practice Persian in response to a Professor’s question. He stated that he does indeed encourage students to travel abroad and practice their language skills, however he said it would be best to wait until the security plan is finalized.

Mohib also addressed the issue of terrorism and how it affects Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan. He said that the relationship is not the best right now, as terrorism has caused damage to the Pakistani people, however, Afghanistan is fighting back against the terrorism, and working towards a peaceful state.

Foreign Films? Count Me In!

At the end of last semester, I joined the Foreign Film Club, which was actually started by another Global Engagement Fellow. At the first meeting we watched the movie The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, which was a Brazilian film. The movie was in Portuguese, but I was able to understand it through the subtitles. The next meeting I attended in the spring semester we watched the movie The African Doctor, which is a French film. I highly recommend both of these films to anyone and would give them both high ratings. I have thoroughly enjoyed FFC so far, as it gives me a chance to meet and get to know other GEF’s as well as exposes me to international films, which is something I would not do on my own. I look forward to seeing how FFC progresses and having the chance to watch more foreign films throughout my college years.

Into the Mainstream

Last Tuesday, I was able to hear an amazing professor, Reinhard Heinish speak about populism and how it is affecting Europe and the rest of the world as well. Heinish started his lecture by saying “we live in an age of populism.” This struck me, as I was not really sure what populism was, yet this professor was telling me that I live in the age of it? I was quite confused, and my curiosity had peaked, but luckily Professor Heinish continued on to explain how I live in the age of populism, and what exactly this “populism” is.

He began to explain this phenomenon by explaining that there are different types of populism depending on their location. For example, in Western Europe, the populism is seen as polarized, new populist, and majoritarian. Next, in Eastern Europe it is gradual/fluid, new/old/facist populist, and illiberal and autocratic. And finally, in Southern Europe the populist movement is polarized, new/leftist populist, and is a movement democracy. At this point I was starting to realize that populism was a type of political party, that was new, but also making progress, which I learned when Heinish told us that these parties were winning elections. I was still quite confused though.

He continued on to explain that there are several understandings of what populism is, but he stressed the definition that he believes to be most true which is: “an ideological construct consisting of ambivalent claims propagated by political actors to question the status quo in order to depose the elites and allow the ‘true forgotten people’ to take power.” I know had a definition of populism, but wondered how successful these parties really were. Yes, they are currently winning elections, but will they really be able to stay successful for hundreds of years? Heinish answered this question by stating that the parties are not sustainable and usually decline after 15 to 20 years. I found this whole lecture quite interesting, as I had not realized that political parties formed and then went away after short numbers of years, after seeing success.

A Problem Bigger Than I Could Have Imagined

Yesterday, I attended a lecture regarding the Syrian Refugee Crisis, where we were shown a short documentary, and then were able to hear from several experts on the subject. The film showed officials in Greece going out and rescuing refugees that were smuggled across the ocean. The film blew my mind as I was not aware of the treacherous conditions that the refugees have to endure in order to escape.

Dr. Smith was the first expert to speak. He caught my attention when he said that the documentary “powerfully humanizes the refugee situation in a world where we are scared of a threat to our own security.” This statement to me summed up the whole purpose of the documentary, which was great. He also mentioned that Germany has experienced a lot of criticism for opening their borders and accepting refugees. I learned that there are many countries accepting refugees–in Sweden as many as 160,000 refugees live in the country which, in terms of US population translates to 5 million.

Dr. Raymond spoke on the historical perspective of the crisis. He stated that migration has always occurred and that the idea of closing and protecting country borders is a relatively new idea. He also defined what a refugee is based on the 1951 Refugee Convention. Dr. Raymond said that a refugee is someone outside of their own country and cannot return due to a well founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, gender, etc. Because of the definition, there are 21.3 million refugees in the world, but there are 65 million internally displaced people. This was mind blowing to me, as we seem to only be helping the technical refugees, which means the majority of the problem is not being addressed.

Overall, I found this lecture to be very mind blowing and eye opening. It made me want to help with the crisis and made me realize that we need to be doing more.

Law School???

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the International and Area Studies Career Prep and Networking Fair, which was really interesting for me. At first, I was concerned that the fair would not be very beneficial to me, as I am not an IAS major, and my interests are not fully in the International and Area Studies field. However, the networking fair ended up being wonderful, as I got to speak with the University of Oklahoma’s Pre-Law Society. I have recently sparked an interest in the field of law and getting to talk with this group got me even more excited for my future.

I have two major interests in the field of law—international law (particularly criminal) and sports law (aka sports agent). I have not had many international experiences yet, so I am not sure how well I would enjoy international law, however, I hope to gain some enlightenment on this during my study abroad trips. As for sports law, I have wanted to be a sports agent for a while, yet it is nerve-wracking because 1) the sports field is highly competitive and 2) it is a male dominated industry. After talking to the pre-law society at the IAS Fair, I felt more confident about going forward with law school, in either direction. I had heard about the pre-law society, but was unsure exactly what they did. I learned that the society holds meetings bi-weekly where they discuss different law schools, hold speakers, and even do LSAT prep and practice LSAT tests.

This fair opened my eyes and made me realize that although I do not need to know exactly what I want to do with my life just yet, there are organizations on OU’s campus to help me narrow down what I want to do and to make me a more competitive candidate, whether that be in the job market or for graduate school.

What’s Better than a New International Friend?

This semester I have had the great joy and privilege of being a member of the OU Cousins program. At first I was nervous about joining the program, because at the matching party there were way more American students than international students and I was unable to find a cousin initially. However, a week later I received and email that I was matched with an international student and have loved getting to know her over the course of the semester.

My OU Cousin’s name is Veerle Tierens, but she prefers to go by Vie. Vie is from Belgium and is only here for this semester. Through talking with her I have learned about the differences between schooling in Belgium and in America. I have also learned about her lifestyle and the things that she has experienced in Belgium that I have not here in America. I was also able to share with Vie things that are special to America, such as my sorority. Vie was not familiar with what exactly a sorority was, and I was glad to be able to share with her, since it is something very important to me.

Getting to know Vie over the last few months has provided me with some insight on life in another country and how her culture is. It has been a very eye-opening experience and is something that I will never forget. Unfortunately, Vie will be going back to Belgium in the spring, but the memories I made with her will last for a lifetime.

The Making of My Digital Story

These past few weeks in class we have been working on our digital stories and it has been quite interesting. I have never done a project of this sort, so it was different for me. At first it was a little weird to me, because I do not really like recording my voice and having to hear it replayed over and over while creating my story. I did struggle a little bit with the project, with determining which pictures would make my story the most effective. Eventually I figured it out, but I did struggle a little at the beginning.

Each class that Rachel visited was very helpful and engaging. I really enjoyed how she would go step by step with us to make sure that we were fully understanding the software. I have used video editing software so I knew somewhat what I was doing already, but having someone there to refresh and familiarize us with the software was very helpful. I also liked how during my recording she helped me go over my transcript to ensure that it was the best it could be.

Learning how to create a video that runs smoothly and is high quality is a skill that I think is important and can be useful in many ways during life. Although I most likely will not create a digital story again, I will at some point in my life need to create a video and knowing how to use basic editing software is very helpful.

Global Engagement and the “Real World”

The world we live in today is more international across all industries than it has been ever before. The interactions between various countries in industries such as business, medicine, and law has grown immensely. It is for this reason that I believe that no matter what industry I decide to go into, my experiences with the Global Engagement Fellowship will help me in numerous ways. For example, studying abroad, as well as becoming proficient in a language, and being involved with international events/organizations, will provide me with a competitive edge when I go to apply for jobs or internships. The Global Engagement Fellowship will also provide me with insight on various cultures and teachers from around the world, that will impact how well I perform in my career field compared to other colleagues.

I am not 100% sure exactly what I want to do in the future, however I do know that I either want to go into law or medicine. In both of these fields, international experiences are vital to performing at your highest level. To enhance the impact that the Global Engagement Fellowship has on my performance in either of these fields, while abroad I will reach out to either medical professionals or attorneys in the various countries and try to gain experience with them. By gaining experience in a related field in another country, my perspective will be molded and I will have an expanded horizon about their practice as it relates to practice in the United States. As I continue down this journey in determining what career path to take as well as the Global Engagement Fellowship, I will jump at any opportunity that is presented to me that will further enhance and expand my knowledge on topics that could help me in the future.