In ten days (yes, you read that right, TEN DAYS), I will be embarking upon my first international adventure. I will be studying in Arezzo and Rome with PLC for two weeks, backpacking with some friends for about a week and a half (to places including Switzerland, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, and Sweden), and finally landing in Malta for about a month to be part of an anthropology field school. I know this is going to be one of the craziest adventures of my life, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. It seems like there are still so many things I need to figure out in the next ten days, and on top of that I have to take my finals. However, I do think that everything is going to work out, and once I get to Europe, I will know that the hard work I have put into the trip is worth it.
(p.s. if anyone has good tips for packing for two months abroad, hit me up)
On April 22nd, the Mr. and Miss Hispanic OU pageant was held! Two of my friends were competing, so I went to watch them perform their acts. For their cultural presentation, my friend Chris did an impersonation and homage to one of his favorite Mexican actors, and my friend Jema performed a monologue about Latina feminism as Frida Kahlo. For the talent portion, Chris performed an extremely impactful spoken word piece about the American dream, while Jema taught the audience some salsa dancing. All of the acts presented were very entertaining and taught me much more Hispanic culture in new and unique ways. At the end of the pageant, the awards were given out, and both of my friends won! Overall, a very exciting night full of new aspects of Hispanic culture that I had not experienced before.
My friends are famous! A group PLC pic with the big winners.
On March 28th, I attended a meeting that Jaci held for anyone to learn more about the Fulbright program. The Fulbright is a scholarship awarded for students to teach, research, or study in another country. As a part of the Global Engagment program, I will apply for the Fulbright my senior year, so I figured it would be best to begin learning about the process now. At the meeting, I learned much more about the program itself, as well as how to apply. I heard from students who had applied and received the fellowship, and took notes on how I should approach the topic. It was extremely beneficial to attend the meeting, because I now know the type of things that I can be doing right now to put myself in a good position to apply when the time comes.
On March 7th and 8th, I attended the Latino Flavor event hosted by Latino Student Life at the university! On the 7th, there was a fajita bar as well as a mariachi band in the union courtyard. Music is something that is very important to me, and being able to experience live music from another culture was extremely cool. The band was very engaging, with brightly colored suits and a lively sound. The next day, it got even better! There was a buffet in the union of foods from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries, as well as multiple musical acts. There was one artist who sang in Spanish and English, combining multiple aspects of culture to create her own style of music entirely. This was something I had never seen before or thought of before, and it was really clever and cool to see. Me gusto mucho.
This semester, I continued to be a part of the OU cousins program, with my cousin, Nelly. Getting to know Nelly better this semester has been so much fun, because the more time I have spent with her, the more I’ve come to know how similar we are. Our lives may have taken very different paths, but there are certain things that seem to be universal. One of my favorite memories this semester has been our weekly trips to Baked Bear (the ice cream here is better, apparently). Nelly is going home for the summer, but has said that she will miss our adventures from this year. OU cousins is such a unique organization because it can be whatever you want it to be. For me, it’s been gaining a really cool friend and a new perspective on France, and maybe the world. 10/10, will do again.
This semester, I took the course Understanding the Global Community with Dr. Noah Theriault. Though I took the course originally out of a requirement, I would gladly take it again every semester for the rest of my college career (ok, so maybe that would get repetitive, but whatever). The class was, quite simply, a blast. I looked forward to coming to class every MWF because it was kept interesting by sporadic guest lectures, videos, and discussions. This class honestly opened my eyes to a lot of things going on around the world that I would not have even thought about, and even made me consider some aspects of myself that I never would have considered. Dr. Theriault himself was incredibly kind, poised, and intelligent throughout, and truly made it seem like he cared about each individual student. It is not an overstatement to say that this class made me think about the world in a new way; it has truly made me into a much more aware global citizen, and I am tremendously thankful for that.
The same night as the international prom, somehow there was also a latin ball happening just a floor below in the Union! The ball was hosted by the Latin dance club, and they were teaching anyone who wanted to come various styles of Latin dancing. My friends, many of whom were mainly of Hispanic heritage, knew a lot about the dance styles. In a pretty short amount of time, they taught me the basics of salsa and bachata, two forms of dance. It was fast paced and a lot of fun, and I even found myself as partners with Mr. Hispanic OU at some point! It was a whirlwind of a night, but it was a lot of fun for me to learn more about both the styles of dancing and my friends.
On October 14th, a group of my friends and I attended the International Prom! It was kind of on a whim that we decided to go, so we put on some moderately fancy clothes and got to dancing. I met a bunch of people from a multitude of countries, all of whom were having a great time. I think that this event was pretty neat because, since prom is such an idealized tradition in America and everyone who attended high school here surely attended prom or a similar dance at some point, it really gives people who come here as college students the chance to share a similar experience. It was cool to see the variety of dance styles (boy oh boy was there a variety) and dress, and to just see everyone having a good time.
me n the homies at the international prahm!!
This semester, I signed up for the OU Cousins program, where OU students from the U.S. are paired with international students. At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t able to attend the matching party, and so I simply filled out a survey and was matched with a cousin along with two other girls. My cousin’s name is Nelly Kahkhoda, and she is from a small town near Marseilles, France. In the short time I’ve gotten to know Nelly I know for sure that she loves three things: math, heavy metal, and Harry Potter. Recently, as a group, we attended the Harry Potter feast that was put on by the UPB. We had a group of six that competed in trivia with a ton of other groups, and somehow we WON! Out of all of the groups that were there, we somehow knew the most Harry Potter facts, mainly because of Nelly. Though there were some things she had challenges with in translating from French to English, we eventually figured out a system of communication to make it work, and we were victorious! It was fun to learn much more about Nelly and her interests from this activity, as well as figuring out how to communicate effectively across languages. I would say that so far, OU Cousins has been a tremendously rewarding experience, and I’m very excited to see what path it takes in the future.
On October 13th, the OU International Studies department had a showing of the movie Amreeka. Amreeka is the story of Muna, a Palestinian mother, and her son Fadi and their struggle to immigrate to the U.S. I found the movie incredibly interesting as it exposed very real struggles of Middle Eastern immigrants that may not be commonly thought of. For instance, as soon as they get to America, they face harsh, unfair treatment at the airport, and it does not seem to get much better from there. Fadi goes to school with his cousin and is immediately treated poorly by some of his classmates, who insist that he is going to “blow up” the school. After this incident, the teacher of the class does little to deter this type of treatment (this became an interesting talking point in the post-movie discussion, where educators gave their opinions on how to best handle a situation like this). In a post-9/11 America, however, this did not come as a shock to me. Many people seem to automatically associate Middle Eastern people with terrorism because of 9/11, no matter how incorrect or one-sided these assumptions may be. This event was extremely beneficial to my own understanding of the issues that immigrants face–even down to the most seemingly mundane instances of discrimination. As this was the first international studies-hosted event I have attended, I am excited to attend more and learn more about the global community in the future.