Global Engagement Day 2018

For Global Engagement Day this year, I went to an event regarding International Students and their experiences at OU. Going into the event, I thought it would be a conversation with international students and American students, with an emphasis on how their experience here could be improved. This was the original intent I believe, however the actual event was about two international students and forty or so American students. We all sat around a long conference table, with extra chairs pulled up around the side, facing the two at the end. I stood in the back.

While there was progressive conversation, it was not quite the dialogue I was hoping for. This is an extremely important issue on campus (and in our society), but we must approach it from the right angle. A simple, one-sided question and answer does not provide the level of conversation needed to fully learn and grow from each other. Pedro and I work side-by-side, he in the International Student Services office and I in the Education Abroad office – and that is the kind of relationship that has opened both of our minds to different types of people. Interacting, speaking on a daily basis, and sharing stories when we get the chance.

Overall, good questions were asked, and good answers were given, but I would still like to see this event grow in the future. We have the opportunity as a university, particularly one that is bustling with students from all over the world, to truly learn something from one another.

Eve of Nations 2018

Eve of Nations is an event put on by the International Advisory Committee that serves as an annual gathering of over 20 student organizations. This spring, it was the 48th celebration, and I went with my good friend Valentina. We pre-purchased our tickets and settled in on a colder than normal April night. Before the show began, we caught up on our daily lives – classes, summer plans, etc. Valentina is leaving in three short days to fly straight into Rome, where she will partake in a study abroad program with the College of Education. She will then spend a week with her brother in Germany, before traveling to a small city in northern France where she will be an Aupair for the remainder of the summer. I am thrilled to talk to her about this journey, for it reminds me so much of my own – which I was leaving for this time last year. She is going to have a beautiful trip and I cannot wait to hear about her experiences.

Anyways, the group of students organizing and performing Eve of Nations put on a fantastic show. They began by introducing all the student groups and presenting the country or region that centralized them. I am always amazed by how many different countries are represented at our relatively small university in the middle of Oklahoma. I am reminded how important community it is, and I am happy that they have found communities here, away from their homes and their families, where they can be comfortable. Every region of the world is represented, and the male emcee shows early signs of being particularly annoying. The students perform dances, strut in the traditional clothing of their country, and everyone cheers. It was a fun event to attend, and I was especially happy for some familiar faces I saw on stage presenting and performing.

Education Abroad Info Fair

In August I started my new job working in the Education Abroad office at the university. I had interviewed for the position over the summer through a Skype call, and I remember that day we had a big lunch with the whole family. After an intense game of futbol, I threw on a blazer and locked Iker and Aitor out of the office. Despite the poor connection and the awkward English I had picked up, I ended up with the job and started a few weeks after I got home. On the first day, Hailey and I started together, and I knew we would be great friends. Kelsey took us to meet all of the advisors, and she thought I was so cool because I had spent the summer in Spain. Little did she know, I’m just a huge nerd but I think she’s caught on by now. Bobby, if you’re reading this, you’re pretty cool too. Also, our office is located in Farzaneh Hall, which is great because we are right in the middle of all things international. One day, our office was hosting an Education Abroad Fair on the South Oval. It was fun to go see all the students interested in study abroad, and I kept the crowd entertained by playing soccer in those huge air bubbles that let people knock you to the ground. I hope everyone studies abroad. It was the best thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to go again. So exciting. So invigorating. Getting to choose your life for that short semester is something so special. Just picking up and going to see the world with nothing but warm arms welcoming you and sending you. It’s what I dream about every night and it’s what I remember the strongest. I wore a bracelet all summer (until I lost it in Amsterdam) that read “No sueñes tu vida, vive tus sueños” and there are very few ideologies that I subscribe to more than this one.

Hasta pronto mis sueños…

Heath

International Prom

In October we all went to the International Prom together. We dressed up like real adults, gathered together in Traditions, and went to the dance together. This was the first night I met Raul, and Alex came with me to meet Pilar for the first time.

The dance itself was really fun. They played music of all different cultures, and it was fun to see everyone get excited when a song from their country came on. Also, it was fun to impress the Spanish people when I knew their songs, because they were songs I listened to all summer. Pilar told me she was really happy we met, and I couldn’t express to her enough how happy I was too. Meeting her and Pilar and Indo and Raul has been the best thing that has happened to me since I came home from Spain, and it was exactly what I needed. They remind me that that side of the world really isn’t too far away, and they keep my love alive for their language and culture. I’m going to miss them so much when May comes around.

Heath

A Different World

I stepped off my ten hour flight, and man, I was not ready for all that is Dallas, Texas. I had swam in a water park, walked around the city of Barcelona, flown from Barcelona to Amsterdam, slept overnight in a Burger King booth at the airport, taken the metro to downtown Amsterdam on a whim due to a flight delay, then boarded a flight home, all in the same shower cycle. I squirm and cry throughout the whole flight home, my body trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be leaving, and before I know it we have landed. Jake and Heather are sunburned from their vacation to Cabo. Cowboy Dan needs to talk to someone in charge. Katy can’t believe the line for customs because she has somewhere to be. They all have somewhere to be.

The worst part was that after three months of only understanding what I wanted to understand – I was thrust into this angry, unpleasant crowd and I had no other option but to hear everyone and all of their complaints. So I just waited in line, trying to get through so that I could see my mom and my best friend, Alice. I was so excited to see them, tell them all my stories, and show them all my pictures.

What you quickly learn is that no one is close to as half as interested in your experiences abroad as you are. It’s not because they don’t care…but they really just don’t care. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, and it’s a lesson I was glad to learn because now I know to never live in a moment with the anticipation of sharing it with someone else later. I have hundreds of pictures on my laptop that I took for people who don’t want to see them. I have stories I want to tell to people but I can’t because they start with, “when I was in Spain…” I have a new language I want to use but I can’t without being obnoxious.

What I’m trying to say, is that too many times we find ourselves remembering a moment before we even live in it. We take pictures before we look. We take videos before we listen. We share a story on social media before we talk about it with our friends. Losing my phone this summer was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Not only did I live every moment purely, but I was surround by friends who put their phones away when they’re together. They play cards when they go to the pool, they don’t scroll through their phones whenever they have nothing to talk about. I watched the Running of the Bulls without taking a video. Does that sound like an accomplishment? It shouldn’t.

I’m sharing this because I see too many students walking to class without looking up from their phone. I’m tired of sitting in a room of my friends and being the only one not on my phone. I’m tired of everyone rushing from place to place, not stopping to talk, and if they do their body language screams that they have somewhere to be. If you are reading this, I want you to imagine the next concert you go to or the next party you’re at, as if there were no phones. Imagine the four people sitting next to each other, not saying a word, without their phones to keep them company. Imagine watching your favorite band without a million cameras between you and the lead singer. See what a difference it makes.

xoxo,

Heath

Populism by Dr. Heinisch

Dr. Reinhard Heinisch of the University of Salzburg spoke to us about the current stance of populist parties across Europe and defined the party to us. I had no prior knowledge of the populist party, and I found his talk very informative and engaging. He explained many aspects of the party such as how each fraction of the party varies through nationalism, ethno-centrism, heterophobia, religio-centrism, antisemitism, nativism, and racism. For example, in Germany, the Populist party is currently advertising by the promotion of the idea of a “nuclear family.” This consists of a wife who stays at home, a husband who works, a boy, and a girl. This flyer was promoted by the new, right wing Populist party in Germany called AFD. Then, Professor Heinisch, overviewed the major leaders of the populist party, and the differences between the populist parties in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Southern Europe. They all are somewhat similar, for once one branch of the party sees something that works, the others will most likely follow suit. Overall, the populist party is most commonly known for trying to relate to “the common man” by drawing attention through provocative or outrageous content. For example, one populist people convinced people they were being fed “chlorine chicken”. This is all particularly interesting to me, for I am studying abroad this summer in Arezzo, Italy, and after this I will be traveling through Hungary, Austria, and Germany, where there will be many traces of the Populist Party. I now know what symbols or techniques to recognize as the Populist Party and I will be more knowledgeable about the countries I am visiting. Also, under the Trump Administration, it is interesting to see the corollary between Trump and the Populist party, especially after the current question of his ties to Russia during the presidential campaign. I am very grateful for OU for ensuring that students are provided educational opportunities such as these for topics outside of our graduation requirements.