Today I attended the last section of Global Engagement Day. The last event was a Q&A with two international students to discuss their experiences at the University of Oklahoma and their experiences in their own nations. One of the international students was from Angola, and the other was from Malaysia. The student from Angola is a Davis Scholar, so he has experienced more international culture then just OU, and the student from Malaysia is a regular exchange student.
The most intriguing point of discussion was when they shared experiences of biases towards them, and how they held biases towards others. The Angolan student discussed the dificulty integrating into the Norwegian and American school systems since he did not have many people to relate with. Instead, he was always surrounded with a mix of international students. He beleives that he holds a Christian, conservative, and African viewpoint, but he elaborated on how being surrounded by so many different cultures made him a tolerable and accepting person. During his time in Norway with the Davis scholars he recalled a story about how rooming with two gay men changed his view on gay people as a whole.
The main thing I took away from this experience is that when two people sit down and talk a lot can happen. Through communication and understanding, a Catholic Angolan with a negative view on the gay community became accepting of gay people when he talked with them to learn more about what being gay means. If people talk to each other and ask questions people will become more tolerable and accepting.
Amidst the disband of the Foreign Film Club, I was left aimlessly wandering in an attempt to find a new organization to join. The amount of international organizations is overwhelming, so I found myself overwhelmed and decision-less. I soon gave up on my own pursuit of an organization, so I turned to my friends for consultation.
One of my friends, Dhaval Patel, told me about the organization that he is in: the South Asian Student Association. I have decent knowledge of European and Spanish culture, but I have not been introduced into South Asian culture. I eventually recognized that very few of my friends have been introduced as well. I am a fan of new opportunities, so I have decided to join the South Asian Student Association.
Yesterday, I attended their January meeting. The meeting took place at Crimson Park apartment complex, and it was more of a relaxed social gathering. There was talk about the status of the organization, and where the organization was headed, but the talk took place around a fire pit with smores. My friend Dhaval introduced me, and I was welcomed with open arms. I believe that this will be a fantastic organization to be a part of.
The issues regarding refugees have been, and are, a growing and ongoing debate. Where are they coming from? Where will they go? How will they be supported? These questions need to be answered to successfully relocate the growing refugee population. In a report published by CQ Researcher and written by Molly McGinnis, it is reported that the global refugee population has grown from 11.7 million in 2013 to 22.5 million in 2017.
The refugees highlighted in this article are the Syrians since they are the largest population and the most recent. May countries have accepted refugees, including Germany, the United States and Lebanon. Lebanon has the worlds highest refugee population per capita, while other developed nations have chosen to accept less. The burden of accepting refugees is often accepted by unstable nations which may not be the best place for the refugees to go. Some developed nations have even kicked out refugees that they have accepted, and blocked others from immigrating in. The U.S. proposed a travel ban that would remove any Syrian refugees from the U.S. and bar access from 6 countries in the middle east.
However, European nations have accepted more of the burden as the situation worsens. The two European countries with the highest concentration of refugees are Greece and Italy (roughly 160,000). Although they have been accepted, they cannot be sustained. Several European nations have refused accepting any of these refugees in an attempt to relocate: Hungary, Austria, United Kingdom, and Poland. Only 13% of these refugees have been relocated, and the clock is running out.
I believe that it is the responsibility of developed nations to share the burden of accepting and relocating refugees since they are the best equipped to do so.
This evening I attended a lecture and discussion by Joe Cirincione about the future of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Joe Cirincione is the President of Ploughshares funds which is a foundation that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
My main takeaway from this lecture was that there is far more to worry about than I thought. I was not educated about the Iran Nuclear Deal mainly because it is not in mainstream news. The news is focused on all of the events surrounding nuclear events regarding North Korea. Little did I know, The Iran Nuclear deal holds just as much importance as anything to do with North Korea.
The Iran Nuclear Deal is a deal that prohibits Iran from building nuclear weapons and limits nuclear testing in exchange for lifted snactions. Joe Cirincione believes that this deal is extremely strong, but there are others that believe that this deal needs an overhaul. This deal does its job and nothing more; it keeps Iran from having missiles. Others believe that this deal should fix the entirety of Iran, but to fix a nation it takes one step at a time.
Donald Trump is among those who believe that the deal needs to be dismantled or completely changed. He is even taking action to force the international community to change it. The president is informed every 90 days if Iran is following the deal, and if they are the President signs 120 days of lifted sanctions, and the cycle continues. That is not the case for Trump. Trump has refused to sign the next round of lifted sanctions, which means that the U.S. would not be upholding its side of the deal.
Trumps actions are driving the U.S. further and further from its allies, and if the U.S. does not follow the deal Iran can resume its nuclear program. The majority of the International community does not want Iran to have a nuclear program, so that would also drive the U.S. further from its allies. But the worst case scenario is an all out nuclear war since another unstable nation will have access to a nuclear arsenal.
A new Cold War may be brewing. International tensions are rising, and the U.S. relationship with Russia is more tense than ever. Among election rigging allegations and the 2014 Crimea incident there has been a new proposition for a pact banning intermediate-range cruise missiles. This could be coming straight out of a history book. Deals and sanctions against Russia will not deescalate any existing situation. Russia’s response to these allegations and sanctions were that they were “laughable”.
Whether or not these allegations are true or false, the sanctions imposed on Russia certainly are not phasing them. There needs to be alternative methods of punishment, and actual indisputable evidence. The last thing this world needs is another Cold War between two superpowers. There are plenty of other viable options to take action against.
President Donald Trump has recently announced that he will begin recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel instead of Tel Aviv. Because of this, the U.S. State Department has issued a “Worldwide Caution” warning to United State citizens traveling abroad. This means that if you’re abroad be aware of mass political unrest.
Trumps move has obviously upset a major part of the international community, so I would like to know his reason behind doing this. Israel has a history of being a tumultuous place of conflict, and it has appeared that Trump has escalated this. His reasoning is that nothing has been done to promote more peace in the region, so he is blindly trying something new on the off chance that something will prevail out of it. According the the United Nations, this action is seen as a threat to preserving peace in the middle east.
Declaring Jerusalem as the capital also makes it apparent which side the U.S. is on. Historically, the U.S. has maintained a neutral stance, but now that is not so. Allegedly, there has been progress, regarding this decision, behind the scenes, and for the people of Israel I hope this is true.
One day, whilst walking down the south oval, I stumbled upon what looked like an Asian food festival. After further investigation it became apparent that it was a gathering of various Asian student organizations. The main attraction of the festival was the food tents that were set up. The intoxicating aroma of fried rice, pork belly, and glazed chicken was overwhelmingly attractive to hungry college students. Herds of students lined up for a chance to indulge in the delicacies. In my opinion, the glazed chicken was the best item, and the pork belly could have been better. It may have been the correct way to serve it, but the pork had a thick, undesired layer of fat attached to it.
Food may have been the main part, but there was also an assortment of activities. It looked like there was one table for crafts, and there were a few people playing some sort of game that I have never seen before. As a whole, it was nice to see stressed out college students taking a load off while unknowingly becoming aware of another culture.
Since I completed my first study abroad, I have been shopping around for my next. The University of Oklahoma has many different programs to choose from, but one that has caught my eye is Puebla, Mexico. OU has a study center in Puebla, so I believe it would be roughly the same sort of experience that I had in Arezzo. Another reason that I have been looking into Puebla is because I would be able to apply my foreign language skills that I have acquired over the last three semesters. I believe that Puebla would be a wonderful place for me to develop more skills academically and culturally.
Although, I do have some reservations about Puebla. One main attraction for studying abroad in Europe is the ability to travel around safely. Puebla itself is safe, but Mexico as a whole is not too safe. I would have to meticulously plan trips out of the city to maintain my safety. This is my only reservation. I would like to travel abroad somewhere that I would be free to roam. Maybe Spain would be a better option?
Earlier this semester I attended the OklaHOME session. This is a chance for everyone who studied abroad to gather together and talk about their experiences, and their integration back into normality. It was very interesting to hear where everyone traveled. People experienced everywhere from Germany to South Korea. For me, I had the privilege to travel to OU in Arezzo.
My experience went relatively smoothly. I did not experience much culture shock, rather, I found myself missing the creature comforts that the U.S. had to offer. Things such as hot water, powerful air conditioning, and my comfortable bed, but the point of studying abroad is to experience new things. I believe other people missed those things also, but the people that went to destinations with less students from OU seemed to miss people from the same culture. It is fun and exciting to travel to somewhere new in the beginning, but after a while people begin to notice what they are missing. Although, after they cross that threshold everything runs smoothly, but once things begin to run smoothly it is time to leave.
When I arrived home I was beyond excited, but everything felt different. I was used to how things were in Italy, and was a little shocked by how out of it I was when I got home. After a while, I began getting back in the groove of things. This is the same experience as what happens abroad, but it is called reverse culture shock. Other people were saddened by leaving the adventurous fast paced lifestyle, but relax into their everyday life sooner or later. Studying abroad is a rewarding experience, but it comes with its fair share of hardships.
It’s over. My first study abroad is over. As soon as it began, it ended. It felt like it lasted 100 years, and it felt like it lasted 1 day. This is truly my most memorable journey, but I hope to someday top it. For now, what I really need is some rest.
I have walked away from this experience a better person. I have learned to manage stress better, be more patient, and to think on my toes. Most of all, I have learned to relax, and let things run their course. Going abroad for the first time entails a flurry of every emotion imaginable at the same time. It is an experience like no other, and I am beyond grateful that I was able to be a part of something this life changing.
My classes are over, but my time abroad is not. I will be gallivanting across France and Ireland until July 6th, and I am ready to take what I have learned and apply myself. Another chapter of my life has been opened, and I am more than ready to begin it.
Wish me luck.