June 16, 2018 After a long semester of waiting, I am finally in Italy!! Here it is 6:30, which means it is 11:30 back in Norman. It is everything I hoped it would be and more. I have been here for a week now and every day I am in awe of the beauty and the culture I am surrounded by. The town of Arezzo, where OU has its campus, is in the middle of Italy. It is home to many artists, chefs, business owners and others who are driven by the passion they have for their work. Each meal is a cherished time to spend with those around you and it is crafted with care and skill. The culture is enriched with so much history and many traditions that go back for centuries. So far, we have seen much of Arezzo, eaten a lot of pasta (and some sushi), and even learned how to make pasta with an amazing chef, Fabio. I have loved appreciating the many flowers, colorful shudders, and passion-filled restaurants we have come across, even though most times they are found through missed turns and aimless wandering. Although some of the locals appear hesitant to reach out to outsiders, they are so so kind when they can tell we are trying to be respectful and want to get to know them. I am completely in love with this country and cannot wait to explore as much of it as I can!
One of the best experiences I have had was going to Japan. I went to Tokyo, Japan for two weeks in the summer of 2016 and I would absolutely love to go back. Although there are many, many stories I could tell about this experience, this one is one of my favorites.
For part of the time I was in Japan, I stayed with a host family. We had already done most of the things to do downtown, but one thing we had wanted to do was journey to Mt. Fuji. Our family warned us that we would most likely not get to see the top of the mountain during that time of year, but that we could try if we wanted, so we did. We took a little road trip through Japan, seeing many rice fields and stopping at a gas station on the way. We arrived about two hours later to a town a few miles from the mountain and enjoyed their shops and views. To our host family’s amazement, the clouds parted and we were able to see all of Mt. Fuji. The husband was thoroughly amazed and said, while shaking his head, “you must have been very good this year,” and I think he really believed that.
Just recently, I did some research and wrote a paper about the migration crisis in Europe and it intrigued me. To me, it is interesting that some countries are wanting to help, but are more concerned with their own well-being first. This relates to the theory of realism, that states are concerned with power and security first and foremost. In economic ways, this makes sense, because countries can financially only support so many people seeking refuge. However, human rights bring another level to the argument. If countries refuse migrants or treat them horribly while in these camps, they are still not doing their duty. Current international law mainly includes soft laws, laws that are not binding and hard to enforce, but some individuals affected are taking action to get justice. Italy is currently being sued by survivors of a sunken boat in result of Italy’s migrant push-back policy with Libya. Hopefully soon, we start seeing a push to eliminate or lessen the issues that are causing the massive rush of migrants.
This spring during the Global Engagement day, I attended a talk with a panel that addressed differences in behavior and treatment that was experienced during studying abroad. The panel was made up of people who identify as gay or transgender, people of color and women who spoke up about things that had happened to them and the cultural norms that surround these occurrences.
Many of the panel had experienced or witnessed discrimination or seen it happen to others while they were abroad. Those who identified as gay and transgender felt that they had to hide their sexual orientation or “go back in the closet” until they came back to the States to avoid damaging their reputation or creating a rift between them and the locals in their various locations. One gentleman who is gay studied in Morocco and he was the most afraid to be himself while abroad. Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment. While this does not apply to travelers, being openly gay while staying there for an extended period of time can create some tension, uneasiness, and an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. This gentleman found other Americans that he could be himself around, so he found that it was worth it to keep his beliefs and lifestyle quiet. He found it extremely beneficial to have a small group to be open with so that he could be himself and did not have to live a complete lie during his time abroad. Additionally, an African-American gentleman studied in Mexico and found that rather than being discriminated against for the color of his skin, he was most looked down upon for coming from the United States.
I found the talk particularly interesting as I prepare to go abroad this summer. I will be cautious, traveling as a woman, but am excited to take on Italy!
Relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel has been a topic of interest for me, but I honestly haven’t done much research on it yet. Recently, I attended a lecture from Lee Gordon, one of the founders of an organization called Hand in Hand that focuses on creating bilingual schools for both Arab and Jewish children. Currently, the vast majority of Israel is segregated in most aspects of their daily lives. The two groups grow up hating each other, but never actually getting to know each other. Hand in Hand aims to change all of that, slowly but surely.
Since they started out they have faced doubt and opposition. Many feel that the schools are unnatural and are filled with fear. Those in opposition think the idea of the bilingual school is naive and incapable of overcoming their history. Even so, the schools have been thriving. Hand in Hand opened their first school in Jerusalem on September 1, 1998. They began with 57 students. Today, they have 6 schools and 1,800 students. Students in the program view each other as the closest friends without any judgement. Academically, in Jerusalem, the schools are considered the best. Students win science contests and score high on tests.
Lee Gordon presented this information to inform us about their movement. He travels around raising support and funds for their schools. It was SO encouraging to see a generation being raised to not ignore their cultural problems, but to learn about them and deal with them practically. Even though their goal isn’t to change the world, their efforts are definitely making an impact in the community. There’s no telling the effect they will have over time. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and am looking forward to learning more about the schools and the about the region.
How can we expect to make our world a better place to live when so many have no idea what is happening in it? The large majority of people I see day to day, myself included, fail to follow any news that doesn’t come from social media- and most ignore that too. With Americans making decisions that effect the entire world, it is entirely terrible that we are so uninformed about the world around us. We elect individuals into offices with extreme power, and for many citizens, it’s a “success” if they even make it out to vote. If we want to live in a country, in a world that we can be proud of, it starts with knowing about it.
This issue came to my attention a few weeks ago as I attended a workshop through the Price College of Business called “Globally Speaking.” One of the main points of the workshop was that being aware of the news can make you shine in an interview because other interviewees lack of knowledge on the subjects. Although good to know, the fact that this is true is troubling. I know myself, and I know that until recently, if I was asked about any sort of news other than the big stuff that everyone talks about, I would blank and have no opinion to offer. Even still, as I begin to work the news into my everyday life, I would struggle in forming my own opinion about many of the topics. As an international business major and someone who dreams of empowering those in low-income countries to build themselves up, I want this to end. We need to begin educating ourselves and those around us about the issues that have been around for decades, and about those that have begun in the last few weeks. Together, we can become a nation of educated individuals capable of making informed decisions and arguing respectfully. This starts with me and it starts with you. Start learning today.
When I saw that there was a class for olive oil and cheese tasting, I had no idea what that really meant, but knew I had to sign up. I figured they would have some sort of cheese and some sort of olive oil, and I knew I liked both, so it sounded like a guaranteed enjoyable time. However, I was not prepared for how much I was going to learn and how much I was going to enjoy the authentic oil and cheese.
We tried a few different real Italian cheeses and learned about the differences between each of them. Some were cheeses that required a great deal of time to age properly, while some were fairly young. There were hard cheeses and soft cheeses, sharp cheeses and ones that weren’t so strong. My favorite was a soft cheese that wasn’t too strong. Then, we tasted authentic olive oil, and I will never feel the same about the oils we often use here in America. Before we tasted it, we got a lesson about the oil; we learned how it is grown, how the olives are harvested, and or that they would be any different than anything we have here. When it came time to actually taste the oils, I expected that we would be dipping bread in it and comparing, but that is not what happened. They gave us little cups with oil, one typical oil for here in the States and one of authentic Italian oil. Instead of having us try it on anything, we compared the two by drinking(!!!) them! I was shocked, but went right on ahead and sipped the oil. Surprisingly, the Italian oil was much stronger and even burned my throat a little bit. It was much better tasting than the bland American oil. Once we’d tried both oils, we were able to dip various kinds of bread and crisps in them and it was much more enjoyable.
Overall, the Italian cheese and Olive oil tasting was an interesting experience, and I now know that their products are much higher quality. The event got me even more excited to study abroad in Italy; Hopefully I will be trying many more cheeses in Arezzo this summer!!
There are some things that we take for granted here in America. One of those things is our high school prom. Most, if not all other countries don’t do anything like it. That’s why the University decided to put on a prom specifically for International Students. It was a beautiful night, and a unique one for sure.
That night, I already had plans, but when I was asked to go to the prom by a friend from PCS who is from Syria, I dropped my plans and decided to go. We got all dressed up and accidentally matched- it was as if it was meant to be. We got to the event, voted for the prom king and queen, and then walked in on the red carpet into a beautiful room with magnitudes of beautiful people. Music from all over the world was playing, and spontaneous dances broke out among groups from certain countries as songs that they recognized from home came on. Everyone knew each other so well, so that added to the magic as everyone enjoyed the night with their friends, dancing and hugging and laughing. My date was a fantastic dancer, and he led me in dances to all kinds of songs, although his favorite were the Hispanic songs. Additionally, I had met up with two of my OU Cousins, and we had so much fun. It was definitely a night I will never forget. IMG_5237.TRIM
Imagine a room full of people from all over the world trying to get to know each other in a few short minutes. Some only know a few words in English, and some have studied it for years and are stoked to be able to use what they’ve learned. After talking to many individuals, American and International students find someone their compatible with and choose to be paired for the year. The American student then goes to events with the international student and teaches them about all the traditions and quirks about living in America. This is exactly what happens in an organization I am part of called OU Cousins.
When I entered the room, there were only about ten people in a circle playing a funny game, and I began to wonder if there was going to be much of a turnout. Then, there were suddenly people spilling into the room, so excited to meet their new friend. I talked to people from France, Japan, Sweden, Australia, and many other countries and had some of the most interesting conversations. Everyone was so friendly and it was interesting to talk to so many people from completely different backgrounds that spoke completely different languages. Finally, I met my OU Cousin. She is from Hong Kong and one of the coolest people I’ve met. She is super interested in planes and is working on becoming a pilot. Further, she is part of PLC and is super involved in organizations all over campus. We ended up having more Americans that international students, so I grouped up with two other students, Faith and Kailyn, and we all were so glad to get to know Lavina more and more. We’ve grabbed lunch several times, went to international prom (which I will write about soon) and plan to go see Christmas lights together this next week. I have loved being a part of this organization and am so thankful for my little family of cousins.