Reflection #10

Hello World!

Prompt: Have you gone on an international volunteer trip before? If so, how did it compare with the criticisms of international volunteerism you have encountered? What is your reaction to that? If not, are you interested in doing international service in the future? Why or why not? If so, how will you approach it? What will you look for?

I have always found international volunteer trips very life-changing and is definitely on my college bucket list. I did not know of such an opportunity till I came to OU and the study abroad office. Although many students do study abroad in language emerssion programs or earn college credit through it, I have only heard of few that go out of nation solely to volunteer. While volunteering in general is a selfless act, it takes an especially incredible person to volunteer abroad. Volunteering abroad not only demands physical, but also mental and emotional readiness. Also, an ability to adapt quickly and give your best to improve a community you have possibly never met is a tough task, yet a very fulfilling one. These are just some of the reasons I find international volunteer trips attractive.

As mentioned before, I have been looking at World Unite, which I only found out about recently. They have plenty of volunteering and language immersion programs from both undergraduate and graduate students in numerous countries. Personally, I have been looking into clinical volunteering programs in Morocco, India and Israel. I hope to participate in one of those programs in the coming summer, and if I get that opportunity, I will be sure to keep you all updated!

Reflection #9

Hello world!

Prompt: Look up either a few of the staple foods or dishes or the traditional music of a country you want to visit, and describe why they are or aren’t appealing.

I know, I know I already did this prompt. But I loved researching and writing about Morocco so much that I wanted to discuss Moroccan music through this post. I will be honest, I think international music (other than Indian– can’t really call what I grew up with “international”) is really cool but I do not listen to it as much as I want. My dad, on the other hand, loves music. He is a strong believer in the fact that music has no language; and once that barrier is taken off, the tones, rhythm and all the neat sounds that create the naked music is blissfully enjoyable.

With that in mind, I looked up moroccan music. I was led to many videos of men in bright clothing with a round instrument in their hands. Those men reminded me of the Sufi dancers that I saw when I went on vacation to the middle east. Then one thing led to another and I soon found myself listening to very soothing Sufi music. I learned that Sufis are very common in Morocco. Sufi dancing refers to a series of motions, many that involve spinning facing up towards the sky, that are said to take you into a trance and bring you closer to Allah. In morocco, Sufi music is often mixed with traditional African rhythms. Both men and women sing and play instruments to create Sufi music, but I have not seen any women actually dancing to sufi rhythms. It is mainly just men that participate in dancing. Following is a link to the Sufi meditation music I found really appealing after clicking through various Moroccan music videos: Moroccan Sufi Meditation Music

Reflection #8

Hello world!

Prompt: Look up either a few of the staple foods or dishes or the traditional music of a country you want to visit, and describe why they are or aren’t appealing.

I believe in love. My love on earth is when food and travel come together, which is what this post will discuss. Since I have not exactly decided which country I want to study abroad in, I decided to just choose one from my general area of interest: Morocco. My interest in morocco was sparked by a dear friend of mine that got a scholarship through the federal government to study abroad for two months in Morocco. He spent his days with a host family, traveling, studying and writing about his time in Morocco (if I ever find the link to his blog, I will be sure to update you all! Although it was a while ago, I remember it as well worth the read). Within those short two months, he learned so much about Islamic culture and brought that passion back with him to college. He became an outspoken activist in the issues between Israel and Palestine and even went to Jordan for study abroad during college. His travel and work became such an inspiration to me, that I’m currently looking for an affordable study abroad program in Morocco.

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17-Moroccan-Mint-Tea

Enough of all that, let’s talk about food! From every popular recipe website popped out these two main staples of Moroccan cuisine (pictured above): Moroccan chicken tajine with almonds and chestnuts, and Moroccan mint tea. I looked over some recipes while trying to keep myself from drooling and it sounds really delicious! I have never tried the chicken tajine before, but I read it is made in a traditional clay crockpot called tajine, which is where the famous dish gets its name. The mint tea is something I have tried before, but I have a strong feeling the authentic Moroccan version will taste much better. Next goal: find a Moroccan friend and have him/her make me some chicken tajine!

Reflection #7

Hello world!

Prompt: Talk about a book or movie that’s had a significant impact on how you view the global community or your place in it. 

I was never the one to get overly excited about political movies. The mysterious jargon, the stern white men in crisp suits, the corruption– none of it appealed to me because it never felt like reality. But on one family movie night, my dad brought “Argo” home. “Based on the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979,” it read in bold on the back cover. Just based on that line I could tell my family (except my dad and I) would all be asleep 5 minutes into the movie.

When the movie started, it immediately sucked me in. Maybe it was the cinematography, or good script writing, or the actors’ skills, or all the above– whatever it may be, that movie became my favorite political movie of all time. I will be honest, I did not know much about Iran. And I am not necessarily saying that movie taught me a lot, since it was taken from the US’ point of view. But it did fulfill what I suspect was the goal of everyone that supported its production– to remind people of what happened. Yes, the point of view is super bias and yes, from the reviews I read after the movie, it is evident that not everything is historically accurate. However, that movie really inspired me to look more into Iran vs. US relations, specifically into the Islamic Republic of Iran and the revolution led by Khamenei.

Overall, as aforementioned, I believe the movie served its purpose– to reignite the importance of Iran and US relations and get people talking about it.

 

Reflection #6

Hello world!

Prompt: International students have many unique challenges and experiences on the OU campus. As you go through your day, think about and describe what would be different about each part of it if you were experiencing it as a non-American. 

To hopefully structure my answers to the above question better, I will walk through my typical college fresh(wo)man day and then express how any aspect of that would be different had I not been a native from the US.

I would first do the regular, nonchalant brushing teeth/cleaning face/showering ritual. Much of that should be the same for a non-american. One sort of weird thing I remember from my first days here was my fascination with the bathtub. To me, a tub was something you only saw in soap commercials: an insanely fair girl (India’s obsession with fair skin can be a whole another blog post) in a royal bathtub with gold claws and brimmed with bubbles. But in real life, there were taps, a shower head, a bucket and lots of open room to karaoke and dance.

Next would be breakfast and getting to class. An american/southern breakfast, I feel, would appear strange to a non-American at first sight. The crispy bacon and buttery biscuits with gravy and hash browns that have now became my favorite would definitely have been ditched on the plate 7 years ago. However, most of us can still agree on a nice bowl of cereal, or “corn flakes” as they are called in India. Furthermore, a non-American may be surprised by how much we use our cars in Oklahoma. I remember when I first came here, the amount of open road was scary. The Delhi I knew was polluted with motorbikes and scooters more than cars and it was very easy to stick your hand out the window in a traffic block and touch the passenger nearby (something I did–and got in trouble for– more than I should’ve).

After classes, a student might go to hang out somewhere with their friends. Non-american students, I think, could adapt to the coffee shops, parks, malls or another popular place to hang out depending on to which they relate better. Overall, I think life as a non-american student in Oklahoma would be very interesting and might be difficult to adapt to at first, depending on the age of the student. However, with a group of supportive friends and mentors, it is amazing how fast and relatively easy the transition could be.

Reflection #5

For this reflection, I don’t really have a prompt. I wanted to discuss a book I’ve read (twice) over the summer, which is significant because, if you knew me, you would know I never read a book again if it isn’t THAT good. I will try my best to not put out too many spoilers but forgive me if I do!

The book is called A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss, and it is one of the best books I have ever read. Most of my reading for fun involves mystery, a strong female lead or stories of immigrants like me. This book encompasses all three. It introduces the reader to Afia, a devout, modest Pashtun girl with big dreams, living at Smith College. Her brother, a brilliant squash player attending a university nearby Smith, who brought her to amreeka, has taken on the responsibility to “watch” her and protect her namus. The book focuses on culture clashes, honor and its different roles within two families from the opposite ends of the globe.

As suggested by the title, honor is arguably the most important theme in this novel. Through this post, I wanted to compare and contrast what honor means in a typical american family versus that of Afia’s, which is not uncommon in South Asia. **Warning: Spoilers ahead** When Afia “messed up,” her stepbrother felt that she had stained the family’s namus and pressured her brother into killing her. He believed only her blood could restore her family’s honor. To him, the unmarried girl was the kiln that held the family’s respect. Her mistake would first be blamed on her mother, who did not raise her properly. Next, the father would be blamed for giving her the freedom that put her in the position to make her mistake. Then her brothers would be blamed for not protecting her and would be frowned upon at their workplaces. Her younger sisters would not receive any marriage proposals. If the mistake is severe enough, only disowning her or her “accidental” death would earn the family’s honor back. I can say from firsthand experience, that this is still true in many families from that part of the world. Call it tradition, but I personally like to call it sexism.

This is unlike the honor seen in the American family in the story. Afia’s brother’s coach has eyes that burn through you and words that leave you with chills. She is the athletic director at Enright University, and only a dream in the eyes of the people of Afia’s village. A woman with so much power is near impossible to make in Afia and her brother’s world, which is the reason they keep her hidden from their family, even though she is, indirectly, the reason both of them are in the US. When she decides to shelter Afia from fear of what her brother might do to her after her “mistake,” she sneaks behind her husband’s back to do so. She gets so involved in their lives and even defends Afia in court against her husband’s wishes. This shakes up the trust and honor in their marriage. This is a completely different definition of honor seen in the novel, one that makes more sense to me than the one aforementioned.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book to everyone seeking a better understanding of culture clashes and, not to generalize, but perhaps the lives that international students juggle.

Reflection #4

Hello world!

In this reflection, I hope to answer: “Talk about the foreign language that you’ve chosen to study. Why did you pick it? What, if anything, do you feel the language reveals about the culture(s) of the people who speak it?”

french

This is a group of amazing, french-loving people that made French one of my favorite classes in high school<3

I’ll give you a very stereotypical hint: baguettes and berets. I chose to study French because of my fondness for the idea of french life. That stereotypical picture of perfection: a beautiful, thin woman in a romantic city eating the most delicious food and wearing the most glamorous clothing. As shallow as it may sound, the 13 year old frazzled me that didn’t fit in anywhere just wanted to be part of that world. Moreover, the language was just so… pretty. The slight zz- sound following each word my french teacher pronounced and the poised purr that accentuated the r’s with vowels– it sounded so regal.

In high school, many of my french classmates switched to Spanish. The reasons were numerous: more useful in the south/midwest, increased job opportunities. Although it seemed very practical, I could not just give up french. During my two years of french in middle school, I had 4 teachers and thus the curriculum was never constant. When high school came, I was excited to finally have a good french class. Even though the teachers switching in and out through high school didn’t provide me with the stability I wished for, I’m glad I stuck with it. Although I may not be fluent, I can comprehend most colloquial french conversations and could (hopefully) survive for a short time in a francophone country.

As for what a language reveals about the culture of the people who speak it, I think it’s not exactly the concrete phrases of a language but the tone and usage of it that gives us an eye into the culture of the people who speak it. For example, french (and several Asian and European languages) have different words for the casual use of the word “you” versus a more respectful use of it. That is not something found in English. Perhaps it is because it is so widely used or maybe because it was vastly spread by Americans in our modern times. Either way, that is one thing I immediately noticed and hoped was present in American English.

 

Reflection #3

Hello world!

For this reflection, I hope to answer the following question: “Thinking back, what “culture shocks” did you experience while transitioning from high school to college life? What were some of the hardest moments? The most rewarding? How do you think those experiences will help prepare you for your study abroad?”

 

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As much as it pains me to put embarrassing photos of myself online, I thought this one was relevant to the post. This is my dad and I at a park days before we immigrated to the US. I think the clothes alone express how different my surroundings and I were compared to the US, and how that contributed to a huge culture shock and added pressure to “fit in” with the harsh middle school crowd in good ol’ Oklahoma.

Culture shocks are a weird thing, and being a first generation immigrant myself, I do not think those two words aptly display the severity of the situation. If you have seen the recent George Clooney movie, Tomorrowland (or even the trailer), you will recall the scene where the main character, Casey Newton, picks up the mysterious lapel pin for the first time and her surroundings immediately transform. While going to a new country for the first time may not be like entering a futuristic metropolis in a parallel universe, that particular scene basically summarizes my first “culture shock.”

I don’t think there were many “culture shocks” while transitioning from high school to college life for me since I only moved 40 miles away from home. However, there were challenges, the biggest being freedom. Every 18 year old moving away for college dreams about this freedom as an escapade from their parent’s roof and rules. To finally do what you want, when you want and how you want. However, I speak for more than just me when I say that when all that freedom hits you in the face all at once, it is scary. For me, I had a constant fear of “messing up”. For example, forgetting to do the laundry and not having clean clothes for school, or not waking up in time, or for trading valuable friendships for toxic ones. But, somehow, as the days went by and I fell into my natural routine of conversing and doing and feeling, as cheesy as it may sound, everything worked out….

…..Which leads me to the most rewarding part of my transition to college: finding balance. Ahhh the age-old quest to find balance in everything we do. Although I’m not an expert at it all the time, I learned how to prioritize and get things done. I started to like the feeling of busy because I knew everything I do had a purpose. Productivity became a necessity instead of a bonus. And that, my friends, is what I believe is what will help me most in my study abroad experiences: Learning to prioritize and get things done. Not being scared of something new but just do my best, and watch everything else fall in place. Whether that is with my relationships with my host family, or with my schoolwork abroad, or with the overwhelming feeling of new territory– I learned that believing in my abilities is winning half the battle.

 

Reflection #2

Hello World!

For this reflection, I wanted to do something more than a regular blog post– so I wrote a poem. I feel that these few lines will speak more about my opinions and understanding about this particular topic than any amount of paragraphs I could compose.

The question I hope to answer is “What is one social issue not so prevalent in the US but is in your country of interest? Discuss in your own words.” Since I am generally interested in middle east/south asia, I picked a problem prevalent in that area that many are ashamed/afraid to talk about: Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage. I understand they are different topics and I am not inferring one leads to the other but I believe they arise from the same umbrella of enforcing gender roles. Also, these are strictly my views on the topic and do not reflect that of any institution or organization I am affiliated with. With that said, here is the poem. 

Lost her life to fabricated bills

Using feeble force to surrender until

The maroon sindoor on her widow’s peak

Causes her intellect and smile to leak

“14 years is perfectly ripe” her father said

As he accepted cold cash from a 40 year old head

Thus frostbiting her education and childhood

Burning her capabilities in crisp firewood

All she asked was to postpone her “coming of age”

Away from genital mutilation or prepubescent sex

But the marriage was promised, the bride price paid

She was now her old husband’s family’s slave

No more school or friends or dreams

Injecting the title of “wife” into her bloodstream

I wish this was a myth, a vile idea to wreak

But it’s the truth, as proven by the sindoor on her widow’s peak

To learn more, click this: Ending Female Genital Mutilation & Child Marriage – No Time to Lose | UNICEF

Reflection #1

Hello world!

logo

The GEF scholars program (logo above– photo courtesy to our Facebook page) had very few guidelines of what was expected from this blog (which I think is great since it allows for more personalization!). One of them is to have 10 posts about international topics. Many of my peers use the word “Reflections” to title these international posts, which I thought was befitting as each post is supposed to be our “reflection” on particular topics. So for my first reflection, I decided to start simple and talk about what countries I want to visit and why.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a straightforward answer. This journey called college, already within the first year, has introduced me to so many interesting people and places. When I was applying, I knew, although eastern Europe and East Asia are very compelling, I wanted a more unpopular option for my study abroad. I was very intrigued by the middle East, specifically Oman and Kuwait. I had a lot of close family that used to and still live there. In fact, I had visited an uncle from there a few summers before college. Everything from their humble apartment next to an old Arabic mansion to mini Arabic lessons with my cousins echoed the lifestyle of a true Indian-Arabian family, which I found more fulfilling than any tourist resort brushing against the Persian Gulf. I knew then that whatever study abroad experience I choose, I wanted to live as the people there did (and preferably helping them) for that time, not as a tourist.

After visiting with my study abroad adviser, I could not find many programs to the Middle East that worked with my degree and budget. However, I did find “Journey to Turkey” which seems pretty involved and enlivening. Later in the semester, I was also introduced to “World Unite” which has many options for study abroad, volunteering, internships and other service works– and thus is right up my alley. I have been looking through it and found various interesting programs in Morocco, India and Israel and even discussed the possibility of getting college credit through OU for these programs. Either way, I know wherever I go, I will learn from the experience; I hope to teach or help someone on the other side too in the process.