Well, I did it. I survived a year of dorm life, gen eds (chemistry, I’m looking at you), late nights and 5 AMs, procrastination on an Olympic level, and learning all sorts of new things. I talked to strangers, learned to row, got my car towed, j’ai appris un peu de français, and had more campus food than I could have ever wanted. Final grades haven’t come out yet, but I’m crossing my fingers for all As and have moved on to trying to figure out plans for this summer. I’m hoping to volunteer at one of the clinics in OKC and maybe use a little of my Spanish knowledge there, as well as getting a summer job with an actual income. I’ve finally got housing lined up for next semester along with 18 hours of classes that I’m equal parts excited about and terrified for. I’m still keeping my head above water and I honestly don’t think I would be happier anyplace else. So here’s to a somewhat successful first year (and hopefully 3 more to follow). I’ll try to update at least once or twice this summer when I get my plans figured out and get started working and/or if my mom follows through on her (semi-joking, I think) plans to whisk me away on vacation somewhere for a week or two because my dad “never takes her anywhere”. So good luck with wherever you are in your life, and thanks for catching a little glimpse of where I’m at in mine. 🙂
- Remand \ri-ˈmand\ (verb): to send (an accused) back into custody by court order (as pending trial) : turn (a prisoner) over for continued detention : the sending of a prisoner or accused person back into custody (or sometimes admitting him or her to bail) to await trial or continuation of his or her trial
- Remand \ri-ˈmand\ (noun): a powerful documentary that everyone should watch before they die
At the end of May, I attended a screening of the short documentary “Remand” with the OU College of Law as an international event. The documentary was a beautifully executed, unsettling, and candid look at the injustice and abysmal conditions in the prison system of many countries. Remand takes its viewers into the prison system of Uganda through the eyes of an American lawyer Jim Gash, a group of law students from Pepperdine University, and Henry, an African boy placed on trial for two crimes he did not commit and forced to remain on remand for years.
The next part of this is going to be a summary/ things that I learned section, and will undoubtedly include spoilers, so this is your warning; if you need to, close your eyes and scroll to the end 🙂
Henry ended up on remand after his family was robbed by a herdsman who was later found by the mob, brought to Henry’s family’s house, and beaten to death. Henry, his father, and his brother were all arrested even though they asked the mob to show the man mercy and did not have any part in his killing. They were sent to Luzira Upper prison, a facility for prisoners who have committed serious offences. The prisoners there are split by the colors of their clothes: white for death row, yellow for remand, and orange for the lifers. The amount of people in yellow in the film was overwhelming. Luzira Upper Prison, at the time Henry was there, held 3,000 inmates. It was built for 600. The overcrowding caused issues with sleeping, feeding, and meeting medical requirements, and the terrible system lead to many misplaced files and files losing their position in the order they were to be seen by the judges. Prisoners, under Uganda’s justice system, wait years for their day in court, though many want to confess to their crimes and even believe they deserve their sentence. These people had been convicted of crimes including rape, murder, treason, terrorism, and aggravated robbery/defilement. And Henry was among them, innocent.
While he was on remand, he was sent with some of the other prisoners to a work camp. The camp’s boss, Rose, ordered Henry to beat a young prisoner, and when he tried to show the boy mercy, was ordered to bury him alive. Henry and a few other prisoners, unable to disobey orders but still wanting to show him mercy, only buried him to the neck then freed him after a few hours. The next day, the young boy tried to escape the camp and Rose ordered 4 different prisoners to beat him. The boy was beaten 40 strokes with a stick and he died. Rose and Henry were charged with murder. When their case was brought to court, 1 lawyer was called to defend both Rose and Henry and none of the juveniles at the camp or Henry were allowed to testify, so even though Henry was completely innocent, he was convicted after the lawyer chose to defend Rose and blame him. But in May 2013, Jim Gash was given special permission to represent Henry as the first American to appear as an advocate in Ugandan court. After 2 years of work to prove his innocence, Henry was exonerated on June 19, 2015 and allowed to walk free.
Along with Jim’s work with Henry, he and the law students form Pepperdine who traveled to Uganda over their summer vacation in 2014 were paired with Ugandan lawyers and students to help solve cases and implement a plea bargaining system in Uganda. One of the students, James Brown, said, “You’re hearing about the worst days of someone’s life and they’re taking you through it from when they woke up to when they went to bed, and it’s rough.” They began working through the 8,500 committed remands and motivating prisoners to plead guilty to manslaughter charges, which do not necessitate capital punishment, so they could get out of remand and begin serving their sentences. Their reform efforts worked, and in the summer of 2015, Uganda had its first national plea bargaining conference. The system credited all of the prisoners with their time on remand, leading some prisoners to be released. This plea bargaining system has allowed the courts to hear cases at 1/5 the cost of the remand system, and Uganda has already set the example for many other African countries that have begun to begin work towards implementing plea bargains with their help. The documentary ended by saying that Henry is now a medical student.
After the documentary, we were lucky enough to have a Q & A session with Jim Gash. He was very down to earth and his passion for his work was immediately visible. He has made 20 trips to Uganda since 2010 and has done amazing work there every time he goes. He told us that the waiting time for juveniles on remand has gone from 2 years to 6 months, and that the Ugandan system had been through over 7,000 plea bargains since they left. He will return sometime this month for a women and leadership conference, anti-trafficking work, and more prison trips. He and Henry have weekly Skype calls, and Henry wanted to call and talk with us after the documentary but it was around 4 a.m. in Uganda and his alarm didn’t wake him up in time unfortunately. He is in his third year of medical school studying to be a cardiologist, and the younger brother who was convicted with him has also been exonerated is now in law school.
I have a notebook with two pages full of notes and comments about the documentary; it was informative, gripping, frustrating, and heartwarming, and it reignited my desire to do work similar to the work that Jim Gaff does, but in a more medical or mission- focused setting rather than a law setting. I love seeing the amazing changes that can be made when people work together to solve problems. One of the best parts of the documentary for me was seeing the process the Americans took with the Ugandans to reform their system and implement plea bargaining. They came in to the situation with a focus on developing relationships and asking “What do you need and how can we help you accomplish it?” rather than “Here is what you need and we’re going to fix it our way because we’re more developed so we know better.” It was refreshing to see the Americans working with the Ugandans to find solutions that would actually work for them and to implement these solutions in such a way that Uganda could continue to improve its system after the Americans left.
I would 100% recommend this documentary to anyone and everyone, especially anyone with even a remote interest in law. Its commentary on the power of ideas and of people who are willing to work for each other leaves a lasting mark and proves that with just those two things we can make dramatic and enduring changes.
So my international organizations for this year were a little unconventional. If you’ve been following, my OU Cousin Anita was supposed to go back to Taiwan after spending Christmas in Boston over the break. Instead, she ended up visiting an aunt in Canada, then came back to Oklahoma where she *heart eyes, clasps chest* met a boy. He was from Spain and they had met during the year when they were both filling out paperwork to apply to extend their study abroad term at OU. He got approved, but she did not and that seemed to be the end of it.
But since she was finished with all of the classes she needed for her degree and would just be going back and finding a job when she returned home, Anita decided to come back to Oklahoma and stay with some friends for a little while, then ended up in a fairytale romance with the Spanish boy and decided to stay even LONGER. We met up a while back to get food and she told me about him, showed me all of their cute pictures, and explained how she definitely hadn’t told her parents the reason why she was extending her stay again. A few days after we met up, she jetted off to Las Vegas, then the Grand Canyon, and then to Los Angeles. All of the pictures she sent me were amazing, and since I haven’t been to any of the places she got to travel to, I was quite envious as she told me about walking the strip in Vegas, taking in the sheer enormity of the Grand Canyon, and falling asleep on the beach in California. But my envy was in a way that was also full of excitement for her, and I am so glad she was able to have all of the amazing experiences she had while she was here. Anita is finally actually gone now (…I think), and I tried to text her a few weeks back but I think we may have to switch to email or Skype now that she’s off of her international phone plan. It was a happy surprise for me to get to see her one last time though, and I hope that I can have just as great of an experience next semester with OU Cousins.
I also joined and attended a meeting of the Spanish Club on campus, which turned out to be nothing like I expected. First of all, there was not a single word of Spanish spoken during the meeting. I was kind of under the impression that it would be a culture and conversation club, but I guess it’s more just culture. The meeting featured the University’s Diplomat in Residence, Rob Andrews. He is a Senior Foreign Service Officer who was assigned a term as the Diplomat in Residence for the Central Region of the US as well as being an adjunct professor at OU. He came and talked to the Spanish Club about career and internship opportunities with the US Department of State, specifically about becoming Consular Fellows. A Consular Fellow, for all of the non-foreign service experts out there, serves overseas in US embassies or consulates and carries out many of the same duties as Foreign Service Officers- interviewing visa/passport applicants, adjudicating (approving or denying) visa/passport applications, fielding questions from and providing protection for people in their specific country and the US, and other similar tasks- but in a 4-5 year non-career appointment rather than a long term job. Mr. Andrews described the major tasks and everyday duties of a Consular Fellow, the application process, and the 6 languages that the State Department is looking for (one of which, not-so-coincidentally, is Spanish). The presentation was super informative, and the job actually seemed really cool. If I wasn’t trying to get into medical school I would probably seriously consider applying for it. But the club itself wasn’t what I was expecting, and I didn’t have the time to attend another meeting to see what else Spanish club had to offer. I’m not sure if I will try it out again next year or try to find something a little different. The university has just started a model World Health Organization, and I’ve heard from a few people that the model UN group on campus is also a lot of fun. But I’ve got a whole summer between me and the next organization I decide to dip my toes into, so I’ll cross that proverbial bridge when I get there. For now I’m just content with my interesting, unconventional, and unexpected first year of experiences with international organizations.
In February I attended a panel of OU’s Forum on Democracy, an international event held to answer the question “is democracy in danger here and abroad?” and provide various perspectives as to the state of democracy today and how to defend it, as well as to address the ways our new president has left us questioning its future. The speakers I had the chance to listen to gave enriching and informative presentations of their views on the state of democracy, and their comparisons of our nation to various others close to their fields of work were eye-opening for me.
The first panelist to speak was Dr. Mitchell Smith, who gave a talk titled “Checks and Balances: Robust or Fragile?” The panel began early so I missed the beginning of his talk, but for the part that I listened to he focused heavily on propaganda and the role of elected officials, especially in situations of protests, to acknowledge citizens’ concerns. Dr. Smith cited examples of people using fake sites and ads to project that protestors are being paid so that elected officials can ignore the passion that motivates citizens to protest.
The second panelist was Dr. Alan McPherson, who compared Trump to the autocrats and populists of Latin America. He began with defining autocracy as non-constitutional and stating that populists act outside the bounds of normal democratic behaviors, with populism itself being a result of inequality. He said that Trump exemplifies populist behaviors in that he is very charismatic; he seeks the attention of crowds and monopolizes on the media (with his endless stream of tweets), exudes male chauvinism, and is deeply divisive- he is an expert at finding enemies and inventing dragons to slay. From Trump’s presidency, Dr. McPherson said we can expect significant violence and oppression at home and abroad, which puts us in the same boat as Chile. Trump is also like Latin American leaders like Fidel Castro with his disregard for expertise, or like Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela in that he thinks his leadership can replace bureaucracy and only does what makes him look good. Dr. McPherson continued to emphasize that all of Trump’s actions as well as the populism in Latin American countries is due to inequality.
After Dr. McPherson gave his talk, Dr. Tassie Hirschfield came to the microphone to address corruption and kleptocracy. She prepared a slideshow with her presentation, and defined corruption as “illegal use of public office for private gain” and kleptocracy as “rule by thieves” or, “the most common form of office that no one wants”. Kleptocracy is brought about when non-elected leaders take power by force. She explained that increased “gangsterism” in the economy corrodes democratic governance and that a racketeer economy is incompatible with democracy. The example that Dr. Hirschfield employed for kleptocracy was Russia in the 1990s. Crime re-organized the post-Soviet economy as the banking and natural resource sectors were gangsterized. Afterwards, she asked the question “where are we?” in terms of danger of kleptocracy and corruption and showed us images from Transparency International, which included a “How Corrupt is Your Country” map. Then she brought up a slide titled “Things to watch for/protest”, which listed things like the repeal of Cardin-Lugar and other parts of Dodd-Frank, reckless deregulation of energy and banking that allow organized crime to invade or manipulate these essential industries, bank bust-outs and bail-ins (where banks go bankrupt but get to keep your money to bail themselves out), questionable sale of public assets, and looting/skimming public pensions under the guise of privatization, stabilization, or bankruptcy reform. But she also reassured the attendees of the Forum, reminding us that the U.S. has never had a czar or king, our institutions were built to support democracy but require citizen buy in and participation, and that foreign attempts to manipulate the executive branch can only work if done in secret but that the information “wants to be free”. In other words, we were founded on democratic principles and as long as they are maintained, we should be able to avoid the threat of kleptocracy.
The final panelist I listened to was Dr. Peter Gries. He, after listening to the other panelists, decided to digress from his original topic in order to address the assault on truth and its consequences coming out of China. He discussed the sustained widespread assault on free press coming out of the country and cited three main examples. First was the Korean War. There is a museum in China showing evidence of alleged American bacteriological warfare during the war- propaganda produced by the government accepted as fact by the people. Those who had seen it, when asked about it, said they could not trust America (exactly what the government wanted with their spread of false information). His second example was the Great Leap Forward. In the 1950s China wanted to catch up with Europe and the U.S., which led to a nationwide push led by chairman Mao Zedong. The assault on truth in this situation was within the country itself; Zedong was so insulated that while he heard that things were great, in the fields people were starving and the Leap was followed by a famine in which an estimated 30 to 60 million people died and widespread cannibalism occurred. The final example Dr. Gries gave was a personal anecdote of his time at Beijing University in the Spring of 1988. The Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred shortly after he left the university, and he was extremely worried about many of his friends there. But he was unable to get any valuable information because the Chinese government covered up the Massacre by broadcasting “trials” of counterrevolutionary protestors. The government continues to whitewash the entire situation, calling it simply the Tiananmen Square “Incident” if they speak of it at all and making no reference to the fact that millions of innocent civilians were murdered by the government. Chinese students today, with China’s heavy censorship blocking nearly all information about the massacre, know nothing of the true violence perpetrated due to the complete absence of free press in this example of the assault on truth.
Overall, I thought the Forum on Democracy was very engaging and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. The differing perspectives and wide range of examples and comparisons from different regions brought forth by the professors were incredibly informative as well as being a prediction of where we could be heading under the Trump presidency. I would have liked to see each of the speakers interact more with potential positive effects of Trump being in power, because I am certain that there are possible benefits, but the general reaction is to highlight all the not-so-pleasant qualities he so proudly puts on display.
Well this post was supposed to happen sometime early in February but wow, things have been nuts. I figured my second semester would be easier than my first because I more or less know what I’m doing now and what to expect from this place. But I was sorely mistaken. With rowing being in season and my workload in class being about twice as much, I feel like I’ve just been playing catch-up for the past 3 months. But hey, I only have about 4 weeks to go, and then summer!
Short, sad anecdote regarding summer: I was supposed to spend a month in Spain over mid June/early July. I enrolled in a History of Jazz class to fulfill my Understanding Artistic Forms credit, and it was basically comparing American jazz music through its European and African ancestors with Flamenco music of Spain. The professor was awesome, the timing was great, I was going to get to stay with a host family (read: full immersion into the culture, lots of Spanish practice, and FOOD), and there were a bunch of super cool excursions planned. I applied, got accepted, did a happy dance, and paid the first third of my program fee. The professor called me the week before spring break and said that there were only 2 or 3 people enrolled in the class, but that he went every year and was definitely still going with whoever wanted to go as long as I was okay with it being a small group. I told him that group size was no problem for me, and we planned to meet after break to go over details with the other girl on campus that was signed up. Then, in the middle of break, I got the email. “Due to low enrollment, your program has been cancelled.” Sorry ’boutcha, we’re crushing your dreams in three lines of Times New Roman. So now I have no plan for my summer and still have to fit 2 study abroad trips around the MCAT and all of my other pre-med/biology/Spanish requirements. But there must have been a reason for it, and I’m sure my next trip will be even better. I mean, as long as I actually get to take it I suppose it will automatically be an improvement…
But back to the point. New semester has been crazy. And not just in terms of classes; Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20th and I could write a full post solely on the crazy things he has done since he’s been in office. The British government officially started the withdrawal process of Brexit, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, terrorist attacks abound, and protests have popped up worldwide over issues from women’s and transgender rights in the US to demonstrations against Chile’s privatized pension system, Anti-Zuma protests in South Africa, protests in Russia, Hungary, Venezuela, and so many others. Plus, last year was the warmest year on record according to NASA, and the weather doesn’t seem to be breaking its string of anomalous behavior any time soon.
So things have been weird. But I’m just going to keep an eye out, keep going, and see where we go from here.
It’s the last Friday of my first semester of college and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m actually done. No homework, no exams, and no 5:30 AM rowing for almost a month! It’s been a relatively successful semester; I’m ending the year with all A’s (barring any abysmal final exam grades) and a pretty secure spot on the rowing team for the spring, I’ve met a ton of new people, learned things from both my curriculum and from college life itself, and had a lot of experiences that (for both good and bad reasons) I won’t ever forget.
Almost everyone on campus left today or, like me, will be leaving tomorrow. Anita flew out to New York with 3 of her European friends yesterday and before leaving gave me a pair of really nice chopsticks, a t-shirt that says Taiwan on it, one of the little red Chinese New Year envelopes with 100 Taiwanese dollars (about $3 USD) in it because I told her I loved getting them from my Vietnamese and Chinese friends at home, and a guidebook to Taiwan. I’m definitely going to miss her and I wish she had more time here, but I’m excited for her to see her family again and definitely plan on keeping in touch after she gets back home. And, who knows, I could very well end up in Taiwan someday…
This semester has truly flown by, and I feel like I’ve gotten off to a pretty good start being somewhat of an adult. I have really enjoyed getting involved and being here on campus but I’m very much looking forward to winter break, where I will have two and a half weeks of relaxing, watching Netflix, seeing family, and eating real people food, then 10 days in Florida for a winter training camp with half of the rowing team (yay, two-a-days!). And then it’s back here for the spring to do it all over again. Until then, happy holidays, and don’t forget to enjoy every second you have here. Life is short; eat well, love people, try new things, explore the world, and always wear more layers than you think you’ll need this time of year 🙂
On the twelfth week of college, OU gave to me:
12 bowls of cereal
11 noisy neighbors
10 new assignments
9 abandoned dryers
8 drunken hallmates
7 extra meal swipes
6 online textbooks
5 AM rowing
4 hours til deadlines
3 missed alarms
2 evening classes
…And a parking spot a mile away
Merry Christmas 🙂
So today is December 1st and I’m sitting here on my laptop completely clueless as to where my year went. I’ve been in this strange paradoxical state of every day dragging on for what seems like forever but the semester- really this entire year- passing by at warp speed.
Last week was our Thanksgiving break, and it was wonderful. I got almost a week’s worth of home-cooked meals (plus leftovers!) and more than 5 hours of sleep in a night for the first time since September. I also brought Anita home with me so she could experience her first American Thanksgiving and once again was given a new perspective on things after spending time with her. We drove home on Tuesday afternoon, but I had an appointment with my eye doctor so she tagged along before we actually stopped at my house. Anita was surprised at how long the appointment took, and told me that in Taiwan the eye doctors don’t examine patients even half as closely as doctors here and just want to get people in and out quickly, which I found interesting. I haven’t really thought much about foreign healthcare besides the lack thereof in undeveloped countries and cost comparisons. But talking to her a little bit about eye examination procedures made me want to really delve into the quality and different types of healthcare and medicine available around the world (which, now that I think about it, is actually quite pertinent to my major, especially if I end up working in another country).
One thing that I really like about Anita is that she is so observant; she notices things that I would never even think about, like, for example, the fact that apparently my family eats beans A LOT. For dinner Tuesday my mom made this southwest chicken chili-ish crock pot dish with black beans, corn, and salsa. Then on Wednesday we ate leftover country ham and beans with cornbread for lunch. At Thanksgiving lunch we had green beans, and on Friday we had baked beans with our barbecue from Billy Sims. After Wednesday’s lunch Anita commented, “You guys eat a lot of beans,” and I assured her “Oh no, we were just using up the leftovers but we usually don’t eat them that often.” But by Friday I had to take it back because wow, we do eat a lot of beans. Then, after Wednesday’s bean observation, there was another bizarre thing that Anita noticed. For Thanksgiving we had 17 people over at our house. For some reason, 6 of them were wearing green (when I told her that she and 5 others from the amalgamation of family and friends at our house were wearing the same color, my mom said that it was because ‘great minds think alike’) and Anita asked me if green was the “Thanksgiving color”. No one else even saw the coincidental color coordination, but Anita thought that like red and green equals Christmas, dressing in green was somehow connected to Thanksgiving.
She also took pictures of EVERYTHING. My dogs, the table before it was set, the table after it was set, the table with food, the massive cotton field out in Yukon when my mom and I introduced her to Dairy Queen, my neighbors’ driveway (because it had a lot of cars in it), the Christmas lights on the farm outside of my neighborhood, the Black Friday line when I took her to Kohl’s to get winter clothes on Thursday night, the sky, everything. It made me really stop to think about how unique my life and my home is, and honestly made me more thankful for the little blessings in my life this Thanksgiving than I ever would have been otherwise.
Anita leaves here as soon as the semester is over to go to New York with her friends and then to spend Christmas in Boston with the host family she stayed with over the summer 2 years ago. Even though I have only known her a few months, she has been so much fun to spend time with and has made such an impact on my world view. I’m reluctant to let her go, but she’s already promised to stay in touch and to come back and visit the next time she’s in the U.S. I’m so glad I decided to join OU Cousins and I look forward to getting to know more of the wonderfully unique and diverse people who share this vast universe with me.
Happy November! This year is going by so quickly, and I can barely believe I only have about a month and a half left of my first semester. I already enrolled for the spring, and am so completely happy with my schedule- beginning French, Spanish comp, understanding the global community, and gen chem continued. Minus the whole general chemistry thing, I’m going to get to spend every week doing things I love to do. I am content, and life is good… as long as I avoid thinking about the finals that are waiting just around the corner.
In this post, I want to introduce the international organization I belong to as well as one of the new people in my life whom I will be referring to often in the future. I am a part of OU Cousins, an organization that matches American OU students with foreign exchange students in order for the exchange students to form relationships with the OU students and to have someone to serve as a sort of guide to OU, Norman, and just the U.S. in general for the semester or year that they are here. My Cousin is named Anita. She’s from Taiwan and is an international business major who is taking business and tap dance classes while she’s here, and she is absolutely wonderful. Two Sundays ago, we went to lunch together. We ate at Cate, one of the restaurants on campus, and I bought her lunch because I am in an endless quest to use all of my allotted meal swipes before they turn over each week. Anita got breakfast food while we were there and discovered that she enjoys hash browns, a food that I never thought someone would consider even remotely out of the norm after having grown up in the South with country-style diners in even the smallest of farm towns. When I asked her how her food was she pointed at what was left of the pile of fried potatoes on her plate and said “I really like these, what are they called?”, and I just paused for a second before answering, reveling in the fact that I was actually seeing someone experience hash browns for the first time ever. How often does one get the opportunity to see someone try something completely new and foreign to them? For me, it’s not often enough. I love learning about and trying new things, so I get excited just seeing others do the same (is that super nerdy?).
After we ate, I took Anita to Walmart to get groceries. As we were leaving campus and talking about upcoming plans she asked me to explain homecoming. Just as I did during our lunch, I kind of froze up. Homecoming is just… a thing. It’s just something everyone here does without really questioning it, like using the Metric system. It was really difficult for me to find the right words to try to explain something that I didn’t even understand the point of myself. I couldn’t get it out of my mind so I looked it up after our trip. Oxford defines homecoming as “A reunion of former students of a university, college, or high school“, but it generally just seems to be a celebration of the school and its students. I didn’t look much into the origin, but the tradition of homecoming has its roots in alumni football games held at colleges and universities beginning in the 19th century. Homecoming is a purely North American event, only appearing in America and Canada. But for me, homecoming was always just homecoming. Another strange tradition that people followed blindly and an excuse for the girls on the homecoming court to go out and buy fancy dresses and primp themselves.
This past Saturday was the University of Oklahoma’s football homecoming game. I didn’t get to be a part of any of the weekend’s festivities because the rowing team left bright and early (well, dark and early) Friday morning to travel to Austin, Texas for a regatta, and we didn’t return until about 9:00 Saturday night. But the classic American homecoming atmosphere was still present during week (along with a decent amount of free stuff) and although I didn’t participate much, I saw this homecoming in a different light than any that I’ve been a part of previously by trying to put myself in Anita’s shoes and see the tradition of homecoming from a new perspective.
Another thing Anita and I discussed on the drive to Walmart that I found fascinating was housing. We talked about her apartment and my dorm and she told me that at the dorms at her university in Taiwan, the school turns off the lights every night at midnight and cuts off the Wi-Fi at 2 AM. Boys aren’t allowed to visit the girls’ dorms at all and vice versa, and from what I gathered it’s definitely more of a prison than dorms here. It made me curious as to the underlying social, political, and economic differences that could be behind the much more stringent atmosphere of Taiwanese dormitories.
I really enjoy comparing cultures with Anita, and she is so open with me and all of my questions. It makes spending time with her a learning experience as well as just a really enjoyable time, and the only negative for the day with her was me, the Okie who has been to Norman more times than I can count, getting lost on the way to Walmart and having to make a U-turn in a Taco Bell parking lot. Nice going, Katherine. Way to make Anita think you know what you’re doing.
Here is a picture of us at the gas station, because my gas light seems to be perpetually on and I figured making Anita walk to the station with a gas can after we ran out of gas in the middle of the street would maybe not be the best bonding experience.
I figured that would be the best place to start. The beginning, that is. My name is Katherine Stroh and however you happened to stumble upon my blog, thanks for being here.
My probably not-so-humble beginnings were in a suburb of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where I was introduced to this crazy thing we call the world in January of 1998. I can’t remember when I first fell in love with it, but as far as I know the world and all of its wonders have always fascinated me. I grew up constantly seeking to learn new things about new places and to cram as many facts as I could possibly fit into my head. When I was younger, reading was one of my favorite things to do (and it honestly still is). It allowed me to transport myself to so many places that I knew I could never actually see, and I spent countless hours living vicariously through the experiences and travels of other people.
I am, as of Fall 2016, a first year student at the University of Oklahoma and thanks to this wonderful group called the Global Engagement Fellowship, I no longer only get to travel through books or other people’s vacation photos. For a kid from Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma who has never been out of the country unless you count Alaska (which, if we’re being honest, could technically be it’s own entity; it definitely does not have the same vibe as the contiguous U.S.), GEF is pretty close to heaven on Earth. Through the fellowship I have the opportunity to take two trips abroad to virtually anywhere I want to go with a scholarship divided into a semester or year-long trip and a summer excursion. And the only real stipulations are this little blog, some campus involvement, a course called Understanding the Global Community, and good grades. What a deal, right? For me, the only problem is the fact that I have to limit myself to just two places to study abroad. I want to experience the entire world- visit every country, taste food from every region, be multilingual (I’m talking like 5 to 7 languages here), meet people with different cultures and beliefs and languages and life stories, to see things and do things and go places and learn something new from each person I meet- and that’s hard with only two trips. But two is definitely greater than zero, and I’ll gladly take the opportunity that I’ve been given for the present and then see where the future takes me (and hopefully it takes me abroad).