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.