Last week I had my mid-semester meeting for the Global Engagement Fellowship. I thought that the meeting went really well, and I was glad that my ideas for becoming more globally engaged were discussed and understood. It was nice to get feedback on those goals, and I appreciated that I got to explain them as opposed to just turn them in as an assignment. I was also pleased and slightly relieved to know that my digital storytelling idea and transcript are good, and I’m excited to complete the project and watch what everyone else will create. My transcript needs work, but mostly I just need to figure out how to shorten it and make it less of a summarization. I know that I will be able to do this with the implementation of visuals, but it’s still difficult to know exactly what to keep and leave out when I have so much to convey about my topic.
So far, I would say my semester is going pretty well. Last week, I changed my major from undecided to Psychology, after realizing that I spend way too much of my time thinking and talking about human psychology to not be taking a class on the subject. I was advised last week on enrollment for next semester, and I’m excited to start my foreign language, German. I know it will take a while to become proficient in German, but I have a good friend who is from Germany and I hope that by practicing with her I will progress quickly.
Something that has worried me a little about this first semester of college is my GPA. I was proud of my 4.0 in high school, even though I only had to work really hard in a few of my classes. In college I am more concerned with gaining the knowledge over a grade, but I can’t help but be anxious about my first B, because it seems closer than I think. I have been studying really hard and utilizing many on-campus tools, it’s just that some concepts, especially in my chemistry class, are hard for me to grasp at a level where I can make an A on the exam. It seems silly, and I know it won’t make a huge impact on my life to not have a 4.0 in my undergrad years, but it still stresses me out.
Goals that I have for this semester are therefore just to work as hard as I can and continue to study diligently, and not be too upset if I don’t get all As in my harder classes. I have a great chemistry study group of about ten people, so I’ll continue meeting with them often and working out how to do well, even if doing well is a B and not an A in the class. I know that I can still make fine grades, and the most important thing to remember is that 100 years from now it won’t matter that I didn’t make perfect grades. What really matters to me is that I do my best.
I thought it was a good idea to discuss diversity issues in Tuesday’s class, because not everything and everyone we encounter while abroad will be completely positive. As global engagement fellows we need to be prepared and ready for when such instances might occur and know how to properly handle and react to those awkward or uncomfortable situations. I have definitely experienced being an outsider of sorts in interactions with my family, both at large family gatherings and in smaller settings like at the dinner table. I was raised in a very conservative setting, and my parents have very strong and stubborn opinions concerning the world and the way it should be. Unfortunately, even though I love them very much and respect their opinions, I just can’t seem to agree with them on many topics. I know that as I get older my ideologies will change, but I am not religious, nor do I like associating myself with any sort of social labels, and while I have some conservative values, I am definitely more left-leaning than my parents would like. Now, this might be due entirely to the fact that I am a rebellious teenager who just wants to argue all the time, but I do have strong opinions about the way the world is and the ways that it could be better. From this experience of being an “other” within my familial group, I have learned when to keep my opinions to myself (mostly) and to not get overly angry or frustrated when I hear someone voice an opinion with which I do not agree. I have learned that some arguments are not worth fighting for, but most of the time, people’s opinions do not change but are simply solidified further when debates arise.
I do not necessarily have any fears about studying abroad in terms of the characteristics of my person, and that is thanks to the way that I have learned to behave within my family. I know I will meet people abroad and plan on studying abroad in places that do not agree with certain aspects of my lifestyle, and I will try to keep my opinions to myself and not judge anyone for having views that oppose mine. It all depends on how comfortable I feel in a given situation. If I feel like I am in a safe place and someone asks me a controversial opinion-based question, then I will probably feel like it is acceptable to voice my ideas. Each situation will also be different and concern different topics, so I will just have to make informed decisions about when and when not to speak out. I believe I am well equipped to face diversity abroad.
The possibilities for studying abroad through OU are basically endless, and even though I will have the opportunity to travel abroad at least twice in my time here, the choice is still a very difficult one to make. I know that I will be going on a Journey program this summer, and I think I have narrowed it down to the Journey to Africa in Tanzania. I have always known that I didn’t want to study abroad or travel abroad simply to see large urban cities. I have an affinity for the outdoors and I feel a closeness to the earth that is hard to explain, and it just sounds like hippie garbage when I try. I want to see life and the world through the eyes of people who live closer to the earth without mind-numbing technology and other “wonders” of the 21st century. I want to get more in touch with my inner humanity, and I think Tanzania will help me access that part of myself, as well as learn to appreciate everything that I take for granted as an American. This is something that has been in the back of my mind for quite a long time, so if anything the program and the panelists who have come to talk to us in class have only served to deepen my interest in traveling to rural places.
I also want to spend time at OU in Arezzo for a multitude of reasons, but the most convincing are the fact that I have friends who have spent time there and absolutely loved it, that Arezzo is about the same size as Norman, and the stunning landscape. Another reason for wanting to be in Arezzo is the fact that if I stayed for a semester or a year in Italy, I would have many opportunities to travel through the rest of Europe, which is very enticing. I have always been interested in the history and art of Europe, and am excited to travel there, whether or not I choose to study in Arezzo is somewhere else in Western or Eastern Europe. Like with Tanzania, I have loved Europe since I took a short school trip a few years ago, and class discussions have only served to deepen my intense need to travel the region.
i. Where do you want to go?
Choosing where to go for my two trips abroad will be rather difficult, because there are so many options! However, my plan as of right now (keep in mind, it is incredibly likely that this will change!) is to go on the Journey to Africa: Tanzania trip this summer (’15) and then in the spring semester of my Junior year attend the University of Chemnitz in Germany. I have been told there is a special program for Psychology majors there through OU, and if I am still majoring in Psychology by then I think it would be a great opportunity.
ii. Why do you want to go there?
I plan to go on the Journey to Tanzania because I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa. I have had family members travel through Africa and a very good friend of mine goes on a mission trip every year, and they have all convinced me that I would love it. The huge diversity of land, animals, languages, and culture is something that I would really like to experience, and I know that it will be very different from what I am comfortable with in the US. The Journey program seems like a great way to start the process, because we will be traveling to various cities, living with host families, and experiencing the nature of Tanzania. I am especially excited about the nature component!
I want to go to Germany for a few different reasons. First, my dad spent two years in Germany when he was in the military and he loved it, and I have always wanted to go with him. If I went to school in Germany, he would get the opportunity to come visit me and we could travel to his favorite places. Another reason I would like to go to Germany is because one of my best friends is from Hamburg, and she really wants me to visit her home country so that I might learn to love and appreciate it as much as she does. I actually plan on visiting her in Hamburg in the summer of ’16 so that I can get to know the country before I study there!
The third reason for wanting to study in Germany is because of the Psychology program offered through OU. The study of Psychology is deeply rooted in German history, and the Technical University of Chemnitz is one of the top 5 universities in Germany. Even if I can’t get in to Chemnitz, then I’m sure I will find someplace else to study in Germany.
iii. What do you hope to study?
The courses offered in Tanzania focus on social issues. Specifically, Professor Jeannette Davidson will teach a class called Social Welfare Issues in Tanzania, and Professor Ann Riley will teach Social Justice Work in Tanzania. Professor Riley attended the Journey program launch party and spoke a little about her topic, which she seemed to be really passionate about. Seeing as social issues are within my general field of study, I believe I will enjoy both of the classes and even more so because we will be learning about them while we are in the country we are learning about so we can witness things firsthand.
In Germany I will be able to take classes that go toward my major or regular Gen Eds, as well as the German Language. Hopefully I will be proficient in German so that I can take classes in the language, but many universities including Chemnitz offer an array of classes in English so I will also have that option. I will most likely take Psychology and German courses, but I would also like to take a class that is not within my field, like German History or something of the like.
iv. What do you plan to do outside of class to become more culturally immersed?
Outside of class, I would like to attend traditional cultural festivities and events so that I may better immerse myself in my host countries. In Tanzania, I’d like to see traditional dances as well as listen to music. I also plan on spending my free time exploring my host cities on foot and talking with locals. Hopefully, this will also help me to better learn the languages!
v. Have any of these plans changed from when you first applied to OU? If so, how and why?
My plans have definitely changed from when I first applied to OU, because when I first applied I had no idea where I wanted to study abroad, and I’m still not 100% sure, but at least now I have some sort of plan! 🙂
I wrote this reflection after an in-class activity which involved separating the class into a large group and a small group, with the large group being representatives of a new country that had never had any contact with Americans before. The small group acted as “ambassadors” to come communicate and get to know the foreign community’s customs. The culture of the large group was strange, and involved only two phrases, which were “no no,” and “yes yes.” There were a few limitations for communication, and they were all pretty tricky. First, people from the large group were only allowed to talk to an ambassador if they were addressed directly. Second, the ambassador had to be wearing the same sleeve length as the person they were addressing in order to be answered. Third, the way the ambassador asked their question determined the answer that they would receive. If the question was asked with any sort of negative emotion in their face, the answer would automatically be “no no.” If it were asked with a smile and positive emotion, the answer would automatically be “yes yes.” The goal of the ambassadors was to learn as much as they could about the large group, but they failed to discern any of the rules.
Although last Thursday’s activity was very entertaining for myself and the class, I noticed that the four volunteers who came into the class as ambassadors from the US grew frustrated from the game when they could not figure out the rules of our mini-society. Even while trying not to giggle at the futility of their efforts, I found that I was disappointed every time they asked a question that was unhelpful in their search for understanding. I believe that such a reaction is natural, because as humans we communicate and socialize for the sole purpose of understanding and getting to know each other, but when someone doesn’t understand, one of our first reactions is to become annoyed. This realization will certainly change the way I interact with people throughout the world. Now that I have witnessed firsthand what my interaction with foreign citizens may be like the initial few instances I travel abroad, I know that I will need to keep calm and stay positive in any given social environment. If I became irritated in a situation abroad, that reaction would only make the situation worse and irritate those around me as well.
From last week’s class activities I have learned to approach each new situation with an open mind and creative thinking. I will not be afraid to reach out to people as long as I have a positive end goal in mind, and I will never give up on trying to understand a person or culture nor will I get frustrated if things just don’t make sense. I will embrace the cultures that I come across so that I might get the most out of the experience and expand myself as a global citizen. The ambassador activity also showed the importance of collaboration between groups, of exchanging ideas and letting thoughts bounce off of others so that a mutual understanding can be met. Interacting with likeminded people proved to be a great problem solving strategy, and even though the volunteer ambassadors didn’t come close to solving the activities rules, they would have been even worse off had they been alone. Thus, last week’s activities changed the way I will think and act in any given situation at home or abroad in a positive way.
Hello, internet! I just thought I’d share a little bit more about myself. My name is Clancy and I am from the great state of Oklahoma! I have lived here all my life and I truly believe that some of the kindest and most caring people live right here in my hometown.
I am incredibly socially awkward until I get comfortable around people, but after that it’s pretty hard for me to stop talking. Also, I love bad puns. Like, really really bad puns. I love to read, though I often complain about how I never have time to read between all of the homework and studying and, let’s be honest, Netflix binges of college. I really enjoy getting to know people and hearing their stories, but I am definitely an introvert and need my alone time to recharge the battery. I like to spend my alone time not necessarily alone, but with my pets. I have in my household one beautiful feline specimen who claimed me as her own one day when she wandered up as a kitten on to my back porch and refused to ever let me go. Due to my highly indecisive nature, she is a cat with many nicknames, but not one true name, and I usually just call her “little kitty”. We have one other cat named Daphne, and she is lovely some days, but other days acts as the spawn of evil. I have two dogs, a brittany spaniel named Tyson (I often fondly refer to him as “T-Dog”), and a fine older dachshund gentleman named Boomer (SOONER!). One of my favorite activities is walking out in the woods behind my house with Tyson, who likes to pretend like he is a champion hunting dog. My pets are an integral part of my life.
I have a twin brother named Chance, and he is a pretty cool dude. He’s about a foot and a half taller than me and can grow a full beard in about 30 minutes, and only one of those statements is an exaggeration. When we were younger, there were days when we were the best of friends and the next day we would sworn enemies, but I feel like most sibling relationships are like that. He and I are really similar, and I’m grateful that I got to grow up with such a great guy. What can I say, the kid’s like a brother to me. Both of my parents are remarried and there is a whole mess of half- and step-siblings, so I’ll spare you the rest of the lovely details.
When I first started the college adventure, my major was undecided in the pre-med track. Ever since I came out mildly intelligent, most of the adults in my family pushed for me to be a doctor. Thankfully, I’m a rebel, and thought that there were better ways in which my talents could help people, so I changed my major to Psychology. If it were possible, I would love to get a degree in technical theatre as a Stage Manager, because that was my heart and soul in high school, but the show must go on.
I applied for the Global Engagement Fellowship because I knew that I wanted to study abroad in college. One of the main reasons why OU was on my list was for the study abroad opportunities it presented, and acceptance into the GEF program solidified my choice. By the end of my undergrad I hope to achieve a level of global citizenship as opposed to just a citizen of the US or Oklahoma. I want to be able to feel a connection to the entire world, not just the land where I was born.
That’s about all I have for now, but rest assured I will continue to document my journey as a GEF by posting again soon!!
The perspectives that we discussed this week in my Becoming Globally Engaged class concerning the United States were not all completely surprising to me, but did help to expand my perspective on the world and the thoughts of others around me. From the tips we were given I have learned some very pertinent information that will be especially helpful in my travels abroad.
The thing that stood out most to me was the fact that, because I have grown up in the US and am accustomed to the norms of our culture, I tend to think that the US is the standard of the spectrum for all things in a wide range of topics, from public displays of affection to individualistic versus collectivist societies. As we learned on Tuesday, although I and the other global fellows may be a bit more globally knowledgeable than the average American on the street, we are still quite limited in our understanding of the world and the cultures of other countries and regions. My very thoughts and ideas are heavily influenced simply by the fact that I am a US citizen who carries American values and customs. Although I will never be able to completely lose all of the oddities of my American origin, I will strive to honor and respect the cultural differences and norms that I encounter in my travels abroad.
I also learned that before I travel to a foreign land, I should intensively study the culture and social rules of my host country so that I do not unknowingly offend any foreign citizens. This week helped me learn to be a more empathetic person in general, because all people that I meet in life, whether at home or abroad, will have come from varying backgrounds, and from now on I am going to be a more thoughtful and understanding person so that I may truly make a good impact on the globe.