German Opportunities Fair 2017

I recently had the distinct pleasure of helping host the German Opportunities Fair, which is a gathering of great German-speaking minds who want to attract and inform other great German-speaking (& learning!) minds. We hosted the event in the student union, and invested in food offerings of pizza and drinks in order to attract even more prospective great minds. Needless to say, the event was a hit.

There were several stations at the German opportunities fair—we had tables for internships, German major and minor information, Fulbright grants, graduate programs, general study abroad programs, and individual study abroad programs, like the summer in Leipzig, Germany Program. Everything anyone could want to know about OU’s German program (and more), they could find it there.

I was stationed at the general study abroad table due to my recent studies abroad, alongside a few other friends of mine who were in Germany last semester. I was the only representative of Austria, but I represented well. 😊

As soon as the doors opened, we were bombarded in the best way possible with students who wanted to know all there was to know about studying abroad in German-speaking countries, and we told them everything we possibly could based on our own experiences.

The best way to learn about studying abroad isn’t from pamphlets or professors, it’s from face-to-face conversations with people who studied abroad and had a wonderful time. Study abroad changes your life in innumerous ways, and nothing gets that across quite like someone who has personally studied abroad. Prospective study abroad students don’t need a spiel, they need an informal conversation, and that’s what they got.

The event was scheduled to last for two hours, of that I was only needed for the initial hour, but I ended up staying until about 30 minutes after the set end time.

The time passed quickly—likely because there was not a single moment where I wasn’t talking to a student who wanted to study abroad. The enormous huddle around our table kept us extremely occupied and entertained; who doesn’t want to talk about their study abroad experience while also informing others how they can do that same thing? If only we could get paid to do that.

OU Cousins Feel the Thunder

OU Cousins recently took its semi-annual trip up to Oklahoma City to watch our favorite NBA team, the OKC Thunder. Although some people may loathe a 30-minute bus ride through the not-so-scenic route, I enjoy that individual OU Cousins know how to make the most of it by having eye-opening conversations with one another. Those bus rides are always excellent avenues in which to make connections with fellow OU Cousins, especially concerning topics of culture and difference.

My go-to questions when it comes to speaking with OU Cousins have never changed, but I learn very new things each time I ask, “So, what’s your favorite/least favorite thing about Oklahoma/The US?” and “What’s the most striking difference between your (home) culture and Oklahoman/American culture?”

The answers never fail to engage my curiosity, and lead to thoughtful and meaningful conversations. If anyone has any tips on more questions that lead to such good discussions with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, I sure would like to know them.

Sport is something that connects people across the world. For example, I truly believe that the Olympics is one of the most unifying and important things that the world does, because we all (with the exemption of a small few) come together to participate. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but for many reasons, sport and competition are an integral part of human society. Although the sports themselves may be different in some countries, the motivation behind them is the same, and I believe that is what brings people across the world together.

Professional sports, although I am not very interested in them, are very important to the United States. They are enormous industries wherein Americans spend millions of dollars per year, a driving force in the economy and culture.

For the reasons above, I think it is AWESOME that we get to take OU Cousins to Thunder Games!! It’s likely the only time our international students will be able to attend such an event (besides OU football games, but those aren’t “professional”), and they get to do so with a huge group of their fellow OU students!

Those who enjoy basketball are able to watch the game and cheer on the home team, while those who are less interested in watching the game are able to continue chatting and making connections with other OU Cousins, all while being surrounded by a massive amount of American culture. It’s a win-win.

A win-win-win, if you include that OKC solidly defeated the New York Knicks, 105-84.

Lunar Moon Festival 2017

I recently attended the enchanting Lunar Moon Festival!

The festival, hosted by the Vietnamese-American Community of OKC, was at Military Park in the Asian district on October 7th. I had never been to the event before, or even really that part of OKC before, and I had an amazing time. Here is some background on the history of the festival itself:

The Lunar Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival (called tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese), is a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese people. In Vietnam, Rice is harvested before the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (mid-autumn). Each household then offers sacrifices to the God of Earth. While occupied with harvesting, parents do not have much time to take care of their children; therefore, they make full use of the festival holiday (which is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar) to play with their children. This date corresponds to late September/early October. The festival is mainly for children, and parents buy their kids paper lanterns (which are often carp-shaped), snacks, masks, and toys. People celebrate by setting up a worshipping platform, on which they lay traditional mid-autumn food and treats. Later, family members sit together to eat the food while appreciating the full moon. The platform is not taken down until midnight, when the food has been completely eaten.

I think this is the sweetest festival ever, because it is all about parents spending time with their children. The celebration in OKC involved dragon dances, traditional dance performances, a talent show where kids showed off their impressive skills, games, and food trucks that served traditional Vietnamese foods.

I personally enjoyed the dances and the talent show (some of those kids blew me away!), as well as the tasty Vietnamese food.

I tried Sugar Cane juice, which I also had in Zanzibar, and it was as delicious as I remembered. It is not as sweet as people would think (being the juice straight from a stalk of sugar cane), but rather, it is just incredibly refreshing. I also enjoyed a sticky rice cake filled with pork and mung bean, which was delicious and filling.

I so love learning new things about different cultures from around the world, and I especially love getting to experience traditional cultural celebrations and practices. It makes me feel more connected to the world and it’s people, and I will certainly be attending this festival in the future, as well as looking for other cultural festivals in my area that I can attend.

To learn more about the Lunar Moon festival, check out these links!

OU Cousins Bingo & The Importance of Cultural Understanding

There’s something magical about playing a good ol’ game of bingo.

There’s something even more magical about playing the same ol’ game of bingo in a room filled to the brim with joyful international students.

Throw in some pizza and a myriad of cool prizes, and you’ve got a full-blown party.

Thus began the ever-wholesome OU Cousins Bingo Night.

You know, this was my fourth experience with OU Cousins Bingo, but it may have been the first year I realized that many international students aren’t familiar at all with the game. It’s quite embarrassing if I’m only just realizing this after four years, but it could be untrue; my memory often fails me. It would be as simple as looking at my previous OU Cousins Bingo night posts to find out… yet, here we are. Also, it brings me to my next topic.

As a global engagement fellow, I have found I am often very aware and accepting of the existence of cultural differences. However, seeing as I am the type of person to be aware of the existence of such divergences, this leads to the problem of me believing that my thoughts and feelings are shared with the rest of society, which is untrue. Unfortunately, this is not true, and makes for some bigger overarching problems in society, especially in a society whose (incompetent) President encourages (shameful) ethnocentric ideals.

For example, recently at a family gathering, a cousin of mine mentioned working with a group of Native Americans who considered eye contact to be disrespectful. My cousin had to adapt to their cultural norm by making sure not to make direct eye contact while she was interacting with the group, which was fairly simple to do. Having heard of several such slight cultural differences before, I simply accepted the fact and continued with the conversation. However, another family member was completely taken aback, and felt that the idea of not making eye contact while speaking with someone was extremely disrespectful.

This family member is one with whom I often clash, for various personal and political beliefs. Unfortunately, he is very ethnocentric, and has a very difficult time grasping the idea that people can be different from him and his steadfast beliefs and still be considered, well, people.

How can you explain the idea of culture to someone like that? Culture is something that we learn from interacting with our society from birth. It’s not innate; and therefore, not one culture in the world is better than all others. Culture is amazing and unique and beautiful, and I love learning about new cultures, because I get to learn more about humanity.

It makes me really frustrated, but mostly sad, that some people will never understand that.

Sometimes you just have to decide that some people will never change, and move on. Besides, those people are missing out on some excellent multicultural bingo.

May there always be more bingo prizes for those of us who appreciate the cultures of others.