“You’re Okla-HOME!”

The first international event I attended this semester was the “You’re Okla-home” event for returning OU study abroad participants. The event included dinner and conversations with others about our experiences abroad, as well as our experiences upon returning home. I was really excited about this event, because I knew quite a few people who studied abroad last semester/year, and was eager to swap stories and share tips for things like reverse culture shock.

I spent the evening mostly conversing with students who had studied abroad in Germany, with whom I shared some very similar experiences, such as our shared language and cultures, our newfound adoration of public transportation, and the amazing friendships we forged with people from around the world. These conversations made me feel continually blessed about studying abroad in Graz, a peaceful city that was just the right size. Even though my friends who studied in Germany had incredible semesters, they had certain experiences, such as drunken violence, that I never witnessed in Graz. Although I’m sure things like that happen in Graz, I am also sure that it does not happen very often, simply due to the relatively smaller population and lack of overcrowding.

I also got the opportunity to speak extensively with a fellow GEF who spend the entirety of last year in South Korea. She told me all about the culture of South Korea, and even though Asia hasn’t really been on my radar in the past, I’m now determined to go as soon as time and money warrant a trip (The question becomes, where in Asia??). Speaking with her made me wish even more that I had gotten to spend a year in Graz, but alas, my expected graduation date could not wait for another semester.

Unfortunately, none of my other friends from Graz could attend the event, but that was okay, as we had already taken time to decompress with each other.

I think this event was very important for returning study abroad students, because coming back to OU after being abroad is a challenge, certainly for those who studied long-term, such as for the duration of a semester or a whole year. Obviously, I still miss Graz each and every day, and I know that feeling will never fully go away. However, when I first returned home, I experienced intense feelings of culture shock. My idea of home, and my home itself, had shifted from Oklahoma to my lovely city in Austria. I had also changed, and the change had occurred in my new home, where I had adapted to the way of life.

When I got home, I began to reject a lot of things that are present in daily American culture. For example, something that really got me was simply how much open S P A C E we have here. I had been living in a very dense city, wherein one could feasibly walk or take public transportation to their desired location, and reach that destination in a few short minutes. I felt like here in America, and especially Oklahoma, we had an unnecessary amount of open space. Why did we need to spread everything out so far? I used to love driving, but when I got home it seemed like an annoying hassle. In Graz, one can go to the city center and get basically everything they need, just by walking a few minutes (or even less) to the next store. Here, everything was spread out for what seemed like no reason, except for the fact that Americans just like things to be big and spread out. Moving around my hometown like a chore, and I *hated* it.

While I never thought I would get over the little things about Oklahoma that I had a newfound distaste for upon my return, I eventually re-adapted to the norms here. This re-adaptation was something I greatly enjoyed discussing with my fellow study abroad participants. All in all, the “Okla-home” event was a success in my book.

Home Is Where You Make It, And Other Cliché Notions

I don’t think I ever really understood the meaning of “home” until I went out and made one for myself, over 5000 miles away from what my idea of “home” had always been.

My home had always been the place where I grew up, the place in Oklahoma with familiar faces and roads in which I knew every turn. It had been the place where I had always lived, where all my memories were made. I thought it was special just because it was where I came from.

After spending a semester in Graz, Austria, home is very different to me now.

To me, home is no longer simply where you’re from. Home is something that you make for yourself.

I have surely made a home for myself this past semester. I became a part of something that, only a few short months ago, was completely foreign to me. And, in the most cliché of statements, I’d like to think that Graz became a part of me, too.

In my town in Oklahoma, I had always been there. My reputation preceded me, everywhere I went. The kids with whom I grew up and people I had always been around knew me inside and out, through every phase of my life. They had seen me through struggles and stages I care little about, while I was working on becoming who I am today. As hard as we try not to, I think those preconceived notions of other people stay with us forever, and always shape how we see people and interact with them. I think that’s especially true in Oklahoma, where everything seems to move a little bit slower, and people are a little less concerned with the passage of time and the development of thoughts, ideas, and people in general.

It’s not that I completely reject who I was as a kid, or even who I was a year ago. It’s that, no matter what I do in Oklahoma, there will always be those who have placed me in a box, the same box in which I have always been stuck.

However, that all changed when I arrived in Graz.

Here, I have been able to shape myself completely as the person I want to be. Every person I meet is a new opportunity to grow. The lifelong friendships I have made here are not simply shared with people I know because of locational circumstance, but serendipity. The person I get to be when I’m around them and getting to know them, doesn’t have to carry the weight of who I have been for my whole life. My identity is no longer tied to where I’m from, and everything I’ve done in the past. It is concerned only with today, and what tomorrow brings.

As someone who has struggled with identity issues for most of my life, this feeling of being able to shed the past 20-odd years is astounding, and freeing. I truly have never felt so free in my whole life.

So, Graz, this is my love letter to you.

Meine große Liebe, oh how I admire you. It may seem self-centered, but over the course of these last few months, I have learned just as much about myself as I have learned about the whole world. And at the heart of this change, my dear, is you. You, with your lovely cobblestone streets, often cut through by tram lines. Your beautiful, thoughtful, colorful buildings and churches, adorned with delicate detail. Your sweet air, which has filled me with pleasure at all times of the day. Your tame midnight streets coupled with your boisterous nightlife, your green color which I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

At the heart of you lies the Schloßberg, where one can enjoy views of you in all your majesty.

And at the heart of me lies you, where one can see my ultimate adoration.

Graz, my love, my true home. How grateful I am to have met you.

Easter Break Extravaganza

Are you ready to hear all about my spring break trip? I sure hope so!

In Austria, we get a two-week long Easter break. While many Austrian students stay home and work for these two weeks… the international students take adventures of a lifetime! My two-week adventure did not disappoint, but it certainly wore me out. Between the 8th and the 23rd of April, I traveled a total of 2,694 kilometers (1,674 miles) through four countries and six beautiful and unique cities.

Our first stop was Venice. I traveled there with Lauren and our friend Janine (Sie kommt aus New Jersey.) It was a 7-hour bus ride from Graz to Venice, and then a long walk to our hostel, which was on the mainland. Luckily, our hostel ran a bus service to the island several times throughout the day, so after a night of rest we hopped on the first bus to the island the next day. We were only going to spend two nights and one day in Venice, so we had to absorb as much as we could into a very short time span. Thankfully, Venice is a very walkable city, so I feel like we got everything done that we needed to do. We visited the Doges’ Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Torre dell’Orologio in St. Mark’s Square (which we stumbled upon by accident), the Rialto bridge, and several other gems of Venice. We ate gelato and cannolis and pasta. My favorite part of the day, however, was the Gondola ride. We went through the Grand Canal, as well as the smaller canals where the locals live, and our gondolier even serenaded us with his angelic voice.

Another exciting thing about Venice? It is very easy to get lost. There are so many bridges and alleyways, the whole place is just a huge maze. Thankfully it’s so small, that you can’t ever be lost for too long. Besides, getting lost in Venice is hardly an unfortunate occurrence. Of all the places I went over the break, Venice may have been the most magical.

Our friend Peyton joined us that evening in Venice, after a fairly traumatic incident in which we thought we would never see her again. It’s a long and dramatic story, so I won’t try to relate it here, but if anyone who ever reads this wants to hear the story, feel free to ask, and I would be happy to tell the tale.

Our next stop was Florence. The bus ride took about three hours, and by the time we got to our hostel on a hill that happened to be about 6 miles away from the center of the city, it was too late to go back.

The hostel in Florence was probably the coolest hostel I will ever stay in. It wasn’t party central, like some people would think an awesome hostel would be. The internet didn’t really work. It was at the top of a really steep hill, about half a mile away from the nearest bus stop, so you had to walk all the way. You had to pay 8 euro every night to eat pasta for dinner, but there usually wasn’t enough pasta to fill you up completely. And, to be quite honest, it gave me bed bugs, which I haven’t even told my mom. So, definitely not your typical “cool” hostel. But this place. This hostel? Was awesome. Because it wasn’t really intended to be a hostel…



WORDS CANNOT DO IT JUSTICE, so I’ll have to post pictures, but suffice it to say, it was really, really cool. Also, there was a cat who lived there named Gianna, and she took Janine and I on a proper adventure through some beautiful olive orchards to what I truly believe could be the best view of the city of Florence. I will never forget that cat and I will never forget that evening.

Back to the point of the blog, however: Florence is the place to go in Italy, and probably the whole of Europe, if you want to see art. You have to shell out a lot of money to skip the hours-long lines, but if could definitely be worth it to some people. We didn’t have that much money to spend nor time to stand around in lines, so we didn’t go to that many museums. In fact, the only museum we went to was the Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of David. I loved Florence, and I loved the Duomo and everything else that we got to see, but I feel like I just didn’t have time to see everything. One day, I’ll go back.

Peyton and Janine went back to Graz when we were done in Florence, and we met Lauren’s cousin Matt, who has been studying in Hamburg, Germany this year, in Rome.

If there is one place that I need to go back to, it is Rome. How did I develop such an intense relationship with the old city in such a brief period of time? No one could know, but Rome holds my heart all the same.

We visited countless historic sites: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, the Pantheon, the Roman forum, the Vatican, the Vatican Museums (including the amazing Sistine Chapel!) and so much more. I even thought that the underground train system in Rome was a sight to behold.

The one thing I will say about Rome, is that during the high season there are far too many tourists. I know that is very hypocritical, because I myself was a tourist, but it’s still a valid point. I know Rome will never be completely free of tourists, but the next time I go, it will be in the winter, so I can have a little more privacy while I take in the life of the city.

Our next stop was Zürich, Switzerland. Zürich is the economic capital of Switzerland… and is very, very expensive. Thankfully, we only stayed there for about 24 hours, but in that time, I still spent an ungodly amount of euros on one serving of fondue. I also bought a swiss army knife, which I am quite proud of. Immediately upon arriving to the city, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our hostel, so we decided to take a two-hour long “vintage” trolley city tour. The coach bus was no “vintage trolley,” but we still got to see everything in the city that we wanted to see.

Next on the Itinerary was Innsbruck. Now, let me preface what I’m about to say with a short summary of the weather that we had been used to in Italy: perfection. The weather in Italy was perfect. It was sunny and at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time we were there.

That all changed on the way to snowy, cold Innsbruck. But what else should we have expected? ? Innsbruck is a perfect little Austrian town settled in a valley of mountains much larger than those that surround my quaint, but still just as lovely, Graz. Every angle of the Altstadt of Innsbruck was picturesque. The snow-capped mountains in the background everywhere you look makes it feel like a beautiful dreamland. Even though I didn’t have the proper clothing to handle the snow and cold in Innsbruck, I loved our time there dearly. Matt had to make his way back home to Hamburg when we left Innsbruck, but we still had one last stop.

Munich, Germany. Is it sad that I’ve already been here almost 3 months and this was my first time in Germany? Hey, at least I finally made it!

I am really glad that Munich was our last stop, because it is a really great city, and I would love to go again. I’m not sure if I was just really digging the culture of Munich or the culture of Germany, but either way, like I said, I was diggin’ it.

The Englischer Garten of Munich is an ENORMOUS and wonderful park that runs about 2 or 3 miles through the city of Munich. There are lovely wooded walking paths, horse riding trails, ponds, a river, and huge open fields. There is also a Biergarten, where we may or may not have forgotten to return our glasses and pfands. We saw the Glockenspiel and Marienplatz in the Altstadt, as well as the Hofbräuhaus, where we gorged ourselves on German beer and food.

We also a day paying our respects to victims of WWII at the memorial and site of the Dachau concentration camp. We felt it was an important site to visit, and wanted to reflect on something profound before we headed home for the end of our long adventure.

So, that was it. It was the most eventful 16-day period of my life.

Along the way, I gained much more than a few trinkets. I feel like I lived an entire lifetime in those 16 days. Acquainting oneself with new people, places, cultures and beliefs is something that cannot be overpriced or undersold. The knowledge gained from travel is immeasurable.

And with that brief note, I am off to sleep, to adventure another day.

Visa Adventure

Good news: I finally got my Austrian visa. The process of gaining a visa from Austria as an American, for some reason, is very complex if you do not live in or near California or New York. If an American cannot get it from one of those two locations in the states, then it must be granted at the Austrian Embassy in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

I’m certainly not complaining about the complexity, because it gave me the opportunity to travel to two new countries; Slovenia and Italy.

Myself, as well as a large group of students who needed to get their Visas, as well as other students who signed up for the sight-seeing portion of the trip, boarded the bus by the Opera house in Graz at about 6am on Thursday morning. In a little less than two hours, we were in Ljubljana, waiting in line at the embassy to turn in all the required documents. The process of approving and printing visas takes about one business day, so once we finished the visa business, we all piled back onto the bus and headed for the beautiful border town of Trieste, Italy.

Thankfully, Trieste is only about an hour away from Ljubljana. When we arrived at our hostel, which sat right across the road from the Adriatic sea, the sun was shining so bright I felt like it was trying to blind me. The water was perfectly blue. Our large group dropped off our overnight bags in the lobby of the hostel (we couldn’t quite check in yet because not all of the rooms were ready), and headed back out for a short trek to the nearby Miramare castle and gardens.

We spent about two hours at the castle, and took far too many pictures of the scenery. Afterward, all ~50 of us hopped on a public bus to go toward the heart of the city. Let me tell you, that bus ride was uncomfortable! We were squeezed in and I was standing right by the door, so anyone new who got on the bus had to squeeze in next to me. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of their Italian, the locals who surrounded me on the bus were pleasant and kind. I shared some chuckles with some elderly Italians, and that was the extent of the conversation that we needed.

Finally, after what seemed like a hundred bus stops, we arrived at our destination, and were quickly ushered onto a short walking tour of the city center. Unfortunately, there was only one guide and fifty of us, so I didn’t hear much of what was said, but I did admire the sights.

That evening, our large ESN group ate pizza at a local shop. The pizza was great, but my favorite part of the meal was the pint of beer that I ordered. I’m usually not a fan of the taste of beer, but it was just right. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of beer it was. I hope to taste it again someday, because I am still thinking about it.

After dinner, a small group of us crossed the street to get some fantastic gelato, and then we traveled with the large group to a small bar where we sang karaoke and partied well into the night. I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that we brought the house down with our epic renditions of several classic songs.

By the time we got done at the karaoke bar, the buses had stopped running, so myself and a group of about five others went off into the wee hours of the morning, searching for a taxi that could take us to our hostel. We made a pit stop at a Kebap shop that I will never forget, because I had a wonderful conversation with one of the men who worked there. He was from Bangladesh, and we spoke about the importance of accepting and loving people no matter where they come from.

Finally, we made it back to our hostel at what must have been about 3am, and after a short while on the rooftop terrace conversing with some other students, I passed out onto my hostel bed without even properly putting the sheets on.

The next morning, we returned to Ljubljana to get our visas, and luckily had no trouble. We then spent about 5 hours aimlessly wandering the beautiful city, but we were very tired from the previous night, so we didn’t do anything more exciting than walk around and try to soak in some sunshine.

We got onto our bus to head back to Graz that evening, and made one delicious pit stop at a famous Krapfen shop. Krapfen is a donut-like pastry usually filled with apricot marmalade, and they. Are. To die for.

All said and done, the trip was very short, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I feel like I only got a tiny taste of the two cities (and countries) to which we traveled. I know that I’ll be back, and soon.

Kraków, a Gem of a City

Wie geht’s (what’s up)? I have recently arrived back to my flat in Graz after a short, but eye-opening and unforgettable journey to Kraków, Poland.

The pre-semester German intensive courses ended this past Tuesday, so Lauren, Abbey and I decided not to let our long weekend go to waste. We left for Krakow on Thursday evening, and had our first experience with the night train. Although the train was relatively comfortable, I didn’t sleep that well. I think I was too excited.

We arrived in Kraków at around 7am Friday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Our first objective was to find our lodging, the Let’s Rock hostel. During the 15-minute walk to our hostel, we got our first taste of the lovely city of Kraków. It’s similar to other European cities that I’ve been to in that there are various beautiful churches and other fine works of architecture-art, but Krakow also has a personality and a uniqueness all its own. I loved it.

We couldn’t check into our rooms at Let’s Rock yet, but we were able to drop off our stuff in the luggage room. From there, we went back out into the city to enjoy our day. First, we exchanged some Euros for złoty, the Polish currency, and walked around the main square, as well as a park nearby.

It was in the main square of Kraków that I gazed upon one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen: St. Mary’s Basilica. Specifically, the inside of the Basilica. The ceiling and walls are decorated with the most intricate and delicate of patterns colored a beautiful teal-blue and gold. I could admire that ceiling for hours on end. It was magnificent.

That afternoon, we took a three-hour tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the oldest salt mines in the world. It was a dizzying 378 steps down to the main chamber, but luckily, we got to ride the lift back up when we were done with our tour. The coolest part of the mine is the enormous underground Chapel—the Chapel of St. Kinga. It is exactly 101 meters underground, and services are performed there regularly!

That evening, we also walked around the Wawel Castle, which was situated very near our hostel, and ate a delicious dinner of traditional Polish food: pierogis. My mouth is watering just thinking of them!

We returned to our hostel that night anxious for the next day, in which we experienced something that I’m sure we will never forget: a guided tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps.

The drive from Kraków to Auschwitz takes about 45 minutes. We had hired a driver to take us there, and we shared the van with five other students our age who are studying to be veterinarians in Slovakia. Three of them were from Scotland, and two were from London.

The full-guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau takes about five and a half harrowing hours. Learning about the terrible events that unfolded there in history class and seeing the grounds in real life are two very different things. To walk in the footsteps of so many people who suffered and died tragically and needlessly is an experience that is profoundly devastating, yet absolutely necessary.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau was nothing short of sobering experience.

It was hard for me to breathe, the air seemed so thick with desperation and depression. In order to display the enormity of the transgressions that occurred there, they have several rooms filled with belongings of the victims. An entire glassed-in room filled with human hair that was shaved from dead bodies to be used in production. Displays filled with eye glasses, razors, hair brushes, pots and pans hair grease and tiny children’s shoes. It makes your heart drop in your chest, and stay there.

The sight of train tracks and the main guard tower in the background at Birkenau will always haunt me. Over one million human lives were lost there after arriving in cattle cars. It sickens me to no end. Even so, we must remember.

We must never grow complacent. Be it with brash acts of violence, or quiet acts of discrimination and racism, we must resist at every corner and at all costs. What happened to the world all those years ago must always be remembered, and never repeated.

I don’t want to write that Auschwitz -Birkenau was the highlight of my journey to Poland, because it was much more than that, much heavier. It was powerful, and I will carry it with me all my life.


Kraków, Poland, is truly a gem to behold. It has a beauty and personality all its own, and I hope to return someday.




Guten Tag Graz!

Greetings from my new home for the next 6 months! That’s right… I finally made it to Graz, Austria for my semester abroad.

I arrived in Vienna, Austria on January 31st, and along with my travel companions (who also attend OU), stayed in a hostel called “Wombats” for two nights. My traveling buddies are two wonderful ladies named Lauren and Abigail (but she goes by Abbey). Lauren is also my roommate for the semester.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Vienna due to traveling fatigue and, we must admit, a bit of shock (and awe). Therefore, I have made it a goal to make it back sometime this semester, because Vienna is a beautiful city.

So far, I am completely enamored by Graz. I love the Innenstadt (inner city), with it’s beautiful old architecture and colorful streets. I love the hustle and bustle of public transport centers, specifically one of my favorite places, Jakominiplatz. At night, Jakominiplatz is lit up so much that the first time I witnessed it, I thought I was indoors… It’s a difficult phenomenon to explain, but it stunned me.

My flat is a bit of a trek from the Innenstadt, but that’s perfectly fine with me, because I enjoy the backdrop of hills and mountains away from the city. My building even has a beautiful rooftop terrace, and I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time up there over the course of the semester. And even though I live away from the city center, Graz has a wonderful series of trams and buses to get you close to wherever you need to go. I love public transportation!

That being said, I’ve still done quite a bit of walking. On one of my first days here, a friend of my roommate took myself and my companions on a grand walking tour through the city. Our tour guide, Tina, is a fantastic human being who lives in Graz as an American missionary. She is talkative and friendly, and was the perfect person to introduce us to our new home. I will be forever grateful for her hospitality. Tina is also pregnant, and her baby is due in June. I hope we get to meet them before we head back home.

In the middle of the city of Graz lies a small mountain known as the Schloβberg. To get to the top, you climb the stairs that crisscross up the small mountain side. You can also pay about €2 to ride the elevator—Graz is very accessible to people with disabilities, which is something I would like to address at some point, although maybe in a different post. Anyhow, at the top of the Schloβberg is a giant structure with a clock on the side, called the Uhrturm. It looks over the entire city, and it is the symbol of Graz.

The view of the entire city of Graz from the top of the Schloßberg is astonishing and beautiful. The valley that Graz is situated in, as well as the river Mur that cuts through the middle of the city, make for a perfectly charming sight. You can also see the strangely shaped Kunsthaus (art museum), which is a dark navy blue blob that contrasts wonderfully with the surrounding red Austrian rooftops. Another iconic view in Graz is the Hauptplatz (main square), which frames the beautiful architecture of the Rathaus (town hall). I enjoy this city so much.

We started our pre-semester Intensive German courses this week. For the next three and a half weeks, I’ll have class from 9:00 to 12:30 every day. Unfortunately, I only tested into the A2/2 class, which is one level lower than I hoped I would be in. Thankfully, the class only lasts one month and then I move on to the next level (B1/1) when the actual semester starts, so it will still be good review.

The real semester begins on March 6th, and we have yet to enroll for classes, but I don’t mind. I like that we get to acquaint ourselves with our new home before full-time student-ing starts.

The weather has been much different from the weather at home, and so far I have been enjoying the cold air. We usually wear heavy jackets, as do all of the locals, and the weather hovers between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s somewhat dark and gray at the moment, but spring time is just around the corner!

Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

We failed Aleppo, and Aleppo is falling.

Aleppo is falling. It has been falling for some time, because the international community has been failing them since 2011, but this week Aleppo is hitting the ground. The few remaining Syrians in Aleppo are posting their final goodbyes, final calls to action, final angry words on media platforms, because they know their time is coming soon. Their internet or their power will go out, or they will by violent forces.

People are killing themselves to avoid the consequences of being confronted by the Syrian army. They are more afraid of being tortured and raped than they are of “burning in hellfire.”

The United Nations calling it “a complete meltdown of humanity,” yet doing nothing to show humanity. I understand the complications of this war, I do. The several different factions fighting against each other, the foreign countries involved. The proxy wars being fought.

Do imperialist nations truly believe that the lives of their own citizens are worth more than the lives of others? That’s what proxy conflict means to me. “We don’t want to directly engage our enemy, because that’s too risky… but let’s attack their interests here.” It’s a petty game, and they don’t care who dies. Special interests don’t die, but people do.

I can’t really organize my thoughts, except to say that I am ashamed. I am ashamed of my country, and I am ashamed of my global community. For turning a blind eye to merciless killing. Just like it did in Bosnia. Just like it did in Rwanda.

We think we are so developed. We feel so high and mighty.

We are not mighty at all. Cowardice consumes us.

That is all I have for today.

One day, may we know peace.

give me strength

Hello friend,

I’m still not sure how to cope with the results of the presidential election. It’s been five weeks now since the unthinkable happened, since the xenophobic, racist, sexist, anti-intellectual was elected to office. I remember writing a post about him some time ago—I need to go look back on it, and revel in the naïveté that was believing in an America that couldn’t possibly elect such a hateful man.

The morning of November 8th, I was exuberant. I got up early to go vote in the election for the first female president of the United States of America, and it was an exhilarating feeling. It was something I was going to tell future generations about. I was there. I was with her. I swear I was high on that feeling all day. Until about 9 pm. When the votes started creeping in. And the states were being called. I held on hope as long as I could, for a good four hours or so. I had been trying to study for a test the next day, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was devastated. I was sitting in my home with my significant other, and all of a sudden I couldn’t take it anymore.

Once the tears started falling, they didn’t stop. They were heavy, and they hurt. I cried myself to sleep.

Sometimes, when something bad happens, I like to go to sleep. Because when I wake up, for a few blissful seconds or minutes I’ll forget about the bad. It’s a way of coping, I suppose. I’ve done it when loved ones have died. For a few seconds… that hurt hasn’t happened yet, because I don’t remember it. Somehow, it makes it easier to accept when I remember the truth.

When I awoke the next day, there was not a millisecond of peace. I woke up knowing. I woke up afraid. For myself, for my loved ones, and for people who I have never met. But I understand their struggle and I stand with them. As someone in the LGBTQ+ community, a Trump presidency terrifies me. Now that a few weeks have passed, I must admit, it hurts less to think about. But I still worry. I worry about my right to love who I want. I worry about my right to my future children, be they biologically mine or not. I worry about the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. I worry about women. I worry about people of color. I worry about non-Christians. I worry. And my heart, is oh so heavy.

The weight that has affixed itself to my chest since the night of November 8th is always there. Some days, it’s easier to carry than others.

My family doesn’t understand. Partially because, my family is privileged. White. Comfortably middle class. Straight. Christian. They don’t understand. And when I try to explain, they don’t want to hear it, and they don’t believe it.

I have tried to explain it to them. When they voted for that man, they voted for their political beliefs. They got to vote for actual political ideologies that they care about—gun rights, immigration reform, conservative fiscal policy, etcetera. When I voted, and when thousands of other people like me voted—it was like we voted for our basic survival. We voted to keep our civil rights, to marry and love who we want. We voted against discrimination, of race and of gender. We voted for love. Support. Diversity.

On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you could say that we voted at a lower level. We voted for moral and basic needs of the human condition. Things like personal safety. Acceptance.

And so, unfortunately, I still don’t know. I know I have to keep fighting. I know in my heart that that man is not fit to lead this country. I can’t believe that in a little over a month he will no longer be the president-elect, but the President himself. Quite frankly, I’m still terrified.

But I’m not going to back down.

Try as he might to undermine what I stand for, as a human being and as a global engagement fellow. I will not stand down.

Festival of Light

Hey, pals!

As I have stated in a previous post, I have had quite a semester. I was enrolled in 16 time-consuming credit hours, and I was also working 30 hours a week at Walmart, which is a pretty exhausting job. I also took two classes and worked full time at Walmart over the summer, so I’ve had a very full plate since May of this year. Why was I working so much, you ask? Well, because I’m going to Austria and I want to be able to travel while I’m there! I didn’t want to have to worry about money at all, so I decided to put myself through a hell of a tough time—but I know it will all be worth it come January 30th. I realized I have strayed from my original point here, but I feel like this is important to know. Hey, it’s my blog, I make the rules!

Anyhow, I have been a busy bee this semester, for the above reasons. As such, I have been able to attend very few OU Cousins events, mostly due to my work schedule. I have attended almost every meeting, but it seems like we always had events while I was scheduled to work or had exams to study for. Thankfully, I FINALLY GOT TO GO TO AN EVENT LAST WEEK!

This OU Cousins event was a short trip (it’s about a 40 minute drive) to Chickasha, where we went to see the annual holiday Festival of Light. I had only ever been once before, and it was beautiful, but this time was even better. It was FAR COLDER—I was freezing—but that meant that there were less visitors, so it was like we had the whole place to ourselves.

I think it’s really funny and cool how we humans are about the weather and temperature. The climate where we grow up is our normal, accepted weather, and anything too far above or below that can cause us a huge amount of discomfort. While some students (International and American) were enjoying the first freezing cold day of Oklahoma winter, others were shivering and shaking. I was one of the shakers—I simply hadn’t dressed properly—but I know that I, and everyone else had a great time regardless.

The Festival of Light is so beautiful. If you’ve never been, and you’re from around here, I highly encourage you to go. Even if you have been before, I encourage you to go again! And bring a friend!

The loveliest part of the park is the bridge over the pond. The canopy is covered in shining white holiday lights, and it is absolutely delightful. We even witnessed a proposal! It could be considered very romantic—I’m sure there are several proposals at that exact spot every year.

Anyway, I was quite over the moon that I finally got to attend an OU Cousins event this semester, and even though I missed some cool events, I think I still got to go to the best one. I’m so glad that my last OU Cousins event until next fall was such a great one.

Endless German Opportunities

Another German event (I know, I know—I need to get out more) that I attended this semester was the German Opportunities Fair on November 16th. They altered this event quite a bit this year and I really enjoyed the improvements—in the past, it involved short individual presentations from various speakers about several of the opportunities for German learning and beyond at OU. This year, it was a much more casual and laidback event where organizations and speakers had booths set up and you could initiate individual conversations.

I think I spent most of my time at about 5 different booths, which sounds like a lot but I was there for the full hour and a half. My first stop was Dr. Schlupp, who told me a little about German research opportunities, and some graduate options in Germany. Even though I feel like I’m not far along enough to be thinking about things like that, it’s always nice to chat with Dr. Schlupp. He’s my best friend’s dad, so I get to see him pretty often, and it’s always rather enjoyable. Sometimes I wish that my family was a bit more like the Schlupp family… For some reason I just get along better at Schlupp family dinners than my own family’s dinners. Maybe it’s just German hospitality?

The next booth I visited because one of my old German instructors was at the helm. She’s earning her Master’s degree in German from OU, and her booth explained the process of obtaining such a degree from our fine institution. I’ll be honest, the more German I learn, the more I want to know, and so that path seems like a bigger option to me every day. However, I’ve still got a long road ahead of me on my current degree, so I’m trying to stay focused and not get too off track!

My next stop was the Leipzig booth. Every summer, select OU German faculty take a small group of German students (about 12 or 15) to Leipzig, Germany for a whirlwind study abroad and language immersion. I’ve heard from many people that the language courses they take while in Leipzig are really intense; people can earn up to six credit hours in just a few short weeks! It’s a trip that is very attractive to students who would like to minor, but may not have the time to go abroad for a whole semester or year. Even though I don’t think I’ll ever go on the OU Faculty-sponsored trip to Leipzig, I really would like to visit. I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity sometime this next semester while I’m in Austria!

After I learned more about Leipzig and picked up a snazzy study abroad pin, I headed toward the internship booth, because heaven knows I need some experience! I learned that there are actually quite a few internships available in Washington D.C. for young speakers of German and Business majors, which is something I would really enjoy doing. This booth was probably the most informative of the night, simply because it involved a lot of information that was completely new to me. I networked with the students who were running the booth, who have both had internships with the state department, and I got an e-mail address of someone who could greatly aid my quest for an internship. All in all, I’d say it was quite successful!

Last, but not least, I visited the Fulbright table. I saved this table for last because I figured I already knew quite a lot about the subject, and while I was right, I still gleaned a lot of information from the booth’s representative and the other students who were checking it out. When I was a Psychology major, I thought that I wanted to apply to do something more research related, but now I’m leaning more toward applying for an English Teaching Assistant position. Honestly, the idea of teaching English used to make me a little anxious, because I was afraid that my German wouldn’t be good enough. Thankfully, even though I’m nowhere near fluent yet, I’m confident in my abilities, and I’m excited for any opportunity to grow.

And thus, that was the final table I visited at the German Opportunities fair. I feel like I gained so much information in such a short time, and I really enjoyed getting to talk to people one-on-one and ask questions I otherwise might not have in front of a large crowd. One of my favorite parts about OU is the German faculty we have here. I truly think they are among the best in the country, and I love the way it always feels like I’m with family while I’m spending time with them.