• November 22, 2014 /  Uncategorized

    Italy is well-known for its influence on music. It is the homeland of opera, and many famous composers came from its lands. Many notations in music, such as dolce and cantabile, are Italian words. In fact, this is why I first wished to learn Italian. I wanted to understand the meanings of the music I loved so much.

    I can pinpoint exactly when I first became interested in Italian music. I was home alone, trying to find something to do, when I turned on the TV and began flipping through channels. I happened to stumble across an orchestra performance, and stayed because I love classical music. It just so happened that the orchestra was opening for a concert by Andrea Boccelli, a famous Italian artist. I had nothing better to do, so I decided to listen for awhile. It wasn’t long before I was hooked on his voice.

    The concert was a few hours long, and a little under halfway in my family came home. My parents sent me to bed, but I snuck down to the basement where we have another TV, and I stayed up late watching the rest. I now have a CD recording of this same concert. Ever since then, I have wanted to be able to understand the lyrics to those songs that I listened to. It is one thing to look up a translation. It is another entirely to truly understand the words.


  • November 22, 2014 /  Uncategorized

    Living on the international floor certainly has its challenges. When so many cultures are fit into such a small space, conflicts are bound to happen. I have heard stories of many from other girls on my floor, and I’ve seen after-effects when an argument becomes too much. I, however, got extremely lucky. My roommate is fantastic.

    Her name is Esmeralda Hdimbwasha. That’s a bit of a mouthful for me. She is from Namibia, though she studied in Denmark before this. She and I have gotten along wonderfully! We’ve swapped recipes for food we like, and told each other stories from growing up in our respective homelands. We have had some good times and learned much from each other.

    One of our best experiences happened quite recently. Esmeralda expressed an interest in sewing, which I know how to do. I helped her to order a good sewing machine online for a good price. After it arrived, we took a trip to the local fabric store, along with another friend of hers. We spent quite awhile there shopping and comparing different fabrics before finally settling on what we wanted to buy. The next day she handed me a drawing and asked if I could help her make it.

    Now, I’ve never made an item of clothing without a pattern before. Fortunately, I have enough experience with general sewing that I was able to put together a really rough idea of how we would sew her shirt. We spent several hours that night cutting, pinning, and sewing the fabric. The project is still a work in progress, but it is already coming out to be nearly how she had imagined it! I’m thoroughly enjoying this time. She is enjoying learning something new. I’m enjoying practicing an old skill. We’re both happy with the shirt, and we’re becoming better friends. I can’t wait until our next project; it will be my turn!

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  • November 20, 2014 /  Uncategorized

    When I was registering my preferences for where I wanted to live on OU campus, I had a lot to choose from. The main reason I chose the place I did is because this is the only dorm that has a kitchen. Its shared by the entire floor, but as a person with Celiac disease and various other “food problems,” a kitchen is somewhat essential to my survival. I’m on what is known as the international floor. There are two people per room. One is American, one is international. I believe the purpose of this is to help each person learn about other cultures. That certainly does take place.

    My hallway seems to have a high concentration of girls from Africa. Countries represented include Swaziland, South Africa, Lesotho, and Angola, among others. We have a map where everybody was able to write where they were from. Its very interesting to look and find out where everyone is from, and try to figure out who came the farthest. Even with the American students there is a wide variety.

    It has been quite interesting, this melting pot we have. There have been nights where you could hear music in many different languages competing for attention. The internet is generally terrible, because so many students are Skyping home at odd hours. Weird smells come from the kitchen. Sometimes all these things get to me, but I have learned so much from the people I’m around. This floor is its own miniature global community on one floor, and I am so glad I live here. I will at least come out with a new appreciation for foreign music.


  • November 19, 2014 /  Uncategorized

    When I was younger, I was very interested in international service. I had cousins who went on a project to build houses in Haiti, and I was very jealous! My parents weren’t willing to let me go unless I did all the fundraising work on my own, and I simply wasn’t that ambitious. In hindsight I’m very glad of that.

    I’m still interested in doing international service, but our discussions as Global Engagement Fellows changed the focus of that desire. Instead of going in to another country and doing things that the citizens could probably do on their own, I would like to help them expand their ranges of possibilities.

    I very much liked the idea from one of the videos we watched in class, in which cash was given to families to use as they saw fit. Many arguments have been made about the money being “blown away on drinking,” but that has been proven to be a rare case. More often the money goes to something that the family really needs, especially if the cash is given to the woman of the house.Even if the money is spent on recreation, that is still money that is going into somebody’s pocket, expanding the whole economy.

    One other method of service I might be interested in would be in education, in fundraising for paying teachers or possibly as working for one myself. Building schools is all nice and dandy, but without a proper teacher it is useless. Education in all areas, including vocations, would also be a stimulus to help improve the conditions of those areas, in ways that they themselves would see fit.


  • November 13, 2014 /  Uncategorized

    Yesterday was Veterans Day. I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude for all those who have served and are serving for their country. I truly am grateful for their courage and honor.

    On a different note, there was an event yesterday on campus called “Education Around The World.” It was a panel of students from 5 countries talking about how the education system in their countries work. The students represented France, Afghanistan, Egypt, Bosnia, and the good old United States. It was very interesting to hear each person’s perspective on his or her own education system, including the American student. I found it interesting how the focus on standardized education is generally very different abroad. Nearly every speaker mentioned how a single test would determine what he or she could do in the future. Here in the United States there is standardized testing, but it doesn’t have that kind of weight. A common thread between Afghanistan and Egypt was in the impact of money on education. This is partially true here too, but the education level you can get in those countries largely depends on how much you can afford to spend on it. One thing that was mentioned that I wish I had was the way that foreign education is often more diverse. Many of the students spoke of how they would take many subjects at once, many more than I did in high school. Particularly in the area of languages, I feel that this would be very valuable, and I wish our education system had that aspect. Hearing the stories of places abroad and travelling for school makes me wish I had done the same, and I can’t wait for my trip to Italy!

    I would like to add my own perspective on the education system here in the United States. I know that education here varies greatly around the nation, often dependent on urban/rural status as well as the state. I grew up in Idaho (a rural state), and by most standards my school was fairly small. It was right between being what we called a 3A and a 4A school, which affected nothing but sports, and mostly just means that there were 500-600 students total in the high school. I do not know how much of my perspective is from being in the United States, and how much is from my particular hometown. However, there were definitely some things that bothered me while growing up.

    One of the most frustrating things for me was when teachers and other school leaders would try to put me in the cookie-cutter mold. It always felt to me that the goal of the teacher was to have everybody pass the standardized test, rather than have us really learn anything. They didn’t seem to care if we were progressing or not, as long as we were able to move on at the end of the year. I call this the cookie-cutter mold because I was always too smart for them. I would be all done with my assignments and start something that I wanted to do, then get in trouble because I needed to “be productive.” So, I would move ahead in the lessons. Then I would get in trouble for being ahead of where the teacher wanted me to be. I often had to reinvent methods of keeping myself occupied while staying out of trouble. The most common was putting a fiction book inside of a school book. Once in 5th grade I had a teacher who would let me make paper airplanes, and I spent an entire school year running experiments on which designs would fly farthest. I probably should have skipped that class, but I wasn’t allowed to try to break the mold.

    Another thing that bothered me throughout high school was the lack of funding in the school system. I had many conversations with a math teacher about the poor pay that teachers receive, and how it was difficult to support a family on such a tight budget. Teachers are not the only sector that lacks funding. Many school programs, both core requirements and extracurricular, struggled to get by in my school. The ones most pressing on my mind were the art and music divisions. It has been proven in many studies that such classes help students improve, but they are often among the first programs cut. This is unfair to the students who participate in such organizations. Also inhibited by lack of funding is the variety of classes available. At my school, many subjects that are considered core high school requirements by most universities were not available at my school. We did not have World History, for instance. We also did not have enough teachers for the foreign languages to be able to require any foreign language courses; there simply wasn’t enough class time to fit everybody.

    I do know that many of these problems are not nationally present. They are altered by the particular school that I happened to attend. However, I do have to ask- if I had had more options available to me as a child, if I had truly been challenged, how much more could my potential have spread? Where could I be right now? What could I have accomplished in those years of boredom and paper airplanes? I will never know, because I never had a choice.

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  • November 6, 2014 /  Life

    I decided that I needed some fun in my life, so I joined the Slacklining club. Slacklining is pretty much just like tightrope walking. I had never done it (or even heard of it) before this semester, but one day I was walking past the library and saw this guy walking on a rope between the trees. He saw me staring, called me over, and convinced me to give it a shot. Apparently I’m a natural, because he was really surprised that I hadn’t slack lined before! It has now become a weekly occurrence. On Thursday afternoon I head out to the trees by the library, meet my friend, and slack line with him for an hour or 2. It is surprisingly peaceful. The line isn’t high up, so you don’t fall that hard. Yes, I fall often. Am I ashamed of that? No, I’m just beginning! I get straight back up and give it another shot. I put my right foot on the line, concentrate on the other end, and stand up on my right foot. When I do that, I don’t really even think. I just look at the tree I am walking towards, and its just me and the line and the wind. Then I’ll take a step or 2 (my record is 10) before I fall. And falling isn’t fun. Yet, it is completely worth that feeling of freedom and peace for those few seconds on the line.

    You are probably reading this and saying to yourself, “This is about to turn into some moral story for my life, isn’t it?” Well, yes. You can look at life this way. You can say that life is a challenge and that everybody falls, but the risk of falling is worth the effort. It is true, but that isn’t my point here. I have found that college is a delicate balance. I’m walking a line of trying to do all my homework, get involved, go to church, make friends, be healthy, get enough sleep, and still have enough free time so I don’t go insane. I’m falling short in many ways, but things are getting better. Slacklining has been a big boost to my mental health. It is a way to relax in the middle of the week, and gives me something to look forward to. It’s helped me make a friend, as well.

    No, I didn’t tell you this story to give you a moral lecture. If that part of this helped you, great. It helps me sometimes. But my main purpose here is just to give you a little update on my life. Yes, I’m struggling. I’m 3 months in to my first ever semester at college, and it is hard. I keep falling off the line. I’m still trying to find that balance, to find a place where I fit. And yet, as difficult as it is sometimes, I’m doing alright. I’m finding things I love to do. I’m getting closer to where I want to be. For right now, that’s enough.

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