It is tradition among OU Cousins to end the spring semester with a barbecue event. Most of the other events during the year are internationally based, which is very fun and informative for the American students, but the international students always want the experience of doing something purely American, and Oklahoman. What event is more Oklahoman than a barbecue? There is good old Southern/Country food (which one is Oklahoma again?), mechanical bull riding, and line dancing.
For various reasons, my Cousin and I were not both able to go to this event. I didn’t want to go alone, so I took Jon (my husband) with me. The buses picked everyone up from the Lloyd Noble Center and took us out to a real ranch, horses and barn and all! I quite enjoyed everything. I’m gluten intolerant and couldn’t eat much of the food, but Jon said it was delicious. It sure was fun watching people ride the mechanical bull! It was most interesting to see how the international students were doing on that. (You could tell Americans from Internationals by the color of the name tags.) Oftentimes the American students were doing much better than the others, but there were some international students that did better than any of the rest.
It was a great end to the semester. I got to see horses, hear country music, and get a free cowboy hat. I’m going to miss the OU Cousins program this summer. Perhaps next year I’ll be more able to be active and attend more of the events, because they truly are fun!
Global Concepts of Beauty was a panel discussion held earlier this month. Five students from different countries spoke on what is seen as beautiful in their own culture. The speakers covered France, India, China, Saudi Arabia, and various cultures from East and West Africa.
I found that the specific points that each speaker hit on were rather similar. Each speaker talked some about fashion, and also about body type. Each one compared their culture to the United States. Also, most speakers only focused on what is pleasing for women. The one that talked about men as well was from India, and was not the single male student on the panel.
The speaker from East Africa (and her friend from the West portion) particularly intrigued me. I recently read a book called Americanah written by Chiamanda Ngozi Adiche, who is from Nigeria. (My roommate recommended it to me.) Both speakers mentioned a topic that was part of the book, which is the disparity between American-African beauty standards and continental-African beauty standards. The most specific of these is the increase of Africans with natural hair. This phenomenon is mostly outside of the continent of Africa. There are various reasons for this, including the fact that their hair is hard to maintain naturally, but I found the different rather intriguing.
I felt that I personally dress closer to what is acceptable in French culture. The speaker highlighted the focus on individual style, which I like. She also made some jokes about how “everyone wears black a lot” and how at first in America, some people thought she was always depressed because of it. I know that I would struggle with dressing up every day (I definitely have American sensibilities that way), but if I got used to it I would probably enjoy it.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to a special event on campus. Claudio Bisogniero, the Italian ambassador to the United States, was visiting the University of Oklahoma and there was a special luncheon being held in his honor. I was invited because of my involvement in the Global Engagement Fellowship program, but I was interested for other reasons. I am still hoping to study abroad in Italy, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to learn some more about this country.
This was a very educational experience. The ambassador gave a rather short speech, mostly concentrating on different humanitarian programs that are run by Italy. I was fortunate enough to be seated by a fellow student who came to OU from Italy on the same exchange program that I am planning on participating in! She was able to give me some helpful tips on life in Bologna, and also encouraged me to go to Bologna.
Coming to the international floor, I knew that my roommate and I would have very different cultures. I had expected them to be glaringly obvious. I had imagined strange forms of music, odd habits, and very different outlooks on life. To some extent, all of those are there; and yet, they are subtle enough to often be overlooked.
I look at her and I see myself. Not in her eyes or hair or skin, but in the way she carries herself. The way she considers a comment before replying. Her concern for my welfare, shown in small ways. Interactions with friends. Our long conversations long past when we should both be asleep. Religious beliefs, and views on how life should be lived. I connect with her on many levels, and I would count her as one of my best friends.
I find myself assimilating to her culture in some aspects. I listen to some of her music, and I’m falling in love with Portuguese. I picked up on her habit of wearing a wrap-around skirt rather than pants when we are alone in our room. I stop to ponder more, rather than being in a rush.
And I wonder.
She and I are so alike.
If she and I had been born in each other’s countries, would we be same? Would I be just like her now? Would she be like me?
Or would our relationship be drastically different?
As part of the Global Engagement Fellowship program, specifically in our Becoming Globally Engaged class, I was asked to create a digital story. The story was meant to be based on an international experience that I have had. I have only been “abroad” twice, to Canada and Mexico respectively, and did not feel that I truly gained any international perspective from either experience (although I enjoyed them thoroughly.) Instead, I did my project on an experience in America- but I’ll let the video tell the story.
One of the requirements of the Global Engagement Fellowship program was to participate in OU Cousins. This program at the University of Oklahoma pairs an American student with an international student, hoping to help build friendships between the participants. I suppose it works along similar lines as the international floor that I live on. OU Cousins, however, was mandatory for the program.
The girl that I was eventually paired up with is Rahma Osman. Her origin story is a little complicated. She was born and raised in Denmark, but her parents are from Somalia. Because of this, she speaks Somali as well as Danish. She’s very nice and we have had lunch and dinner together, which has been a lot of fun. We’ve discussed our childhoods and remarked on the similarities and differences between them.
I did learn one particularly interesting thing when speaking with her. I’ve always known that the United States of America has a different measuring system than all other countries, and that ours is much more confusing. I was talking to Rahma at one point about how I would ride my bike to the library when I was younger, and she asked how far it was. I thought about it for awhile and gave her the approximate distance in kilometers. This surprised her, and made her happy as well. She thanked me for being considerate enough to put the effort into converting the distance for her. It really is very interesting how a simple thing like that can help build a relationship between people of different cultures.
As part of the Global Engagement Fellowship program, I was required to take a class called Understanding the Global Community. We talked about many things in that class, but my favorite part was at the very beginning, when we would watch a youtube video that had music from somewhere outside the United States. Because of that, I have learned a lot about music from different regions.
One of my favorite songs that we listened to is called Papaoutai, by Stromae. He is a Belgian singer whose father was killed in the Rwandan genocide, in 1994. The title comes from papa, ou t’es which is French for “Father, where are you?” I looked up the translation for the song, and it turned out to be a rather depressing piece. I would not have guessed that from the catchy beat, but I suppose the strange music video helps to give that away.
The song is very popular in France and Belgium, and not long ago the acapella group Pentatonix did a cover of it, partnering with Lindsey Stirling. I’m a big fan of Pentatonix and hearing that they had made a version of this song was very exciting! I find it interesting that even if I hadn’t heard this song in class, I likely would have come across it anyway. That is a prime example of how music is travelling across the world at faster and faster rates. Listening to music produced in another country is becoming increasingly common, as is music in other languages. As a self-proclaimed “music nut” who enjoys international sounds, this trend is a definite plus of the global community.
Not long ago, I was arriving back at the dorms late at night when I heard music on my floor. Now, hearing music isn’t uncommon, but it wasn’t in my hallway–it was coming from the TV room on the boy’s side. Not only that, but it was Lindsey Stirling’s music. I would recognize that style of violin anywhere. I was curious as to who else on my floor is a Lindsey Stirling fan, so I entered the room and proceeded to introduce myself.
The sole occupant of the room turned out to be a Palestinian boy whom I had never seen before. We introduced ourselves and proceeded to talk about music in general, Lindsey Stirling in particular. I have often found that people who enjoy the same style of music can talk about it for an extended period of time, and this was definitely the case here. The conversation continued into homeland and travel and classes, and I very much enjoyed myself. I went to bed that night hoping I had made a friend.
It appears I did, because a few days later I had the same type of experience. I got back late and heard music I recognized coming from the same room, and we talked for a long while. I’m coming to appreciate my floor more and more. I learn so much from having all these different cultural perspectives under the same roof. Being in these close quarters has enabled a shy person such as myself to be better able to meet more peopled, and thereby have more friends. Between run-ins such as this one and lessons in culture from my roommate, this has been a very educational experience and will probably continue to be so.
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.
Beyond OU Borders is a new program at the University of Oklahoma. It’s a series of talks given by international students about their homelands. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the very first one, which was given by a lovely lady from France.
They held the event in the basement of the library, in the new Collaborative Learning Center. (That place is cool. If you’re a student, I highly recommend taking a look around it.) It was rather lonely showing up, as I got there before anyone else and had nobody to sit with. However, I was very interested once she started talking.
I unfortunately don’t remember the girl’s name. I was thinking about something else when she introduced herself and missed it, but the rest was very interesting! She went through many American stereotypes of France, explaining why most of them came to be and why many of them were wrong. She showed pictures of her hometown and of her college, painting a picture of her life there. It was almost enough to make me want to study in France rather than in Italy. Alas, I will not; Italy is calling my name, but I left the event with a better understanding of French culture and the challenges of studying abroad.