College of International Studies’ Student Advisory Committee

I am extremely excited to be a part of the Student Advisory Committee this semester. The organization focuses on promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion throughout our campus. I discovered this organization through a film screening of 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days that I attending earlier this semester. I am extremely passionate about the goals of this organization.
This semester, the organization was very small, but applications for new positions were recently opened so I’m hopeful that it will grow and we can continue to raise awareness for global issues. I think this is a great platform on which to start conversations and educate our community. I cannot wait to see what new people bring to the table.
Personally, I am focused on issues of women’s rights around the world and have been particularly involved in the issue of sex trafficking. Next semester I hoping to host a bra drive for women who have escaped sex trafficking and need to regain a place in society. The company, Free the Girls, gives women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs by helping them sell bras to their community. This is one small way people can help. This issue is global and effects many people in the United States. I am looking forward to developing more ideas for upcoming events and projects.

4 months 3 weeks 2 days

Today I attended a screening of the Romanian film 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days. The story follows a young college woman and her pregnant friend as they endeavor to get an illegal abortion. The secrecy, the paranoia, and the obstacles were extreme. They met in dark alleyways, they gathered up hundreds of dollars, and both girls were raped in order to make sure the procedure went through. The film was excellent and brilliantly made. The minimalism used in the cinematography and dialogue emphasized the gravity and the reality of the situation.
I think the most sobering fact for me was that there are women who have gone through this- or worse- to avoid the consequences of pregnancy. So many countries, including the United States, do have a culture that is supportive of pregnancy outside of marriage. They are usually shamed or disgraced and rarely receive the support they need during and after the pregnancy.
The cost of having a child, monetarily, physically, and socially, is enormous. Most countries have few programs to aid single mothers (i.e. paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, etc.). I think it is extremely interesting that both sides of the abortion debate used this film as a reference for their argument. On one hand, the film shows how horrific the process of an abortion is. The obstacles these women had to face were psychologically damaging and the long shot of the dead baby on the bathroom floor is gruesome at best. On the other hand, people argue that this is why women need access to safe and legal abortion. Both sides agree that women do not have access to the resources they need. Hopefully we can continue to be an advocate for women across the globe who are facing these issues in an unforgiving society.

Día de los Muertes

One of the highlights of my Halloween weekend was the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertes)
festival at the Lloyd Noble Center. I did not realize how much of a community celebration this was. There were little children in Halloween costumes, and families walking around. I think it was great to see how much the University engages with the Norman community.
The music was extremely festive and there were bright colors everywhere. My friend and I rode a few rides and I got a flower painted on my hand! The food was excellent! I tried chicken flautas (Flautas pollo y res) and it was amazing.
The artwork is what stood out to me the most. There were a lot of pieces that had beautifully vibrant colors. The jewelry was exquisite and elegantly made. There were so many different styles, but it was clear that they all came for this distinct culture.
I really enjoyed experience the culture surrounding the Day of the Dead. In Hispanic culture, there is much more respect and reverence regarding our ancestors. In my family, we don’t have any way to honor our dead. We have a lovely funeral and we occasionally visit graves, but this is an annual celebration of all those who came before us and those who we loved and loved us. I really think it’s beautiful and I would like to investigate more of the my German heritage to see if we have any significant ways of honoring our dead.

The Global Effects of Fast Fashion

The Fast Fashion industry has significant detrimental effects on the rest of the world. The environmental and humanitarian impacts are astounding and only increasing.
The United States alone throws out about 14 million tons of clothing a YEAR. Clothing — especially polyester– is not biodegradable and will end up sitting in landfills for years. Department stores cycle through clothes every few weeks, always trying to bring in the latest styles. It is becoming a global environmental crisis.

Polyester is made from petroleum which is non-renewable. The cotton industry needs a significant amount of water for production and requires many pesticides. The land used for cotton growth can usually only be used for cotton and can destroy surrounding landscapes with excess wash off or resource depletion.

The global clothing industry is also infamous for inhumane labor conditions. Approximately 170 million children work in child labor around the world and the majority of them work in the clothing and textiles industry. They work in every step of the process across the country. The majority of clothing is produced in China, followed by India, Bangladesh, and Taiwan. The conditions are usually terrible with long hours, low pay, and a terrible work environment.

We need to understand how our consumer society effects the rest of the world. There are many organizations that focus on producing fair trade or organic clothing and there are numerous ways to recycle clothing now. Thrift stores have become increasingly popular, and online thrift stores like threadUP allow people to easily share their clothing with people all around the world. There are also many industries that will recycle used textiles into new article of clothing. Many industries focus on no waste and use recycled filaments in production. They are out there– the problem is that they require more effort to find. You’re average teenager cannot walk into a mall and find a fair trade, no-waste clothing store. It is also typically not as cheap which can make it inconvenient or even inaccessible for some people.

My friend, Sophia Anderson, is igniting a business that helps new designers launch their product using all environmental friendly methods. It is a fashion incubator that requires the designers to ensure that their products are made with eco-friendly material in fair working conditions. Hopefully the growth of this industry will inspire change or at least consciousness regarding the impact that every article of clothing has. Because 14 million tons a year is outrageous and unsustainable. We, as a society, must find a way to change the fast fashion industry because cheap and quick cannot last and impacts lives all around the globe.

On Trump’s NATO diplomacy

Today I’m writing about another interaction our President has had with international leaders because it seems like drama is created every time.

Trump attended the meeting of NATO Leaders yesterday and critics are having a field day regarding his behavior and mannerisms. He was reported as being very cold and aggressive towards members – and there is a video of Trump shoving the PM of Montenegro. Overall many people are classifying these as extremely embarrassing for the US. I agree with them on that aspect. I understand he is trying to crack down on NATO members but there’s no reason not to still be diplomatic. We still want positive relationships with these countries and the U.S. is currently operating under the assumption that we are too powerful to be made an enemy. I don’t think this is the way to make any political friends though, which is extremely important in our current global climate.
I’m also extremely curious to see how the US’s relationship with Russia and Saudi Arabia plays out. I don’t want to see us giving out exceptions or turning a blind eye to human rights violations. Religious intolerance, oppression of women, girls, and the LGBTQ community, and decriminalizing domestic violence are just some offenses on a long list. I understand the importance of good relationships with such influential countries but I hope we don’t prioritize economics or the military over the rights and lives of people in these countries.
I think that many people do agree with Trump on pressuring other NATO countries to increase their financial contributions. Records show that the US has been disproportionately paying for all of the NATO operations and only 5 countries met the 2% (of gdp) promise. My ICDG group discussed last semester how the US could be using their disproportionate contribution as political leverage. I’m hoping that we will still be able to maintain positive, cooperative relationships with these countries and I’m curious to see where the world will go from here.

On Trump’s visit with the Pope

I was definitely watching when President Trump and his family went to meet Pope Francis yesterday. While there are many interpretations of how the meeting went, there is no doubt that Pope Francis called Trump our on at least one issue: climate change. He gave Trump a copy of ‘Laudato Si” which he wrote about the importance of science and politics in aiding the environment. I was so amused and thoroughly appreciated Pope Francis’s shade.
I know that Trump and the Pope also have extremely different ideas on immigration. Trump obviously wants to implement very strict immigration and border policies to help keep potentially dangerous people or illegal immigrants out of the US. However the Catholic view centers around love for our fellow humans and charity to people in need. There are so many people who are in need of a home, especially in the middle east. The issue is that so many people let fear guide their actions. Fear festers and turns into defense, which isn’t necessarily bad: terrorism is a real threat and being cautious is wise. However, this fear turns into a fear of larger communities, of Muslims, of people of middle eastern descent. People develop fear of immigrants (illegal or otherwise) taking their jobs. Pope Francis has, multiple times, encouraged countries to be understanding and accepting and to operate from a place of compassion and not fear. So obviously this meeting with Trump, who ran his campaign principally on fear, is extremely important. Pope Francis is a leader and an icon for Catholics across the world. Personally, I love the role he has played in rejuvenating the church and communicating to the world the true messages of our faith.
While the Pope did throw some shade, they said that they talked about working towards international peace and I honestly and truly hope so. Maybe at least, Trump will learn a little more about climate change.

Language and Religion

This month I attended a lunch with guest speaker Dr. Muhammad S. Eissa on Language and Religion. Surprisingly, I had never given much thought to the intersections of the two. Dr. Eissa talked about how the Arabic language is so frequently associated with Islam and how that affects non-Muslim Arabic speakers and Muslims who don’t speak Arabic. It was extremely fascinating to analyze. I did not know a lot of the history of the Arabic language or how it has changed and evolved geographically. Dr. Eissa emphasized how the Arabic language helped people connect to Islamic scripture, traditions, and cultures.

My roommate, who is Jewish, also related to that and she is currently studying Hebrew. These were the languages that the scriptures were written (or heard) in and so learning the language helps people connect.

I started thinking about Christianity and the lack of any identifying language. I’m Catholic so Latin is very important historically as masses used to be entirely in Latin. I think Latin is very beautiful, but it wasn’t the original language of Jesus or the disciples; it was adopted because of the influence of the Roman empire on the church. In fact, as time progressed, Latin almost became a barrier between the people and the church teachings. People couldn’t understand what was being said at masses because most people were uneducated. It was finally changes in the 20th century because the Pope wanted people to be able to develop personal relationships with God. I think this is pretty cool though I still love hearing Latin songs or chants at masses.

ICDG: Discussing the Controversial French Election

In my ICDG group, we discussed the French Election after discovering that Marine LePen has made it to the final round. This is so telling of the current political climate in the western world: we are seeing a resurgence of nationalism. Many people think that if she is elected, resulting in France leaving the European Union, that more and more countries would follow and the EU would become obsolete. For me, that prospect is very weird considering it’s all I’ve known or grown up with, but the organization itself is relatively young.

Brexit happened and then Trump and now there is another possibility for another global conservative to take power. One member said that one of the biggest reasons France wants to leave the EU is so that they do not have to follow their border regulations. This is a response to the increase in refugees that are trying to come into various European countries and to the increase in terrorism. France has notably experienced significant terrorist attacks in the last few years so it’s understandable that they have become increasingly protectionist. I’m very concern though because it seems like she is leading her campaign on fear and that can be very destructive for communities.

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Note: Since writing this, Édouard Philippe beat out le Pen for office. I’m very interested in watching how the relationship between France and the US evolves because Philippe has openly criticized Trump.

Arabic Flagship Talent Show

This month I went to the Arabic Flagship Talent Show. I was very much looking forward to it and I had many friends who were studying Arabic that I knew were going to be there.

The dancing by the Belly Dancing Club was absolutely amazing and it was very interesting to see the contrasting styles of the two dances they performed. The first dance used finger cymbals in their dance and involved many girls and the second dance used sticks. They were two different traditional styles of dancing and the girls had amazing performances.

The poetry was also incredible. One of the girls wrote a poem that she read in English, Arabic, and Vietnamese. I was extremely impressed by her words but more by the power that the poem had when it was in other languages. I couldn’t understand any of the words but the rhythm and tone of her speaking really helped communicate the meaning of her poem.

Overall I enjoyed the talent show (and the food was delicious). However, I didn’t realize that the majority of the talent show would be class projects from different Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic and so many of the skits and videos I couldn’t understand. I got to see a lot of my friends in the videos though so I still enjoyed them and some of them were very funny! But since I’m not studying Arabic a lot of things were lost on me. I will probably go again next year though! I had a great time!

Dancing Around the World

Throughout the semester I’ve attended multiple different dancing events from various cultures. It was so wonderful seeing the traditions from different parts of the world.

Cumbia Dance originated in Columbia and spread throughout Latin America. It is a very popular form of dance, especially in the clubs. It has a simple 1-2 rhythm which allows for a variation in the sound. There is traditional sounding Cumbia and then more techno auto-tuned songs. We learned the basic steps as a group and then I got to demonstrate the partner dance with the instructor. He was an excellent lead and pretty much carried me around the room! It was a wonderful experience!

Kizomba is an Angolan Dance done with a partner. It is very slow and sensual. The partners are very close and the movements are very small. It was a little more difficult to pick up after being used to salsa dancing which is faster with larger steps. I got to meet a lot of wonderful new people! Many times during the evening, there would be outbursts in Portuguese. We learned the basic steps and complicated turns and combinations and rotated partners throughout. I danced with new and familiar faces and had a great time!

I went to an Indian Dance event and learned multiple different dances. The men and women were dressed in beautiful traditional Indian clothes. One thing I thought was interesting was that the Indian Dances were more individual or group based and less partner focused. One of the dances also involved sticks and rotating partners. There was a lot of traveling and hand movements that were just as important as the footwork. I had never done any dancing like it Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep finding more opportunities on campus to experience dance in difference cultures.