At the end of dead week it was time to say farewell to my cousin and friend Huong. It had been a fun year and I really enjoyed seeing him grow, both in his understanding of American culture and as a student. I know I did my fair share of growing as well and I am sure that he noticed. He told me he would be returning to Vietnam in the summer with hopes of finding an internship or employment opportunity. I had forgotten that he was older than me and had already completed his bachelor’s degree, so the fact that he would be starting his life took me by surprise. We talked a little about what it would be like and he seemed excited. He told me that he could now live on his own with the opportunity to find a career that could support a family. Being a freshman, this was a lot for me to take in but I was thrilled for him. I will be sure to keep in touch with him on Facebook going forward. Freshman year was a blast and I can’t wait to see what OU holds for the future!
On April 7th, 2017, I attended the Eve of Nations, a spectacular event that showcased various cultures found at OU through performances, art, and even a fashion show. Student organizations representing areas all around the world were in attendance, and the result was incredible. I had never seen such a display of diversity in the middle of Oklahoma. Each performance was unique and powerful, showing that every culture has value and demands respect. I myself was surprised by the amount of different cultures represented. Looking back I feel naive for not realizing that I have peers from literally all over the world, however it was both impressive and refreshing. The event made me even more excited to study abroad and jump headfirst into a community I was unfamiliar with. It also challenged me to go out and get to know the student body better, especially those with so much I can learn from. The Eve of Nations was a wonderful time, something I recommend to everyone and will definitely attend next year.
As the semester comes to a close and I begin to reminisce on all of the good times it brought me, a story of me and my OU cousin Huong comes to mind. When Huong and I were initially matched, the first thing I looked for was commonalities. I have since learned that it is what makes us different that is important, but nonetheless in that moment I was asking him about American football and if certain celebrities were popular in Vietnam. As I was grasping for something we shared, he told me he liked to play sports. I personally enjoy sports and when he said this I was thrilled. I tried my best not to cut him off when I quickly asked what sports he played, then his answer surprised me. “Badminton” he said with a grin on his face. I had played badminton in my backyard before but I was not prepared for what he had to say about it. He told me all about how popular it was in Vietnam and how there were professional players/celebrities, just like other sports in the United States. As surprised as I was, it was cool to hear about. It wasn’t long before we were headed to Huff every month to play a few matches. At first I watched and studied Huong. His form and precision was spectacular, smacking the shuttlecock at lightning speeds over the net. I wasn’t bad, but Huong was out of my league. It was fun spending time with him outside of schoolwork. I got a chance to see what he did in his childhood. I played football at recess and he played badminton. My dad drove me to baseball practice and he walked to the nearest recreation center that had a net. It was an eye opening experience, a connection that led to the realization of other shared interests which led to us becoming good friends. Who knows, maybe I’ll always come back and play badminton now.
This past Friday I was able to attend the University of Oklahoma’s Arabic Flagship Program Talent Show. Going into the event I had no idea what to expect, however, I was quickly blown away. Upon arriving I was greeted by the deliciously unique smells of Arabic cuisine, none of which I was familiar with, but all of which was fantastic. After serving myself to a multitude of new treats, I sat down in the back of the room. I will be the first to admit that I do not speak nor understand a lick of Arabic, but this proved to be much less of an issue than I anticipated. The first performance was a dance to “Aziza”, a song of Arabic heritage composed by one of the world’s most esteemed musicians. The dance was impressive and obviously well versed. The performers danced smoothly in unison, showing the results of hours of practice. Following the dance was a string of homemade videos by other students in the program. Again, I did not understand a word, but the emotion and time put into the video was apparent and again I was impressed. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the evening was the audience’s reception. Everyone was immersed in the presenters words, eager to learn more and enjoy Arabic culture. There were plenty of laughs and smiles all around. I did not get any of the jokes, but it made me happy to know that the presenters were making the audience laugh. This was certainly an eye opening experience for me, considering the fact that a program in my backyard put on a 2 hour event during which I understood next to nothing. It really put into perspective how many prominent cultures there are around the world that I am not aware of. Leaving the event I felt eager to explore the world around me, because who knows what other languages I don’t speak.
Unfortunately, I recently found out that I will not be able to attend the Organic Chemistry in Italy program this summer. Funds didn’t work out but it’s all good. On the flip side, I have some good news! After considering my major and weighing my options, I plan on studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland in the spring of 2018. I have talked to multiple people who have visited and studied there and from what I hear it is absolutely beautiful. I am really looking forward to witnessing some of the history and meeting the people who live there. I will also be perfecting my Scottish accent to bring home. As I spend my summer in Norman, I will be anxiously awaiting my first trip abroad.
I am excited to announce that I was recently admitted to the Organic Chemistry in Italy program for June 2017. I will be taking Organic Chemistry I and Culinary Chemistry and Culture of Italy on OU’s campus in Arezzo! I look forward to sharing my experiences with all of you as I learn about Italian culture and see the world from a new perspective. I have never been abroad before, so the entire process is already new and interesting. I just got my passport and am already anxious to go. I’ll continue to update the blog as we get closer to my department.
On Tuesday, November 1st, I attended the Unity Symposium to hear Dr. R.C. Davis speak about his upcoming book and the state of Mestizo culture relations in the United States. Dr. Davis is both a prestigious author and an esteemed faculty member at the University, serving as the executive director of OU’s World Literature Today. His upcoming book, Mestizos Come Home, attempts to gain sympathy for Mexicans in America, a group that is largely subjugated and blamed for domestic issues. As a white member of a relatively diverse Norman community, it was easy for me to relate to many of his claims and observations about today’s society. Too many people blame citizens of Hispanic culture for “taking American jobs, sucking up welfare money, and endangering communities”, when in reality they have quite the opposite effect. Growing up in Norman I have interacted with Mexican teachers, business owners, and peers, all of whom not only give back to society but also attributed to my personal growth as a student and citizen. Dr. Davis’s book seeks to enlighten our country to the fact that this is the reality, not some twisted immigrant stereotype people tend to believe. Expanding from his novel, Dr. Davis spoke about the Day of the Dead tradition and the facts behind its meaning. The Mexican holiday is celebrated with an abundance of costumes and sweets, often relating to family ancestors. What most Americans do not know is that the generous usage of sugar alludes to Spanish sugar harvesting in colonial times. Due to the harsh working conditions and diseases brought from Europe, the Central American indigenous population dropped from 25 million to less than 1 million. The Day of the Dead is in remembrance of the lives lost during this time and onward, honoring their ancestors by preserving their rich Latin culture.
Although Huong commutes from OKC for class, I try to catch up with him for lunch whenever I’m available. The other day we decided to meet at crossroads in the Union for a burger and curly fries. We ordered our food, talked a little bit of football, and sat outside. I learned a lot about his family and what brought him to OU but for some reason he continued to comment about how good his cheeseburger was. He claimed that it tasted fresh and “wholesome”, all in all, good solid meat. As much as I love crossroads, I had never considered their food to be of such an esteemed quality. This made me consider his background versus mine, and how our diets were different. He explained how much he liked our burgers but also how our fish were never fresh or as tasty as in Vietnam. I just found it interesting how geographical differences can completely determine one’s outlook on a food group. These are the sort of discrepancies that I look for in our conversations, the ones that are shaped by two distinct cultures across the globe from one another.
Being from Norman, I had already attended two proms in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom, but neither were quite up to par with the third. The International Prom, put on by the International Advisory Committee, was a night of food and dancing where OU students from all over the world came together to enjoy something similar to the typical “American Prom”. With refreshments, a diverse playlist, and suits and dresses galore, this prom was for real, and oh was it fun. My friends and I went and had a fantastic time meeting new people and enjoying bits and pieces of different cultures. It was a blast, I plan on recommending it to all international students and attending again next year.
After a pizza fueled night of bingo and laughs, I was finally matched with my OU cousin, Huong, from southern Vietnam. After not knowing what to expect, I was blown away by how quickly Huong and I got along. He is a computer engineering major and will be attending OU at least through the spring 2017 semester. He enjoys playing badminton and basketball, fishing, and listening to music. I was worried that my cousin and I would have nothing in common, but from the start it was evident that I was mistaken. I can’t wait to hangout more, learn about his culture, and introduce him to mine.