Being a Global Engagement Mentor

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This semester, I met my international group requirement by becoming a mentor to several new fellows. I have loved my time in OU Cousins over the past several years, but the interest in the club is so high that I thought it was time for me to step back and let others have a turn to see what an amazing club it is!

I have participated in several other student mentoring programs on campus, and I was eager to be able to pass on my study abroad knowledge to younger students who could benefit from it. I feel that I have learned a great deal during my two years as a Global Engagement fellow and my five months studying abroad, so I was eager to share my newfound knowledge.

At the beginning of the semester, I was given a list of names and email addresses and I went from there. I reached out to each student individually, and those emails inspired some awesome in-person conversations. Unsurprisingly, these students are all very on top of it and in control of their schedules, so they haven’t needed much general school advice, but it has been nice to be able to share my journeys applying for study abroad, timing when I went, the packing, and how I conducted myself while traveling, because these things were all new to them.

It has been lovely to meet with them and hear about their goals for their international journeys. They are all so excited to travel and to expand their horizons, and their enthusiasm inspires me. It is bittersweet to be on this end of the process, sharing my knowledge of my travels rather than getting ready to embark on them, but I couldn’t be happier for these freshmen. Being a Global Engagement fellow, and the opportunities that it has afforded me throughout my time at OU, has provided me with many of the highlights of my college career. I could not be more excited for these new fellows – I know that this amazing program can do the same for them.

Talking About Spain: What’s Not to Love?

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My third international event of the semester was a lovely Global Engagement event at Second Wind. This was the second of the semester, and the theme this time was Spain and Latin America!

If you couldn’t guess, I was thrilled – talking about Spain brings me great pleasure now that I am home and unable to experience it, and I ordinarily hold myself back in order to not come off as arrogant and annoying (because we all know the “Well, when I was in Prague…” person, and this is not a person that I ordinarily enjoy). This event was an actual invitation to meet with other students who love to travel and talk about my experiences as much as I like! Basically, it was a dream come true.

The event boasted a great mix of students who had been abroad and students hoping to go, and it was incredibly gratifying to swap stories with the fellows who’d had similar experiences and, in doing so, give advice and recommendations to those fellows who had yet to go abroad. Now that I’ve been home for several months, discussing my travels in Spain feels a bit like reminiscing about the glory days. I do get a bit of a pang of jealously at the thought of students who have all of their time ahead of them, whereas mine is behind me.

However, these dreary thoughts do not allow for the possibility of traveling abroad again after my college days are over, and as such, I don’t pay them much mind. I have always had the travel bug, and going abroad has only increased my wanderlust. I may have studied abroad as an undergraduate for the last time, but I have many dreams of graduate degrees and many more travels abroad.

One thing is for certain – Spain hasn’t seen the last of me.

Clinton and Trump’s Foreign Policies

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This is going to be an interesting post to make without getting political, but I’m going to try! I’m a fairly firm believer that most politics does not have much of a place on the internet outside of well-researched news articles. The digital screaming matches and name calling that I see so often, on both sides of the political aisle, are disheartening and largely unproductive.

In a perfect world, I think that we could have respectful political discourse online. But we are not living in a perfect world. It is so difficult to convey tone through text, and many people arguing their points and leaving empathy at the door spend most of their energy tearing into their “opponents,” willfully ignoring the fact that everyone, regardless of political orientation, is trying to improve our country and our world.

With the election coming up so soon and the truly bizarre and terrifying road that has brought us this far, it is easy to see why the country is in its current state of political frenzy. What’s more, most of the frenzy seems to be dedicated to the character of each of the two candidates, rather than to their actual policies. To combat this, I decided to go to a talk on the foreign policies of Clinton and Trump that was held on campus recently.

The talk featured five speakers, each of which focused on one aspect of Trump and Clinton’s policies. They each elucidated the positions of each candidate with as little bias as possible before including some of their own thoughts on the subjects. Their topics were all related to foreign policy – handling foreign policy is a duty that takes up roughly half of the president’s time, and as such, it is EXTREMELY important.

Foreign policy is a topic very close to my own heart – good international relations are one of my big goals for the U.S.. and because of this, I loved getting the chance to sit down and learn about each candidate’s views.

The topics discussed were oil and the environment, trade, China, relations with the Middle East and Russia, and Latin America. Each topic was presented by an expert in that topic, and I was glad to hear their thoughts. I like to think that I stay fairly well-informed about politics, and because of this, I knew the basics of each candidate’s position on foreign policy going into the talk, but I learned more information in greater depth in the course of this presentation, and it was great to hear. I also considered several topics from new angles that I hadn’t before, which was refreshing – I like to know exactly why I have the views that I do, and to frequently challenge my political opinions to make sure that they hold up to scrutiny. I never want to become complacent and start to think that I know it all – that seems like a dangerous game to play.

That said, there are certain views that I will always hold that I will leave you with now. I will always respect and admire the citizens of this country from all walks of life. To me, the diversity in the United States is our greatest asset, and it is cause for celebration, not fear. We have SO much to learn from each other, and to let fear-mongering get in the way of that learning and cooperation between diverse groups would be a tragedy. Especially now, in this tense political climate, respect and empathy are of the utmost importance. We must not allow ourselves to be driven apart by the divisive voices of an angry minority who seek to turn us against each other. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and I hope that we never forget it.