My Last Post

Standard

Wow. It is difficult for me to believe that I will be a graduate of this university in just under two weeks. It is so cliche to say it, but the time has legitimately gone by in what feels like the blink of an eye. If there are any new GEFs reading this, PLEASE make sure to enjoy your time at OU as much as you possibly can. It will be over before you know it!

When I was applying to OU, seeing the new Global Engagement Fellowship program was a big pro for this university in my eyes. Since I was in middle school, I’d dreamt of studying abroad, and it was wonderful to see a university that promoted study abroad so heavily. I was overjoyed to be selected for this program, and I have been so blessed with all of the wonderful experiences that have come out of it.

I still maintain that studying abroad was the best decision I made in college. It was both incredibly fun and incredibly challenging. It taught me to use a foreign language effectively, to be confident in my ability to navigate in unfamiliar situations and places, and to see the world in a different way. Again, this all sounds so cliche, but this cliche exists for a reason. Studying in another country really does change you for the better, and if you are at all interested, I urge you to apply. OU has TONS of study abroad scholarships that make it financially feasible.

Every day, the international community gets more and more connected. No one country can exist as an island anymore, even if it wants to. Because of this, I am so grateful to this program for encouraging me to learn as much about the international community as I possibly could. Now more than ever, this knowledge is vital, and I’m leaving OU knowing that I am a much better-educated and more well-rounded person than I came as.

The moral of this sentimental story is that OU is amazing, the Global Engagement Fellowship is amazing, and studying abroad is even better. I am still having trouble coming to terms with leaving, but I take comfort in the fact that sadness at leaving means that I got to experience something truly awesome. Thank you to Bushra, thank you to Jaci, and thank you to all of my fellow GEFs for making these last four years unforgettable!

My Last Global Engagement Day

Standard

Today I attended my very last Global Engagement Day, and it was a wonderful way to end my time as a GEF. Every year, fellows get together to lead panels on all sorts of things, from what to pack, to where to study abroad, to telling stories (a panel I participated in last year), to the talk I attended today: women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ students abroad.

As a straight, white woman, 1/3 of these descriptors apply to me, but I found it so valuable to hear the perspectives from everyone on the panel. It was fascinating, and times heartbreaking, and often empowering to hear fellow students tell the stories of how they lived and were treated in places outside the U.S. It’s no secret that our own country often doesn’t treat anyone in these three groups with kindness, but the fact remains that the United States is a fairly liberal country, while some that GEFs travel to (Morocco and Uganda were mentioned in the talks) are not.

It was interesting to hear where these students drew the line between standing up for themselves when they were being oppressed (overtly or covertly) and between staying quiet to avoid making too many waves. As one of them stated, “you’re not there to cause a culture war.” The idea of dressing much more conservatively, or of hiding homosexuality, in a country that basically requires it has always been interesting to me. On the one hand, it’s important to respect cultures you are a guest in. But on the other, shouldn’t you say something if you’re being catcalled, or you are admonished for your homosexuality or your style of dressing? Here in the U.S., we very much have a culture of speaking up (if you feel safe doing so) when you are not being respected. But the dynamic changes significantly when you study abroad.

Ultimately, I have the utmost respect for these students. To hear comments about yourself that make you bristle and to stay calm and respectful is a really admirable course of action. I think they all served as excellent cultural ambassadors for the United States, and I am proud to be a Global Engagement Fellow with them.

It was an excellent panel, and it made my last Global Engagement Day one for the books!