Gallivanting Around the UK

Don’t get me wrong, the Honors at Oxford colloquium class was challenging and engaging and had some great discussions. But I was also so thankful that we had Mondays and Fridays off to put the books down and really take advantage of our position to have some fun traveling around Europe and the UK. With these glorious four day weekends, my first thought was to take the vaca to Greece and Italy that I’ve always dreamed of. Ultimately I decided it was too far and too expensive, and that I would stick to traveling around the UK, and let me tell ya I am SO glad I made that decision. The first weekend we went to London, Salisbury, and Bath, and each was an amazing and unique experience. We got to see the huge, enveloping, bustling city, the quaint English town with flower gardens everywhere, and a Roman-French-influenced college-town-feeling medium city, all in one weekend. Not only was a wonderful time, it was also a great growing experience, as study abroad tends to be. I went to London, Bath, and Salisbury with a friend and a few people we met at Oxford. Even through all the stressful travel hiccups and tired nights, we got along really well and travelled as a team. But don’t be fooled, I am still a mess; the next weekend, I packed everything except for my passport for a trip to Edinburgh and Dublin, and had to go back for it in a panic. But for me the most rewarding thing throughout both my time at Oxford and other places in the United Kingdom was that I had times of anxiety, but I handled it well and didn’t spiral.I tend to struggle quite a bit in a new stressful environment, with new people, but I was proud of how far I’ve come – that I was able to have a wonderful time, put myself out there and meet awesome people, and enjoy amazing architecture, culture, and history, all with a minimal amount of anxiety. A huge win in my book. ūüôā

“It’s a Bit Like Jumping In the Deep End” – Prof. Andrea DenHoed

This summer, I was fortunate to have help and support to attend the Honors at Oxford program for three weeks. Shoutout to the parents, Honors College, and GEF for helping to make it happen! While the travel was one of the most important parts for me, it was equally important to me to do well in the class I took, HON 3993, “From Bard to Banksy,” taught by professor Andrea DenHoed (who is awesomely intimidating and works as a copy editor for the New Yorker, no big deal). I went into the class ready for an OU style Honors class, but what I got was a style that I had never been exposed to. The parameters were broad, and Andrea ruthlessly expected us to be the best we could be, challenging us to expand our writing styles beyond academic and into the journalistic. She did this by encouraging vivid description instead of pure argument and asking challenging questions that don’t lead to a logical conclusion, but rather funnel to an overarching idea.

At first, this style of learning was HIGHLY uncomfortable for me – I personally found it pretty hard to change my style of thinking without much direction. When I told Andrea that I was struggling and unsure of the expectations, she said, “yeah, it’s kind of like being thrown in the deep end. Welcome to Oxford.” She told me that as a Rhodes Scholar, she felt the exact same way, but to the extreme. The Oxford style of learning is giving your best output without many parameters; it’s about taking an educated risk, and being willing to be wrong. The feedback on your performance at Oxford is given in “tutorials,” small group or individual sessions with the professor where they examine not just the mechanics of your writing, but the ideas themselves. And it’s terrifying. But extremely challenging, and in the end, extremely rewarding. Being pushed outside my comfort zone made me queasy at first, but ultimately it stretched my mind to a new perspective and style, and helped me to elevate my writing through Professor DenHoed’s expert advice. So, while there was a time that I struggled with the structure of the class, that struggle made the experience richer and more authentic to Oxford, which made my trip at the end of the day.

Model United Nations

This semester was particularly rewarding for Model UN because some of the awesome students who have been there for a long while served on the executive committee, including one of my good friends who acted as secretary. It has been really fun to see them take leadership with grace and professionalism, and they have been really important to the growth of the Model UN program here at OU. Since the beginning of my time with Model UN we’ve attended the Midwest Model United Nations conference in St. Louis, MO and hosted the high school conference, but over the past two years, there has been a marked increase in attendance and professionalism of these two conference, thanks in part to the great leadership we’ve had.

Although I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with Model UN and will continue to be marginally involved, I’m also looking to explore other international organizations next year. Having been in Model UN for about 6 years now, the process and conferences are relatively comfortable for me, and I’d like to expand my involvement in international organizations on campus to something new. I would like to potentially become involved with the IAC, as they have a lot of reach on campus and are the umbrella organization for many specific international student groups. Whatever shape my involvement takes next year, I’m so thankful for the experiences I’ve had with international students, organizations, and courses during my time at OU, and can’t imagine my college experience without them.

Post-Grad Dreaming – pt 2

In addition to considerations about what shape I want my career to take, I also have considerations about where I want to live, where I want to travel, and ultimately, where I want to spend my time. Cultural awareness and exploration have always been important to me, and I’ve always known that I wanted to incorporate international relations into either my career or my personal interests. I began by thinking the foreign service was the best option for me, and came into college thinking international and area studies was the best major for me. However, with introspection and familial input, I realized that I wouldn’t be happy as a foreign service officer; it’s too transient a lifestyle for my personality, and too much constant change. With this in mind, I shifted my perspective onto a career in psychology, and possibly law, with a focus on international relations, but not a lifestyle of constant moving.

With this realization, I came to a new goal. I’ve always been active in the international community in my hometown, Anchorage, AK, and I plan to continue to be. After I graduate, I hope to work in Anchorage and gain experience before possibly attending law school, and I hope to reestablish my involvement with the Alaska World Affairs Council, and to start volunteering with immigration services. With a highly diverse population, with a lot of people from all over the world, Anchorage has a multitude of opportunities for cultural learning and human connection, and I’m excited to continue to take advantage of that. I’m so thankful to be lucky enough that the place I want to live full time, my hometown, is a beautifully multi-cultural, international city, even all the way up in the last frontier.

Post-Grad Dreaming – pt 1

With graduation on the horizon (only one more year of undergrad left for me!), and a semi-new relationship with a boy who lives across the country from me, I’ve recently had to think a lot about my plans for after graduation. For this planning I have a lot of factors to consider; family, boyfriend, place to live, career, and international travel, experience, and advocacy. Over the course of my time at OU I haven’t found one true calling, but rather narrowed down my options by eliminating potential callings. I’ve eliminated medical school for psychiatry and graduate school for clinical psychology based on my interests, class experiences, and even a little intuition.

One potential option that still appeals to me pretty strongly is pursuing a law degree post-undergrad. I’ve always been interested in the crossover between psychology and law, and in international trade and human rights law. In my dreams, a career as an immigration lawyer or international trade negotiator would be a fantastic way to combine all the things I love. The question is if this is the true reality or not. In order to continue to parse this out, I’ve pursued an internship this summer so that I may gain further insight into what a career in law would actual offer me, and thankfully, I’ve been offered an internship at a local Alaskan law firm for my time this summer before I head off to England. I’m hoping this internship will help me to realize that I either hate law and should miss the bullet of law school student loans, or that it’s my destiny to become a human rights and policy lawyer and live in Geneva and counsel the UN. In reality, the internship will probably not give me this definitive answer that I seek, but hey, a girl can dream.

Updated Travel Ideas

This semester, I had the great opportunity to work with an awesome OU student with a unique and uplifting story. She was born and raised in the US until high school, and then lived and attended high school in Ecuador. This allowed her to solidify her fluency in Spanish, and to experience the education system, political climate, and culture of another part of the world during a formative age. During our friendly coworker conversations, she relayed to me that she was incredibly grateful for her time and experiences in Ecuador, which instilled in her a desire to return full time later in life and presented her with the love of her life, whom she recently married. Newly married and newly graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Pre-Med and plans to attend medical school next fall, she is excited to continue pursuing her passions of medicine and Spanish.

Listening to her talk about Ecuador and the time of her life that she had there has challenged me and my assumptions about the world. I never feel that I have an outward bias against countries, only a greater interest in others, but even that continues to be proven unfounded. This student advocating for a country that she loves and all the wonders it provides definitely has shifted my worldview. Although I still enjoy traveling to Europe, and am thoroughly excited to do so this summer, my view of Latin American, South American, and even Asian countries has been altered by the testimony of a dedicated student.

Oxford!!!

After much debate about studying abroad this summer, mainly about where I should go, I’m so excited to be going to Oxford, England with the OU Honors College this summer! I decided that if I was able to get in, the idea of studying at Oxford University in their traditional tutorial style was so exciting to me, it won out over my desire to travel to South Africa. Thankfully, I was accepted to the program, and will be going to Oxford in July!! While in Oxford, I’ll be attending an OU Honors Colloquium course with Mrs. Andrea DenHoed, an accomplished contributor to The New Yorker.¬† Mrs. DenHoed has an extensive background in art criticism and history, and I’m excited to learn from her class, “From Bard to Banksy.” The readings have already been assigned, and I’ve started looking at the assignments. The majority of our writing assignments will be over art events and establishments that we attend while in Oxford. I think it will be a really good mix of academic background and hands-on experience, with the tutorial method supplementing the writing process.

I’ve also started getting to know some of the other people going on the program with me, which has been really cool. I know a few of the other students attending already, and we’ve started a large group chat with everyone in it to continue to get to know each other and make plans for side trips. The structure of the program is ideal for that, because our classes and tutorials are Tuesday through Thursday, so the weekends will be conducive to exploring the UK and Europe. I’m so unbelievably excited to learn at this incredible University, and to broaden my experience with my fellow OU peers!

Ethiopia as an Economic Powerhouse

This semester, I had the pleasure of attending a talk sponsored by one of my former professors: Dr. Dan Mains, who I had for “Globalizing Africa,” an honors perspectives course. In that class, Dr. Mains did an excellent job challenging students with interesting academic and ethnographic material about the way that globalization has affected African economics, societies, and political structures. The talk I went to this semester followed a similar pattern: the rising economic power of Ethiopia, and how they will manage it moving forward.

Going into the seminar, I had the background of Dr. Mains’ class and my limited knowledge of foreign investment in African markets and economies, particularly informal ones. Dr. Mains added to and expanded this knowledge – he informed us that China in particular, but also other Asian and European countries, contributes a large amount of foreign investment to African countries, including Ethiopia. They invest in these informal economies as well as business ventures, but the infrastructure of the investment expands far beyond even that. China specifically also contributes investment to Ethiopia’s infrastructure, including factories, dams, and railroads. This has accelerated the economic growth opportunities of Ethiopia, especially in the textile industry.

All this investment and growth has advanced Ethiopia’s economic and political opportunities, but not without a cost. The expansion of capitalistic practices has led to an environment of cheap labor for infrastructural jobs, especially those in textile factories. Although laborers have additional job opportunities, the wages for those opportunities are chronically low. In tandem with these recent economic changes, the Ethiopian governmental leadership has shifted toward a more militaristic style with limited free speech, which has only very recently been reversed. Similar to Dr. Mains’ class, the facts surrounding Ethiopia’s development challenge stereotypical African narratives, but also bring up an important question: is a move toward capitalism and economic growth a good move? Or will it wreak more havoc than it’s worth? From my narrow understanding of the situation, only time will tell.

Indian Nationalism in Context

This semester, I was able to attend an amazing talk given by Professor Deonnie Mootie, an assistant professor in the Religious Studies Department here at OU. The talk revolved around the history of nationalism in India, comparing the legacy of Gandhi with his nationalist counterparts.

Gandhi is a well-known international icon known for his nonviolent protest and peaceful demeanor. A lesser known fact about Gandhi is that he was a part of the Indian Nationalist Movement, a movement to establish Indian independence from British rule. Professor Mootie gave a brief overview of Gandhi’s rise and his involvement in the Nationalist Movement, situated in the context of the political and social atmosphere of the time. Once the British colonized India, there was a nostalgic romanticization of the time before British rule. Indians began to desire a return to their pre-British golden age, when Indians were in charge of India; out of this desire grew the Nationalism Movement. Gandhi eventually became the leader of the Indian National Congress, and his opponent, Savarkar, became the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, another nationalist camp. Whereas Gandhi was inclusive toward all religions, Savarkar believed that Hindi identity is inseparable from Indian identity, thus alienating Muslims and Christians. Although Gandhi’s camp is more widely recognized, the pattern of thought driven by Savarkar is the one that has remained dominant in Indian politics, leading toward the current resurgence of the Hindu right and clashes with the Muslim demographic.

Nationalism in the context of Indian independence is a complex issue, especially when considered in light of the current global political climate. Nationalism was used as a tool for the Indian people to regain autonomy over their own land and persons, but it was also used as a tool to be exclusionary and perpetuate an “us vs them” mentality. In both the case of the Indian Nationalist Movement and in today’s widespread renewal of nationalist sentiment across the globe, it’s important to balance the importance of cohesive identity with the importance of inclusion, a balance that is still being actively sought.

“China’s Rise in the Global Finance System” – A Shift in Modern Economics

This last semester, I had the privilege of attending a discussion on China’s rise in the global finance system given by Dr. Kevin P. Gallagher, a visiting professor from Boston University. Dr. Gallagher is the Director of the Global Development Policy Center in Boston,¬†and specializes in Asian economic policy analysis, particularly in China.

The talk centered around the conditions which have fostered China’s unprecedented economic growth in the last 50 years. Some of the factors surrounding this rise were the development of international lenders, the currency exchange rate, and the rise of risky foreign investment. After World War II ended, countries around the globe were concerned with the level of atrocity committed, and countries began aligning to seize power over other countries in an effort to prevent a future conflict of similar magnitude. Specifically, this led to the rise of the United Nations, a coalition of government ambassadors from around the world that make policy decisions and recommendations. Along with the UN arose another supranational organization, the International Monetary Fund, to rebuild economies across Europe. In the last few decades, China has maximized their IMF allowances, building up an international economic reputation. More recently as well, China has been starting their own, more localized lending coalitions to invest in Asian loans, which have been moderately successful. In addition to this, Chinese interest in foreign investment, particularly risky foreign investment, has grown recently. The Chinese government has invested in many countries across the globe, from Africa to Australia, in a variety of sectors (ChinaPower). The majority of these investments have paid off, and have allowed for a continuous cycle of investment. Finally, a more subtle change in the last few decades has contributed to China’s growing status as an economic powerhouse: their growing relevance of currency. Since the invention of the IMF, China has wanted to increase the use of Chinese currency, the yuan, in the system. They steadily increased the percentage of yuan exchange in the IMF over several years, and the yuan was finally made an official world reserve currency in 2015. With this step, more and more international banks tied to the IMF are lending with yuan, increasing Chinese financial power and influence.

This talk was very interesting and informative, especially since economics is not my area of expertise, so it was very helpful to learn a little bit about the macroeconomic trends in the world and one explanation of the almost myth-like rise of China in recent years.

ChinaPower. Does China Dominate Global Investment? The Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2018. https://chinapower.csis.org/china-foreign-direct-investment/. Accessed 13 December 2018.