Global Engagement Day

This semester, I had the opportunity to attend a session during Global Engagement Day entitled “Standing Out Abroad”, which focused on how to deal with being a minority in another country. It was a really fascinating experience, if for no other reason than the panel included two Caucasian individuals. One of the panel members described their experience in Tanzania, including the part where she was proposed to multiple times by a number of the local men primarily due to her skin color. She said that many of the younger children were scared of her for the same reason, and that other believed her to be some kind of angel. Other members of the panel said that they felt like even less of a minority abroad/experienced significantly fewer micro-aggressions in certain parts of Europe, while a queer panel member said that Ireland was significantly more accepting of her sexuality than most Americans might be. Talking to these individuals certainly made me feel much more comfortable about the opportunity to go abroad (even though my trip to Turkey was cancelled, but I’m not salty about that at all). To hear about how so many different people with so many different identities experienced the rest of the world in such a different way was fascinating and I’m really thankful for the opportunity to hear their stories.

Becoming Linguistically Aware

This semester, I took my second “Beginning” language course at OU (1st semester was Arabic, this semester was Spanish), and its been fascinating to study two very different languages with vastly different linguistic features.

Aside from the learning of the language though, perhaps one of the most interesting things that I’ve started to notice around me is who native speakers make the same minor errors when speaking English, which is very obviously informed by the grammatical syntax of their native language. My teachers for both classes were native speakers of their respective language and as we learned more about their language, it was clear how complex English could be to a non-native speaker. English is not a language that makes sense. At all. Its full of exceptions and irregular conjugations (when there are conjugations) and structures that make absolutely no sense; learning other languages only made me more aware of that fact and far more appreciative of non-native speakers who are trying to navigate the linguistic minefield that is the English language. Arabic is never a language that I would call simple, but at least it follows the rules it lays out.

Being Queer Abroad

I am absolutely thrilled to leave for Turkey in just under three weeks. Aside from the fact that I’m having trouble getting my visa and that I haven’t yet done any of the required reading, I know that its going to be a great journey.

I am, however, a little trepidatious as the trip approaches. I’ve never been outside the continental US, and I’ve never spent more than a few days in a non-US/non-urban enviorment. To put it bluntly, as a gay man, I’ve lucked out by living in really supportive and inclusive safe spaces for most of my life. And I’m not too worried about that part of my experience in Turkey… I mean, we’re only going for three weeks and then we’ll be on a plane home, so even if things do go poorly, I know that I’ll be back soon.

I am worried, however, about running afoul of the conservative nature of the country. I’m a pretty outspoken social and fiscal liberal and a very outspoken member of the LGBTQ community, and I doubt that I’ll be able to perfectly “quiet” those modes of thought during this trip. However, in respect of the culture, I feel like I do need to do so for some degree. That puts me in an awkward place, but I’m sure that with the support of my professor and fellow students, it won’t even cross my mind during our excursion. Can’t wait for #JOT2016!

Commander in Chaos

No one really ever expected Donald Trump to get here, most of all my Informed Citizens Discussion Group. During our last meeting of the year, we considered the implications of a Trump presidency on international relations and foreign policy, and I think we all left the room a little scared. There might honestly be nothing worse for our global presence than electing Trump, which is primarily for two reasons.

Firstly, electing Trump would make America the laughing-stock of the world. He is a bumbling buffoon who offends almost any minority population he meets, and his candidacy only shows how radicalized and xenophobic Americans can be.

Secondly, as our Chief Diplomat, Trump has already expressed admiration for authoritarian leaders like Putin and extolled violence against Muslim families and other minority groups. There would be no worse enemy to America than itself if Trump were elected, because he lacks tact and diplomatic skills in his dealings with leaders.

That being said, my ICDG group was also reasonably sure that Trump wouldn’t get elected. With un-approval ratings of the general population at roughly 2/3, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be in the Oval anytime soon. That being said, his candidacy does raise concerns that we have to be weary of internationally.

Everything in Moderation

This semester, I had the opportunity to serve as a moderator within the Informed Citizens Discussion Group, a ┬ástudent organization that promotes open discussion of current events by providing students with a forum in which to talk about issues. It was a really great experience to serve in a leadership position, but it also made me think a lot about how to have a conversation about controversial issues. Over the course of the semester, we tackled a number of particularly difficult topics, but the only opinion that seemed to emerge from our discussions were the fairly left-winged ones. Considering that a number of our members self-identified as social liberals, this was hardly surprising, but as a moderator I was supposed to ensure a balanced conversation that respected all opinions. Often times, this meant playing devil’s advocate or explaining the merits of ideas that I didn’t necessarily subscribe to. That being said, I think that my work there was vitally important, as it challenged individuals to think about why they held the convictions about the international community that they do, which is the only way to promote change or eliminate potentially harmful ideologies.