After a great first year as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I remain excited as I look forward to the summer and upcoming years of my time in college. Among the many organizations I have been a part of, the Global Engagement Fellowship has no doubt been one of the unique ones. I find that being a member of this fellowship has allowed me to connect with others who are in similar majors as mine but who also hold a common interest in appreciating various cultures. We often tend to think that students who major in technical areas have no need to study abroad or gain exposure to different cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For the new class of incoming GEFs, I have a few recommendations from my own experience. Make sure you reach out to others in the fellowship, as there are often valuable connections who can get you contacts in many other organizations in which you might be interested. For example, when I was trying to decide on which international group to join, I simply asked Jaci (the program director) if she knew any GEFs in those organizations. It turned out that over half of the programs had at least one GEF member in them, and I was able to obtain relevant information for each group. This goes to show that many of us tend to be involved in other groups, and it never hurts to try to ask around!
Another piece of advice is to not be in a rush to complete the requirements for attending international events. Last semester, I finished all of my international blog posts earlier on in semester. While the talks I did attend were quite interesting, I wish I would have spent more time deciding which ones to attend. This semester, I carefully planned out what I would listen to and was able to spread them more evenly throughout the semester. In fact, I would recommend not to see these as requirements but opportunities to learn valuable information from knowledgeable professors and experts.
As we all begin to realize that finals are approaching, I think that it is important that we keep in mind why we are here as college students. Of course, it is always important to do well academically, but there really is so much more to the college experience. Many things that you will learn in college happen outside of the classroom, and to spend your entire time studying simply isn’t worth it. Joining groups like the Global Engagement Fellowship has allowed me to redefine my goals as a college student while giving me the support to spend a significant amount of time abroad. I hope that I will be able to bring much insight back to OU after my year abroad. I also wish the best to all of the new GEFs who will be joining the OU community this coming fall!
I recently watched the TED talk called “An Independent Diplomat” by Carne Ross. As a whole, the presentation was well delivered with Ross offering his personal background as well as the major decisions he has made thus far in his life. He gives a genuine view of what it is like to be constrained to a certain job, and then he gives an account of how he sought to breaks the boundaries that his former job forced upon him. Throughout the entire video, it is clear that Ross is just like any other employee in a regular job. The ambition and passion he exhibits are ultimately what allow him to define his own career after years of letting others control his higher pursuits.
To summarize his childhood and life prior to becoming a diplomat, Ross describes himself at an early age thoroughly enjoying many aspects of international affairs. As he grew up during interesting political situations like the Cold War between the US and Russia, he was able appreciate world wide negotiations as pivotal events throughout history. This eventually led him to apply to be a diplomat for the UK. He describes the process as being extremely competitive, as only a select few are chosen from thousands of applicants.
As an official representative of the United Kingdom, Ross says that he enjoyed every moment while he worked for his country. An added bonus was the ability to be at the forefront of negotiations between representatives of influential countries in the world. He was even able to live in many different countries, including New York towards the end of his career with the UK diplomatic services. This was, however, also the point where he decided to not return to his job in London even though he had so much going well for him. He decided to become an independent diplomat for unrecognized states so that they could have an actual voice in international proceedings.
The speaker’s story highlighted something that I believe everyone struggles with from time to time. We often have our own passions and pursuits yet continually find ourselves either not using our skills to our full potential or simply seeking more out of our day to day jobs. Lucky for us in this day and age, there is so much potential for freedom in deciding how you want to use your abilities to better the world. With all of the new technology that we see emerge daily, there are so many opportunities for us to define our own unique careers as countries all across the world grow closer economically and culturally.
Having traveled quite a few times in my life, I have found international travel to be an integral part of myself growing up. Experiencing two distinctly cultures from both my mom and my dad was a head start that I greatly appreciate. However, my plan in college is to take my intercultural understanding to the next level. My ultimate goal is to use a formal education with different perspectives to help people across the globe live better lives. Without something like an education abroad, it can be a bit more difficult to gain the respect and trust of international collaborators or even higher-standards colleagues in the U.S. Those with ideas pursuant to the beliefs of several different cultures are more sought after for any type of work.
My plan as of now is to take all of the next academic year to learn applicable material while gaining a thorough understanding of how culture is related to problem solving. I grew up as the why-kid in my family, sometimes asking that dreaded one-word question until it drove my parents nuts. Sophomore year of high school, my world history teacher was able to put my curious mind to rest. It wasn’t necessarily the most satisfying explanation, but it was a truthful one nonetheless. He told us that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you actually know. In fact, I was able to experience this during my first research internship this past summer. The project steps seemed simple and straight-forward enough, yet somehow many more questions popped up along the way as each proposed idea was confirmed.
I will admit that I do not take “learning” too lightly. I am the type of student that wishes he or she knew exactly why something is the way it is. In a certain respect, college has been the best example of what my world history teacher told us. There are so many subjects with so much content to learn with only 24 hours given to us each day (although while procrastinating we complain that we don’t think we actually that much time to ourselves). I see traveling abroad and being able to learn college-level material first-hand in a different language as the solution of my dilemma of wanting to glean every bit of information from everything I’m supposed to learn.
While some ask me why I am taking off a whole year to study abroad while studying engineering, I am quite confident that getting to know the people of two other unique cultures is by far a plus. Even if this means pushing back my studies for an extra year, I am very willing to make this decision, knowing that all of the great challenges I will face are trumped by a passion to better myself. In helping expand my curricular knowledge with an intensely global component, I am able to tackle cross-cultural questions and challenges with curiosity.