LGBTQ+ Abroad

It can be both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about LGBTQ+ equality around the world, especially in our current global climate. News stories jump between the legalization of gay marriage in Australia and the almost doubling of LGBTQ homicides in the U.S.  I’ve been reading reports from Amnesty International and the [U.S.] National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.  Digesting the data is difficult due to fear and associated violence.

“The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today [February 22, 2018] as it launched its annual global assessment of human rights.” Amnesty International

Over 50 LGBTQ individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2017, a rise of about 86% from 2016, according to a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.


I’ve marched in the OKC Pride Parade for years and can share the event is usually a glittery weekend of peaceful demonstrations. Oklahomans who are LGBTQ+ or allies and supporters might want to attend the OKC Pride Parade in late June.


 If readers are of Jewish decent and want to travel to experience a Pride parade, the LGBTQ Tel Aviv Pride events are also in June each year and are very affordable, nearly free, due to donations and sponsors.  Although many countries in the Middle East have long standing anti-gay laws and customs, Israel is the most advanced country in the region in terms of LGBTQ rights & community activism. They visit Masada, the Dead Sea & the Western Wall.

 Although in the U.S. LGBTQ+ is commonly used, in the Amnesty International uses LGBTI+.

Amnesty International’s annual report:

Australia legalized gay marriage in December 2017.

Anti-LGBTQ homicides almost doubled in 2017.

Cultural Adaptation and Post Study-Abroad Deppression


A few weeks ago was the Dalgubul Lantern Festival hosted by the Daegu Buddhism Association and Colorful Dalgubul Lantern Festival Committee. The night sky is filled with golden lanterns. Families and friends celebrate the Buddha’s birthday in a peaceful and lovely tradition. I miss many things about South Korea, the friends I made while studying there, and my freedom to explore and travel. There are many articles about cultural adaption and post-study abroad depression. Education Abroad offers an event in the fall semester called “You’re Oklahome” and helps students with the transition back to Norman. The fall semester was okay, but the winter was bit rougher.

Upon return to the U.S. I once again could read the headlines of political drama, university classes began again, and I rejoined many campus clubs. I’ve experienced many highs and lows of cultural transition and adaptation. It was great to be home again. I’d missed my parents, brother, and grandparents very much. After a great semester of being back, things lost that luster of newness again. I lost a lot of sleep this semester and felt very differently about my life in general. Below are some great tips from an article written by Alisa Tank in January 2018 for GoAbroad dot com.

“10 Tips for When You’re Feeling Depressed After Studying Abroad” are:

  1. Go for a walk. [While abroad we walked a lot, exploring and experiencing new things. Walking around Campus Corner or Norman Art Walk/2nd Fridays can capture the same spirit.]
  2. Go out with friends. [One favorite is to go out for Korean food with other students who studied abroad in South Korea.]
  3. Read the news. [I can argue against this, since the news can be so depressing sometimes.]
  4. Look for support. [Goddard offers counseling for students at affordable rates if needed. 325-4441]
  5. Find a new hobby.  [I think taking new university classes meets this task.]
  6. Keep your skills up. [I’ve continued to sing with the Crimson Chords a Capella group.]
  7. Take up a cause. [I joined an environmental group.]
  8. Reflect on what you’ve learned. [GEF blogs are great for this.]
  9. Plan your next trip. [I’m heading to Costa Rica in July!]
  10. When all else fails – watch cute animal videos.  [It really says this, check the article out!]

Most adorable kittens ever!

North Korean Denuclearization Negotiations

In March, President Trump agreed to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un to discuss nuclear disarmament and economic sanctions; he believed the invitation is due to his media pressure and stronger sanctions.  This event is big news, because no other U.S. presidents accepted similar invitations.  News agencies are spending a lot of time analyzing the intentions and all the possible outcomes, to no purpose.  The spin and speculation are kindling for endless political discourse.

More interesting is the important role South Korea played and will continue to play.  One of the better articles is from The New Yorker’s Robin Wright. She clearly states the invitation came through South Korean channels.  “The invitation was relayed by a South Korean delegation that met with Kim earlier this week and then travelled to Washington.” Wright acknowledged Chung Eui-yong, the national-security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered the message and is trying to coordinate what might be an historic meeting.  She wrote the talks might even be hosted in South Korea.  Wright offers a brief but brilliant summary of the nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S. over the last 30 years.

I feel the victory belongs to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been in office less than one year; it was an especially busy year since his country hosted the Winter Olympics in February.  President Moon Jae-in talked with North Korea and allowed them to participate in the athletic competitions and send hundreds of cheerleaders.  This opening led to more dialog, which resulted Kim Jong Un’s invitation to President Trump.

I studied abroad in South Korea last spring semester during the presidential election, so I was able to learn a bit about President Moon Jae-in first hand.  He was a human rights lawyer, then later was the Chief of Staff for former South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun.  He campaigned to end political corruption and to focus on making South Korea a proud country again. He has a reputation for being open to talks with North Korea.  “Moon’s Democratic Party prefers the “Sunshine Policy,” a catch-more-flies-with-honey strategy that promotes dialogue as well as cultural and economic exchange to improve relations.”   “Rather than meet threat with threat, Moon said during his presidential campaign he hopes to “embrace the North Korean people to achieve peaceful reunification one day.”  President Moon’s new administration oversaw a peaceful Winter Olympic celebration and opened the door for two complex countries to discuss limits on their nuclear weapons and normalizations of trade.  Hopefully the momentum and optimism will last for longer than a few months.

In closing, here’s a humorous spin on South Korea inviting North Korea to the Olympics.

Getting a Gilman

Socioeconomic boundaries are drawn in high school.  Some students get new cars when they turn sixteen. Others don’t. Some students take Advanced Placement (AP) classes and can afford the hundreds of dollars in exam fees. Others can’t.  Some seniors will have professional photographers, new clothes, graduation regalia, prom dresses/suits readily available, and maybe even a senior trip abroad. Others won’t. I was one of the people who usually couldn’t afford a lot of luxuries. This division would continue in college, if it were not for the scholarships that gave me access to a higher education I might not have been able to afford. One Scholarship in particular is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program.

“The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness…It is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.”

In retrospect, my senior year felt buried in writing scholarship applications between my classes and extra-curricular activities.  In fact, this is how I began a part of the GEF program.  This writing experience came in handy when I applied for the Gilman Scholarship. There are two required essays for this scholarship. Luckily the guidelines are relatively open.  The first encourages students to explain how difficult it is to fit a study abroad program into requirements for our majors and minors.  Creativity is encouraged!

“Be creative. Remember that this is a competitive scholarship program and the selection panelists’ only chance to get to know you is through your essay. The essays are your chance to tell the selection panelists about yourself and your decision to study abroad. It is important to develop an original and creative Follow-on Service Project. The most competitive applications are those that have interesting and original essays.”

Fortunately, my application was approved.  Friends asked me for tips, so here they are:

  1. Go somewhere different.  I studied abroad in South Korea, for example.
  2. Tell a short childhood story in a few sentences which describes how you face adversity.  Living far away from friends and family can be challenging; they want to know that you can handle it.
  3. Explain the ‘opportunity cost’ of studying abroad. For example, while abroad U.S. students cannot work a part-time job since we do not have a work visa. Reference your wages from an average semester and note this is a loss of income.  If you have an apartment lease, then add this amount, unless you can find someone to sublet while you are away.

Being genuine in your writing style is important. The committee must read hundreds of essays, so be memorable in a sincere way.

Climate Change (and a Nervous Environmental Sustainability Major)

This year has been the second hottest on record proceeded only by 2016. The increasing pattern of devastating storms and extreme weather patterns such as droughts and flooding have developed even more into a global crisis. Many countries are not equipped to deal with these dramatic changes in their environment. Millions of lives and homes are being put on the line by shortsightedness.

Many people have attempted to lesson our negative impact on the environment by taking measures such as driving less, recycling, conserving water etc, but these individual changes in behavior are simply not enough to create the dramatic change necessary to match our escalating rates of pollution. Massive corporations contribute over 70% of all greenhouse emissions. The oil, fashion, and agricultural industry are wrought with massive amount of pollution and water waste and yet the individual is often blamed and any legal action made against these industries rarely finds any footing. This lack of regulation and responsibility for our consumer culture is far more to blame than one person not becoming a vegan. The question is what can we, as active and engaged citizens, do to lesson the impact of these major corporations and the political systems in which they thrive?


Holding On to Hope

Twenty seventeen has been a turbulent year to say the least. What with the myriad of natural disasters paired with our commander in chief threatening nuclear war via twitter, optimism has been as difficult to hold onto as a wet bar of soap. However, I’ve been able to find a few silver linings in this current nebulous storm cloud of current global politics.

Australia achieved marriage equality,  women in Saudi Arabia are now allowed too drive, the Affordable Care Act survived so far, Macron won against Le Pen, Ratko Mladic was brought to justice, Roy Moore lost the election, and thousands upon thousands of women across the country and the world are taking a stand against sexual assault.

However, these highlights often seem overshadowed by the multitude of problems in the world. I have to remind myself that progress is being made, slowly but surely, and that thing will get better if we work together and start fixing these issues at the source, rather than treating symptoms.

Unity in the Global Economy

In November I was able to attend this event showcasing cultural diversity in global economics. It was held by the Price College of Business.  Although I was not able to stay for as long as I wanted, I was thoroughly impressed and enlightened by the event. The myriad of booths and presentations gave me new insight into the economic systems of countries around the world.

I have just began studying business and international business more concretely this semester, so this event was able to fill in a lot of the gaps of my currently limited knowledge of the subject. It was very interesting to be able to hear about different systems of economics and how the global market has effected various countries in different ways. Diversity in the workplace, is also a very important issue, which I was glad to see represented and discussed.

International Prom

One of the highlights of my semester was attending the International Prom. I was very fun and engaging to be able to dance to such a wide variety of music with so many people from so many places. The International Prom is an annual event organized by the International Advisory Committee every fall semester. This free social/Cultural event seeks to bring all OU students together, both domestic and international, for a wonderful dance night featuring great music from all corners of the world. It’s their goal at the International Prom to blend the unique American prom traditions with international music into a melting-pot of a party. This year’s theme was Hollywood Night, so everyone was dressed to the nines and the ballroom was decked out in old Hollywood decor.

I’ve attended the prom in previous years, but this was honestly one of the best yet. The ballroom was absolutely packed and I had the opportunity to meet so many new people.

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Friends of International Students

I’ve joined a new OU outreach for international students the “Friends of International Students” connects exchange students who are only at OU for one semester and families from Norman.  There were so few families we were assigned two students, Ms. Yurina Nishimura from Sapporo, Japan and Ms. Yuting Liu from Beijing, China.  We get together on the weekends mostly to get groceries or go shopping for clothes.
Our first shopping trip was to OKC to Super Cao Nguyen, we spent over an hour there because they were so excited to see familiar foods & everyone was stocking up.  Yuting brought two friends from her apartment suite at Traditions West.  We talked about music, movies and food, like all college students.  Yurina is studying  Yuting is in accounting, finance and international business classes at OU to transfer back to Beijing Normal University.  Yurina is taking marketing and logistics courses at OU for her home university, Hokkaido University.  Yurina loves all things American, especially pop music.  She has a roommate “K.J.” from Seoul, South Korea, who she brought with her on our next big shopping trip.
Since the weather changed and our exchange students did not bring coats we tackled Norman in search of warm but fashionable options.  We would up at ‘Uptown Cheapskate’ a new store that buys and sells clothes, shoes, and accessories.  After striking out at Target, Kohls, Academy, and TJMax, we finally found some good things to brave the coming cooler temps.  K.J. and Yurina were surprised to hear I’d studied abroad in South Korea just a few months ago.  I was surprised I remembered enough Korean to say a few sentences with convincing pronunciation.
This is a great organization to join for OU students who are from Norman.  It is fun to show exchange students the best places to shop, while we casually drive by my elementary school or favorite coffee shop.  This is a great way to get your mom to drive you around town, buy groceries, and make new friends.

The South Korean Impeachment and Election

By a stroke of fate I happened to be in South Korea to witness the entire impeachment and election process firsthand. There were some very prominent differences that I noticed between America’s presidential election and theirs. Especially considering how our recent election went. This made the whole process all the more fascinating and nerve-wracking to watch.

The dismissal and impeachment of Park Geun-hye was obviously a prominent topic in Daegu. My Korean friends were exited and relieved to see her out of office and explained her corruption to me during the impeachment. In order to avoid a power vacuum, the election was held very soon after she was removed from office. There are six parties represented in the National Assembly and a record number of fifteen candidates initially registered to run. The Democratic Party candidate, Moon Jae-in won with over 40% of the vote, and on March 10th took office. This was a big relief to many, especially us there on a visa.

During the campaign, it was common to see rallies around to city along with the giant banners and trucks that doubled as musical billboards with bright colors and bold print along with each candidates original and unique theme song. South Korea has very strict regulations on how and what candidates can advertise. So each truck, poster, and sign looked like part of a set with all of the other member’s running. All of the messages seemed to be very upbeat and positive. There was little to no mudslinging or discrediting from any side that I could see, and a distinct absence of lavish or grandiose rallies and setups. I doubt billions of dollars were spent in there election, unlike what recently happened back home.

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