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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Film and History

My favorite class while at KNU was hands down my Korean Cinema class. The professor, a Canadian-raised Korean, gave detailed historical context for each film we studied and for the industry as a whole.

The film my group presented on was centered around the extremely rigorous and strict Korean education system and its effects on modern students. The film, Pluto, dealt with a great deal of extremely dark material to drive home the main themes. There were quite a few of the selected films that centered around either the Korean war or military in some way. Which makes perfect sense considering the history of the country and surrounding area. The topic of censorship was very prevalent in our discussion due to Korea’s former and current strict content censorship laws.

He showed us how intertwined the government and the entertainment industry can be and how people tell their stories trough film. My favorite parts of the class were our group discussions. We had an incredibly diverse group of students so the conversations could confront a topic from nearly every angle. We learned a lot not only about South Korea, but about everyone else’s home country. So at the end of the semester, when our professor showed us his own documentary that took us into his family life as a Canadian-raised Korean and the transition that everyone in his family went through, it felt much more personal and much more real than most of my classes in the past have ever been.

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Friends in Many Places

Aside from being immersed in Korean culture, I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the other exchange students. There were people from all over the world at KNU along with me. I got to learn some Irish drinking songs and improve my salsa and bachata skills. We were able to fill an air b&b in Seoul with people from seven different countries. Thanks to countless nights of laughs and getting to know each other, I now have a place to crash through most of Europe. There’s a network of friends around the world who I can keep in touch thanks to social media and who are already planning a reunion trip.

I was one of the only exchange students in a number of my classes, so I made some Korean friends whom I still chat with as well. Group work was a bit challenging due to the language barrier. It was an interesting experience to be so clearly the odd one out so often. I think that may have helped us bond as a group. (Although some made the association a bit embarrassing at times) There were so many unforgettable moments that I’m so glad to have gotten on camera.

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My Internship at the Daegu Arts Center

I applied for this internship for a number of reasons, the foremost being professional development. I knew that I possessed relevant skills for the position and a background in the arts. Also, the chance to learn about Korean culture in such a direct and hand-on way was very appealing to me.

On an average day working at the DAC I would help generate promotional content on various media platforms for the DAC or specific events they hosted. I would also often aid in translation from Korean to English. My other duties included basic classroom management for some of the classes held on the campus. I also got to participate in these classes and learn how to play some traditional Korean instruments. One of my larger projects was helping to write an outreach and partnership letter to UNESCO and researching other music centers within their organization.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see and participate in a wide variety of performances. This gave me a very clear window into the Korean culture that people without this internship would not find as easily. Music has always been one of my passions, and has deep meaning for me personally. So being able to hear and play the traditional music of Korea opened me up to them as a people more than many other things probably could. So, the jangu class was highly entertaining for me.

I absolutely loved being able to go to the concerts and plays. the work environment was very welcoming and my manager was eager to help the interns any way she could.

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Beauty in Korea

I’ve seen many beautiful things while I’ve been in Korea. I got the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom and cover the city in pale pink petals and bring green back to the previously barren trees. I’ve seen conversations between friends break down into five separate languages and eventually devolve into laughter. I’ve seen Seoul lit up at night and people who were perfect strangers a few weeks ago forge deep friendships and let go of most of our inhibitions. Thanks to my internship at the Daegu Art Center, I’ve been able to watch a number of classical and contemporary performances from violin and piano sonatas to modern dance, along with several traditional Korean pieces.

But I have experienced all of this form a unique position of privilege that I didn’t really think about before coming here. South Korea is a culture in transition. Their country has gone through incredibly rapid urbanization in the past few decades. This relative leap into modern industry has also pushed them to the forefront of fashion, cosmetics, and the beauty industry. However, their beauty standards are extremely westernized. A large percentage of the population gets “double eyelid” surgery, which basically makes their eyes fit into general white beauty standards. Plastic surgery of all kinds is actually quite common and relatively inexpensive in South Korea.

In a bizarre and somewhat compelling turn of events, I found myself now held in a higher esteem of beauty. I had a lot of mixed feelings about this and didn’t quite know how to handle some situations. From complete strangers stopping me on the street to my boss saying she envied me, I was confronted with these awkward scenarios. This feels self-aggrandizing and narcissistic, which is why it was so uncomfortable to deal with. But it got me thinking about the beauty industry on a global scale and how it differs from country to country. I already had a some awareness of this topic, but being exposed to a completely new culture really deepened my understanding of how profoundly the ideas of beauty and success can affect a culture.

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