This week, I attended the Unity Symposium events on Tuesday and Wednesday. The two day event was put on by different organizations on campus, one that I’m a proud member of, AISA (American Indian Student Association)!! The event had multiple speakers from all different professions and backgrounds. The main message in all of the speeches was the importance of embracing differences, diversity, and inclusion. Some of the first day’s speakers were the OU College of Law’s dean Joseph Harroz, the Cherokee Nation Principal cheif Chad Smith, and Republican state representative Chris Kannady. The event was supposed to kick off with a speech from David Boren, but he was unable to attend (I was very sad about this…….). All of the speakers did a tremendous job and the organizations putting this event together spent a lot of time and energy and that was evident in the success.
Although I loved the first day of this event, the second day had to be my favorite! I wasn’t able to attend it all, but I was able to attend a panel discussion with Clark Stroud and OU Vice Presidents Jabar Shumate. I thoroughly enjoyed this because this panel discussion included current students here at the University of Oklahoma. Although all of the speakers that the organizations contacted for this event gave great speeches, but as as a young student, sometimes it’s nice to hear the perspective from someone your own age and has a direct understanding of the topics that were discussed.
Last week I attended a panel discussion that was simply concerning race and diversity here at the University of Oklahoma. The event’s title was “International Experiences of Race and Diversity”, the event involved different international students who are from countries all around the world who attend the University of Oklahoma. The international students shared their personal experiences that they have have had here at OU. They shared the racial biases that they have been exposed to since coming here. The stories were very personal and exposed the racial discriminations that occur here on our campus. The event was eye-opening and somewhat frightening to know that there are people who have these views about international students. These students are my friends and I fear for their safety and comfortability here at OU. This event exposed me to the great responsibility we have to step up be voices and to make our campus an open community where everyone feels included and equal.
Last night I attended a session of Italy week. The session that I decided to attend was the Italian Entertainment Night. I unfortunately didn’t get to stay very long as a result of a conflicting event, but I got to stop by for a few minutes to grab some snacks and chat with some fellow students who are interested in studying abroad in Italy. My father’s parents are from Italy, so any event like this is so special to me because growing up in rural Oklahoma, I never was exposed to events that celebrated my culture. The event has me so excited for my trip that I will be taking to Italy this summer with PLC! Arrivederci!!
I’m unsure of this event’s qualification as an international event, but it was one of the most eye-opening events I’ve attended so far this year. I learned an immense amount of information about international affairs. I’m a member of the 56th class of PLC here at OU, last week, all of the members of PLC met with the members of the freshmen class of Davis Scholars. From my understanding, The University of Oklahoma is a partner college with the United World College Scholars Program. The Scholars that I met were from countries all around the world, and they all attended high schools in different countries than where they are from. It was really interesting to learn about the stories of all of the people who have travelled from so many different places and the courage they have to travel here to Oklahoma. Specifically, I learned a lot about the dangers of making assumptions about people based on their physical appearance. In the meeting, we were split into small groups with half PLC members and half Davis Scholars. In our small group discussions, we all talked about our personal backgrounds and our high school experiences. One of the members of PLC made an ignorant comment about a Davis Scholar in our group. He made the assumption that because she was from Africa, she was a victim of poverty. She responded with poise and dignity and kindly corrected the individual that not all citizens of Africa live in poverty stricken communities. As we enter the international community, we will be exposed to many different people from all different walks of life. If we are unsure of a situation, it’s most important to ask questions with respect and consideration, than to make assumptions.
The two international organizations I chose to be affiliated with this year to meet the requirements for the global engagement fellowship program was OU Cousins and the Asian American Student Association. These were both two programs that I hoped would spark my interest in the international community, but unfortunately I did not have much success with either. Not to critique the programs, because I believe both hold values of bringing diversity and including the international community on campus. Because I didn’t feel as if either group was the right fit for me, this just means I have another chance to explore new groups next semester that fit me and my personal interests!
I full heartedly adore the purpose behind the organization of OU Cousins. Not only is the organization beneficial to the international student, OU cousins is such a blessing to those who choose to give their time to spend and learn about someone else and their customs. Unfortunately, because of the willingness of people to give up their time, there were far too many people to be matched with international students, and I didn’t receive one :(
I didn’t let this stop me though! I was pretty upset that I didn’t have the opportunity to receive an OU cousin, but in the end it was a blessing in disguise. In October, I was at Starbucks (my saving grace this semester!!) when I met Connie. Connie was in front of me at starbucks in line when she realized she had left her ID in her room and couldn’t pay for her coffee. I offered to pay for her coffee, and in buying that cup of coffee I received a friendship that I’ll cherish for a lifetime. Connie is originally from Malawi, and is studying engineering here at OU. She has such a bright humble spirit and has many qualities that I hope to one day develop. As interested as I am concerning her heritage, she’s just as interested in my own and we have wonderful conversations and I’m so thankful that she left her ID that day!
My name is Kelsey Norton and I'm currently a freshman here at the University of Oklahoma. This blog will involve all things international and will contain reflections for a program I'm involved in here at the University, The Global Engagement Fellowship program.