Another event I attended this month was the IA Alumni Panel where former students of our university shared their experience since they graduated from college. Some of the students featured in this event were Sam Harris, a 2019 graduate, who now attends Harvard Law; Alex Northrop, a 2018 graduate, who goes to Columbia Medical School; Brandon Hofacker, a 2017 graduate who works for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in DC; and Courtney Johnson, a 2019 graduate who works as a communications specialist at the Department of Homeland Security in DC.
The alumni were involved in a wide range of extracurriculars throughout their time at Ohio State. From being RA’s to joining honoree societies. It was interesting to listen to a lot of the different things they have done before getting into the workfield and how that transitioned into their current positions. For example, one of the alumni spoke about studying abroad in India through a scholarship that required them to spend a year working in federal service. This led to her current position in the Department of Homeland Security, where does a lot with foreign interference and election processes.
It was alarming to hear from someone that was a former IA’er who is now in medical school, which is where I would like to end up. Before attending medical school, he did non-profit work. One of my future goals is to combine the knowledge I gain from medical school with non-profit work. It was good to hear some of the things he’s been able to do based on his non-profit experience and now being in medical school.
An event I attended this month was “Live, Love, Languages” with IA third and fourth years. They spoke about language learning experiences for less common languages that are taught in the United States. The languages they spoke about were Arabic, Russian, Korean, and Chinese. I was really drawn to what made them choose the languages they are currently studying. For example, one of the students had an interest in the Korean language through music and now she is a Korean major. I resonated with them when they mentioned enjoying the nature of an engaging language classroom. I believe what makes a language learning classroom much more interesting is “being spoken with, not spoken at” as one of the students mentioned. In addition to the engaging aspects of a language learning classroom, learning about the culture is just as important as obtaining fluency in the language. Language is only one aspect of a specific culture.
The speakers recommended a few resources based on their experiences learning a language here at Ohio State. One of the recommendations was building relationships with professors and sharing what your goals are as far as language learning with them. This is important, because at times some of our goals are outside what you can gain in a classroom setting. Another recommendation was reading books you are familiar with in your target language, since you already have an idea of what the plot is. One of the students spoke about journaling about his day in another language to increase his fluency. Finally, finding funding for language study is also helpful. This is important to keep in mind, because there are a lot of ways to utilize the language you are learning outside the classroom. Overall, I enjoyed listening to everyone’s experiences during the event.
I attended the event, Pan African Voices in the Era of BLM: Intergenerational Diasporans Speak on their Experiences in America. This conversation was led by professors Lupenga Mphande, Randy Quaye, Teresa Temu, as well as students, Emmanuel Latio and Keji Latio. African Diaspora was the main topic of the conversation. This is a term that not a lot of people are familiar with. African Diaspora refers to the many communities of people of African descent dispersed throughout the world as a result of historical movements. Something that I took away from the conversation is that African-Americans just as much as native Africans who know where they are from in the continent of Africa are a part of the African-Diaspora. I also learned alike African-Americans, other Africans in the diaspora face challenges in their countries, and share a common history.
I am the child of two immigrant parents from Mauritania and I resonated with some of the points made by Keji Latio and Emmanual Latio. As a child that was raised in both West Africa and the United States, I always assumed I was Africa-American and not because of what I was culturally but what I looked like and the box I checked on applications. I was raised speaking three West-African languages and eating jollof rice frequently. I was only expected to be African-American because I was Black. I learned about the African-American culture outside of my household. In high school, I also witnessed the divide between African-Americans and native Africans like myself. Unfortunately, that uprooted an identity struggle for myself. Am I African? Am I American? Am I African-American? One thing that was pointed out by Keji and Emmanuel is that we are all one. I feel like acknowledging that is the first step in understanding who we are as one and individually.
An event that I attended this month was the Critical Language Scholarship information session. I learned a lot about the program. I learned how to apply, what the program entails, and its benefits. The Critical Language Scholarship is a language immersion program that allows college students to learn languages that are deemed essential. The languages offered through the Critical Language Scholarship are Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. The program covers one year of academic study during an eight to ten week span. Some of the languages require prior years of study while others do not. Some of the program benefits include the costs of participating in the overseas institutions, exposure to conversational practice and culture in host countries.
Something that drew me to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship is for the chance at a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would love to dedicate a chunk of my time to learning a new language that will be beneficial. Living in a country that I have never been to will also open my eyes to new perspectives in a way that simply visiting somewhere for a week will not. I know that some of my values will definitely shift if I am introduced to new perspectives and the ones that really mattered will be solidified. Ultimately, these new perspectives will create a strong foundation to achieve my potential.
I attended Opportunities with the Peace Corps hosted by Laura Joseph. Laura Joseph spoke a lot about her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer. She taught English as a second language in Benin, which is located in West Africa. One thing I enjoyed listening to during her presentation was when she utilized an experience she had while volunteering to what we are going through as students with COVID-19. While volunteering, political instability had occured in the capital city of Benin and every single school was shut down. She teaches us a lesson on making the best out of the situations we are in no matter what.
She also states, “It’s getting the rest of the world to understand Americans and getting Americans to understand the rest of the world.” This was her way of implying that relationships and connectivity are what get things done. Her statement relates to international affairs in a way, because conflict is inevitable. However, there are always little things we can all do to make this world a better place. She mentions the importance of understanding which can be done though experience and learning. Volunteering for the Peace Corps is a way this can be done. In a world, where it seems like people are always trying to tear things down, the Peace Corps is an organization that helps build things up.
I was able to attend the Community Refugee Immigration Services (CRIS) information session hosted by Jeremy. The session was service oriented. In my opinion, the information session was great, because I learned a lot about some of the amazing things CRIS has done for children all over Columbus. I attended a high school where some of my peers were being mentored by CRIS. I never truly understood why until I recently attended the information session.
After attending the CRIS information session, I decided to sign up and become a mentor. One thing that stuck with me during Jeremy’s presentation was the idea of a “friend.” He mentions how some of the refugee children look at some of their mentors as their friend. Personally, I can relate to moving to a country that is totally different than the one you are from and feeling excluded. I wish I had someone I was meeting on a weekly basis that I could simply call my friend.
In addition to the idea of a “friend”, CRIS represents a wide range of cultures. I cannot wait to immerse myself in different cultures. I also believe that refugees are often scrutinized in the media, because most politicians are only focused on negative examples. Throughout the information session, Jeremy emphasized a lot of positive things he’s done with his group and the refugees. As an upcoming mentor for CRIS, I will strive for empowering whoever my mentor winds up being.
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