Live Laugh Languages

November 8th, 2020

I attended the virtual event Live, Laugh, Languages. It was a panel with IA 3rd and 4th years about their experience studying Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Korean. 

Each panelist explained why they wanted to study their language. One wanted to understand more of the grammatical background, one was inspired by music, and one wanted to continue learning more about the language after living in Russia. I thought it was extremely interesting to hear one of the panelists discuss how having a french background has influenced learning Arabic. 

They also talked about what were the most useful resources for learning a language. Professors and classmates are very important, but the only thing they brought up was knowing what your goal is. This goal might not be met in the classroom, and doing things like reading books, studying abroad, and going to office hours is important because the inversion element is key when learning a new language, calling it a “learned, lived, breathed” experience. One of the panelists said she was part of a CLS to Morocco and she learned more about Arabic in those two months than anything else. 

The panelists also discussed opportunities they have had to improve their language skills. These opportunities included the Columbus Literacy Council, research, teaching in China, funding from the State Department, and community and refugee and immigration services. They felt their favorite time to use the language was in the community. 

I want to look more into the Area Studies scholarships that were discussed as those sound extremely interesting to me. This event is related to IA as it is important for everyone, particularly those of us that want to work and have connections abroad, to both speak the language and understand the culture of other countries.

U.S. Department of State Information Session

November 5th, 2020

I attended the virtual U.S. Department of State – Student and Recent Graduate Career Paths information session. The guest speaker was Lou Fintor, an active Foreign Service officer who served as a U.S. Embassy Spokesperson twice in Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Kosovo, and in the U.S. Mission to NATO on overseas postings. 

Lou Fintor discussed career paths such as Foreign Service, Civil Service, and overall advised us as students and future employees. He explained how the embassy is organized and how the work they do is very important as people will judge the United States by their interactions with us. He then went onto explain the different student programs they offer. These included the US Department of State student internships, pathways program, and virtual student foreign service. One day I hope to work at the Department of State and so I would love to have an internship there during my undergraduate career to have more experience. 

He also went on to discuss foreign service specialists. These are specialists in security, administration, information technology, or medicine and health. He explained the foreign service officer test and how it covers how well you know the United States. I had never heard of this test before so that part of the presentation was especially interesting. Furthermore, he explains the Consular Fellows Program, and how these workers use their foreign language skills to serve as US diplomats to consular positions overseas for up to five years. 

This program is related to IA as we are all interested in international issues, and therefore some of us might look to work abroad or for the State Department one day. 

Election 2020: Political Scientists in Conversation

October 21st, 2020

I attended the virtual Election 2020: Political Scientists in Conversation event. This webinar was hosted by the Department of Political Science and had two guest speakers and a moderator asking the questions. 

This webinar was extremely interesting and relevant as the election in less than two weeks away. They discussed the current polls and demographics. In their opinion, older people and even white people without a college degree are going to vote for Biden, two groups that generally would go Republican. In 2016, there was a higher turnout among less-educated whites than predicted, leading to misleading polls. Pollsters in the 2020 elections are trying to make sure they do not make the same sampling errors again.

One aspect of this presentation I found extremely interesting was their discussion about a cyberattack. They viewed an attack on the counting of ballots as extremely unlikely as the U.S. has decentralized counting ballots. Every place has a different way of counting with different machines, so it would be extremely difficult to undermine the counting of votes. There are pros and cons to not having a uniform system of voting, but it seems in this case it works in our favor. 

At the very end, they discussed who will pick up the mantle for the Republican party in the post-Trump era. One of the panelists believes that Trump’s message will not be replicated by the GOP in the future, especially if Trump loses. 

This relates to I.A. in both a broad and specific sense. As college students, most of us have the opportunity to vote and it is extremely important to exercise that right in this election. In a specific sense, how this election goes will determine both foreign and domestic policies for years to come, as well as our image to other countries.

Women of Wisdom Panel

October 13th, 2020

I attended the virtual Women of Wisdom Panel event. It was hosted by the United Nations Association, a club here at Ohio State. I am a member of this club as well as the Advocacy Chair for the organization.

There were three women panelists that were featured. They advised female college students, addressing their biggest obstacles in their career, their inspirations, and finding a balance between work and life. 

Be bold. Be ok with speaking up. Be ok to take chances. These were just a few pieces of advice they gave to us. Two of the panelists strongly advocated for finding internships, which I already am thinking about two different internship programs during my time at OSU. One panelist felt her biggest obstacle was getting in her own way and comparing herself to others too much. All three panelists talked about balancing work and home life. One woman said that work is an extension of who she is, so it is hard to turn it off sometimes. All of this was important career advice and it was in a sense reassuring to know what will be coming in the future. 

One panelist worked for the UN said she felt there was a disconnect between people on the ground and the people that work in the New York offices. While this information was not directly related to the content of the panel, this was a perspective I had never heard before and I found it extremely important as I am interested in working for the UN one day.

This relates to I.A. as it advocated for the role of women in this career path and gave important career advice that is prevalent to both I.A. members as college students, but also future leaders. 

Reflection on Breonna Taylor Protest

23 September 2020

I attended a protest in downtown Columbus in front of the Ohio Statehouse in response to the ruling of Breonna Taylor’s case. I remember I was sitting in The Union doing schoolwork when the notification came up on my phone that no officers were charged directly in Breonna Taylor’s death. I texted my mom: “You think things can’t get any worse and then another thing hits the news –  I can’t.”

I was supposed to have two Zoom calls that evening, but both of the organizations either canceled their meeting or allowed us to miss the meeting to attend the protest. I took the bus downtown with a group from IA in my dorm hallway and then we met up with more people from IA once we arrived. At first, we were standing on the sidewalk saying different chants: “Breonna Taylor,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Defund the Police,” and so on. Then we moved to walk in the middle of the streets in downtown Columbus. This night was so powerful because people had signs, were holding BLM flags, and shouting the chants. We then went directly in front of the Courthouse where there were more chants, speeches, and a woman sang. Honestly, I began to cry a little when the woman was singing. We were out protesting for equality and justice and the backdrop was the Courthouse with twenty or so police officers (no masks) and dogs on the steps – an odd response to our requests for equality and justice. 

For safety, we left once it started to get dark. This event really touched me. The racial injustice in our system is horrendous and we need to take action to address it in the United States and around the world.

Peace Corps Information Session

17 September 2020

I attended the virtual Peace Corps Information Session event. The presenter was Laura Jose, a Peace Corps recruiter for Ohio State and a staff member with the Center for African Studies. 

Laura Jose served in West Africa under the Peace Corps by teaching English as a second language. She talked about her experience building classrooms and wells. After the Peace Corps, she went on to work at a refugee resettlement and now works here in Columbus. 

The Peace Corps was developed under President Kennedy and it is a type of soft diplomacy. Through the Peace Corps, a person gets to live and work for two years in a community overseas. They have a program area of concentration, which can either be agriculture, environmental, youth in development, health, education, or community economic development. The first three months is pre-service training and the worker lives with the host family to learn about the program. All of this information was extremely helpful for me as I had heard about the Peace Corps but did not know specifically how the program functioned. 

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation for me was the discussion about graduate school versus the Peace Corps. I am considering doing the Peace Corps right after undergrad, but I was also thinking about graduate school or a job if I was offered one. Laura felt having the Peace Corps experience before graduate school was valuable as it gives in-depth field experience first that you can then build on academically. 

This event was connected to I.A. in many ways. The Peace Corps allows us to provide economic and social assistance to other countries in need. We also get to learn about new cultures and have new experiences outside our home country which is extremely valuable.

The Current State of Democracy in Russia

18 September 2020

I attended the virtual presentation “The Current State of Democracy in Russia.” The speaker was Gerald Easter, a professor of comparative politics at Boston College. 

Professor Easter opened up the event by providing a timeline of his career path in the context of Russian history. He was in graduate school during the Gorbachev years and was living in Russia during the financial collapse in the early 1990s. Before he went to graduate school in the early 1980s, a former professor of his told him that the Soviet Union would be our enemy for the next hundred years and so the world always needs Soviet specialists and applauded him for going into this line of work. One of the key takeaways for me from this statement was that the world is always changing as the Soviet Union would fall ten years later. 

Furthermore, the professor talked about Putin’s role in the regime. The professor believes the crisis of the 1990s explains Putin’s personality. He also labels Putin as a “CEO political leader” as he has a degree in Economics. I think it is interesting how the character of a leader can make such a difference in international politics, as Professor Easter believes that if it was not for Putin, Russia would have ended up as a democracy. I am interested in diplomacy so it was fascinating to hear more about how the personality of a leader shaped a country’s actions. 

This event connects to I.A. because it examines the evolution of Russia through the influence of international actors, such as analysts from other countries like Professor Easter, but also NATO.  I was also able to learn more about the history of Russia as well as the political culture of democracy versus authoritarianism in the state.