After a great first year as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I remain excited as I look forward to the summer and upcoming years of my time in college. Among the many organizations I have been a part of, the Global Engagement Fellowship has no doubt been one of the unique ones. I find that being a member of this fellowship has allowed me to connect with others who are in similar majors as mine but who also hold a common interest in appreciating various cultures. We often tend to think that students who major in technical areas have no need to study abroad or gain exposure to different cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For the new class of incoming GEFs, I have a few recommendations from my own experience. Make sure you reach out to others in the fellowship, as there are often valuable connections who can get you contacts in many other organizations in which you might be interested. For example, when I was trying to decide on which international group to join, I simply asked Jaci (the program director) if she knew any GEFs in those organizations. It turned out that over half of the programs had at least one GEF member in them, and I was able to obtain relevant information for each group. This goes to show that many of us tend to be involved in other groups, and it never hurts to try to ask around!
Another piece of advice is to not be in a rush to complete the requirements for attending international events. Last semester, I finished all of my international blog posts earlier on in semester. While the talks I did attend were quite interesting, I wish I would have spent more time deciding which ones to attend. This semester, I carefully planned out what I would listen to and was able to spread them more evenly throughout the semester. In fact, I would recommend not to see these as requirements but opportunities to learn valuable information from knowledgeable professors and experts.
As we all begin to realize that finals are approaching, I think that it is important that we keep in mind why we are here as college students. Of course, it is always important to do well academically, but there really is so much more to the college experience. Many things that you will learn in college happen outside of the classroom, and to spend your entire time studying simply isn’t worth it. Joining groups like the Global Engagement Fellowship has allowed me to redefine my goals as a college student while giving me the support to spend a significant amount of time abroad. I hope that I will be able to bring much insight back to OU after my year abroad. I also wish the best to all of the new GEFs who will be joining the OU community this coming fall!