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Goodbye OU

Today is the day. My gown is hanging on the door draped in what I have accomplished these past 4 years.  As I look at the stoles and chords and medals that drape over that black robe, I could not be more proud. It’s funny how everything I’ve done here at OU can be symbolized by material draped across my shoulders.

When I look back at these four years, I’m happy to say that what I’ll remember most is my experience with the international community.  Every year I have met new people from all around the world. I have friends from Germany, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, France…the list goes on and on.  I had no clue that I would be going to school in Oklahoma  but leaving with friends from all around the world.

The Global Engagement Fellowship has been an integral part of my experience here and I’m not just saying that because this blog is a part of the GEF requirement. I truly believe that this program exposed me to like minded people who love interacting with the international community.

I am going to miss walking through Farzaneh Hall and sharing the class rooms with people from all around the world.  I’m going to miss how easy it is to go to an international event and learn about some one else’s culture. I’m going to miss the multicultural experience that the college of international studies provides.  All this means is that I’ll have to remember how important this is to me and make sure I continue to immerse myself in the international community wherever I end up next year.

 

48th Annual Eve of Nations

It’s that time of year again! Every year I look forward to the largest international event in the state of Oklahoma, Eve of Nations.  This year is the 48th year and I’m so glad I got to experience it.

This year I experienced the event from the stands rather than from back stage.  Sitting in dark lloyd noble arena watching different international student groups go on stage and perform took me all around the world.  With every performance it made me long to travel. The culture was addicting, I wanted more, I wanted to experience it first hand. By the end of the night I had added new countries to my bucket list of places to travel to just because the dances were so fun and energetic. I

I am so thankful OU IAC puts on this event every year. It provides a way to travel the world without ever leaving your seat.  I have been blessed with several international travel opportunities, but not every person as that opportunity so Eve of Nations can be that opportunity.  It truly is necessary for people to get out of their comfort zones and experience different cultures and countries.  It adds to the human experience. This event opens the eyes of those who have only experienced Oklahoma or the United States. It opens their eyes to what’s out there.

Global Engagement Day: After Undergrad Opportunities

I have been to many “After Undergrad” talks, but today, for some reason this one hit me a little harder.  As part of Global Engagement Day, I attended the After Undergrad Opportunities forum on Fulbright and the Peace Corp.  Unfortunately, I did not apply to Fulbright so hearing about the opportunities that come with it made me a little sad I didn’t apply.  In the past, I told myself, I’ll apply in 2 years, I’ll apply next year, and so on, but this year I couldn’t. I missed my chance.

I originally thought I would be spending one more year here at OU getting my masters degree.  When this was still the plan, I was going to apply for Fulbright my last year.  But as life has a tendency to do sometimes, it changed and my plans had to change as well.  I decided to graduate in four with just my undergraduate degree meaning I had missed the chance to apply for Fulbright.

I am so excited for my other friends who have been granted their Fulbright scholarships and I’ll have to live vicariously through them.  In the meantime, I just have to take every opportunity to travel that I can get so that I don’t feel as though I missed out.

Phi Beta Delta Induction

It has been an incredible honor serving as the marketing chair for the Phi Beta Delta honors society this year.  My final act as Marketing Chair was at our spring induction ceremony where I shared with the new inductees the meaning behind the symbols in our crest.  As I read aloud what the crest symbolized for our honors society, it reminded me of what I value and what I have stood for these past 4 years at OU.

The globe represents the international perspective of the Society’s members. The torch symbolizes the leadership and influence of the Society. The sun stands for the energy from which all cultures draw strength. The book symbolizes the coining and sharing of knowledge. The shield represents the preservation of academic freedom.

The Society’s motto — “Scientia Mutua Mundi ” is inscribed at the base of the crest means “World’s Shared Knowledge.”

These past 4 years, I have traveled the world, I have been involved with international students and groups, I have studied many different cultures and will be graduating with a degree in International Studies. “World’s Shared Knowledge” is what my education here at OU has been. I’m happy to be a part of a society that honor those traits and to have served as marketing chair with the goal of seeking out others who share these traits as well.

Do Laws Change Society or do Norms Change Society?

There are two main approaches to altering the actions of a society.  One way is by changing the laws of that society, and the other is by changing the minds of the people.  When it pertains to women’s rights and their place in society in Pakistan, both changes are crucial to making any sort of improvement in the matter.  Anita Weiss argues in her article, “Moving Forward with the Legal Empowerment of Women in Pakistan” one is more valuable than the other in making progress.  Weiss states, “The empowerment of women in Pakistan can be considered in a variety of contexts, but none is more critical than law…” (p. 2). Weiss makes worthy points as to the importance of law with the empowerment of women, but I argue that there is something more critical than law in this journey to empowerment, and that is the conversion of cultural and traditional norms.

Laws can only change so much. If there is no incentive or personal motivation to follow or enforce the laws, they will only ever be words on paper.  It is also relatively easy to write those words on paper.  Getting “those words” to influence society however is nearly impossible on its own.

When looking at the case of Pakistan, there is a connection that is instilled upon the community that Pakistan equals Islam.  Islam is your nationality, your identity, your culture, and your tradition.  So when officials influence society with interpretations of Islam that do not benefit women’s empowerment, this suppression of women becomes part of the culture.  With this tradition, people are not able to easily separate the phenomenon of inequality with the actual faith of Islam.  The people begin to equate women suppression with Islam when, in reality, there is no correlation between the two.  As Weiss points out, the people “experience their Muslim identity as inseparable from other parts of their culture. Thus, things not in accordance with cultural norms, values, or practices are often considered as contradicting Islam”(p. 3).  To put it another way, if women strive for more rights and empowerment, something that is not custom in their tradition and culture, it is seen as opposing Islam and is therefore less likely to experience actual change.  That is why changing laws will not work alone.  Changing laws will not change the heart and the culture of the people.

Another reason I believe societal shifting is a more critical aspect of empowering women in Pakistan is because intentions matter. Oftentimes, laws are made with the wrong intentions. This is a common occurrence with countries all around the world on the UN Human Rights Watch List.  Many countries will improve their human rights laws just to remove themselves from the list and restore their country’s image rather than improving the laws because of a desire to advance the lives of their citizens.  This was arguably the case in Pakistan under Musharraf’s time when women’s rights entered the stage once more.  Weiss points out that his actions of improving women’s rights, “can be seen as an effort more to improve Pakistan’s standing in the international community than to improve women’s legal standing in Pakistan” (p. 7).   If the intentions are not to improve the lives of women, then the laws will create no effective change and implementation will fall through the cracks.

Implementation of the laws must go hand in hand with the laws themselves.  If the intentions behind the laws is flawed and the customs of the society do not support the laws in the first place, they become nothing but paper with no true significance or ability to incite change.  Weiss provided many reasons why we need both societal and legal changes to improve the women’s lives in Pakistan, but insisting the legal action is the most important part of the solution is inaccurate.

Research on the Mortgage Industry in Egypt

The history of the mortgage system in Egypt is short and not so sweet.  A new mortgage law that passed in 2001 created hope for an increase in homeownership and its associated economic and societal benefits. In its mere 16 years history, mortgage finance has fought to succeed through Egypt’s incredible structural challenges, societal resistance (including a significant number of people who believe that it does not comply with Sharia Law because of the issue of charging interest), economic upheaval, revolutions, and military coups. Because of those challenges, the system has completely different goals than it did when it first appeared in 2001, but knowing what the mortgage system had to go through to get to where it is today is essential when looking at where it could go in the future.  In this paper I will address the initial goals of the Egyptian mortgage system, the challenges the new industry faced in its creation, how the government addressed those challenges and what industry participants did to reach their goals, how the financial crisis of 2008 and the Arab Spring affected the mortgage system in their own ways, and where the mortgage system is today.

HISTORY

Reliable homeownership statistics are hard to find in Egypt since it is estimated that over 90% of the housing units in the country are in the “informal” sector; however, consensus puts it at less than half that of the United States and the lowest among the developed countries of Africa and the Middle East North Africa (MINA) region at the time of the passage of the 2001 mortgage law.[1]  The lack of a developed mortgage system meant that those wanting to own homes had to pay cash or fund extremely large down payments from their savings, and hope to find a developer who would provide a unit that could be paid off in 2-4 years. Mortgages were extremely rare, and banks that did them had no regulatory framework for making the loans and often were unable to foreclose them if the borrower failed to make payments.  The housing units in the informal sectors were not legally “registered” as properties and therefore could not be financed at all.  Without registration, it was impossible to prove who owned a particular property, and therefore impossible to enforce a mortgage. The last time Egypt had reliable, affordable property registration was before the revolution of 1952, when the British system was still in place.  Ahmed Marashly, the former Deputy Director of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority and current Head of Corporate Governance at Multinational UAE Islamic Bank, quipped that “Administrative functions in Egypt really fell apart after the British left (in 1952).  Egyptians are hard workers, and we are smart, but we need someone to tell us what to do.  We need a good conqueror every once in a while to organize things for us.”[2]

Production of housing units before the mortgage law was far outstripped by demand.  With over 50% of the population between the ages of 15 and 40, marriages were common, leading to huge demand for new and affordable housing units.[3] Much of the new housing being built was in the so-called “New Cities” and the units there were not affordable to 98% of Egyptians.  So, there was a mismatch: too many high end units with not enough buyers and too many buyers for the available affordable units.  The one thing that was also missing was a significant middle class available to purchase housing units.

A team consisting of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Investment and the Central Bank of Egypt, along with technical assistance from Europe and USAID came together in the late 1990’s and spent over a decade launching the mortgage industry in Egypt, hoping to increase the standard of living of all Egyptians through a vibrant housing market spurred by an efficient mortgage finance industry.

Unfortunately, with all the changes that came about in egypt since these goals were first established, these original hopes for the mortgage industry in Egypt were never fulfilled.

[1] Everhart, Stephen, Berta Heybey, and Patrick Carleton. “Egypt: Overview of the Housing Sector.” Housing Finance International (2006): n. pag. Housing Finance International, June 2006. Web.

[2] Marashly, Ahmed. Email interview. 10 Apr. 2017.

[3] “Egypt Sees Sustained Demand in Residential, Commercial and Retail Space.” Oxford Business Group. N.p., 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 12 May 2017.

A night in Hollywood

Have you ever been to International Prom at OU?  If you answered no, then that’s a mistake.  International Prom is the best student organized event I have ever been to at OU and I’m so glad I was able to go again this year.

This year’s theme was Hollywood. The decorations were subtle but gorgeous…well the huge light up hollywood sign wasn’t subtle, oh and the red carpet that led into the ballroom wasn’t so subtle.  Okay maybe subtle wasn’t the best adjective.  The decorations were tasteful and stunning.  The gold balloons filled the dance floor and twinkle lights made the room feel magical.  IAC really went all out this year and it was beautiful.

As always, my favorite part of International Prom is the dancing.  It’s not like the dancing at your high school prom (ranging from extremely inappropriate to awkwardly slow dancing with your crush, to just jumping up and down with your hands in the air).  It was REAL dancing:  Dancing from all around the world on one stage.  When you step on the dance floor, it’s like stepping into a world of its own, one the has different moves from different countries, all to the same rhythm. I truly can’t explain it in a way to give the scene any justice.

I was dressed in a typical American cocktail dress but some people were wearing the traditional formal wear from their counties. It was a room the embodied the word culture.

The theme might have been Hollywood but I definitely felt like I was experiencing every culture other than Hollywood.  It was a wonderful evening.

Fuzzy’s Fall Welcome Event

For the first time ever, Phi Beta Delta hosted a Fall Welcome Event.  The other Executive officers and I spent weeks planning for this new tradition and it was definitely worth it.  Each year, Phi Beta Delta only has one event, Induction.  It used to be that an email would go out accepting those who applied and qualified, those individuals would pay their one time dues, and then they wouldn’t hear from PBD again until late spring when they were officially inducted into the Honor Society.  We wanted to change that dynamic, so we did.

This year we hosted a fall welcome event for old members and new prospective members.  We had fuzzy’s cater and it was a hit.  The 2017/2018 members had just been accepted but their payment was not due yet so it was an opportunity for them to get to know the executive officers and current members of the organization.  We sat in Farzaneh Hall, surrounded by way too much chips and queso and answered any questions.

We went around telling stories of where we studied abroad.  Some of us went to the same places but most of us were diverse in location.  It was great getting to hear other’s experiences in places Ive only dreamed of traveling.  It was also funny hearing people tell their experience of their time studying abroad here in the U.S.

I think this event was extremely successful.  It helped bring us all together. Most people I hadn’t seen since induction last spring!  I really hope this event and tradition sticks around because I think it is a great addition to the society’s events.

Phi Beta Delta Honor Society

I was inducted last spring to the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society.  This Honor Society is for International students or students who have studied abroad.  I hadn’t heard of this organization before last year so when I received the e-mail promoting the society, I knew I had to join.  Little did I know, when I submitted my application, that I would soon be elected the new Marketing Chair for the Honor Society.

As Marketing Chair, I promote all of the international events occurring on campus as well as promote study abroad opportunities.  In the fall, it is my responsibility to promote our honor society to those who qualify.  I was able to use my involvement in IAC and my membership in the Global Engagement Fellowship to reach many more international students than the society had been able to before.

Through this organization, I have shared many stories with people from all around the world.  It’s always fun to talk about our study abroad experiences, whether we’re American students laughing about similar stories from our time in Arezzo, or we’re laughing about shared experiences here at OU from foreign and native lenses.  I hope our society is able to grow and reach more people because it’s a great opportunity to share your experiences and meet people with your similar desire to travel and learn from different cultures

 

OU invASIAN Showcase

I went to a special event called OU invAsian Showcase to watch my friend Brandon and Tommy perform.  The 8th annual showcase was put on by  alpha Kappa Delta Phi.  According to their Facebook event description, “The event displays the talents that Asian-Americans have developed through their opportunities in the United States. Our objective is to assist local artists in their endeavors to become more recognized in their perspective fields and to increase Asian awareness by showcasing talented Asian-Americans to the OU community.”

Brandon and Tommy are both rappers and have performed at the last two showcases.  Their popularity has grown since being in the showcase.  Brandon has several thousand views on his youtube video, “The Sky’s Limit” and one of Tommy’s songs has over 115,000 plays on soundcloud.

Each year, the Showcase invites a special performer and this year’s guest performer was J.R. Aquino from The Voice.  J.R. has a genuinely outstanding voice and the crowd went wild.

As this showcase is a contest, I was hoping Brandon and Tommy would place, but the talent at the event was outstanding.  Brandon and Tommy didn’t place but they were glad they were able to perform and they hope to gain even more awareness from performing this year.

If you’re interested, Brandon’s video link is below: https://youtu.be/ThSJ90bZ8bo