International Affairs Review

Well, as always I’m a bit slow to the punch with this week, but here I was busy studying for my Chemistry final on Tuesday, and I realized that I had an optional blog post I could do to give a review about the course in my own words. As it stands, I’ve honestly loved being in this class. It’s been highly informative and has definitely solidified the idea that the major I’ve picked is definitely something I’m interested in. So, for that alone, I am grateful!

The class itself covered tons of topics and their impacts at a global level. They were always presented with enough days to cover the material and we were able to go more in depth with some subjects that are hot topics in current global dealings. The topics that I found the most interesting were the weeks we talked about economy, politics, culture, food, energy, and environment. Of course many of these go hand in hand with each other, but the fact that we spent two or more class periods talking about each of them helped me to gain a better understanding of just how the connections between them are formed. I feel like I have made a step in the right direction and have come out of this class better informed than I was upon first starting it.

While class periods were always informative and helpful, the part of this course that encompassed this very blog proved to be more difficult, I believe, for me than others in my class. I, myself, am highly indecisive when it comes to open-ended projects, and with a class so incredibly broad as international affairs itself, it definitely presented me with a challenge. I didn’t rise to the occasion as much as I would have liked honestly, but I pulled through. At least with my final paper, I have a new reason to want to go study abroad somewhere on the British Isles next spring semester – comparative politics and policy. I hope that I get a chance to take the base comparative politics course that is offered here at the University as it seems like a solid, and interesting class. The ideas presented by the governments of the Isles is so different from those here in the States that I want the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Of course, I want to go experience a culture that is similar, but also vastly unique, but I also gained an insight to a new side of things that I hadn’t thought of in depth before. Now, with my being indecisive we’ll see if I end up there for an extended period of time, but for now, it’s a front runner in my search for a study abroad school.

To close, I’d just like to give a big thank you to those of you who have actually kept up with my blog and its eclectic mix of ideas. To Rob, you did a fantastic job teaching this course and I’m sorry that towards the end of the semester here there weren’t as many people coming to listen to your lectures. They were highly enjoyable and we still got things done in the course, which is an incredible balance to find. It’s been awesome! To Darren, thanks for your talk at the IAA meeting last week. It was fantastic hearing your input and thoughts about everything that has been going on in Scotland recently and I can’t wait to learn more. I’ll be keeping a close eye on whether or not there’s another referendum in the near future, because you are incredibly correct that things will begin changing drastically if the country is no longer part of the UK. I hope that the best decisions are made for the country in the long run.

Well, this is my last post for the semester. I’m signing off for the last time. It’s a been a wild ride everyone and I know it’s going to continue to be one.

Thanks again,



An Interesting Find

Well, in my adventures searching for my paper resources, I stumbled upon a highly interesting topic for myself and thought I might as well share. In an essay written by Anthony McCann and Lillis Ó Laoire entitled “Raising One Higher than the Other” they reflect on the Gaelic- and English-Language song traditions, how people interpret them, and how what effect they have on in the Irish identity. The Gaelic songs are seen as the more pure version of the song traditions and more distinctly Irish, just like the Gaelic language itself. They make this particular comparison in their introduction saying, “To summarize broadly, on the one hand, there is a Gaelic singing tradition – ancient in lineage, personal in character, lyrical in content, more ornamented in delivery, more authentic in essence. On the other lies an English-language tradition – more recent in origin, more practical in character, more literal in content, more plain in delivery, less Irish in essence.”

They touch on the thought that although English is the more widely spoken language of the Irish people, it is considered the second official language. Gaelic is considered the first official language (according to the 1937 Irish Constitution) and is seen as part of the true Irish identity. The authors make a point to say that the Irish language is very much seen as something “Other” and “ancient” and in need of protection. An association called the Gaelic League was created in 1893 in order to do just that in order to combat the English influence that was incredibly strong in the country. The League felt as though they were losing their true selves in order to make way for the English identity that had worked its way throughout Ireland.

Through music festivals that continued through the years it was incredibly clear – English tradition was second to Gaelic tradition. The sean-nós, or the “old way” of singing was upheld and seen as the better of the two, and anyone who practiced the art properly could more than likely guarantee themselves some prestige in peoples’ minds. This put stress on the people and showed blatant favoritism from the judges in these festivals.

In the conclusion of the essay, McCann and Laoire write about how although this thought of valuing one language over the other was an attempt at protection of a dying language and culture, it hasn’t really helped with identity. It simply puts a strain on how someone identifies themselves and causes friction between the two ideologies. They send out a “call for realignment of these categories in a way that will still acknowledge the struggles of survival, maintenance, and development faced by local cultures in the face of international culture industries.” Quite frankly, isn’t that what we all are striving for in this ever globalizing world? A lack of cultural homogenization and more of what makes us unique as nations and peoples?

Just a thought.

Blog Audit Week!

Sorry I’m late! I was supposed to have posted yesterday around the usual time, but unfortunately I was still thinking more about my topic for the term paper due next month.

This self-audit assignment was designed to make each of us assess our blogs and determine what topic we would like to write about. As I was following the instructions for the assignment, I was facing the same problem I had at the departure of this blog. What do I write about? After rereading through my posts from the past weeks, two topics stood out for me: globalization and culture comparisons. While these are broad in nature, I focused on specific topics like technology, food, and traditions, and countries such as Africa, Italy, and Ireland. I used a compare and contrast method in my posts, looking at the differences or similarities surrounding each topic between these countries and the U.S.

With this in mind though, my comparisons became much more direct over the past few weeks. I was more able to pick a topic and follow it through, although I seemed to write more than what was asked of me (300-500 words). However, I don’t believe I had a meandering way of writing in the most recent two posts unlike the broad way I wrote in the first two. I noticed that my favorite aspect of writing showed up in my posts from week to week – the thought of being able to share experiences and opinions, whether my own personal ones or those of others.

As for my term paper, I think I came up with a reasonable topic. It took me all too long to figure it out, but here is my current thought: How has globalization affected Ireland culturally? I came to this question as well as a couple of sub-questions that I could possibly include in my paper. I thought this might be interesting as I’m looking to study abroad next year in Ireland or another country in that neck of the woods. Rob brought this up to me, and I have decided to roll with it as it could be good to see my own comparisons firsthand while I’m away. This way too, I also help myself figure out where I might like to adventure off to next!

St. Patrick’s Day – Secular or Religious?

After a long three week hiatus, I am back!

This time around we are talking along the lines of culture and traditions. With St. Patrick’s Day having come and gone last week on the 17th, I thought I’d like to touch on this subject. As a girl who grew up in the United States and especially in the New England/Maine region, I have to say that St. Patrick’s Day was definitely taken for granted in my life as a holiday. We celebrated it one way or another every year. I had always imagined the holiday actually had more to do with the Catholic church than what was originally portrayed in our society, and as I grew older I, of course, found out it was. In the States much of the way we celebrate the holiday is secular in origin. We’ve taken the idea of St. Patrick’s Day and through the years have turned it into our own celebration which – you guessed it – is much more secular than its religious origins.

Myself wearing green this year!

Myself wearing green this year!

I remember growing up and in grade school my teachers used to remind us about the party we’d have to celebrate. “Make sure you remember to wear your green and your shamrocks!” They would say. I took this as a learned habit that, yes, on St. Patrick’s Day we wear green to show our Irish heritage and I was honestly proud of mine so wear green I did indeed. Later on in life I realized this was more of an “Americanized” tradition as well as a secular one, but also was widely recognized throughout a good portion of the world. I continue to wear green simply out of habit and as a way to celebrate in the “traditional” way for my family. There is, however, much discussion about the color blue and its connection to St. Patrick through the Order of Saint Patrick as they had adopted the color for their cause. Most people – including myself – continue to wear green.

The other portion of the tradition of wearing shamrocks is much more religious in origin. Saint Patrick himself used the little plant to teach the idea of the trinity of God to the people. Many of the Irish, from what I understand, will wear shamrocks on their jackets or shirts in recognition of the holiday, Saint Patrick, and his teachings.

Another major tradition that is enacted in the States on St. Patrick’s Day is the eating of the Irish-American dish of corned beef and cabbage. While I was never a fan of cabbage (and still am not), this dish was served in my family using a recipe that was passed down through a couple of generations. In this way for me it is a tradition a plan to continue. While it has come to my attention that this is not necessarily done in Ireland on the holiday or even a dish fully associated with the country that holds a great portion of my heritage, I still find it to be delicious.

One of the biggest ideas that is associated with the observance of the holiday is drinking. Many of my older friends would simply say to let the Guinness flow free on the holiday. Pub crawls run rampant and the beer is a must for many in the States. While done by most in good fun, like other holidays where drinking is seen as an appropriate way to celebrate, things can get out of hand. In Ireland, there was a time where the pubs were closed in recognition of the holiday and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the pubs were allowed to reopen on that day.

Other traditions that are more recent in their origins include multiple parades that take place world wide as a way to showcase Irish heritage and the St. Patrick’s Day Test which is a rugby tournament played between the U.S. and Ireland on or around March 17th. Both of these traditions have come into play within the last 150 or so years, but the rugby tournament definitely takes the cake as the most recent as it began in 1995.

Parade-goers in Downpatrick, County Down

St. Patrick’s Day parade this year in Chicago.

Many Irish Catholic leaders have made their views clear on how they feel the holiday should retain more of it’s religious roots, but progress on this idea is always uphill. Much of the world celebrates this holiday in its secular incarnation and to change that would take a very large group effort. For now, I believe it will remain as it is, but it is always interesting to see the evolution of a holiday between its origins and its 21st century. All I can say, is keep celebrating how you would like and just keep in mind the history behind it all. That’s what’s important if you ask me.

Hope you all had a good holiday!

What Americans can learn from other food cultures

Found this to be an incredibly lovely add-on to this week’s topic! Hope you get a chance to enjoy it!

Food feeds the soul. To the extent that we all eat food, and we all have souls, food is the single great unifier across cultures. But what feeds your soul?

For me, a first-generation Korean-American, comfort food is a plate of kimchi, white rice, and fried Spam. Such preferences are personally meaningful — and also culturally meaningful. Our comfort foods map who are, where we come from, and what happened to us along the way. Notes Jennifer 8. Lee (TED Talk: Jennifer 8. Lee looks for General Tso), “what you want to cook and eat is an accumulation, a function of your experiences — the people you’ve dated, what you’ve learned, where you’ve gone. There may be inbound elements from other cultures, but you’ll always eat things that mean something to you.”

In much of China, only the older generations still shop every day in the wet market, then go home and cook traditional…

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An Italian Excursion

Well hello again, dear reader!

Coming away from last week’s topic of technology in the global scheme of things, I decided to go for a completely different line of thought going into this week – food! In my very short excursion in Italy, when I was still in high school, I gained a pretty good idea about how the Italians navigated food in their culture. This week I’m comparing meal customs in the U.S. (mostly ones I’ve experienced, being a local, Mainer, etc.) to those that I experienced while I was abroad. Well, let’s begin.

Upon typing “American breakfast” into a Google search bar, I got exactly what I expected to find:

If you’re a citizen of the States or are accustomed to our food culture, you’re more than likely thinking that this looks incredibly appetizing. (Just like I do. I love a big, Americana breakfast.) Almost directly off of a IHOP or Denny’s menu, no? While we here in the U.S. – usually – expect a big breakfast in the mornings, the Italians, and much of the rest of the world, do things quite a bit differently and breakfast to them looks a bit more like this:

I feel it’s quite a bit smaller than what we’re used to having, but this picture holds fairly true! While I was staying in my various hostels across Italy, I woke up to a breakfast much like this. It consisted mostly of pastries, coffee/cappuccino/espresso, juice, and occasionally some fruit. Honestly being used to the big, filling breakfasts here made it difficult for me to have what I had considered to be a small morning “snack” (although it wasn’t actually bad at all).

Lunches can typically be anything that you could want. From very filling dishes and a three course meal, to sandwiches from a bakery, or a mixture of produce you could get from an open air market and a local deli – take your pick! I happened to gain experience in both while traveling as we were usually in our scheduled locations during lunchtime.Open air markets are a treasure! In the States, I’ve found that lunch generally is the smallest meal whether it be a sandwich and some chips or, at the very least, something lighter than what you would have for dinner.

As for the last meal of the day, the Italians tend to do three courses as a standard. Dinner is the biggest meal of the day for them, and also a great time for fellowship – much like what I could say we do in the U.S., but I’m generalizing. It usually consists of an appetizer, like cured meats, cheese, etc.; first course, which is generally pasta, rice, or soup; and a second course that is usually some type of meat and vegetables. (And if you want to see an example of a first course, look below!)

Dinners here take a different track as with the majority of the time we focus on one plate of food in which meat is the centerpiece and vegetables, potato, bread, and other such things take on a peripheral role. (At least this happened to be pretty standard in my family growing up.)

So, what do you think of the Italian food culture course by course? While traveling, I found it to be an incredibly unique and wonderful change from what I was used to. It was nice to be able to see what sorts of things another culture held as priority during meals and take part in it. If you would like to read a couple of other articles that I found hold true to my experiences, look no further than here and here! Thanks for tuning in!

The Growing Impact of Technology

Welcome to a new week, everyone! Now, just looking at the title I’m sure you might have an idea of where I’m going to be taking us with this week’s blog post. I assume we can all agree that technology has become more and more important in the everyday lives of those of us who have it at our fingertips? It seems that within the last, and I’m spit-balling here, thirty-five years (give or take about ten years time) there has been an incredible increase of technology usage. (Crazy right?) From news on television, which has been around for decades, to the growing use of the internet and smart phones, it’s easy to see the uses and pieces of the technology many of our societies around the globe have at our disposal. It’s obvious how this technology can help further my previous topic of discussion: globalization. In a cultural context, the internet has been used as a gateway for news – both in our home countries as well as in others –  as well as a way to connect with others from different cultures. The introduction of smart phones has only expanded the ways people can be in touch around the globe. They continue to gain more capabilities with various everyday tasks like helping track health and fitness as well as social interaction ranging from networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to Snapchat and the every decreasing form of communication called texting. All of these tasks as well as others can be found and put on smartphones in the form of applications, or apps for short. Facebook and LinkedIn provide platforms with which people can stay in contact with others. My personal opinion is that Facebook focuses on friends and family aspect of social networking while LinkedIn provides a more business oriented way to be in contact with coworkers, bosses, and other professional acquaintances. Snapchat and texting are only two examples of faster and more informal ways of communication between people as they allow for a spur-of-the-moment way to send and receive pictures as well as words and thoughts between people. Another task that smartphone users have become accustomed to in recent years is the ease of online banking. This has also been newly introduced in places that had been lacking current technology such as Africa. Imagine the difference this must have caused in those who had not had access to this form of technology prior to now. Many parts of Africa lacked even the knowledge of cell phones and now it’s being introduced to herders and merchants and helping to further commerce in that part of the world. What a drastic change!

Now, what does all this mean for the future? Honestly I couldn’t give you a straight answer, but I could tell you that technology usage will continue to impact our societies both positively and negatively. So long as we don’t have many more scares like the recent North Korea versus United States incident, I would say that the positive impacts could be endless. However, only time will tell. I want to hear from you guys, what impacts have you seen technology have in recent years and what do you think could happen in the future given our societies’ love for the new and next best thing?

Thanks for tuning in for another week!