Monday, May 26, 2014


Hey everyone!
No NSLI-Y news today, but I decided to make a post about something else which is very relevant to our current events and society, and which I care very much about personally.
That is the issue of feminism and the promotion of women's rights.

I realize I've not explicitly mentioned this so far in any of the posts I've made on this blog, so I wanted to mention the fact that I am a proud and vocal feminist.

First, here are two videos which I'd like to show you, the first being one of my favorite YouTubers, Laci Green, talking about why she herself is a feminist, mainly offering reasons as to why, all of which are most definitely reasons that I too am a feminist. The second is another of her videos, this one instead relating to the specific, recent incident of the shootings at UC Santa Barbara, very relevant to the issue of feminism and misogyny.
(Check out the rest of her channel if you like these vids, she's fantastic!)

And now, I'd like to list a couple of my personal reasons for which I am a feminist which were either not explicitly mentioned in Laci's video or which I just wish to mention for the sake of it.

I'm a feminist because so many westerners have stereotypes of Muslim women and hijabis in particular being "oppressed" or "persecuted" when this is simply not true.

I'm a feminist because harassment is NOT a complement in any way, shape, or form, and because I'm angry that all of the women in my life have had to put up with it for years, and I've witnessed it happen to them with my own eyes.

I'm a feminist because women should make a full dollar to every dollar a man makes, and anyone who thinks otherwise has no place in modern society.

I'm a feminist because misogynistic sexism can also affect men - if they are perceived as effeminate they are seen as "lowering themselves" and they suffer for it; homophobia and misogyny are all too often intertwined. I should know, as I've dealt with this myself.

I'm a feminist because, on that note, transgender women face a huge and disproportionate amount of violence towards them because they are seen as "men lowering themselves" in that exact same way.

I'm a feminist because the traditional gender binary and the gender roles associated with it also have no place in modern society. Because society teaches women it is there responsibility to not get raped, and that it is impossible for men to get raped, which is a load of nonsensical bull.

I'm a feminist because I believe that it is everyone's duty to eliminate rape culture, to create a world where women can be safe everywhere, where "what she was wearing" or "if she was 'asking for it'" never are issues.

I'm a feminist because yes, not all men are "like that," but there are way too many who are, and that needs to stop.

I'm a feminist because things like the Elliot Rodger shooting have become normal occurrences, because the media is victimizing him (and has done so to numerous other rapists) and because anyone who believes he or anyone else like him deserves even the slightest bit of empathy or sympathy needs to, for lack of better terminology, check themselves.

Most of all, I'm a feminist because I believe in a world of complete and total gender equality, and if you do, then, surprise surprise, you are one too.

Thanks for reading guys. :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day of Silence, JSA Spring State, the Korean Dinner, and NSLI-Y flights!

Hey guys!
So in addition to talking about some NSLI-Y related news, I'll be discussing a few events which have taken place in the past few weeks that I thought would be nice to write about: Day of Silence, JSA Spring State, the Everyone's Free Annual Korean Dinner (explanations are coming for the confused), and my NSLI-Y plane itinerary.

So on April 23, 2014 (Disclaimer - DOS was officially on April 6, but my school did it on the 23rd instead, as the 6th was over our spring break), I participated in Day of Silence along with the vast majority of the other members of my school's GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance). Day of Silence is explained (quite perfectly, in fact) in the DOS cards which we were given that explained the reason for our silence to others as follows:
"Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling, and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step towards building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today." 
LGBTQIA rights is an issue which I care immensely about, and which I believe is extremely important in our society as it is today. People deserve to be treated with compassion, respect, and humanity regardless of any intrinsic trait, such as race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and I would hope that the majority of kind-hearted people on this earth would agree with me.
If you believe in the loving and tolerant values enshrined in the DOS, I encourage you to participate next one, and also to do anything else you can to promote the advancement of LGBTQIA rights in the world and your own community. Thanks for considering.

Then, a few weeks ago, from April 25-27, I had the privilege of attending the JSA Midwest Spring State with my school's JSA chapter in Oakbrook, Illinois. JSA stands for "Junior States of America," and is very accurately described in its own mission statement as follows:
"The mission of the Junior State of America and the Junior Statesmen Foundation (JSA) is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.
In the student-run Junior State and at JSA summer schools and summer institutes, participants learn statesmanship as they engage in political discourse. They cultivate democratic leadership skills, challenge one another to think critically, advocate their own opinions, develop respect for opposing views and learn to rise above self-interest to promote the public good."
I had heard quite a lot about the organization from a number of people at my school who are involved, and I had been curious about it since the beginning of this school year, as lately I have been inspired to become more politically active to help advance ideas and causes which I believe in. I made a rather hasty and impromptu decision to attend one of the three annual states (conferences), Spring State, with my chapter. And I can safely say that I made an amazing decision.
Last Friday, my chapter and I were bused along with students from a few other nearby high schools to a hotel in Oakbrook, Illinois, right outside of Chicago, where the state was being held. The conference itself didn't start until the next day, and so we were free to spend much of the afternoon wandering the nearby Oakbrook Center Mall, a large open-air shopping mall located right next to our hotel, just talking and having fun and being the teenagers we are. :P The mall was also pretty good-looking, and there were beautiful fountains that we sat next to talking for a while after dinner, about anything and everything. So that was pleasant. :)
The next day the Spring State and the debates actually started. For anyone who is unfamiliar with JSA, essentially the way that things are set up at states are that there are around seven or eight debate blocks over the two days, and you can go to different debates offered in each block. Each debate has a main pro speaker, a main con speaker, a moderator who oversees the debate, and after the main speakers have finished, spectators are free to volunteer to deliver their own subsequent speeches.
The debates I attended over the course of the weekend included, "resolved, that the promotion of men's rights is currently unnecessary," "resolved, that senatorial filibusters should be abolished," "resolved, that it is futile to intervene in the conflicts of the Middle East," and so on. That night, after all the chapters of attendees performed their so-called "chapter caucus cheers (essentially just chapter cheers), there were a couple of night activities, including a dance and speed dating.
The next day consisted of more debates, the election of the" governors" for next year (my school's chapter president Katharine Wang got voted Midwest governor! :D), and then a closing ceremony. It seemed like it was over in an instant, and the closing ceremony brought out some emotional reactions from a great many seniors who were attending their last state.
As I reflected during the time which I didn't spend sleeping, reading or talking to other people on the bus ride back home, I greatly enjoyed Spring State. I loved the electric atmosphere of constructive political debating, I loved being around so many motivated, informed, intelligent, and like-minded (not to mention well-dressed) people my age, I loved how involved and dedicated everyone who had been involved prior was. I can now safely say that JSA is an organization which I will strive to be part of for what remains of my high school career. I look forward to Fall State and hope to do subsequence for a couple of speeches, and maybe even take up a main speaker role.
I was surprised by this in many ways. In some ways, I took a bit of a chance going to Spring State - I missed two events (an annual fundraiser for my school's music program, and volunteering at an orientation for this area's outgoing American AFSers) that I would have gone to that weekend, and I was very handsomely rewarded for taking that chance. I found an organization that has started to give me a voice. One older JSAer I met who helped lead a workshop for us newbies early on the first day said, "once you find your voice, you will have it forever." I have little experience with public speaking, but thanks to this event I believe I have started to find my voice, and I plan to use it come Fall State. Aside from all this, it was great getting to spend time with all the awesome people in my school's JSA chapter, many of whom I didn't know well beforehand. Point being, Spring State was awesome, and I have now fashioned myself a proud JSAer.

Now, the Korean Dinner.
So I'm a part of a club at my school called the Everyone's Free Organization, which was founded by a classmate of mine, and whose primary mission is to save North Korean refugees, especially orphan children. I've been involved with Everyone's Free since the beginning of this year, and I've enjoyed it immensely, as I feel this is an extremely important cause we are addressing which often doesn't get the right kind of attention in the media. I also have begun to gain a great interest in Korea and Korean language and culture as a result of different events I've attended with Everyone's Free (hence the fact that I changed my second language in my top three NSLI-Y choices from Russian to Korean back in February). 
Back on May 2, we had our Second Annual Korean Dinner, an event for which we ask a number of Korean-owned restaurants and businesses in our area to provide us with donations of food, and use it to cater a dinner complete with Korean entertainment to raise money for the refugees.
This Korean Dinner was particularly special, though. We were honored to have Mr. Shin Dong-Hyuk as our guest speaker, who is the only known example of a person to have been born in one of North Korea's many concentration camps for political dissidents and to have escaped. The book Escape from Camp 14, which I would highly recommend, is written about his escape and his life story.
Several months ago, my friend and classmate John Park, the president and founder of Everyone's Free, emailed Shin Dong-Hyuk to tell him about our organization, and he agreed to come and speak at the Korean Dinner.
I was one of five members of the club to go pick him up at the Detroit Airport. It was absolutely amazing to meet him; I was thoroughly starstruck. The next day at the Korean Dinner, hearing him speak about his various experiences moved me to tears a number of times. For someone who has had to live through the atrocities he has, he has such a positive aura about him. He even very graciously agreed to sign my copy of Escape from Camp 14, which is now something of a prized possession to me.
In any case, the Korean Dinner was an absolutely amazing event which I was glad and honored to have been able to attend.
By the way: if you would like to do me, the rest of the organization, and all the North Korean refugees a huge favor, please consider checking out our website and helping to support our work and/or spread the word. Every bit counts. Thank you. <3
My signed copy! ^_^

Picking Shin Dong-Hyuk up at the airport.

Lastly, last Friday I received my flight itinerary from NSLI-Y!
I won't post a picture of it or write any explicit flight numbers, just for privacy reasons. But the point of the matter is that I leave home on June 22, on a 10 am-or-so United flight out of Detroit, and then will head to DC for the pre-departure orientation. Then on the 24, we will be flying out of Dulles Airport to Turkey. We will fly Air France and be connecting in the Paris Airport for around five hours before catching our connecting flight to Istanbul. The return itinerary is exactly the same, except in reverse. We return on August 11.
I wish we could have flown Turkish Airlines. I flew it on the way to Egypt and really enjoyed it. It's a quality airline, for all those who have any occasion to be flying with them anytime soon. But aside from that, it seems a bit grueling - we arrive in Paris at 5 am local time, and then have five hours to kill in Charles de Gaulle Airport before our connection. And coming back doesn't seem to be any easier - we leave on a 6 am flight out of Istanbul.
It actually greatly resembles my (original) travel itinerary to Egypt that got changed the night of the gateway orientation, which I guess shouldn't surprise me too much since Egypt and Turkey are geographically pretty close to each other.
But the specifics don't matter. The point is that I know now that I'm traveling to Turkey, and when/how it will be happening. And I'm forever fangirling inside for that reason. XD

 That's all for now, folks. I'll be back if I have anymore noteworthy news.
Görüşmek üzere!


I'm obsessing, as you can see.