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KC to Seville, Spain and Back Again

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 30, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2019

I have always been an introverted person with just enough self-awareness to know which baby steps to take in order to reach my goals that were outside of my comfort zone. I knew I wanted to travel the world. Creating new memories, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures abroad was something that I always wanted to do. So, when I was in high school, I talked my mother into going on a faculty-led trip with me to Spain. She agreed. A few months later we landed in Madrid and made our way south to Malaga, stopping in Seville and Granada along the way. There is not much I remember about the trip as it was about 15 years ago, but I do remember falling in love with Spain, more specifically Seville, and promising myself I’d return.

I was able to fulfill a bucket list promise to myself in 2012 when I studied abroad in Seville during my time at Truman State University. This time was different than the first. I was going over alone, without my mom, and I was staying for four months instead of nine days. I cried walking onto the plane at MCI. I was second-guessing every decision that led to that moment and I was completely in over my head but it was the best decision I ever made.

While living abroad I was able to grow as an individual, as an American, and as a human being. I learned life skills such as money management, budgeting, conversational skills, how to live on my own, and how to say “no” when a situation didn’t feel right. I learned that young people in other countries were more aware of what was going on in the U.S. than I was. In those four months, I learned just as much about America and Americans than I did when I was in school. However, the most important thing I learned was that we’re all just people wanting to live our lives without being treated poorly, judged, or hated. We are more alike than different, and that mentality has led me to where I am today.

Since then, I have been able to build on the skills and knowledge I gained abroad to launch myself into adulthood and begin my career in international relations. I am thankful for my time in Spain. It has changed my life forever, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

 

Plaza de Espana

About the Author
Rachel White is the new Program Coordinator at the IRC. She received her BA from Truman State University and was able to study abroad in Seville, Spain, and Angers, France. Her favorite hobby is making travel plans because she always needs something to look forward to. 


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Welcoming Week

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 23, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2019

One of the reasons I am so proud to work for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and be a part of the Y movement across the world is because of our commitment to be welcoming to all. Welcoming to new associates. Welcoming to members. Welcoming to those in need. Welcoming to those new to our community. Welcoming no matter a person’s background, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. The Y is a WELCOMING organization.

The Y is so committed to being welcoming to those new to our community and nation that we have a New American Welcome Center located at our North Kansas City YMCA. Being welcoming to newcomers can be as simple as smiling at a person or shaking hands. It can also be teaching newcomers a new language so that they can communicate with others, including their own children and grandchildren. It can be bringing people together to share each other’s cultural experience. Welcoming can be connecting people with similar interests but diverse backgrounds.

Each year our YMCA participates in Welcoming Week, founded by Welcoming America. Welcoming Week is an annual celebration bringing together thousands of people through hundreds of local events that celebrate the contributions of immigrants and refugees, and the role communities play to foster greater welcome.

Welcoming Week shows that in places large and small, rural and urban, people of all backgrounds are coming together to create stronger communities. It is a time to celebrate the shared values that unite us as neighbors, parents and colleagues, and to make our towns more welcoming to newcomers and to everyone who calls our community home.

We have wrapped up Welcoming Week (Sept. 13-22), with more than 725 YMCA locations and other organizations across the United States cumulatively having hosted thousands of events to bring together immigrants and their U.S.-born neighbors. Celebrating and hosting events helps to strengthen our shared community.

Welcoming Week activities are open to the public and included open house events, resource fairs and seminars, and other activities that celebrate cultures from around the world. @KansasCityYMCA #WelcomingWeek #YforAll

Welcoming Week 2019

About the Author
Andrea Allison-Putman has served as the Chief People Officer for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City since January 2011. She was recognized with the Equalizer Award by the Urban League for her achievements in support of diversity and inclusion. Andrea is a valued IRC Board Member finding value in bringing a global perspective to our community by providing education, connections, support for collaborations, and being welcoming to all. 

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Increasingly International

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 9, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2019

Growing up in Kansas City, I always had a fascination with other cultures. In elementary school there were periods of times when I would immerse myself in research about Ancient Egypt or the Elizabethan Era. After having the opportunity to visit Thailand and then paying my way to Cuba, I knew I wanted international travel to be a large part of my life. After those two trips, there was no doubt that I would study abroad in college. However, it was not until my junior year of high school that I considered actually going to college abroad full time. My math tutor was the first person to suggest the University of St Andrews and gave me a few names of current students who lived in the Kansas City area. I got into contact with one who went to Rockhurst. After talking with him I was convinced I would be a student at the University of St Andrews. I applied in September and was thrilled to be accepted. The following September I dragged all my suitcases to Kansas City International Airport, and I was off to university!

Now going into my third year at university, I have experienced and learned so much by being completely immersed in a different culture. The University of St Andrews was a faintly known name around private schools in the Kansas City area; however, for a public school such as Shawnee Mission East, the University of St Andrews was unheard of. Since my acceptance to St Andrews, it has become more commonly known among East students. Over the past two years, I have been meeting with East students to talk about St Andrews and the university experience. When I was applying to the University of St Andrews, the closest school representative was in Chicago.

However, now there is a St Andrews school representative in Kansas! Over the last two to three years, there has been more interaction with private schools such as Rockhurst and public schools like Shawnee Mission East with University of St Andrews representatives. This is one of the many factors that is bringing a more international presence to Kansas City. Students from the area are realizing that they do not just have to spend one semester abroad but can fully immerse themselves in a different culture for all four years.

Having the opportunity to travel and be exposed to unfamiliar surroundings is so important in the development of young adults. As we mature and start making an impact in the communities that surround us, travel is an essential experience as it decreases ignorance and gives people a greater understanding for the world that exists outside of Kansas City. Our community is becoming an increasingly international city that has many spheres of influence. By having a school representative from the University of St Andrews within Kansas City is an important factor that can give high school students the opportunity to have a greater knowledge of the world we are a part of.

                                       

About the Author
Kate Higgins is an undergraduate at the University of St Andrews pursuing a double major in International Relations and Social Anthropology.

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The Continuing Importance of the International Criminal Court

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 2, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2019

The International Criminal Court (ICC) shines as an example of modern international law. There is nothing quite of its likeness in human history. The ability of a diverse international body to put individuals accused of crimes against humanity and genocide on trial is a great accomplishment of human civilization. The modernity of the International Criminal Court can also work to be one of its greatest flaws.

 

People tend to have a fixation on things in our past, and nostalgia can be a big factor in how people view their history. Collective memory intensifies this practice, and can reach back hundreds, if not thousands of years in order to create a homogenous national identity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), which is the defining document from which the ICC draws its strength, was a treaty adopted on July 17, 1998, and it entered into effectiveness on July 1, 2002 (www.icc-cpi.int). Having been in proper effectiveness for only about 20 years gives the ICC little credit with the larger players in the field of international relations, and this limitation tends to be seen mostly within the types of cases that it prosecutes.

 

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the ICC has indicted more than 40 individuals for crimes as outlined in the Rome Statute. Every single conviction has involved an individual from an African nation (www.cfr.org). There has been discussion for the ICC to investigate other instances of crimes against humanity, such as with the Rohingya crisis of South-East Asia. However, the fact that the only indicted individuals are from Africa has led to much opposition to the court, articulated with arguments that assert that the court has an African bias. The relative newness of the court means that realistically it can only take on cases that are feasible to prosecute, and the conflicts that have existed in some African countries provide an easier platform to try individuals without facing much opposition from a strong international player.

 

With each case and subsequent ruling, however, the ICC gains more and more clout as an international organization. This increasing relevance has served to actually spook some of the signatory nations who become fearful that ICC investigators will come to indict their citizens. This has led to some participating nations to either bar investigators from entering their country, as the current Trump administration has done in response to fears of U.S. service members being tried for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan (www.state.gov), or outright withdraw from the treaty itself such as in the case of the Philippine response to ICC investigation of alleged crimes committed under the guise of its “War on Drugs” campaign (www.icc-cpi.int). 

 

The latter situation presents some interesting legal challenges on the issue jurisdiction, specifically on whether or not the ICC would still have jurisdiction to investigate crimes within a former signatory country that occurred while it was still an active member of the ICC. This view is argued by the ICC itself with respect to the Philippine situation, as it asserts that under the rules of the Rome Statute, any investigations that were undertaken by the ICC while a country was a signatory of the treaty, will not be affected upon a country’s written declaration of its intent to remove itself from the Rome Statute (www.icc-cpi.int). 

 

For all of its strengths and weaknesses, the ICC still stands as an important experiment. Is our current system of globalization and international law strong enough to support a system that has the unilateral power to try those who are accused of violating international human rights laws no matter what country they occurred in? We are not quite there yet it seems within our current system. There is still progress to be made, but progress is indeed currently being made in many areas of international law. However, time will tell if this current iteration of the ICC will keep its teeth long enough to become a cornerstone of the international law of the future, or if it will be stripped of its effectiveness before it can make a lasting mark. 

 

About the Author
Garrett Booth was a digital resources intern at the IRC for the Summer 2019 term. He is a senior at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas, majoring in History and Political Science. He intends to use his education to pursue a career with the U.S. State Department or the Foreign Service. 


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The Complexity of the South Korean Age System

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 19, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

“How old are you?” In a country with a deeply-rooted set of honorifics based on age, this question not only acts as a basic formality or curious inquiry, but as a method to create a foundation of a relationship. Age will determine various levels of respect and how one person will address the other. This is South Korea’s situation surrounding age. For me, as an American studying abroad in South Korea, answering this seemingly simple question became a challenge. That is because South Korea has its own unique way of calculating age that differs from most western countries. In South Korea, when you are born, you are already a year old. Then, on New Years Day the following year, everyone’s legal age increases by one year. Therefore, a child born on December 31, 2018 would turn two years old on January 1, 2019. You may be able to see my conundrum. In the midst of learning about and adapting to this new culture, I couldn’t even figure out my own age; however, South Korean people have developed a simple formula to ascertain what their Korean age is: 1 + Current year – Year of Birth = Korean Age.

Despite utilizing this special age system, the people of South Korea do, in fact, also recognize and use international age, which is the age system used by America for example. In daily society, South Koreans will use the Korean age system, and the international age system is mostly reserved for government-related regulations, such as the age to start school and the age of consent.

As I mentioned previously, age plays a very important role within South Korean society. The culture utilizes a system of honorifics based on age and the Confucian idea of respecting one’s elders. Therefore, there are certain niceties and behaviors one must adhere to if they are the younger party. For example, during group or business outings or dinners, the youngest of the party typically sets the table for the older members and will also pour drinks for the others. Additionally, it is seen as respectful to let the eldest person begin eating first during a meal. Once two people become closer, they can drop these formalities, but when initially forming relationships, these age-based honorifics seem to be the standard.

Recently, in January of 2019, politician Hwang Ju-hong suggested a bill to encourage the eradication of the Korean age system in favor of the international system. “It is aimed at resolving confusion and inefficiency caused by the mixed use of age-counting systems,” Mr. Hwang stated when he proposed this shift in legislation. Though nothing has come of his proposal yet, there is said to be many political and public discussions on the matter in the making, so we will see if South Korea will continue using both age systems or if they will adopt the international age system as the primary way of calculating age and how this decision will affect the age-based social hierarchical system in the coming years.

 

About the Author
Sydney Logan is a recent graduate from KU with her Bachelors in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on Korean language and culture studies.

 

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Third Culture Kids in Kansas City

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 12, 2019

I am the proud parent of two Third Culture Kids. For those not familiar with the term, a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is someone who spent time during their formative years living in a country other than that of their parents. The term was originally coined in the 1950s by the American anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem. The connotation is that these children are not fully part of their parent’s home culture nor are they fully part of the culture of their transplanted home. Instead, they take pieces from each and find themselves with their own hybrid—or third—culture.

In our case, my children lived in England for four years. Their formal education began in London where they were surrounded by other TCKs that were the children of other expats. Moving back to Kansas City prompted a number of moments when it became clear to us that our children were indeed TCKs. My son once asked me “what time does the Super Bowl match start?” My daughter to this day still prefers the British spelling of savo(u)r and neighbo(u)r and refuses to change. This could also be explained by her stubbornness, but that’s for another post.

Beyond simple differences in vocabulary, there is a deep connection amongst children who have had the experience of living abroad, even when the countries of origin and residence differ. We have seen this firsthand as we are fortunate enough to live next door to another TCK who is European by birth but has lived for many years in Asia, and now is in the U.S. Additionally, my kids stay in touch with their friends from London who now live in Myanmar. Listening to their conversations is something to behold. They can seamlessly discuss flavored Kit-Kats from Japan, their favo(u)rite Indian meal, getting carsick driving through the Alps, and how to get their Nintendo Switches to connect to each other while in Cambodia.

But what amazes me the most is their unflinching ability to take pieces from different cultures that work for them while leaving the rest behind. They’re willing to say that something is “different," but rarely that it is “weird.” By not making an immediate value judgment, nothing for them is above being questioned. Put another way, there is an unwillingness to accept that “this is the way it’s always been done.” When they’ve experienced life in different parts of the world, changing the way things are done at home—wherever that home may be for the moment—isn’t nearly as scary.for them is above being questioned. Put another way, there is an unwillingness to accept that “this is the way it’s always been done.” When they’ve experienced life in different parts of the world, changing the way things are done at home—wherever that home may be for the moment—isn’t nearly as scary.

In that sense, we can all learn something from Third Culture Kids.

                                 

About the Author
Aaron Mann is the Senior Attorney for Litigation with Terracon Consultants in Olathe, Kansas. He is an IRC Board Member and cannot fathom coming home from a trip without knowing where he’s going to next.

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Taiwan’s 2020 Presidential Elections

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 5, 2019
Updated: Friday, August 2, 2019

Since 1949, Taiwan has been allowed to be governed independently from mainland China under the assumption that Taiwan is part of China and they will not seek independence as stipulated under the ‘One-China’ policy. However, the current Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, have sought to distance Taiwan from the mainland, which has caused tensions between Taipei and Beijing. In recent years, Beijing has taken a stronger stance towards maintaining the ‘One-China’ policy through a number of strategies, including performing military drills in the Taiwan Strait to show they will take Taiwan by force if necessary (https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-taiwan-relations).


The next presidential election is set for January 2020 with Tsai Ing-wen running for re-election. Han Kuo-yu, the mayor of Kaohsiung and member of the opposition party, Kuomintang, has also entered the race and, unlike Tsai Ing-Wen, he advocates for closer ties to China. He appeals to the older generation who have stronger ties to the mainland and wish for unification. However, he first has to beat the other potential nominees, Terry Gou, a billionaire whose company manufactures iPhones, and Eric Chu, the former mayor of New Taipei City. But, if Han Kuo-yu is elected, this could indicate a shift in Taiwan-China relations (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/world/asia/taiwan-han-president.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FTaiwan&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=collection). 


Taiwan is divided on its stance towards China. Some want to fully unify with China, most want to maintain the status quo, and some want full independence. The older generations feel a closer connection to the mainland, while the younger generations have developed a unique Taiwanese identity that separates them from China. During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to talk to Taiwanese college students to hear their opinions. While the majority of Taiwan is ethnically Han Chinese, many identify as Taiwanese and are increasingly seeking independence and voting for politicians who share their views. 


The outcome of this election and future elections could have many implications for the relationship between China and Taiwan. China is unlikely to relinquish its strict stance in the near future. While the population of people who want independence is still relatively small, if the trend of young people pushing for independence continues, tensions could flare up that would not only affect Taiwan and China but could have broader effects on the rest of the world.

                                               

 

About the Author
Grace Price is a senior studying Chinese and Global and International Studies with a minor in Political Science at the University of Kansas. She served as a summer 2019 Global Education Intern at the IRC.

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Member Spotlight: Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 29, 2019

Friendship is the core of the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation. Founded in 1974, the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation has focused on building and maintaining cultural relationships with citizens of the United States and China. Inspired by Kansas City native Edgar Snow, the foundation aims to maintain a healthy relationship with the city of Yan’an. Edgar Snow was a University of Missouri journalist student who is believed to be the first western journalist to interview Mao Zedong and who published a book that has never been out of print since its publication in 1937, Red Star Over China.

 

Jim McKusick is the current president of the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation. He chairs the meetings and is an executive officer, however he emphasized that the “board works as a team” and that they maintain strong partnerships with organizations in China.

 

A major event for the foundation is the Edgar Snow Symposium, which has an emphasis on cultural exchange. It is hosted every two years, alternating locations between Yan’an and Kansas City. This event will attract a delegation from China, roughly 2,000 people from across the Kansas City area as well as Chinese representatives from DC. In 2018, the foundation sold out the Kauffman Center for one of the symposium events that focused on traditional Chinese music and dance. The City Council of KCMO published a proclamation to acknowledge the work of Edgar Snow Foundation for the 2018 symposium. It was a great success and there will be another symposium in China in 2020 with a visiting delegation from the Kansas City area. 


The foundation works very closely with the Kansas City Chinese Association and the Kansas City Chinese American Association in order to promote Chinese heritage and culture. Jim explained that people will often tell him that in the current political climate it should be difficult to maintain people-to-people exchange because of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. But he emphasized that this is the best time to sustain an everyday, cultural relationship. The relationship formed with Chinese people now is the infrastructure for future relations. While diplomatic relations are important, a true relationship between nations relies on people-to-people relationships and the cultures they exchange in order to promote a better understanding of each other.

 

                                               

The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit: http://www.irckc.org/page/MemberSpotlight.

 


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Tensions in Middle East Slow Some Arms Exports

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 22, 2019

Conflicts such as the Yemeni Civil War and the conflict in Syria have had massive ramifications for major arms manufacturers around the world, in some countries more than others. Germany particularly has faced widespread criticism from its own citizens over military equipment being sold to the Saudi government or other Middle Eastern powers engaged in controversial conflicts. But Germany, who represents the fifth spot internationally in terms of total arms manufacturing and exportation (washingtonpost.com), is not the universal model for all countries exporting large amounts of military grade equipment. Their attempt to freeze sales to countries involved in the Yemeni conflict is more of an outlier than the norm.

In fact, the United States, who sold three times as many weapons to Turkey between 1950 and 2016 (washingtonpost.com) and is the largest supplier of weapons to the Saudis, is not showing any signs of significantly slowing that trade, even in the face of souring relations between the various countries. What does this mean for the region as well as the world as a whole? Well for starters, it further complicates the conflicts and more than likely ensures they will continue longer than would have occurred without military sales from the West. Yet, trying to discern whether these impactful sales are going to the good or bad side of a conflict is also not typically a major consideration for the arms manufacturers themselves. They are companies just like any other and desire to make a profit.

According to the Hans-Boeckler Foundation in Germany, the arms industry in that country alone employs roughly 55,000 individuals and the economic impact on Germany’s GDP is similarly enormous. United States foreign policy has long included the ability for American arms manufacturers to sell their weapons abroad if the government determined it to be appropriate. Where this becomes a more complicated issue deals with the fact that many of these conflicts in the Middle East are not one, two, or even three-sided. For example, the United States sells weapons to Turkey, which they in turn use to oppose the Kurdish party PKK, a party that has been determined as a terrorist group by Turkey and the United States. But the United States government also recognizes the value of the PKK as a force to fight against ISIL. (washingtonpost.com).

Here we can see the difficulty in how arms exports, despite being such a lucrative industry, has ramifications for both the exporter and the importer. Responsible sale of military grade equipment is certainly something to strive for, but partisan disagreement and the economic benefits of such sales will likely continue the issue for the foreseeable future. For some governments in the Middle East this may spell greater security, for others it may bring longer and more devastating conflicts.

                                                          

About the Author
Peter Gaar is a student at the University of Kansas pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Global and International Studies. He currently serves as a summer 2019 community intern for the IRC.

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Member Spotlight: KC Creates

Posted By IRC, Friday, July 12, 2019

Kansas City Creates or KC Creates is a nonprofit organization that offers programming to support and celebrate arts and artists in Kansas City through artistic expression. Through strategic partnerships, KC creates offers live performing and visual arts events that go into the public and private cultural landscape of Kansas City with the mission “to empower a diverse array of educational and cultural events to inspire creativity and build bonds among audiences, artists, businesses, and civic organizations.” KC Creates has become more than just an organization providing opportunities for emerging and established artists and has created an inclusive arts community here in Kansas City.

KC Creates hosts KC Fringe, which is an international festival. KC Fringe stands as one of 40 Festivals held in the United States and over 200 worldwide, sharing the same universal principle, freedom of expression. KC Fringe is focused on highlighting the emerging artists in Kansas City and sold 24,000 tickets last year. This year, the Fringe festival runs July 14 through July 28.

On the horizon for KC Creates is a new event called Open Spaces KC. Open Spaces KC aims to bring established international artist to Kansas City to exhibit their talent. This program is set in place to help build and develop the international component for KC Creates and Kansas City as a whole. Open Spaces is a ten-week season which offers a rich experience of music, dance, and theater with a series of evening performances at selected venues all over Kansas City.

One challenge KC Creates is facing is that of emerging artists obtaining work visas. This is very challenging and cost prohibitive, but crucial to reach the full mission of KC Creates that relies on the international community sharing their talents with the Kansas City community.

KC Creates works with the IRC to help build its international connections. KC Creates is looking to build relationships, gain commonality, and find sponsors to bridge the gap between Kansas City and the international community. KC Creates is heavily dependent on volunteers and is always on the lookout for more. For more information, visit their website at, https://kccreates.org or email Cheryl Kimmi at ckimmi@kccreates.org.

                                            

The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit: http://www.irckc.org/page/MemberSpotlight.

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