Friday, February 9, 2018

How Much Government Can I Get My Housemates to Observe? You'd Be Surprised


Do you know what one of the best mixes between fun and stress is? I can answer that. It is a 10 day trip around the British Isles with five other college students. You read that right, my housemates and I just got back from a whirlwind adventure. We were on a break between courses and decided to travel around Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. It is by far one of the best adventures I have had, and as a result of this I am not quite sure that I know how to write this post. If I detailed every part of our travels this post would be excessively long, so I decided that I'll describe my favorite parts of each city and highlight a few pictures that I think sum up the trip the best. 

Our journey began with a 6:30 am bus ride to London, rush hour Tube traffic, and a train to Edinburgh. After three days in Edinburgh we went to Glasgow for two days. From there it was two days in Belfast, finishing with two days in Dublin. I am exhausted and so grateful for the opportunity offered by this program. I never could have imagined that this is how I would spend the second part of my Junior year of college. 

Edinburgh: Let me begin by saying that Edinburgh is amazing! Our hostel was directly on Royal Mile so we were able to access all of the activities we planned incredibly easily. The first full day we were in Edinburgh we toured Mary King's Close, a tour of a 17th century neighborhood that is now underground. The close is virtually untouched and is unique in the fact that it was named after a woman. We continued our historical exploration with a tour of Edinburgh Castle. The castle offers an amazing view of Edinburgh and highlights some of my favorite parts of British history (for my long time readers you'll be happy to know we'll be getting to Mary, Queen of Scots soon). We saw St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building still standing in Edinburgh, and the royal jewels of Scotland. That's right, I saw the scepter and crown used at Mary, Queen of Scots's coronation! We also went on a Harry Potter walking tour that traced the sights in Edinburgh that inspired JK Rowling. We ended our first day with another ghost tour. It was pretty historical, but there were some jump scares I did not appreciate.

The group outside Edinburgh Castle (Krista, Rachel, me, and Kaitlyn)

St. Margaret's Chapel

Our second day started with a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. It is absolutely gorgeous, and the best part is that it displays Mary, Queen of Scots, chambers. For someone that has read all about her, this was incredible. The palace shares its grounds with the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. The juxtaposition of a fully functional palace with the ruins was quite striking. The next stop was Scottish Parliament-that's right I am still forcing my housemates to experience government with me. You'll see that we visited quite a few governmental institutions. After a quick lunch we went to the National Museum of Scotland. It was a great museum, one of the highlights was seeing Dolly the sheep. We returned to the hostel early so we could get a good night's sleep before Glasgow. 

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Holyrood Abbey

Scottish Parliament

Glasgow: Our first mission in Glasgow was reuniting with housemates that had done a different start to the trip that most of us. After catching up on three days of adventures we went over to the Gallery of Modern Art (I'm not a huge fan of modern art, but it was pretty cool). Our second stop in Glasgow was The Lighthouse, famous for its views of the city. The most exciting part was that I got to see my friend Aubrey! We work at summer camp together and have spent the last two summers together. Getting to see her was honestly one of the best parts of the trip. She showed us around Glasgow, the guidance of someone who lives in the city is amazing. We saw Glasgow Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful, they were rehearsing the organ while we were there so we were able to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Our hostel in Glasgow was very plaid, and that really is the only descriptor it needs. We went out to a pub called Waxy O'Connor's which looks exactly like a Harry Potter set, it was really cool. 

Glasgow Cathedral

Aubrey and I were trying to hide our sadness about being parted. 

Our second day in Glasgow was spent outside of the city. We went out to Loch Lomond, about a 45 minute train ride from the city. It was so beautiful out there, I felt like I was inhabiting books I had read as a child. We decided to take a river cruise around the loch (I know it's a misnomer), and because it was a Tuesday in January there was no one else on the boat. It was such a great way to see the area around the loch, the views were unbelievable. Upon our return to Glasgow we wandered around City Center before going to dinner where we met up with Aubrey again. In a crazy twist of fate someone else that works at Four Winds was also at dinner there so we had a second Camp reunion. I love that I can find people around the world that I have something in common with. 

My housemate took this picture of me on the river cruise

Loch Lomond

I just really enjoy this photo

Belfast: Getting to Belfast was an adventure. We had to leave the hostel in Glasgow at 4:30 am to make our flight. Needless to say, we were not in the best of moods upon our arrival in the city. We were all a little testy with each other which made navigation around the city less than fun. Belfast is a really interesting place, our first day I didn't really like it and I can't put my finger on why. It was exactly what I expected it to be like, and I still can't figure out if that is good or not. Our only activity the first day was the Ulster Museum. It is one of the better museums we went to on this trip. In addition to many other things, it details the history of Northern Island and has a really amazing art exhibit. After the museum we checked into the hostel. It was by far the worst hostel we stayed in. In the bathrooms, either the toilet flushed or the water worked, but not both. It was an interesting experience, but I would not recommend it as a place to stay. 

Our second day in Belfast was much better than the first. First off, it snowed which is guaranteed to make me feel better. We started off the day at the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens (basically a huge greenhouse in the middle of the city). We also went on a free walking tour of the city. It was about two hours and our tour guide was incredible, I really enjoyed his delivery of information. Our last activity in Belfast focused on (you guessed it!) government. We went on a free tour of the City Hall. We were able to tour the city council chambers and several of the ceremonial rooms. Currently the Lord Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and High Sheriff are all women. I really appreciated that fact. We ended our evening at a restaurant called the Thai-tanic (I'm only including this because the pun is too good not to share). 

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Council Chambers

Dublin: Dublin is probably my second favorite of all the place we visited. The bus ride there was beautiful, and the city really met all my expectations. We got a little lost trying to find our hostel, but it all worked out in the end. The hostel was in a converted convent school which was really cool. The breakfast room used to be the chapel and it retains all of the stained glass. Our activity of the day was a tour of Dublin Castle. Don't worry it's about government, its the seat of government for Dublin. The tour was fantastic! We saw the Viking embankment from 930 AD, and the chapel. We also got to see the state apartments and learned that the official color of Ireland is blue, not green. We ended our night at the Castle Gardens, a really beautiful spot. 

The chapel at Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle Gardens

Here I am in Dublin Castle Gardens. Can you tell how heavy my backpack is?

Our last day in Dublin was lovely! We went on a walking tour of South Dublin that ended up being about 3 1/2 hours. It was really long, but the tour guide was amazing. He wove a story that included both the history of the city and contemporary attitudes towards events and movements. We also went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. This was an important stop for me, my great-grandmother works at St. Patrick's Parish back home and I knew that this stop would mean a lot to her. The Cathedral was absolutely beautiful, and it had the added bonus of Jonathon Swift's tomb and memorabilia. I've studied Swift before so it was pretty great to be able to see things I have read about. Our last stop in Dublin was the Guinness Factory Tour. I didn't particularly want to go, but after all the government I figured I could give my housemates a break. The best part was that my friend Genevieve (who is studying in Austria) was also in Dublin and just happened to be on the same tour as us. It was amazing to see her! 

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral

The group at the end of the Guinness Tour (Kaitlyn, Lisa, Rachel, me, and Krista)

Genevieve and I posing next to my constant companion (my backpack that I named Gerald)

The journey back to Oxford felt like it would never end, but it did and I am now back in classes. This whole experience was absolutely unbelievable and I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to be here. 


Monday, January 22, 2018

"Feed the Birds" and Other Oratorical Opportunities


We just returned from a weekend excursion in London. It was absolutely fantastic! It was a whirlwind 48 (ish) hours. 

The London Eye from Westminster Bridge

We took the bus into London, leaving Oxford at 8:10 am. It was an early morning, so most of us dozed all the way to London. We got off the bus at the Victoria bus stop and walked over to Buckingham Palace to read William Blake's "London" aloud. Surprise, it was the changing of the guard! There were huge crowds and two marching bands, so our professor thinks it was fancier than normal. Either way, it was fascinating! We read the poem aloud in sync with each other, which I'm sure looked totally crazy to anyone watching us. 

Our day continued with a tour of Westminster Abbey. We were unfortunately unable to take photos inside of the Abbey, but just believe me when I say it was amazing. My favorite part of the Abbey was the Lady Chapel. It is an incredibly intricately decorated section of the building designed to honor the Virgin Mary. The Tudor family, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and some of their extended family, and Oliver Cromwell are a few notable individuals buried there. I do have to chuckle at Oliver Cromwell though, for someone who despised the trappings of the monarchy he didn't seem to have any trouble taking them on himself. In the adjoining room, Elizabeth I and Mary I are buried together in addition to the bodies of the princes killed in the tower (Edward V and Richard, Duke of York). In the room to the right there are the tombs of Mary, Queen of Scots, Margaret Beaufort, and Margaret Dudley. I love the family connection present even in death. 

Westminster Abbey

The whole class outside Westminster Abbey.

After Westminster Abbey, we took the tube to Borough Market for a late lunch (it was 2:00 pm). Lunch was lovely, but the real excitement was the raspberry mouse tart I had for dessert. 

This is the tart. It was amazing.

After lunch we walked along the Thames towards the Millennium Bridge. We walked past the Golden Hinde and The Globe. Walking across the Millennium Bridge you head straight towards St. Paul's Cathedral. The sun was just beginning to set and the lighting was lovely. I also managed to refrain from singing "Feed the Birds" (so basically all those Mary Poppins rehearsals were a waste of time). We walked along Fleet Street to Trafalgar Square before heading to Seven Dials to drop our bags off at the hotel. After a brief 45 minute rest we were off to dinner and a play.

A different version of the Madeline outside the Globe picture than the one I got last year.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Trafalgar Square at sunset

We were able to see Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap; the longest running play in British history. The play has been running for 66 years which is incredible! It was a fantastic experience, and even though I don't like guessing the murderer I was kept on my toes the entire time. 

The next morning we started off at the British Museum for a 2 hour chunk of time. While there, we had to journal about our favorite room and sketch an object that spoke to us. The journaling I am okay with, the sketching I am not. This is the second time I have been to the British Museum, and it did not disappoint. My favorite exhibit was the section on Great Migrations in European History- I think there are a lot of parallels to the conditions in the world today. Another highlight was seeing Cleopatra's sarcophagus and mummy. 

After lunch at the museum we were set free for an hour and a half scavenger hunt throughout Bloomsbury. We were given a list of places to find and maps of London. It was pouring down rain, but it was one of my favorite experiences of the trip so far. My group didn't win, but it was still amazing. 

A statue of Gandhi in the rain. I was struck by the beauty and melancholy of this scene.

We ended our excursion in London with the British Library. We went to see the exhibit on the British Library Treasures. I could write a whole blog post about this, but I'll try to restrain myself. We weren't able to take pictures, but I have a lot of mental snapshots. My absolute favorite was one of Jane Austen's surviving notebooks. I probably stood and stared at it for a good 10 minutes (I'm sure the people around me though I was a little weird). We were also able to see the Magna Carta (!), Martin Luther's 95 theses (because PLU follows us everywhere), sketches from DaVinci and Michelangelo, the Gutenberg Bible, and a digitized version of Jane Austen's History of England. I could live in the British Library and never get tired of it. 

This is completely off topic, but here is a picture of 17 Boulter Street (aka me and my housemates)

To end this post I want to give a huge shoutout to Dr. Allinson. She managed to lead 12 people around London without ever outwardly appearing stressed. She was upbeat and helpful the entire time, and always made sure we were enjoying the experience and learning. Thank you Dr. Allinson!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On the Steps of the Palace


This post is a little delayed, but I wanted to talk about our excursion from this past weekend. Our whole group took the bus to Blenheim Palace and toured the inside of the palace. 

The view of Blenheim Palace walking up to the gates.

It was such a beautiful day, and a beautiful location! Blenheim Palace's primary claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, but the building and family have a long history all of their own. Blenheim Palace is the principal residence of the Duke of Marlborough and was built between 1705 and 1722. The building is situated on expansive grounds near the village of Woodstock. 

The day we journeyed to Blenheim and Woodstock was quite cold and as we got out of the city quite windy. To get to the palace you have to go under a covered entry way and are spit out into an enormous courtyard. The building surrounds three sides of the courtyard and the fourth side is enclosed by a gate that looks out over the Column of Victory. You could spend a lot of time just looking around the courtyard, there is so much to see. However, we were there with a mission to see inside the palace so we headed over to the main entrance to take the tour. 

These are some shots of the courtyard. As you can see it is incredibly imposing.

Fun fact, we couldn't wear our backpacks on our backs during the tour so we had to wear them over the front of our bodies. It was a pretty great look if I do say so myself. The tour itself was two parts. The first part of the tour took place on the second floor and traced the family history. 

The tour itself was an odd mixture of audio-visual, interactive, and just plain weird. There were elements of time travel, and it was confusing in all the worst ways. The "tour" was led by Grace Ridley, lady's maid to the 1st Duchess of Marlborough, and led us through important events in the family's history. I have to admit that the family history was interesting, but it could have been approached in a much different way. 

The second part of the tour was self-guided throughout the lower floor. Most of the rooms we toured were State Rooms that had tons of artifacts from previous Dukes and their relationships with other royals. The opulence was pretty intense, but it was a great way to gain a better understanding of the culture surrounding nobles. My favorite part of that tour was the Long Room, which serves as a library. It is huge and full of books, with the added benefit of having an organ at the end of the hall. 

Just a glimpse of the books in the Long Room

There was also a series of rooms displaying information and artifacts pertaining to Winston Churchill. I've done a fair amount of research on Churchill so it was really interesting to see how a different culture interacts with the same historical figure. The exhibit seemed to romanticize a lot of his life, but that is totally understandable given that he is arguably the most influential person to come out of Blenheim. 

Due to the cold day we were unable to explore the grounds around the palace, but it just inspired all of us to come back at a later date. Perhaps in May when there is a food truck festival! We ended the excursion with a group dinner in Woodstock before taking the bus back into Oxford. It was a lovely day and I am so glad we got to experience the area surrounding the city a bit. 

Here is the whole group before we entered the palace gates.

Now for the business portion of this post. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to update the blog given that I will be gone for so long. I'm currently torn between updating every week and updating after an interesting experience. If you have any suggestions or input please leave a comment below to help give me some guidance. 


Monday, January 8, 2018

Oh So Many Colleges


I did it! I'm finally in Oxford! After a real of adventure of a journey I made it to our house. My housemates welcomed me with open arms and non-functional wifi. The houses are great, but there is definitely an element of student housing to it all. There have been a couple of issues with some of the bedding and small appliances, but the professors and landlord have been amazing about all of it. To top of my ridiculous journey, my key to the house doesn't work. Its not a huge deal because we never go anywhere without each other, but it will be getting figured out soon. 

Friday was my first full day and it was lovely! We took a walking tour of Oxford focused on the colleges right in City Center. We learned so much stuff, but due to jet lag I'm bound to forget most of it soon. The parts I liked the most focused on the literary aspects of the tour. We saw the doorway that supposedly inspired C.S. Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia (they immortalize it with some grotesques of Mr. Tumnus and a lamppost. We also toured the outside of Christ Church College where Lewis Carroll was working when he wrote Alice in Wonderland).It was really exciting to see the more academic part of Oxford. I still have absolutely no idea where I am in the city at any given point, but the tour helped give me a better sense of what's going on. 

Here is a group photo outside the Bridge of Sighs

Christ Church College (one of the many colleges we saw on the Oxford tour)

After the tour Dr. Shah took us to a cafe in the covered market. It was really good, and then we went to Ben's cookies (a famous experience in Oxford). I had to go into Blackwell's to order my textbooks, and it was amazing! It's the second largest bookstore in the world, and it is just phenomenal. We also had our first official class today. It was very short, but gave a great taste for what is to come. Dr. Allinson asked us all to speak about our travels and we discussed why we travel. I think this class is going to be fascinating, especially the discussions. 

After class we went to Westgate to pick up some essentials and then all journeyed to the Tesco near our house for dinner supplies. We are taking turns cooking for the house and we all chip in for groceries and cleaning. Its a great way to get along with all the housemates (and also save some money). We've already kind of broken up into house groups in terms of hanging out. 

Saturday saw most of the group on a walk around University Parks with Dr. Shah and her daughter Asha. Asha is quite young, and I can't imagine how odd it must have been to have 7 college students following her around. The park was really beautiful and I'm looking forward to going again when it is a little bit warmer. 

University Parks

My housemates and I went on Bill Spectre's Oxford Ghost Tour Saturday night. I was initially pretty hesitant about it, but it wasn't scary at all. In fact, it was more theatrical than anything else. After the tour we went to the Turf Tavern to warm up before our walk home. The Turf Tavern used to be a secret spot only Oxford locals knew, but now its much more well known. It was the first night out we had with the whole house, and it was really nice. 

Sunday was a very relaxed day; most of us didn't even leave the house. We spent all day reading for our class on Monday and completing our daily journaling. We ended the night with Indian food takeaway and chatting. 

I'm excited to see what this next week has in store for us!


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Day Has Come


I know, I know, its been quite a while since I've written anything. I really do apologize about that, but Junior Year is rough. Contrary to popular opinion/advice, I regularly did homework until 11 pm and never felt like I made a dent. Needless to say, I was far too busy to blog. But, guess what? I'm back!

The day has finally arrived; the day I am going to Oxford. Well, there is one small hiccup. I'm not going to Oxford today. Due to a series of events that can only happen in movies, I am delayed a day and will fly out tomorrow (January 3rd). Never mind the fact that I am supposed to be in Oxford January 3rd. I wouldn't have been able to do anything to change the events that transpired to trap me in Seattle, but it still wasn't a great feeling emailing my professor that I would not be arriving on time. 

You'd think that I'd be stressed out right now, but honestly I'm not. Everything is completely out of my control, and so the best thing to do is just wait it out and get to Oxford a day late. It won't really change anything. 

As for the events of today, unbelievable is the best descriptor I can find. Originally I had 3 hours between when my flight landed in Seattle from Anchorage and departed to Reykjavik, plenty of time to leisurely make my way to international departures. Due to a delay in Anchorage I wouldn't have been able to make the second flight with a checked bag, so I grabbed the essentials and left my suitcase with my parents. I got through security, there was an additional delay due to weather, and then halfway through the flight there was a medical emergency (everyone is fine, please don't worry.) As a result of that, and a mad dash to check in for my Icelandair flight, I missed the connection. I watched as the plane pulled away from the terminal, luckily for me the staff was incredibly helpful and quickly booked me on the next flight (again, the only downside is that it is scheduled for tomorrow.) Someone else from the group to Oxford is flying out later tonight, and I was able to tell her what had happened and wished her luck in her travels. Now, I'm in Seattle lounging on a hotel bed and trying to see the positive side of these events. 

I'm viewing this experience as my first true foray into adulting by myself (I know, I'm twenty you'd think I'd have more experience.) Plus, with everyone else already in Oxford they will be able to tell me exactly how the travel from Heathrow to Oxford works. Here's to hoping they don't stick me in a basement bedroom as punishment for my delay. 

Hopefully the next blog you read from me will be in Oxford! If not, my learning continues. 


Monday, October 23, 2017

I Study Global Politics Now? (And I am SO Tired)


It's been quite a while since my last post, so let me give you a quick update.

Gone are the days where I studied Romance novels and Jane Austen (although sometimes I read an Austen collection as a study break). Now, my days are filled with discussions of nuclear proliferation, the international system, and political thought. It is a very real departure from my usual course of study, but I absolutely love it!

A little insight into my study session for an exam on Realism.

I'm not sure if it is the result of a new course of study, or if its just Junior Year, but I am exhausted! I routinely do homework until 11:30 pm and I'm up at 7:15 every day to start the whole process over again. There was a really rough period of about a week where I was averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night (it's actually the inspiration for part of this post's title). Don't worry though, I'm averaging 6 hours now. Which is good, because I don't know how much more caffeine I could have consumed. 

The smallest pile of homework I've had all semester.

My internship is going really well! So far I have done research, written a newsletter, and participated in two meetings. I was originally feeling pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing, but I'm feeling much more comfortable now. If you have any questions about it please let me know, I'm more than happy to share my experiences!

It's mid semester break right now, so PLU is having a long weekend (something that I think is far overdue). Apart from the copious amounts of homework I did; I went to Seattle with a friend and spent an amazing day in the Central Branch of the public library. It absolutely blew me away, there were so many books! We rounded out our day with some book shopping, and I am now the proud owner of 3 new books. Hooray!

Stereotypical shot of Pike Place.

Now that mid semester break is nearing a close, I can begin to focus more on Oxford. I bought my plane tickets this weekend and have started a series of orientations through PLU. The focus of this week is the tutorial we will be taking part of with the Oxford faculty. I have just a few more forms to fill out and I will be cleared to travel. How crazy is that?! I can't believe it is so close, studying away still doesn't feel real yet. According to my countdown app there are 70 days until I depart!


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Junior Year Is Here


It's been quite awhile since my last post, so here is an update on my summer and the beginning of the school year.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was a camp counselor this summer at Four Winds Westward Ho. I spent 2 1/2 months in the San Juan Islands working with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. This summer was both the best and hardest summers I have experienced. I was challenged every day, and I am so grateful for the lessons I learned this summer. I definitely had conversations that I never thought possible (children really don't like wearing pants and don't appreciate being told to put pants on), but I was also able to see the impact our work was making on the kids at Camp. I have so many stories about my summer I could fill a whole new blog, so I'll keep that to myself for now. I had the most incredible experience, and I absolutely cannot wait to experience another summer at Four Winds.

The view from Turtleback Mountain. I adore the San Juan Islands

I came home from Camp and promptly had my wisdom teeth removed. The surgery was much better than I expected, and now a week later I'm feeling fine. Although the experience wasn't terrible, I definitely wish I had a different end to the summer. I was only home for 6 days, and was unable to experience a lot of things because I was asleep on the couch. 

I arrived at PLU before move in because I am a member of the Residence Hall Council (RHC). We decorated the residence hall and prepared for new students, and move in took place on the 1st of September. After an eventful weekend full of activities (Sound Off, Wing Meetings, and various ice breakers) we find ourselves on the first day of classes. 

Junior year is coming whether or not I am ready. I am taking PE 100 (okay, so this won't be intense), Global Perspectives, Shakespeare, International Affairs, and Global Political Thought. After not being involved in anything remotely academic for the summer I am a little nervous about being back at school, but I am really excited to get started exploring new information. 

The most exciting news I have is: I got an internship at the State Department! I am a virtual intern for a committee that works on empowering women working in International Affairs at the State Department. I will be focused mostly research and editing newsletters, but I am absolutely thrilled to begin working in a field that I am interested in. 

This school year is going to be absolutely crazy, and I am so excited to jump right into learning. 4 months until Oxford!