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!


Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm A Summer Camp Counselor!


I'm writing from Four Winds Westward Ho, the summer camp where I will be living and working until the end of August. I am so incredibly excited to be in this beautiful place again. I worked here last year as the Office Assistant and I am really looking forward to experiencing a different aspect of Camp this year. 

That all being said, I had a super difficult time getting to Camp. My flight was delayed by an hour, so I missed the original bus I was supposed to take to Anacortes. Luckily, I was able to catch a later bus and there were high winds which resulted in the ferry being behind schedule. I made it onto the ferry just as they announced last call for boarding. All of this was made much more stressful by the fact that I hadn't slept at all the night before. Instead, I watched The West Wing (which seemed like a great idea at the time). Looking back on it now, with a full night of sleep, I am feeling much better about the whole experience. After all, now I'm at Camp.

I'm living in a cabin for the first time ever at Camp, and I have to admit it is pretty nice. Although, it really is a different experience than living in a tent. There are only 5 returning female staff members (not counting Heads of Activity Areas) so I am the mentor in my mentor cabin, even though I have never been a counselor before. 

Last night was a fairly relaxed night, we didn't have any required activities but most people gathered in the lodge to hang out after dinner. We also got staff sweaters, arguably one of the most exciting events of Camp for staff. There is always a lot of conjecture on what style of sweater we will be receiving. 

This morning I began the day by taking the swim test at 7:45 am. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I did create quite a bit of drama. Turns out, I had a bloody nose and didn't realize it. It was quite an exciting turn of events. I'm recovered now, but it was a pretty fun few minutes. After a freezing cold shower I was ready for the day. 

So far we have been playing ice breakers and organizing activity areas, basically just getting ready for the campers to arrive. I'm excited to see how the rest of the summer goes!


Friday, May 26, 2017

Halfway Done with Undergrad (How Is That Possible?)


It's been quite awhile since my last post, so here are some highlights of my last few weeks at PLU.

As of Thursday May 25th at 1:00 pm I am officially halfway done with my undergrad! (I'm being that specific because I turned in an essay and it was time stamped) It's hard to believe that my time at PLU is halfway over, it honestly feels like just yesterday that I stepped on campus for the first time. This year was marked with some amazing opportunities and full of growth, both academic and personal. So, in the spirit of a life update here is a recap of my sophomore year at PLU. 

This year I lived in the same residence hall that I lived in my first year. I had a new roommate, and we moved up one floor (definitely a part of the big leagues). Part of my mission this year was to become more engaged with on campus opportunities and events. So, I applied to work as the Peer Mentor for the first year students taking writing classes in my residence hall. It was a really great experience helping first years learn about PLU, and I was able to create some really great programs and events for the residence hall. 

This is the group of all the Alaskan students who attended PLU this year

Here is the view from the back stairs of my residence hall

I balanced this job with a 17 credit course load, a mix of English courses and Global Studies courses. That's right, I added a new major in the fall! At the time, I thought the fall semester was the hardest academic experience this year (guess what? I was wrong!) Fall semester was absolutely incredible, and the whole time I was preparing to study abroad. 

As you all know I spent January in the absolutely amazing Manchester! That experience was the definition of life changing. I learned so much over the course of that month, and I feel like I really grew as a person. I lived with a new roommate (who quickly became one of my closest friends) and learned to navigate a completely foreign city. My time in Manchester really helped solidify a lot of changes I was trying to make in my life, and I am so incredibly grateful that I was able to go on this study away course!

This is Albert Square in Manchester

After an eventful, but amazing, January I returned to PLU ready to get back to a normal school schedule. However, I didn't think of how difficult reentry into campus life would be after studying away. I wasn't expecting to deeply miss a city that I had only been in for a single month, but the beginning of Spring Semester was really difficult for me. 

Another classic Emma and Madeline selfie (she dropped me off at the airport and we needed to capture the moment)

I got back into the swing of things after a few weeks and was quickly inundated with huge amounts of homework. I was once again taking 17 credits, and working a different job. It would be fair to say that I was overworked and overstressed. Luckily, my job only lasted 6 weeks and after Spring Break I was able to focus completely on school work. My classes the spring were incredibly interesting, and I think that I'm really starting to hone in on what I want to study as I get further into both of my programs. I also added an additional minor. I am now an English Literature and Global Studies double major with Women's and Gender Studies and French minors. (You did in fact read that right, I am working towards accomplishing a double major and double minor)

Right now, I think that I want to focus on refugee status, and the process that is associated with individuals gaining refugee status in the United States. It is a complicated process that I want to explore in much greater detail than I was able to this semester. On the English front: my newest area of study is Jane Austen. In particular, how Jane Austen's work interacts with ideas of feminism, even though feminism as a concept didn't exist when she was writing. I'm also interested in exploring how Austen herself is a constructed character (through her writings, personal correspondence, family influence, and opinions of "Janeites"). I'm incredibly excited about this, so if anybody wants to chat about Jane Austen let me know!

This is what my desk looks like when I'm in the middle of writing a 14 page paper (fun right?)

I am now sitting in the Seattle Airport waiting for a flight back to Alaska. I'll be home for about 18 days and then will be heading off to Orcas Island to work at a summer camp. Get ready for some interesting stories about camp culture! And don't forget, Oxford is happening in January!

Thanks for supporting me on my study away journeys this year, I've appreciated the company!