Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The City of Dreaming Spires


I am currently two days post departure from Oxford and am extremely jet lagged. I wanted to write this post from the UK, but the time got away from me and so here we are. 

Full group photo outside the Radcliffe Camera.

I am already at my summer job in Washington. I am once again working at Four Winds Westward Ho for the summer. I am extremely excited for this job, but the jet lag is kind of kicking my butt. I arrived at camp less than 24 hours after I got back to the states, I don't think I've stopped moving since then. But, luckily my second day at work was a day off so I was able to relax. 

Anyways, back to Oxford. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to live and study in Oxford. It was challenging, thrilling, and exciting. I wrote more than I ever have in my life and saw so many things and places I have dreamed of. I learned more than I thought was possible (about both myself and my studies).

Queen's Lane-my favorite place in Oxford.

I cannot distill my experience into a single blog post, but know that it was amazing. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by 11 other amazing students and two wonderful professors. These people helped make my experience into what it was and I couldn't have asked for anything better. 

17 Boulter Street post final breakfast.

17 Boulter Street celebrating the program with a final family ice cream night.

I'll be fairly out of touch for the rest of the summer, but keep an eye out for the occasional post. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Have You Heard I Like Jane Austen?


Welcome to the blogpost detailing my final adventure outside of Oxford. It is incredibly sad that we will be leaving soon, so I consoled myself with a trip dedicated exclusively to Jane Austen. 

Last Saturday (I'm a bit behind on my posting schedule) my friend Rachel and I took the train to Winchester to visit the Cathedral and then go to Chawton. (Side bar: how cool is it that my friends are willing to come on trips with me where I nerd out about one of my favorite authors?)

The front of Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester is about an hour south of Oxford, so we hopped on a train and were on our way. We really lucked out with a beautiful sunny day, so there was no worry of rain. Our first stop on the visit was Winchester Cathedral. Our tickets included an hour long tour, so I now know a lot more than I did about Winchester. 

I tried to get all of the Cathedral in one photo (it didn't work).

On the left you can see Roman architecture and on the right Norman architecture.

The tour was absolutely fascinating! Harry, our tour guide, obviously loved his job and really enjoyed sharing information with us. We learned a lot, so I won't go into all of it-just some highlights. Did you know that Winchester Cathedral is the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe? Also, Winchester Cathedral hosts the site of the burials of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Mary I was married there and the cathedral was almost destroyed during the Glorious Revolution. 

Passage for pilgrims to visit the reliquaries of St. Swithuns (patron saint of Winchester Cathedral). 

The sepulchre chapel. 

The screen in the Presbytery.

The grave of Stephen Gardiner (he married Queen Mary I and Phillip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral).

In addition to all this, when visiting Winchester Cathedral you can see examples of all four popular styles of cathedral architecture. It is very cool! I would love to go back and explore more. 

The point in the Cathedral where you can see all four forms of cathedral architecture.

The statue in the Crypt of the Cathedral. 

At this point you are probably wondering, where does Jane Austen come in? Well don't worry, Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Honestly, the only reason I went to the Cathedral was to see her grave, so the excellent tour was a bonus. I've read a lot about the politics of her burial in Winchester so it was absolutely fascinating to see it in person. 

Jane Austen's grave in the Cathedral (notice how it doesn't say anything about her writing). 

A plaque about Austen donated after her death. 

After a quick lunch in Winchester, Rachel and I hopped on the bus to Chawton. It's about a half hour ride from Winchester to Chawton so we were able to get a bit of a rest in. In Chawton is the Jane Austen House Museum, I was warned by several professors that I would be disappointed if I didn't go, so it was the obvious last stop for me. 

Road-sign in Chawton.

The Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton. 

The sign and front door of the museum.

The museum was fantastic! It is housed in the last house Austen lived in before she died and is set up as closely as they can to the conditions she would have been living in. There aren't a ton of artifacts surviving from Austen's life, so the exhibits are set up in terms of "maybes," "perhaps," and "could haves." Despite the fact that there aren't a ton of artifacts, I really enjoyed the museum! My highlight was seeing Jane Austen's writing desk, I may have gotten a little too excited about a desk. Rachel and I also made lavender bags and wore replica Georgian bonnets, so it was a great day all around. 

The gardens of the museum.

The view from Jane Austen's window. 

Rachel and I rocking our Georgian bonnets. 

Jane Austen's writing desk. 

I am so grateful to have wonderful friends that will let me nerd out for a whole day. It was a wonderful final trip out of Oxford!

We made this on an anagram board in honor of our study away. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dreams Really Do Come True


It's been almost a month since my last post, which is hard to believe. I was doing so well on regular updates for awhile. Regardless of my inconsistency, I now have an extended update! (mostly because I forgot to write anything about the weekend before last) So, buckle up and get ready for a whirlwind tour of the last two weeks. 

If any of you are longtime readers, you will remember my excitement about Mary Queen of Scots from Manchester. But, guess what else I was obsessed with as a child? If you said Henry the VIII and his numerous wives you'd be right. This last weekend I was able to fulfill a childhood dream of visiting the Tower of London (that's normal right?)

Our first view of the Tower of London

Two of my housemates and I took the bus into London and spent the whole day exploring the city a bit more. Our first stop was the Tower of London, and we spent a good 4 hours there. Some of the highlights, besides all of it, were: the Crown Jewels, the White Tower, the site where they discovered the bodies of the two princes,  and a re-enactment of the trial of Anne Boleyn. It felt a little bit like Disneyland, expect with darker themes. (I'm also a huge fan of Richard III and recited a little for my friends-they did not like it)

The White Tower, the oldest part of the Tower complex

The building that houses the Crown Jewels

The Shard over Tower Green and the scaffold site, the site of many executions

After the Tower of London we went to the National Portrait Gallery to spend the afternoon indoors (it was rainy). Again, throwback to a Manchester blog! It was so wonderful to go back, and they had a new exhibit! It was all about the Suffragette movement (one of my favorite things). After getting our fill of art, we wandered around Covent Garden before going to a musical. We saw 42nd Street and it was absolutely AMAZING! It's a parody of 1930's musicals, so it has lots of over the top tap numbers and dramatic costumes. I loved it! Definitely one of my favorite shows that I've seen. 

Tower Bridge from the Battlements

Post musical selfie (we can't take trips without at least one group photo)

The week in between my two weekend adventures was pretty normal for Oxford. Although, it did hold the last meeting of my secondary tutorial, so now I'm only in one class. It's hard to believe that it means we are halfway done with the school term we are in right now. I don't like thinking about it. To top off the sadness, this course was one of my favorite classes since I started at PLU. We also had our last formal dinner, which means it was our last opportunity to have fancy dinner as a group. 

All dressed up for our last formal

Now, on to weekend adventure #2. A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about my undying love for Jane Austen and she suggested we go to Bath together. I jumped on that opportunity, so this weekend off we went!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for exploring a new city. Our first stop once arriving to Bath was a tour of the Roman Baths. They are so cool! Once again, I cannot understand how old they are, I can barely comprehend the Regency period let alone the Romans. Visiting the Baths were amazing, we even tried the "healing waters" Bath is famous for. (spoiler alert, they do not taste that good). Small detour, since taking the "healing waters" I've had a four hour migraine and a head cold. Something does not feel right about this picture. 

View down onto the Baths

Up close and personal with the "healing waters"

Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths

Back to the weekend, our next stop was, you guessed it, the Jane Austen Centre. It was so cool! All of the staff are dressed up in Regency garb and have name tags of the characters. For example, Captain Wentworth gave us an introduction and Mr. Bingley discussed the portraits. I'm not going to lie, I didn't really learn anything new but it was so cool to see a whole museum about Austen.

Signs to prove I was actually there

The Jane Austen statue that greets all the visitors

Our time in Bath ended with a trip to Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights. It might be the best bookstore I've ever been to. I'm so glad my friend suggested it as a stop on our tour of Bath. After spending far too much time looking at books (is there such a thing?) we wandered around Bath with ice cream before heading back to Oxford. It was such a lovely day and I am so glad I have friends to enjoy days like this with!

The outside of Mr. B's

The Parade Grounds (a popular Regency spot)

Any Northanger Abbey fans? This was a huge draw during the Regency period

We have just under four weeks left in Oxford, I can hardly believe the time has flown by this quickly. 


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Four Winds That Brought Us So Hastily Here


Do you ever have those weeks that seem to be engineered to slowly break you down? This past week was absolutely one of those for me. We started our official Oxford classes on Monday, and while I am only taking two classes I have never done this much work. Each class has at least a 1,500 word paper due every week and due to one of the weird intricacies of Oxford, we are unable to check books out. That means all of your reading has to be done in the library. I spent about 7 hours a day in the library this past week, and I am exhausted. I also stressed myself into six migraines over the course of the week, but that is another story. Don't worry, I'm doing my best to resolve this issue.

I don't want it to sound like I am ungrateful to be here, I recognize the privilege I have in being able to complain about the level of coursework in Oxford. I'm sure that as the weeks go by I will develop more of a routine for work. But, it was a baptism by fire this week. 

On a much lighter note, I had a truly wonderful weekend. One of my good friends from the summer camp I work at lives in Durham and invited me to visit her. Two of my other friends from camp also came and we had a lovely weekend talking about the coming summer and all of our memories from last year. One of the amazing things about friends from camp, at least in my experience, is that they allow you to be completely comfortable with yourself while also poking fun at you almost all the time. I am so incredibly grateful for the relationships I have with these individuals, they mean a lot to me. 

In addition to traveling this weekend it was also Formal Hall at Regent's Park (a fancy three course meal). It was really fun to get dressed up and eat fancy food that I didn't have to make. Emily had a jazz gig after, but because of my early travel to Durham I was unable to attend. I woke up in Oxford at 5:30 am and arrived in Durham around noon. It was a long train ride, but I was able to write a full essay so I found it successful. Jorunn (my friend from Durham) picked me up at the train station and then we went back to her house to pick up the other two (Maeve and Aubrey). We went to Knitsley Farm for a lovely lunch and then ventured into Durham. We just wandered around for a bit before going into the Cathedral. We just happened to be there during Evensong which was absolutely beautiful. On our way back to Jorunn's we picked up a friend of hers who will also be at camp this summer. The majority of our time was spent chatting about camp and encouraging Jess about what a wonderful experience it will be for her. Naturally, we face-timed some of our camp friends in the States before having movie night. 

Here is a house group shot from Formal Hall.

Unfortunately I was only in Durham for about 27 hours, so we didn't really do a lot while I was there. On Sunday Aubrey and Jess had to get dropped off at the train station early so I went with Jorunn to say goodbye before we went back to her house before I left. We had a really relaxing morning filled with boardgames. Turns out I am not good at Quirkle, but am pretty good at Ingenious (I highly recommend both games, they are very fun). The weirdest thing that has ever happened to me occurred on my way back to Oxford. I was writing a different essay on the train and I fell asleep (not that weird), the weird bit was that I kept typing and when I woke up the essay made sense. Now, I don't know how deeply I was asleep, or how long I was asleep, but this was one of those moments where I wasn't sure whether to be proud of myself or deeply concerned. I'll let you know if it happens again, but I'm hoping it was a fluke. 

I'm sad my time in Durham was so short, but it's alright because I will see the majority of these friends this summer at camp. I am so incredibly thankful that I have friends who persuade me to avoid homework for a bit and allow me to enjoy some downtime. I can't wait to see them all again soon! (Also, we don't have any pictures together because we talked too much and forgot to document our activities). 

This is the only picture I took in Durham and I honestly took it just so I could post it in a blog post. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Scrabble in Portugal (Maybe It Wasn't Your Typical Vacation)


I recently returned from my last big travel experience during this study away trip. My housemate Emily and I flew to Portugal to meet up with a friend of mine from camp. She very graciously invited us to join her, and I immediately seized upon the opportunity. 

We left beautifully sunny Oxford on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Portugal in the evening. It was kind of surreal walking out of the airport, the air was warm and it smelled like jasmine. It was a completely different experience than Oxford, but they both have their positives.

The view from our apartment.

After getting settled where we were staying Aubrey, Emily, and I ventured out to find dinner. We found a restaurant near our apartment that had free wifi and good food (spoiler alert we went back three times). Settling into a new place is always a little weird, but because I'm familiar with both of my travel companions there were no issues at all. 

Our first full day in Portugal was amazing. It was sunny, beautiful, and warm. We knew it was going to be one of the only really nice days while we were there so we took full advantage of it. We spent the morning at the pool and then some time at the beach. I normally don't love the beach, but I actually really enjoyed it! We stayed until the wind started blowing sand into our ears and then we went back to the apartment. We started a game of Monopoly before dinner and had to put it on pause for the night. 

It was a beautiful beach.

You can tell I am really in my element in nature.

Our only group photo and my eyes are definitely closed.

Our second day saw us walking into Albufeira (the closest town to where we were staying). It was about an hour long walk, but it was super overcast so it wasn't too hot. Albufeira has a huge population of British tourists (everywhere we went had a full English breakfast on the menu). It was really weird to see a place so consumed by tourist culture. Our time in Albufeira was really nice, we went to an archaeology museum and a museum of sacred art. Once it started raining we took the bus back to the apartment. We ended our evening with leftovers and some heated games of Scrabble. Turns out, none of us are all that good, but it was super fun.

The beach in Albufeira.

We had high hopes for our last day in Portugal. We were going to take the bus into Faro and explore the city, but it was pouring rain. We were going to go despite the rain, but within five minutes we were soaked. After a rushed grocery store trip we hurried back to the apartment intent on hunkering in for the full day. We started with a game of Cranium (not made for three people) and lots of Scrabble. The weather broke in the afternoon and Emily went out to the beach. Aubrey and I stayed inside and talked about camp and all our plans for the summer. We also got really into the National Geographic show "The Incredible Dr. Pol". It's about a large animal vet in Michigan and it is fantastic. 

Just a small glimpse of how bad the rain was.

For our last dinner we went back to the first restaurant we went to and celebrated a successful vacation. Travel back to Oxford the next day went smoothly and now we are transitioning back into school life. 

I am so incredibly grateful for friends that invite me on crazy adventures!


Monday, April 23, 2018

One Short Day in the Emerald City


The past few weeks have been filled with essays, readings, and group projects. We just finished our final week of our last PLU class here and are about to start actual Oxford classes (but that's another blogpost). I have absolutely loved the course I just finished, and I'll be sad not to have class with everyone anymore. Now, for the real point of this post: I had friends visit!

My best friends Genevieve and her boyfriend Forest visited this weekend! Genevieve is doing a year abroad in Austria, so I hadn't seen her in months and a few weeks ago she asked if she could visit. Of course I said yes, so she flew over for a long weekend. They got in on Thursday night and we spent Friday and Saturday in Oxford, and then Sunday in London. 

Forest quickly became our personal photographer.

Touring them around Oxford was so fun! Granted, the tour they got was my version of Oxford so it featured a lot of books and coffee shops. On Friday we walked around Oxford and had a traditional British lunch of pies before I dropped them off at the Natural History Museum while I was in class. After class we came back to the house and Forest made dinner (it was really good!). They even got to join us for Family Ice Cream night and we ended the day chatting. I think Genevieve and I can talk to each other forever. 

A small garden near Christ Church.

Saturday might have been my favorite day with them. It was the first sunny summer(ish) day in Oxford and it was beautiful! We strolled along Christ Church Meadows before I took them into Blackwell's. Let's just say none of us left without a book, which means I purchased three books in two days. We found an arts and crafts fair in town and wandered around looking at all the booths. I then remembered the Farmer's Market at the bus station so we went over there intent on finding lunch. We were very successful (think lots of vegetable dumplings). We ended our day at the Ashmolean Museum, it was so good! I will definitely be going back. 

Christ Church in the sun (I made them visit twice).

Sunday we went into London. I made them wander around Hyde Park to find the Peter Pan statue (turns out it was on the opposite side of the park from our bus stop but, oh well). We then decided we were hungry so we took the Tube to Soho. Forest found a great diner and we sat around chatting and eating more food than we should have. We wandered around Soho for awhile before Forest had to leave to catch his plane, and then Genevieve and I did what we do best: talking and drinking coffee. It was so amazing to reconnect with her. I can't wait to work with her this summer!

Flowers in Hyde Park.

The Peter Pan Statue!

My adventures did not stop on Sunday. On Monday, three of my housemates and I went into London to see a musical. Two went to School of Rock and Emily and I went to Wicked. I don't think I can put into words how amazing it was, just know that it surpassed all my expectations! After many debates on best song overall vs best costumed song, we were on the bus back to Oxford. But, school never stops so both Rachel and I registered for Fall semester classes on the bus. That's right, I got into all the classes I needed. 

I stole this photo from Emily. Wicked was incredible!

This photo took me approximately 10 tries. 

It's been a whirlwind weekend and I am so looking forward to getting some more sun in Portugal!