31 December 2008

The Final Post of 2008

WARNING: Please excuse my grammatical errors and poor writing skills. This post has taken me two days to write and is rather disjointed in its construction.

This is the final post of 2008 and what a year it has been! When I left the US, gas prices were hovering around the $4.00 mark (Indeed, when I saw that they had dropped down to $3.90 around August 1st, I almost crashed my car in my shocked haste to call my father at work and let him know), and when I returned they were at $1.45 per gallon. Obviously, this is a clear sign that the world is ending. When I was returning from spending the weekend at Elysa's house (a friend from CMRS who lives in St. Mary's), I paid $25 to the attendant, still thinking that it would fill up perhaps half of the tank of my Ford Focus as it would have back during the summer. However, it only took $15 to fill up my entire tank! Unfortunately, the drop in gas prices is also an indicator of our failing economy, so I suppose I shouldn't be too happy.

Before I write my traditional end-of-year summary, I realized that I never got around to writing about my last few days in Oxford, a situation that I shall remedy immediately.

Friday, Dec. 6: What a hellish day! My Chivalry & Courtly Love seminar paper of 3000 - 4000 paper was due at 5pm. My topic? 'The Role of Arthurian Legend in Early Tudor Propaganda'. A good idea, in theory. However, the more I researched, the more it seemed that there was not nearly enough evidence to support my thesis. Now, I am not one of those history majors who absolutely loves history. Granted, I am interested in it enough to major in it. Still...when I get into my 'historian mode', all hell breaks loose. I refuse to put forward a thesis supported by flimsy or misused evidence. And so I spent all of Thursday after my tutorial at the Bodleian reading over accounts of Henry VII and VIII's reigns, searching for anything that could back up my argument. Elysa had two friends from the States visit her that night, and so I joined my friends in taking them to St. Peter's College bar, the Cross Keys, and to the Turf Tavern. I suppose that time could have been better used in working on my paper, however, I was so worn-out by that point that the break was quite necessary.

At 12:30am, I joined Tony in the seminar room and started my paper. 3000-4000 words is roughly 15 pages. My goal was to have 2000 words written by 8am. The atmosphere in that room was quite tense the entire time that we were in there. At varying points throughout the night (morning?), Tony or I would decide that there was absolutely no way we could continue on. However, failure was not an option, and so we pressed on. At just before 8, I hit the 2000 word mark, meaning that I had earned the right to go to breakfast. Tony and I packed up our belongings and headed over to St. Peter's in a daze. Looking back, I have no idea how I even was managing to stand at that point given how tired I was. After breakfast, we walked over to the Lower Camera at the Bodleian's Radcliffe Camera, where I sat in the coldest corner possible (to keep myself awake) and managed to finish my paper. Overall, it turned out more decently than some papers I had spent days on, but I doubt that I will be pulling such a stunt in the near future.

That night, my purse was stolen while I was out with my friends, thus putting a damper on the entire weekend.

Sat., Dec. 7: I moped about for part of the morning since I was still quite upset over the fact that my purse was stolen and I had absolutely no money. My roommate treated me out for waffles at Convivos (a hip cafe in Gloucester Green) and I went for a run to clear my mind. That evening, we found out that as it was outside of the Oxford term, St. Peter's would not be providing meals, even though they had specifically stated that they would. I, of course, had no money, and my friends were not in that much better of a state. Somehow, we managed to pull together enough to buy a pizza and garlic bread from Sainsbury's. That night we went to the Eagle & Child and then hung out in the seminar room, reminiscing on the fact that the semester was almost over.

Mon., Dec. 9: Thankfully, Dad wired money to me, which allowed me to relax a bit. I was able to get a pair of keys into the building from the administration, which also caused me no small amount of relief that I wouldn't have to rely on others for help getting back inside. Still, there was no rest for the weary, as I had both a 10-page tutorial paper and an 8-page integral paper to finish by Wednesday night. In order to prevent myself from getting too stressed out, Tony and I went to the Turf Tavern.

Tues., Dec. 10: I spent all day working on my final tutorial paper (Tracing the change in the imperial theme through the reigns of Elizabeth and James I) and researching for my integral paper (Topic: Why the medieval church was the most integrated period of religious thought and practice) At 8pm, Brad, Elysa, Tony, Becky, and I went to my favorite pub, Far From the Madding Crowd, and grabbed a pint (or, in my case, a cider) for the last time. And then it was back to St. Peter's library to finish writing my tutorial paper.

Wednesday, Dec. 11: I had my final tutorial with Miranda from 10-12 and began my integral paper immediately afterwards. I finished by 2;30 (it was due at 3) and was quite pleased with my work. It could only be a maximum of 2000 words and I came out at 1960. The actual paper itself was not too bad, especially considering that I really do not care for religious history of any sort. Afterwards, I went for one of my last runs in Christ Church meadows. I can honestly say that this was one of my favorite places in all of Oxford. So much so, in fact, that I am very tempted to bring my running shoes with me when I visit Oxford at the end of January so that I can run along the Thames again.

Thursday, Dec. 12: Brad and I left for London bright and early on Thursday morning. Our main reason for going was that the Oxford versus Cambridge rugby game was being held at Twickenham stadium just outside of London. However, we left earlier than we needed because Brad had not been to London yet. Unfortunately, my decision to go to the rugby game meant that I didn't get to say goodbye to my friend Becky, which was a bit upsetting. Once in London, we saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one). Of course, because of the time crunch (and the fairly steep admission fees) we didn't get to go inside any of these places. It was then that we set off on the Tube for Twickenham. Unfortunately, this is where we ran into problems. Kick-off for the rugby game was set for 2pm. We didn't set off on the Tube until 1:50, had 15 stops until we hit Richmond, and then had to take a bus to the stadium.

As is the case when it comes to my luck, the train ended up being delayed multiple times. However, we did catch up with Amanda and Karen, two fellow CMRS-ers whom we had attempted (and failed) to meet up with at Victoria station. At Richmond we took a local bus to Twickenham and then set off for the direction of the stadium off in the distance. Rugby games are fairly short (only about 90 minutes) and it was already 2:45. At some point, we started to run towards the stadium in the hopes that we would catch at least a little of the game. We made it for the last 30 minutes, which is, of course, the best and most exciting part of the game. Oxford was winning, so I headed downstairs to get my pint of Strongbow. Now, I rarely get excited over sporting events, and never to the point where I jump up from my seat. However, I was so moved over this game that I ended up jumping up and 'accidentally' spilling some of my cider on the Cambridge supporters in front of me. (They, however, were too inebriated to notice, so I suppose it was not so bad.) Despite an aggressive last ditch effort by Cambridge, Oxford won the game for yet another year in a row. The four of us joined the crowd pouring from the stadium and walked through the streets of Twickenham, all the while cheering loudly for Oxford.

We boarded a local bus that would take us to the Kew Gardens Tube station, hoping to avoid the torrent of people at Richmond station. Unfortunately, our bus was diverted, got stuck in traffic, and we got off at the wrong stop. We boarded another bus, got on the Tube, and then were stuck on the train for an hour due to signal problems up by Tower Hill station. By the time we got on the bus back to Oxford, we were exhausted. However, the fun was not over yet. As it was one of our last nights in Oxford, we joined the large group of CMRS-ers at The Turf and then headed to the King's Arms to celebrate Oxford's win. By this point, however, I was so exhausted that I headed back to St. Michael's to crash.

Friday, Dec. 13: Friday was my last full day in Oxford and, therefore, a rather depressing one. The fact that it was raining didn't help matters at all. I woke early, mailed my stained glass at the post office on St. Aldate's, walked round the Bodleian one last time, went running in Christ Church, and then said goodbye to my roommate, Becca, who is traveling around Europe for a month before heading to do mission work in Zimbabwe. I then met with Tristan near the gigantic Christmas tree and menorah on Broad. He had actually left Oxford for London the previous weekend, but I had missed his departure due to my phone having been stolen. Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I had to do in Oxford. Despite the fact that we got into huge rows every time we were together, our friendship was one of the most unexpected results of my study abroad experience. And I truly will miss him.

Later, Karen and I went to the Mitre for tea and scones. My most distinct memory from the day is sitting in the corner of the Mitre, wearing my paper crown from my Christmas cracker, watching out the window at the people passing by on the street. It was then that I knew that my life would never return to normal. I ate my last dinner at St. Peter's and then finished my last bits of packing.

Most of the people from the program went out on a last pub crawl and then went to the clubs. However, I was in absolutely no mood to do such a thing and so settled for sitting in my room feeling rather melancholy. Luckily, my friends pulled me out of my moping by taking me to Far From the Madding Crowd one last time. I drank my last Katy Cider and played a last game of Jenga. Afterwards, we went to the Gloucester Arms, ("Oxford's No. 1 Rock Pub") for the first time, before heading back to St. Michael's hall. By this time, most people had returned from the pub crawl and were in the midst of throwing an all-night party in the common room.

Sat, Dec. 14: The final day had come. I'd been unable to cry all semester, but I'll admit that a few tears leaked out when I was saying goodbye. It still hurts too much to talk about it.

Overall, going to Oxford was the best experience that I have ever had. For anyone thinking about studying abroad, I say that you should do it. I've grown tremendously, both academically and as a person. Looking back, it is strange to think that I hadn't even been looking forward to Oxford at the start of the summer. After all, I thought that my experience would be lessened by the fact that I would be studying with other Americans as opposed to actual British students. No, it was Edinburgh that I was looking forward to, as I would be completely alone; a visiting student at the University itself with no program to provide me with activities to 'pad' the experience. However, I can honestly say that my Oxford experience was not hindered in any way by studying with Americans. (Although I absolutely HATED it when certain people would break into loud renditions of the National Anthem.) Indeed, I made some of my closest friends at CMRS.

I can only hope that my time at Edinburgh proves to be as wonderful a experience.

I was going to post a year-end wrap up, but it is almost as if everything before Oxford is not even worth mentioning.

To everyone has read my blog, thank you for supporting me and putting up with my complete disregard for grammatical structure and usage. For those who (amazingly) have not been completely turned off by my misuse of the English language, I look forward to entertaining/boring you in 2009.

Happy New Year!

30 December 2008

Round Two: Edinburgh

In ten days time, I will be leaving for study abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. As Edinburgh is not nearly as well-known as Oxford, I feel that a bit of background on both the city and the University is in order.

Edinburgh: Known as the Athens of the North, it is the capital of Scotland and the seventh largest city in the UK, boasting a population of 468,000 (making it over twice the size of Oxford). Incidentally, a large number of people mispronounce the city's name, calling it 'Edin-burg', 'Edin-borough', or 'Edin-bur'. It is actually pronounced 'Edin-burra'. (If you do not believe me, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media:En-uk-edinburgh.ogg and click the sound file.) The city itself is split into two sections: Old Town and New Town. The Old Town, where the university is located and where I will be living, was the original city and still contains many of the medieval buildings that formed Scotland's early capital. The center of the Old Town is the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is essentially that, one mile of road linking Edinburgh Castle (the ancient seat of the Scottish kings) and Holyrood Palace (where the kings moved when they decided the Castle was too drafty). The New Town is more recent and boasts Georgian architecture.

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 and is internationally renowned. (As you can see, I simply will not settle for second-rate institutions when I study abroad.) It currently ranks within the world's top 25 universities and notable alumni include Gordon Brown (the current prime minister), Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, and assorted others whom I do not particularly feel like mentioning at this moment.

For the benefit of those who are likely to be reading this at the present moment and worrying(aka my mum), I've drawn up a helpful map to set your mind at ease.
Unfortunately, the picture has come up a bit fuzzy, but no matter. An explanation of the various sites:
1. Edinburgh Castle: The centerpiece of Edinburgh and the most well-known site. It sits on top of an ancient volcano (which, do not fear, is entirely dormant). St. Margaret's Chapel, located within the castle complex, is the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating from the early 12th century.
2. New Town: For an explanation, see above. It is here that I will do all of my shopping, as IKEA and the mall are located within the New Town.
3. Train: One needs to get around somehow. Unfortunately, train tickets in the UK are very expensive. However, the bus going to the airport picks up from the airport, so it serves as a good departure reference point.
4. Old Town: For an explanation, see above. It is in the Old Town that I will likely spend most of my time, as I find it more preferential than the New Town.
5. Holyrood Palace: Originally founded as a monastery in the early 12th century, it has been used as the primary residence of the Kings of Scotland since the 15th century.
6. Arthur's Seat: The main peak in a group of hills (the Salisbury Crags) in the city center, some claim that the name 'Arthur's Seat' is linked to the legendary King Arthur. It provides absolutely stunning views of the city (as I remember from the last time I was in Edinburgh) and I am resolved to run/climb to the top at least once a week. After all, what is the use of having such an excellent vantage point if one does not make use of it.
7. George Square: The center of the University of Edinburgh, all of my classes are located within this complex.
8. The Meadows: One of the largest parks in Edinburgh (after Holyrood Park), I will be living less than two minutes walk from it. While it doesn't promise the scenic views that Christ Church meadow did (and how my heart longs to run in such a location again!), I predict that I will become quite familiar with it by the end of my first week. I can run to my heart's content and home is only a few blocks away.
9. 102 Warrender Park Road: I will be living in flat 7, room 2. Apparently, I have four other flat-mates whom I will meet sometime on January 10th or 11th. As to who they are or where they are from, I have absolutely no clue. I suppose that is part of the experience. Anyways, the accommodation is self-catered, meaning that I am going to have to cook everything for myself. I forsee a lot of salads, chicken, curry, pasta, and rice in my near future.

13 December 2008

It is raining and I leave Oxford in two hours. I feel like my soul has died...

10 December 2008

In the past 14 days, I've gotten a grand total of 30 hours of sleep.

In the past 9 days, I've written 54 pages worth of papers, 19 pages of which were written in the last 24 hours.

I think there is something seriously wrong when the amount of pages I am writing far exceeds the amount of sleep I am getting.

On a happier note, I had my last tutorial today. I wrote a 3000 word paper for it last night summing up the Imperial Theme as we had discussed it this past semester. I started the paper at 6:00, took a break at 7pm in order to get a Katy's Cider at my favourite pub, Far From the Madding Crowd, and then went back to work at 8:30. I was finished by 10:30. Not too shabby. The tutorial went well, despite the fact that I had to fight incredibly hard to keep myself from spacing out due to exhaustion. Immediately after, I started work on the integral essay that was due at 3pm. I suppose it is my own fault for having left it so late; however, I had so much other work to do there was no time to start it earlier. Anyways, I finished within by 2:30, which means that I wrote 1960 words on the integration of religious thought and practice in the western church between 1000-1400 in two and a half hours. Also not too shabby.

Tomorrow, I am going to London fairly early in the morning for the Oxford versus Cambridge rugby match. I've been looking forward to it for quite some time, but was doubtful whether or not I was going to be able to go due to the purse situation. However, I now feel that I will be able to spare the 15 pounds that it will cost to get me to London and back, so am going to go. It should be great fun and a well-earned reward for all of the work that I've done this past term.

It's hard to believe that I will be leaving in three days. In fact, I am trying hard not to think about it. I mean, I know that I will be back in Oxford to visit Karen in 44 days, but it still hard. Incidentally, I will be moving in to my flat in Edinburgh in one month's time! I'm living in 5/12 South College Street, Edinburgh. What does this mean? I'm in Flat 12 at 5 South College Street. It is self-catered and I will have 3 other flat-mates. But I am incredibly excited. On to better, colder, more northerly things...

I've recently been thinking more about grad school and have created my short list: (posted in no particular order)
1. University of Oxford
2. University of Edinburgh
3. London School of Economics and Political Science
4. John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

It's going to be a stretch, but perhaps I can do it...

06 December 2008

Where am I today? I wish that I knew.

I've had one absolutely hellish week. I still love Oxford, but, man, it has been tough. It was eighth week, which is the last official week of term and equivalent to finals week. To be honest, I only just barely made it through.

My schedule:

Sunday: Arrived home from Istanbul around 5:30pm, caught up with friends, attempted to start 'Imperial art' paper but failed.

Monday: Went running in Christ Church, went to History Faculty library, realized that books had been all taken out, went to lunch, went to Bodleian, went to Stained glass, cut glass for bowl and placed it into kiln, went to bodleian, had major freak out due to stress back at St. Michael's.

Tuesday: went running, went to seminar until 1230, ate lunch, went to stained glass, started cutting glass for new bowl as last one did not fire properly, went to bodleian, went to dinner, went to bodleian and started research for Bermuda tutorial paper and seminar paper, went to St. Peter's library until 3am to write 'Imperial art' tutorial paper.

Wednesday: went to History faculty to research, went to lunch, went to stained glass and made jewelry, went to bodleian, wrote colonialism in Bermuda tutorial paper from 4 to 10, ate dinner, sleep.

Thursday: Went running, lunch, continued research for Arthur paper, went to tutorial, went to stained glass, placed bowl in kiln, went to bodleian to research, went to St. Peter's bar with friends, came back and pulled an all-nighter to get my 15 page seminar paper done.

Was up from 730am on Thursday to 1:30 am Saturday.

I spent from 1230am to 1pm writing my seminar paper, edited it, and then turned it in. We decided to go to the club last night to relax, but while there, my purse was stolen. Now I have no way of paying for anything and am really stressed out.

03 December 2008


My camera has a video function which allows you to take footage. Unfortunately, the quality is absolutely terrible. But I did make a few attempts to bring the action to those at home.

Here are some of the results:

My Message Home from the Piazza de San Pietro

Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi by Night

Quick Greetings from Italy (Where, apparently, my eyebrow had a spasm attack)

Fake BBC Newscast from St. Peter's Piazza in the Vatican City (Which quickly descended into an attempt to just name every single British thing that we could think of)

Tour of St. Peter's Basilica (Which, unfortunately, did not really turn out that well due to the low video quality. Still, it gives you some sense of the immense size of the place.)

Prayer Call at the Blue Mosque (Our first full day in Istanbul and this is what we heard)

Istanbul by Night/ Blue Mosque by Night, the last night

02 December 2008

I can't post until I finish the three papers that are due this week.

But some photos for your viewing pleasure...

Perugia 1: http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2030290&l=68ca1&id=115201975

Remember that time...? (Perugia 2):

This Strange Place in which we live (Oxford):

Turkey on Thanksgiving (Istanbul 1):

Crusade 2008 (Istanbul 2):

This is Istanbul (Istanbul 3):