23 December 2009

It is break -- excuse lack of writing ability

As promised, here is a more extensive update.

The past two weeks have been absolutely insane. This is indicated by the fact that my body has already started to repair the damage that it did to my emotional state by simply blocking it out. Indeed, when I think back, the majority of the end of the semester is a black screen punctuated by a few good moments. To recap:

Friday, Dec. 11: Turned in final paper for Politics of the Middle East after missing my 6am alarm and finishing the final sentences at 10:20 (in preparation for my 10:40am class). Now know too much about inefficient agricultural practices and the potential improvements to be made in the realms of virtual water and desalination technology. On the plus side, its completion meant that my final writing sample for graduate school was finished. Went shopping with Karen to relieve stress and then to the gym for ages.

Dec, 12: Party in the suite...sort of. Still, a wonderful night.

Dec. 13: Last day at work was spent reading through my Politics of the Middle East texts. 11 chapters in 3 hours (the remaining 2 were devoted to the Politics of Terrorism).

Dec. 14: Politics of Middle East exam. Prior to taking this exam, I had heard stories of people simply blanking out upon seeing their exams, but didn't believe that this could actually happen. Well, despite the hours that I had poured into re-reading my texts and typing up my notes (my way of studying), I completely blanked as soon as I saw the exam (one essay question comprising four huge components). It wasn't especially difficult, but it was as if my mind had become a sponge that had suddenly been wrung dry of its contents. It was horrible and it took me 20 minutes before I could actually write anything. The rest of the day was spent freaking out over the fact that all of the hard work I had put in for the semester in order to be able to apply to Oxford for grad school would be for nought if I got a B. Gym, of course.

Dec. 15: Spent the entire day working on my Historiography take-home final. Politics of Terrorism final from 7 to 9pm. It went extremely well. I was all set to stay in the suite afterward and work on my take home, but my suite-mate Chris managed to convince me out to go to midnight breakfast (a once-a-semester event from 9-12am during exam time where they serve a free breakfast in the Great Room and provide entertainment as a way of beating exam stress). I am glad that he did. I returned, went running on the track, and then set down to work.

Dec. 16: Miserable day in which I woke up at 6am to work on my massive ARchaeology Lab analysis report. Turned in Historiography final, found out that I got an A on my politics of Middle East exam (as to exactly how, I have no idea. Also got a perfect score on my paper, but that is beside the point), and pushed myself to the limit in order to get the report done. Finished at 4:30 (for 5pm deadline), but had both printer and car troubles (the lab is located a mile away off Rosecroft Road), which resulted in my sprinting across Waring Commons and through Kent Hall yelling for people to get out of my way in order to get the report printed. Eventually turned it in at 5:02, but scared my room-mate Karen half to death in the process. The afternoon culminated in my almost having a heart attack due to stress. Going to dinner after handing that report in was a surreal event. Officially, I was done with finals. But it just didn't feel...real.

Dec. 17: Work. Gym. Packing.

Dec. 18: Drove home. Found out that I had been accepted for the MA International Relations at King's College London. If I accept (and at this point it seems highly likely that I will), I will leave for my internship in Edinburgh in May, head straight to grad school, and not return to the USA until September 2011. It is a realization that is both scary but thrilling.

Dec. 19: It snowed 23 inches. I spent most of the day shoveling the driveway in an attempt to escape the freezing temperatures inside the house.

The past day or so has been spent finalizing the various components of my applications to Oxford. With an offer from King's, I now have no need to apply to St. Andrew's or Edinburgh. So just the two Oxford applications and then I am done with this grad school business. Currently waiting on LSE. My grades this semester were sufficient enough so as to boost me above the 3.7 mark and allow me to apply to Ox. Such a good feeling./

20 December 2009

I will post a better update soon, but for now:
1. It snowed ridiculous amounts here (parent's house in Laurel) between Friday and Saturday night. 23 inches!
2. I was accepted for the 1-year MA International Relations in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.

17 December 2009

Life keeps trucking along, for whatever reason. Every day I wake up from my four hours of sleep amazed that morning has come again.

The past two weeks have been absolutely hellish. In the past fourteen days, I've given two presentations, given a lecture on Somalia, argued in a debate, written 2 15-page papers and 1 25-page paper, and taken two exams. I am burnt out, both physically and mentally. I've been so geared up and stressed out that sometimes it takes going to the gym twice a day in order to tire myself out to the point where I can actually attempt to get some semblance of sleep.

Despite all of this, I am content and happy (Two words that do not often appear in a sentence accompanied by 'I am'). I am aware that things have a habit of changing quite quickly, so I shall just hope for the best and remember how I am feeling at this moment.

That said...I am now done with fall semester of senior year!!!!!!!! Thank god!

06 December 2009

This was an excellent week, mostly for reasons that I cannot and shall not disclose here.

I can say that there is a strong possibility (VERY strong) that I will be in Edinburgh as soon as two weeks after graduation until August. For legitimate purposes, mind you. Unfortunately, I cannot say any more about this as of right now. But it is a separate offer from the job offer that I had mentioned previously.

It is as if the floodgates of possibility fell open this past week. The future is uncertain, but thrilling all the same.

In other news, it is snowing everywhere else in Maryland, but not here at St. Mary's. Scratch that: it did snow for about ten minutes but did not stick. Instead, it rained and maintained a steady bone-chilling temperature all day. Absolutely miserable. It doesn't help matters that Waring Commons, where I live, has been freezing for the past two days. The air-conditioning keeps turning on periodically and I have been forced to wear gloves in order to get any work done at all. Between the cold and the incredibly dull reading that I have to complete on hydropolitics (for my paper due on Friday), I have spent the day feeling as if I am slowly dying. Not a pleasant feeling at all, to be sure.

02 December 2009

All of my hard work on my Politics of Terrorism paper paid off: A+. I was also asked to present a briefing on the situation in Somalia to the class to take up the entire class period on Monday.

01 December 2009

I received an unexpected job offer today. Without going into much detail, I can tell you that if I fail to get into graduate school that I can at least expect to be working in Edinburgh, Scotland by this time next year.

It is a pleasant feeling to know that one has someplace to be.

In other news, today was almost the perfect day. I have not been so happy in a long time. The job offer and an A on my Historiography paper (completed in under 2 days for those who do not remember) had a little bit to do with it, but not entirely. As to the rest.... :)

SMP outline, archaeology lab report, and a 20-page hydropolitics paper due before the 12th. Four exams before the 17th. Excellent.

In the meantime, I am procrastinating by working on my graduate school applications to Oxford, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews. :)

27 November 2009

Dear LSE and King's College London,

As it has been several months (in the case of KCL, 2) since I submitted my grad school applications to your respective institutions, I would very much appreciate it if you could come to a decision as to whether or not I am accepted to my chosen program. It would make my holiday season that much cheerier to have some inkling as to where I will be in a year's time.



In all seriousness, I am getting a bit antsy waiting around to see what the result will be. Round 2 of grad school applications, this time to Oxford (2 programs) is fast approaching.

I had a nice Thanksgiving. Two days has been enough of a break for me to de-stress. I'm ready to go back to school now. But first off to DC to see Brad on Saturday!!!!

24 November 2009

Thirteenth week is here and, for the most part, over, considering that we go on Turkey break this afternoon. It is coming at an opportune moment for me as I am getting ill after having put myself through hell the past few weeks.

Last week was mostly unremarkable save for the fact that I spent Tuesday afternoon fulfilling my ODK service requirement by volunteering with FLOW Mentoring at the Chesapeake Charter School. I spent four hours helping a group of children ages 9 to 12 decorate sugar cookies, which we then took the worst nursing home I have ever seen. It was in a terrible state and I am amazed that such conditions are allowed in this day and age. It is rare that something like that affects me so, but I was incredibly upset after leaving and it took me a while to recover from the experience. The rest of the week was spent preparing for my SMP meeting on Thursday and writing my 25 page paper for the Politics of Terrorism.. It turned out quite well and it was such a relief to hand it in on Friday.

The entire weekend was spent doing the research for my 15-page Historiography paper. I started writing on Sunday night (the earliest possible time that I could do so) and finished shortly before the deadline of 2:30 on Monday. It came out at 20 pages and I am taking my father's word that it was a good paper. We shall see.

Now I have a few days to 'relax' (as if I ever could do such a thing) before my Politics of the Middle East paper and Archaeology analysis are due. Then its finals. Blah.

18 November 2009

Right now I wish that I could go back to the precise moment when I decided that taking five upper level classes would be an excellent idea. I would slap myself for I have now realized the error of my ways.

Hindsight is a bitch.

13 November 2009

My time has been occupied by procrastinating the writing of my two papers due before Thanksgiving. My favorite one is looking at terrorism in failed states with a case study in Somalia (and I've talked about this paper endlessly on here). It truly is fascinating, if a bit depressing, and the few people (namely my parents) who happen to read this blog can expect a full diatribe on the subject to appear here within a few days. I know more than enough on the topic and could possibly see myself using it as part of my graduate thesis. I think my main hesitation in starting to write is that I am using this as one of my writing samples for Oxford. When it comes down to it, it is the writing samples that can make or break your application. If this essay is good enough, it could be what helps me to attain my dream of going to Oxford for graduate school. As such, it is hard for me to begin to put pen to paper (er...key to keyboard??) as I worry that it will not turn out as it needs to. I've three pages written and consider them all absolute crap. Which ultimately compounds the fear that it will turn out to be a shitty paper. Anyways, I plan on writing it tonight and getting a second opinion from my numero uno editor tomorrow. That will give me a week for editing.

The other is a paper for historiography that is examining how historians' perceptions of the Great Plague of London in 1665 have changed over time. That should be a breeze considering that the majority of the sources for my SMP come from 1665.

Two more papers are due after the break (one on the politics of water in the Jordanian River Basin that examines the potentiality of a treaty of international cooperation in order to preserve the dwindling water supply, the other an analysis of my plowzone unit in Archaeology), but this isn't as worrisome since I will use the break to get them done.

Other than that, things have been going splendidly here. Much better than usual, I must admit, although I shall not say why here.

Today marks 6 weeks since I turned in my application to King's. Two more weeks of waiting! I'm off to DC for Lebanese with some friends and then spending the night partying like a rockstar...by writing my terrorism paper. Such is the life of a college senior who hopes to get a 4.0 this semester. It's a tough life :)

06 November 2009

I have recently been facing some criticism for my failure to update this blog regularly. I keep meaning to...but find myself too busy to actually get around to it.

My life these days centers around the following: working at the archaeology labs at Historic St. Mary's City, working at the campus store, going to class, working on my SMP (which is slowly consuming my life), working on the 4 massive papers I have due soon, and going to the gym. The gym/track are my sole stress relievers these days. I go 5-6 days a week and average about 4.5 miles a night. Karen usually goes with me. It has paid off...a few weeks ago i ran a 5k for suicide prevention and came in at 26:44 which, considering that I had (and still have) an injured ankle and experienced a rather nasty fall about 3.5km in, is not too shabby.

Back to Somalia and the plague (two topics which are neither cheery nor uplifting).

04 November 2009

10th week... 5 more left to go.

Hallowgreens was last weekend. Several of my friends (and by this I mean a veritable herd - 6 people) came from home and stayed in the suite. Despite being separated from them, I had an awesome time. I met some great people and engaged in a great round of mud wrestling (literally -- the green space in the townhouses flooded due to the pouring rain) with Brian and Karen. It was an excellent final Hallowgreens.

I am currently finishing the research for my 25-page Terrorism paper and 1st Oxford writing sample -- Failed States & Terrorism: Fighting Radical Islamism in Somalia. I now know more about Somalia than I ever thought possible. Except a rant on it sometime in the near future.

I am finishing up my final lab hours at Historic this week. The achievement is bittersweet since what I spent the past 40 hours doing --washing, labelling, and cataloguing artifacts -- is what I will be doing 20 hours a week next semester. I imagine that I might start to dream about rusted iron blobs and trying to figure out whether they are wrought, cut with wrought heads, cut, or wire nails. Ugh.

Today was my last advising appointment at St. Mary's. My schedule next semester will be as follows:
Monday: Serve as Research & Collections Intern at Historic 8:30-5:00
Tuesday: BIOL101 10-11:50; Bio Lab 1-2:50
Wednesday: Intern at Historic 8:30-5:00
Thursday: BIOL101 10-11:50; SMP meeting 4-4:30
Friday: Intern 8:30-12:30

30 October 2009

9th week is almost over. 6 weeks of classes left to get through. In the meantime, I have to write 4 20+ page papers and make a detailed outline of my SMP. Oh yeah, and apply to 3 more graduate school programs.

Tomorrow I will get inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honors Society.

Life continues to move on. Perhaps another blog entry will follow soon.

17 October 2009

"No dawn, no day. I'm always in this twilight."

Another week has passed and a new one is soon to begin: eighth week by my calendar. 8 out of 15. Halfway through a semester that has been trying at best. My midterms have been completed and I have about a week before I need to seriously focus my attention on the four major papers that I must complete before Turkey Day (Thanksgiving for those of you who celebrate it).

I submitted my narrowed down topic to my SMP adviser and so now have a definite question to research and answer. AS for what it is...that is for another day.

More later. I am too wiped out by work and need to catalogue some plague treatises before 7.

11 October 2009

Historiography and Archaeology midterms? Done.
King's, LSE, Cambridge apps? Done.
Foreign Service Test Taken? Done.

I currently look like I have been in a car wreck (literally) after an altercation that took place on my way into DC to take the Foreign Service exam. I learned that walking into the testing center covered in blood (my own FYI) is perhaps not the best fashion style to rock.

I am currently at home, but am heading back down to St. Mary's tomorrow morning to work. Two midterms to take this week...

02 October 2009

Life is unexpectedly stressful down here on the river. Luckily, there seems to be a break in the storm clouds that have descended over my life these past two weeks or so.

So...what's new: My King's application is completely in. I should have a decision within 6-8 weeks. Also, I am now the new President of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society, St. Mary's Chapter. I plan to use my new power to establish a dictatorial regime. Just kidding. (Or am I?) I was also accepted to Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. I will be rocking some serious bling (in terms of cords) at graduation.

Schedule for the upcoming weeks:

Saturday, 3 Oct: Hawktober Festival with Beer Garden at River Center

Sunday, 4 Oct: Working at the store from 10-5.

Tuesday, 6 Oct: Work at store 7:30-11; I'm leading a student-to-student discussion about study abroad in the UK 2:30-3:30; archaeology lab work 4:00-5

Wednesday, 7 Oct: Middle East 10:40-11:50; Terrorism 1:20-2:30; (Historiography midterm due); Working PAT table at IE week 4:30-5:30; 6:30-7:30

Thursday: Work at store 7:30-11; Archaeology Artifacts practicum 2:00-3:50, SMP meeting 4:00-5:00; HOME

Friday: Foreign Service Officer Test 10:30-1:30

25 September 2009

Just finished my application to King's College of London. I have about two weeks of rest before LSE posts its application online. Then a break until January.

24 September 2009

"And atte rotte aboue: hyt haþe the vertue of the celestial bodyes, the whiche þe spirite animal be corrumped in hymselff, and of this speke Avicenna, the iiij boke. Be the forme of the ffyrmament lyttelly the bodyes be enffect, ffor the impression of the ffyrmament the aer douth corrumpe, and so the spirite be enffecte in man, and of thys seyde Avicenna in the iiij boke. Of the forme of the firmament, the bodyes likely be infectted, ffor the impression of the ffirmament corrumpe the aer, and so the spiritte dow corrumpe in man."
- "A Translation of the "Canutus" Plague Treatise" by Joseph Pickett in Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England, edited by Lister Matheson (East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1994).

And this is some of the stuff that has actually been translated for me! Don't even get me started on the Latin translations! One year of Latin simply does not suffice, but I am muddling through the best I can. Learning on the job, I suppose.

It is no wonder that I am exhausted after hours of this stuff.

23 September 2009

I've done it. My application to Cambridge has been submitted online. For better or worse, I clicked 'submit' and paid the application fee. There is no turning back now.

Of course, this is only really the first step on a long road that will culminate in either success or a rejection. After this, I have to send multiple copies of my supporting documents and references to the BoGS, and a separate copy of my entire application to the Dept. itself. Still, it is a small success for me, who as of this morning thought that the entire situation was hopeless and that I would never come up with a suitable response as to why I wanted to pursue a master's degree. (That said, I am not entirely sure that what I ended up with was a suitable response -- only time will tell!).

Now I wait until they tell me what else they want me to send. Back to gathering sources for my SMP (which is a whole separate issue in itself and provides enough fodder for a completely separate post) and attempting to sleep more than four hours a night.

22 September 2009

By this time tomorrow, I will have submitted my Cambridge and King's applications online. All that will be left to do is mail in my other application materials.

Oh. My. God.

18 September 2009

Time is running out, I'm standing still

The third week of school is now officially over. I've officially run out of the 'free' $20.00 pay-for-print that we get for each term, meaning that I've printed over 200 pages. Most of it is for my SMP, which is steadily consuming all of my free time. More on this subject a bit later. First, a recap:

Classes have been going well. I've already given three presentations in Historiography and have two scheduled for next week. My Terrorism class is absolutely fab (as a certain former professor of mine was fond of saying) and I am having dinner with my professor on Monday in order to find out about his life. Archaeological Analysis is turning me into a ceramic experts. I now know more than I ever possibly wanted to know about 17th, 18th, and 19th century pottery. I also now know how to process, clean, and bag artifacts. Pottery. brick, and prehistoric arrowheads can be washed. Nails, iron, and all mortar needs to be dry-brushed. Both thrilling processes, especially when performed at 8:30 in the morning. Please note the considerable sarcastic overtones.

In all seriousness, everything is going well. The work itself is not tasking in the least, but the amount of work is, especially when added with the time spent in class. It took considerable coordination on the part of Karen and myself in order to find five hours a week in our schedules to go to archaeology lab. Most extracurricular activities have gone by the wayside this semester as I simply do not have the time. Luckily, I still can find time to go to the gym, which means that the stress hasn't been too bad. Yet.

What has been rather stressful is my SMP. After considerable contemplation and internal struggle, I realized that my interest in the Jacobites was nowhere what it needed to be in order to sustain me through a year-long project. While it seemed such a waste to simply set aside four months of research on the topic, I ultimately decided that it would be for the best. I will now be tracing the development in causal theories of the bubonic plague in England between 1347-1700 using plague tracts. I have a narrower idea as to what I will be looking at it, but care not to devulge all of my secrets just yet. For those who read this blog and are not yet aware, I am something of a plague expert. I made my first report on the plague in sixth grade and have been steadily developing my knowledge since then. In Oxford when my friends and I were studying for the integral exam, we each prepared a presentation on three topics so as to increase the general knowledge of the group. My plague presentation lasted an hour and, as I have been told, was 'more comprehensive than the original presentation'. Whenever anyone has a 'black plague' question (which is, admittedly, not that often), they come to me.

I think that there are some general misconceptions about what the SMP is. The St. Mary's Project is not merely a 'project' - a title which is incredibly misleading. In the end, it is a independent research endeavor that culminates in an 80-100 page paper and public presentation. It used to be required for all history majors, but is now elective. I knew that the entire thing would be hard going when I decided to do it. I had no idea just how hard until this week. My first task was to prepare a bibliography for my SMP in a week. I did so and came up with something along the lines of 81 sources. I thought that I had done quite well and was rather pleased with myself (if a bit worried that perhaps I had veered off in a completely different direction, as I sometimes am wont to do). Imagine my shock when I was informed that I need to have MORE sources and that my bibliography was not quite comprehensive enough!!! It was then that I knew this semester was going to be a ballbuster. I have a feeling that it is going to be a war between my SMP and myself in the end. Only one of us will come out on top. Hopefully it is me.

08 September 2009

'Oh, we're halfway there'

I told myself that I would get my graduate school personal statement done by tonight and so it only makes sense that I am now updating this. I will get it done, just perhaps not as early tonight as I might have wished. The first week of school is finished and today marks the start of second week (out of fifteen). Each passing means that the workload increases just a wee bit more, the stress levels rise, and the deadlines for my graduate applications become a little nearer.

Term started on Monday with a bang. I have a seeming inability to refuse those who ask me for help and, as a result, found myself awake (just barely) at the early hour of 7am in the campus store. Not having worked there for the past year and a half, my first few customer-service interactions were rough to be sure. However, I quickly got the swing of things and was once again at ease behind the til by 10:30 when I left. My first class of the semester was Politics of the Middle East. We will be discussing the culture and contemporary problems within the Middle East as well as American misconceptions about the region. It looks incredibly interesting and should be relatively easy in terms of workload (especially compared to the past year in the UK). We have a presentation, a midterm exam, a final paper of 10-15 pages, and a final exam. No sweat.

1:20-2:30 was Politics of Terrorism. The combination of a fascinating subject and an extremely interesting professor means that this will most likely be one of my favorite classes this semester. Once again, it should prove to be pretty easy: a public debate, midterm, a final paper and presentation of 10-15 pages (although I have grand plans for mine and hope to have my limit extended), and a final exam. Immediately following was two hours of Historiography. If any class is going to give me trouble this semester, it will be this one. The subject is dry and I have no inclination at all to study it. However, I need to earn the A (all A's this semester if I stand any hope at all of getting in to graduate school anywhere) and so will give it all the effort that I've got. I then ran back to the campus store to work from 5-8. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I returned to my flat.

I reported to work back at the campus store at 7:30am on Tuesday morning. I worked until 11 stocking shelves and filling book orders. At 2, I reported to Archaeological Lab and Analysis. Our first class was in Kent, but we will spend the rest of the semester in the archaeology labs at Historic St. Mary's City about a mile away. This class looks so cool. We will be spending a total of 40 hours in the lab over the course of the semester outside of class helping with the museum's research. In addition, our final project will be to take the contents of a recently excavated 5ft x 5ft square and process and analyze the contents. We will then write an analytical report which will enter the museum's archives and contribute to their overall understanding of the site. I am terribly excited to get started. The only downside will be having to bike to the labs in the rain.

Wednesday and Thursday passed in much the same manner as Monday and Tuesday. On Friday, I drove to Branch Avenue Metro after class to pick up Brad for the weekend. My flat had a black & white party, and both he and Elysa joined us in the merriment. Quite fun.

I spent all of today with Elysa working on grad school applications, part of which I am now off to finish.

Week 2!

31 August 2009

Move-in went well. Living out of suitcases for the past year has really helped me to narrow down exactly what I need in the course of daily living. Gone are the days when I brought seven pairs of rowing spandex for those emergency rowing scenarios (which I can't imagine ever arising). As a result, my father and I hardly taxed ourselves taking things out of the van and Old Blue up into the flat. It was a nice change.

St. Mary's is as rural and humid as ever. I had forgotten how hot and humid it gets down here by the water and have been dying each moment that I am forced to venture outside. On the other hand, Waring Commons (where I live) seems to have its own climate and as I write this I am bundled in my winter coat. I wouldn't be surprised if I wake up tomorrow and find ice in my water bottle. My flat is lovely. It is on the second floor in the back quad of houses, close to the forest. My flatmates (for I refuse them to call them my 'suitemates') and I spent yesterday hanging Ashleigh's oil paintings in the common room and making plans to make it more comfortable.

Karen and my's room is decently sized (although nothing compared to the palatial room I had in Edinburgh). I decided to take the initiative this year and actually decorate my side. I had planned to opt for a classy and sophisticated look, but somehow seem to have paid homage to the UK/the world in general. Still, anything is better than the drab white walls. I will post pictures at some point as I imagine that Mum and my relatives might be interested.

Today was spent emailing my advisers and finding more sources for my dissertation meeting on Thursday. I looked absolutely mental emerging from the library with a stack of ten books teetering in my arms and weaving my way through the crowds of young, naive, and idealistic freshman organized into their orientation groups down by St. John's pond. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And so the Jacobites and I spent some quality time together this afternoon before I gave up in favor of going to Christian's birthday dinner at Monterey's.

I had planned hitting up the gym tomorrow morning before classes begin, but my plans have been thwarted by the phenomenon known as 'rush week' at the campus store. Tomorrow, everyone imaginable will be attempting to buy books and school supplies. As such, they need all available staff on hand. And I, while sleep-deprived, decided to volunteer to assist. So my schedule will be as follows:

7:00-10:30AM: Working rush at bookstore
10:40-11:50AM: Politics of the Middle East
12:00-1:00: Lunch with Karen
1:20-2:30: Politics of Terrorism
2:40-4:30: Historiography
4:30-5:00: Dinner
5:00-8:00PM: Working rush at bookstore
9:00-10:00PM: Running at track

Shower and bed will follow in preparation of getting up for work at 7:30 and my first forays at the archaeological lab.

27 August 2009

'In three days I'll be outta here and it's not a day too soon'

Suitcases packed? Checked.
Books bought? Checked.
Bike brakes fixed? Checked (er...not really. But this will be done! I can't go round riding a brake-less bicycle for another year.)
Emotionally and mentally prepared to go back to school? Checked and checked.

As much as I complained about not having had a break from school work since August 2007, I realized this summer that I miss it when I actually have some semblance of free time (although I don't know if the few hours I had to myself this summer could actually count as true free time). I missed the constant stress of having to meet deadlines and reading ridiculous amounts of material. I having a sneaking suspicion that Brad was correct in saying that I live my life on the brink of chaos. During the school year, I am always on the verge of the breaking point. Of course, this is also when I produce my best work.

As nice as the break was, I am ready to get back to work. The Jacobites have been severely neglected since I left spring break in Oxford and I will definitely need to pick up the slack upon my return to school. That said, I don't think that this year will be as hard as last. More filled with things to do and places to be, but not harder in terms of workload or expectations. I am taking five 'classes' (1 History, 2 Politics, 1 Anthropology/Lab Practicum, and a senior dissertation) and will be spending most of my time in Kent Hall. The rest of my time will be spent working at the bookstore, serving as an international ambassador, helping to run our school's chapter of Amnesty International, and running. I had hoped to return to rowing or equestrian team this semester, but it looks like this will be unlikely.

In other news, Cambridge posted the 2010-11 application online, which led to about five minutes of nervous/excited yelling to my brother and then two minutes of hyperventilating. It is one thing to be applying to these grand universities in theory (i.e. in the future), but once the application is posted and a deadline set...well, it makes it all a bit more real. Cue nervous stress now. I know that I shouldn't get myself worked up over this, but let's face facts: this is me we are talking about. Of course I am going to get worked up and stressed over this. Hopefully, this will enable me to produce the best application that I can. We shall see.

My next post will be coming from St. Mary's City, MD. This is my last move until May 2010. It will be the longest that I have stayed in any one place for a while now and I expect that I shall get a bit stir crazy (as is often the case) come November. So a road trip might be in order...

Next post: The Jacobites. Who were they? Why were they important? Why should YOU care? (And you should!) HINT: 'Jacobites' is not a disease.

23 August 2009

I walk these streets like a stranger in my home time

To say that I want to change the world would be both cliche and unrealistic. But this is essentially what I wish to do. Change begins on the level of the individual. It is one individual helping, interacting, influencing, and enabling another individual in some way so as to improve that individual's life. If this change is passed on, it eventually spreads. A kind of 'pay-it-forward' system if you will. My actions may never solve the problem of world hunger or prevent poverty. All I can hope is that they will begin and contribute to the chain reaction that eventually leads to true change. But enough of that before I come off sounding foolish.

It has been a whirlwind few weeks. First, and most importantly, I got a new car. Well, new to me and that is all that really matters. Following the death of 'Rebecca's Red Rocket', my family acquired a 2002 dark blue Ford Focus that I have affectionately dubbed 'Old Blue' for the fact that it is a perfect shade of 'Oxford Blue' and because I am hoping that this will score me karmatic bonus points when it comes time to make my applications to Oxford. I am entirely serious when I say that there should be a section on the application that judges the amount of desire that you have to study at the university. I would win, hands down. For every time I mention that I miss the city and university, there are perhaps five times that I've left this sentiment unspoken for fear of annoying those around me and provoking them into rages such as those exhibited by some of my family and friends. Anyway, Old Blue is mine for the year and will then be turned over to my mother when I leave for graduate school (a bit of wishful thinking here on my part).

Another emotional event that took place recently was the end of my internship at the US Department of State. I finished on Friday to mixed emotions on my part. On one hand, I am happy that I no longer have to get 'up' (up being a figurative term in this case since I only actually get about 4 hours of sleep a night) at 5:10AM and commute 2 hours into work by car, metro, and shuttle bus (and then brave the rush hour traffic home). On the other, I miss having a sense of purpose, things to do each day, and something to stress about other than my grad school applications. It was a hell of an experience and I hope to get to do it next summer (provided that I don't actually get, say, a paying job).

Speaking of grad school, my applications are finally under way. Cambridge is due in October (or presumably so since the 2010 application has yet to make an appearance on the website) and I've set a personal due date of October for King's and LSE. If all goes to plan, I should have an offer (or rejection) by December/winter hols. An acceptance at any of the three will mean that I will not apply to St. Andrews (too far away from civilization despite its impeccable reputation) or Edinburgh (no actual course in IR or Development; I'd have to settle for multi-level politics). I'd still apply to Oxford (wishful thinking, of course, as I doubt that I will get in. But I still have to try...) I've my curriculum vitae in order and have been cracking along on my personal statements (although I am a bit afraid to set pen to paper in fear that what will emerge will be utter rubbish after so long a time away from actual writing). Things are finally falling into place.

I move back down to St. Mary's on Saturday. I've mixed emotions about this event as well, but this is better left for another day.

22 August 2009

"Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones that need to know
We are headed north

One foot in and one foot back
But it don't pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return"

15 August 2009

Wow! Has it really been almost a month since I last wrote? Time seems to have assumed a strange pattern recently: the days themselves pass with all the speed of a congressional hearing (which is to say, not much) whilst the weeks simply melt away. It hit me the other day that it is not only August, but almost halfway through August. Where did the first half of the month go? I'm not quite sure. Perhaps the memories of the first two weeks are hiding hazily somewhere amongst the monotony of the work week. Which is not to say that work is boring, as it certainly is not. It is just the predictability of getting up each day, driving to Greenbelt, riding the metro, and then taking the FSI bus that gets a tad bit tedious. Still, it has been such a wonderful experience. I will miss it when it is over.

In the past month, my parents had their 26th anniversary, my friend Laci moved into her first apartment, both my grandmothers were in the hospital (but are thankfully recovering from their respective ailments), and I went hiking in the Shenandoah mountains with some friends. Quite lovely. More importantly, John bought and installed my new keyboard into my laptop. My previous one had been deterioriating ever since I was attacked in Edinburgh after getting off the bus from London. It had gotten to the point where I could barely type a single sentence without half the letters missing. Being able to type my name is certainly an improvement! The other big news is that I have a car! We are going to pick it up in about fifteen minutes, so perhaps I will post pictures. It will be mine for the next year until I pack up to leave for grad school in the UK (all of this, of course, is assuming that I get in somewhere, a fact about which I am still rather doubtful).,

20 July 2009

"My Life Was So Much Simpler Before I Met You"

I wish there was such a thing as a speculative history major. If there were, I would be the first to sign up for it. The question of 'what if' could drive me absolutely mad if I ever decided to stop and ponder it. However, I am of the mind that everything happens for a reason if that reason is not immediately apparent at the time of the incident. So I shall just have to wait and see.

Since my last blog post (I think...I lack the inclination to go back and check), I've turned 21, continued on with my life as an intern at the State Department, have been in a car accident, and have continued to work on my grad school applications. All so thrilling, right? Perhaps not, but as I am under pressure to actually write on this thing, I suppose that details surrounding these incidents will have to be forthcoming.

Turning 21 wasn't as quite as exciting as everyone makes it out to be. Considering that I've been able to drink legally in the UK for the past year, it wasn't as if it were some great experience. To me, 21 is just another year in the grand spectrum of things. One year down, hopefully a few more to go (although one should never count on these things). However, I felt that I should at least pretend to be somewhat excited, and so my friends and I gathered for a night in Adams Morgan in DC. It was a bit strange because my home friends (Laci, Tina, Brian, and Amy) were mixed with my Oxford friends (Karen, Brad, and Elysa). We went to dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Farragut West and then headed to the Black Squirrel (and then Reef, and some rock n'roll club). I had a good time and really appreciated everyone traveling so far just for me. I think the highlight of the night was our having absinthe (complete with sugar and fire) at the Black Squirrel. Unfortunately, absinthe did not live up to its crazy reputation. I did not hallucinate and see the Green Fairy. It reminded me a bit too much of sambuca for my tastes.

My internship is going well. I work at the Foreign Service Institute (the State Department's Foreign Affairs Training Center in Rosslyn, Virginia) in the Transition Center. I assist with the Security Overseas Seminar, a mandatory course for all Foreign Service Officers and government employees heading overseas. It is interesting and fun, although the long hours do have a tendency of getting to me. Still, it has given me many great opportunities (for example, I assisted the US Delegation at the US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue that has been headlining the papers for the past few days). For more details, contact me directly.

I do have a bit of sad news to report. Last Monday, whilst driving home from Greenbelt metro station, I was rear-ended on I-95. Besides the obvious psychological distress that this caused me, my poor car, the Red Rocket, was totaled. The insurance company made the official declaration today. I am incredibly upset. It was the perfect car for me and only tried to kill me once. And now...

In the meanwhile, I have grad school applications to distract me. I just found out that in order to be considered for financial aid at Cambridge, I have to submit my application by October 15th. So it is now rush, rush, rush for me to get everything together. I'm not too worried. I am also hoping to get King's and LSE's applications done by October as well. Which will just leave the two Oxford apps, along with Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Wooh. Everything is finally coming together.

09 July 2009

"Rebecca, why don't you update your blog more often?"

"Because, as far as I can tell, I am no longer 'abroad' and so keeping the blog is pointless. What would I write?"

"Oh, I don't know. Just update it."

And so, after having had this conversation at least once a day since my return, I am now getting around to updating. I have been home for a little over a month.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to my friend Elysa's graduation party in St. Mary's Co. On the way down, I picked up Nolly, Becky, and Karen from various locations in Maryland. All of us were at Oxford together. I had worried that seeing them again would be a bit awkward after so long a time away. However, the five or so months that had passed since we last saw each other made no difference. Indeed, it felt as if I had just seen them the day before. It was wonderful. As was the whole trip in general. It was just the thing that I needed in order to reintigrate myself into the US culture. To allow me to merge the two parts of my life into one again. And yet, it was strange to see Brad, Nolly, and Becky in a place other than Oxford (and in So. MD of all places!)

The week passed in a haze of ice luging, pina coladas, boating, sunning, and eating. On the final day, Elysa and I had our long-awaited grad school day (which we had arranged for ourselves). Holed up in St. Mary's career center for eight hours, we poured over books on grad school admissions, financial aid, CVs, and personal statements. By the end, we were considerably more knowledgable about the entire process than we had been, but a bit more worried about our prospects of getting in at all. It is hard to remain motivated and upbeat when your proposed course only accepts 19 students a year. We are having another grad school day in late July/early August, by which time I hope to have a personal statement done and CV finalized.

In other news on the grad school front, I've removed Oxford Brookes from my list and so am down to six schools (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, King's) and seven programs (I'm a being a bit risky in applying to the MSc Global Governance and the MPhil IR at Oxford, but I have good reasons for doing so and can properly defend my course of action). I've also got two recomendees, which is such a relief since now I only really need one more (but probably will get two). I was so nervous that I wouldn't be able to get anyone that I really just thought about giving it all up. (Don't worry: I don't give up that easily.)

I've started my internship at the State Department and turned 21. The two things are not related, and more will follow on each at a later date.

16 June 2009

Today was my first day at the State Department. I can't disclose further details because then they would have to kill me.

Just kidding! In all seriousness, they would not be pleased and I could potentially get an infraction against me. Although I doubt that my common sense would fail me and I would post anything that could be considered even remotely damaging, I don't want to take my chances. Still, the orientation got me incredibly pumped for the internship. Only 1500 interns were accepted out of 8000 applicants. I had no idea that it was that competitive! This truly is the summer of possibility.

When I have the time, my next update will include:
-Grad School Day!
-The details of Elysa's graduation party and what I have been doing with my life since returning back to the good ol' US of A.

31 May 2009

I return to the US tomorrow. My parents (Mum and Dad - look! I've mentioned you in my blog in a positive context!) are ecstatic (or so they tell me). As for myself, I am significantly less ecstatic.

29 May 2009

'The hardest part was letting go, not taking part' (Reflections on a Year Abroad)

(Originally posted on Facebook for my friends.)

This note has been several days in the making as I have found it unexpectedly difficult to express in words my feelings towards this past year: my junior year abroad. I still cannot quite believe that it is coming to an end within the next few days. Indeed, I catch myself thinking 'well, next semester I...' and then it hits me that next semester I will be back at St. Mary's. Back to a school of 1,800 in rural Southern Maryland after having studied at two of the world's top universities. It will take some getting used to, of that I am certain; however, the change is not an unwelcome one. It will be nice to get to relax (sort of) for a year after having pushed myself to the limit over the course of this past year. The purpose of this note is to detail the particulars of the past year (for the craziness of Oxford, see my ‘Memories of Oxford’ note), but rather to show exactly what studying abroad meant to me. It is a life-changing experience for everyone who goes through it and I am no exception.

My Oxford experience was...indescribable. To this day, I am still sorting out what happened to me between September and December. Nothing that I could write here could even come close to describing my experience and so I will not even attempt to do so. I hope that the depth of my appreciation for the experience that I had and for those I met can be adequately conveyed by my silence. Unbeknownst to me until the very last, Oxford managed to subtly and inextricably work its way into my heart. Returning in January was like breathing fresh air for the first time...I had the feeling of coming home more than I have ever had returning to my actual home. It is for this reason (as well as more academic ones that would bore those who are actually normal, well-socialized individuals to tears) that I have to get back for graduate school. It is not a desire, it is a need. Applying to Oxford may be my triumph...or my greatest failure. I have a feeling that it is most likely to be the latter scenario, but will not know for certain until March or April 2010.

In Oxford, I encountered some of my biggest challenges and made some of my closest friends. Despite my failure to maintain an effective balance between working hard and playing hard (I tended to work hard but play harder), I learned a lot from my mistakes. I've learned that it is alright to ask for help (and that others will not look down upon you for doing so), that you can spend eight weeks alone simply arguing about the definition of terms to be used, that I quite like the British spellings more than our 'bastardized' English (although I am using US spellings for the purposes of this note), and that I need to be more analytical in my essays. While these realizations came after the fact, I put them to good use in Edinburgh, where I finally got a hang of the UK university system. A bit belated, to be sure.

In Oxford, I had not received a single grade for the entire four months. So it came as something of a surprise when I received back my first essay for Medieval European history and got a 65. Still thinking in terms of the American grading system where a 65 is a solid D, I had a good three hours of panicking before I mustered up the courage to go to my tutor. The poor man looked at me as if I were crazy as I stood shaking in his office asking how I might improve my essay. The situation was only made worse by the fact that he had very few comments to offer me other than that it was a 'good essay, though you could have acknowledged the counterargument a bit more'. It took us a bit before we realized that it was a misunderstanding on my part that was the result of my stress.

It is strange to think that I worked harder in Edinburgh than I did in Oxford. Not only did I have more class time, but the constant preparation of essays and presentations (all of which seemed to be scheduled in the same weeks) meant that I was in a constant state of stress. However, I feel that my major achievement in Edinburgh was admitting when I needed help and seeking it out from my professors (a huge change from Oxford, where I was usually too intimidated to even ask). My time in Edinburgh was also notable for my involvement with Retrospect, the History journal, which provided me with the opportunity to get away from Warrender Park Road once a week and work with some amazing people. I am eager to see what the future holds for both the journal and those involved.

Studying abroad in the UK is not for everyone. If you want a relaxed experience then I would not suggest attending a British university. Cultural, it can be. Pubbing, kebab stands, ceilidhs, bops: all of these are part of the UK study abroad experience. Relaxing, on the other hand, is a concept seemingly unknown in the world of the UK university student. Between tutorials, seminars, lectures, essays, and exam revision there is very little free time. You will be forced to re-evaluate the concept of the weekend and mould it to fit your class schedule. Granted, you will spend much less time in the actual classroom (less than 8 hours a week for those in the humanities), but your out-of-class workload will be much higher. During presentation weeks at Edinburgh, I literally spent every spare hour that I had in the library. This is the major difference between the US and the UK educational system. In the US, you may be assigned pages or chapters in a book to read. In the UK, they expect you to read entire books (hence the term ‘reading’ for your degree). In fact, I had only one week where my reading list for my seminars was less than ten books. You are expected to come into seminar already knowing a large amount about the subject at hand. At the same time, you leave class feeling as if you’ve actually learned something.

Despite my struggle to achieve good marks in the UK and the stress that I subsequently endured, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Both Oxford and Edinburgh required me to push myself beyond what I thought was possible. Although it took me into my term at Edinburgh to get the hang of things, I learned to develop a more critical approach to history. I've become more of an academic, which is a rather frightening thought in itself, and my desire to go to graduate school has become stronger than ever. If nothing else, I can confidently say that no class at St. Mary's will be as hard as my tutorials and seminars over the past year. My workload may be unpleasant in the autumn, but it will be nowhere as intense as in the UK.

I had hoped to conclude with a bit of practical advice for those who may wish to study in the UK at some point in the near future. Unfortunately, I realized that most of my advice was location specific to either Oxford or Edinburgh (as in 'don't go to the big Sainsbury's near Westgate between 4:30-5:30pm if you do not wish to queue for the better part of an hour’ or ‘the kebab stand off Broad is rubbish’) and therefore inapplicable to the vast majority of the UK. Instead, I would like to thank everyone who I've met in this past year: the students and tutors at Oxford and Edinburgh universities, my fellow CMRSers, my flatmates, my parents and family, and, most of all, the friends that I've made. Thank you for walking down mountains with me in the rainy Italian night and initiating dramatic readings whilst cruising the Bosporus. Thank you for accompanying me to St. Peter's bar for a pint and then heading to the library to write an essay all night. Thank you for letting me sleep on your couch/bed/floor when I couldn't or didn't want to make it to my own. Thank you for crazy nights at Opium and Strongbows on the rare sunny days in the Meadows. As sad as I am to leave the UK, at least I have the benefit of knowing that it is not forever. I will be back in September/October 2010. Mark my words.

27 May 2009

A few weeks ago I mentioned that grand and exciting things were in the works. I can now reveal what these 'things' are: from June 15th to August 23rd I will be interning at the United States Department of States' Foreign Service Institute. It is a great honour and I am incredibly excited!

For the record, 'honour' is not misspelled. I have just gotten into the habit of using the UK spelling and am too lazy at the moment to make a conscience effort to revert back to 'bastardised' (another UK spelling) English (as the British refer to American english, an opinion with which I readily agree).

25 May 2009

So my flat was broken into last night. It's rather funny how the last week of each term always brings such trouble. In Oxford, my purse was stolen the weekend of 8th week. Here, we have a break-in. Luckily, only Allison's keg was stolen and some assorted food products. The only major casualty was my can of lentil soup, which the intruders decided would be funny to smear all over the counters. Bastards.

24 May 2009

Today, I made the 3 1/2 mile trek to Craigmillar Castle. I will post a write-up of my trip in the near future, but in the meantime, here are some pictures to tide you over.

23 May 2009

Summertime and the living's easy

Exam number three is done and I am finally free for the summer. In fact, this is the first time since August 2007 that I do not have to go to class at any point within the coming week. Amazing! In theory. I will admit that now I have absolutely no idea what to do with myself. The euphoria that I felt on Friday at 11:30 when I emerged from Adams House after having written two essays on the Black Death and popular religion has since evaporated. The end is here. I've said goodbye to several friends, the most recent on Thursday night. Some of them I will definitely see again as they like a half hour away from me in the States. Others...it will be a year or more.

I've spent the past two days of my new found freedom sleeping in late (or as late as someone who gets 3-5 hours of sleep a night can) and researching the intricate details surrounding my grad school applications (deadlines, where references need to be sent, whether they use paper or online applications, etc.). All of this is just proves what I've suspected all along: Oxford has ruined me for life. No longer can I truly 'relax'. I must always be doing something. Also, I think I am becoming something of an academic. Reading through the graduate course handbooks for the various schools that I am applying to is something of a thrill. It makes me just want to skip over the next year entirely. 30,000 word dissertation? Bring it on! In fact, I think one of the highlights of my summer may not be turning 21 (the fact that I've been able to drink legally here in the UK for the entire year has ruined the excitement that traditionally accompanies this 'landmark' birthday), but going to Elysa's graduation party in SoMD the weekend after I get home and having our 'grad school day' where we are taking over career services at St. Mary's. Terrifying, I know.

The main goal for the next week is to keep myself busy so that I don't go absolutely crazy. I am anxious to get home to see my parents, of course, but I also am extremely excited at seeing most of my Oxford friends at Elysa's on the 5th-7th. I haven't seen them in ages and the anticipation is all but killing me.

Sunday: Walking to Craigmillar Castle, a perfectly preserved medieval castle 3 miles SE of the city centre.
Monday: Taking the bus to Roslinn Chapel, made famous in Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'
Tuesday: Train to Dunfermline, ancient burial grounds of the Scottish kings
Wednesday: Maybe going to Linlithgow Palace or Blackness Castle on the Firth of Forth. Haven't decided yet.
Thursday-Sunday: My friend Marlise from Oxford is visiting friends in Glasgow. So I will probably meet up with her at some point during the latter half of the week.

22 May 2009

Tristan is graduating from Oxford today. It is a wonder that they put up with him long enough for him to earn a degree. Still, if I didn't have my exam, I would be down at the Sheldonian celebrating with him.

21 May 2009

Photos from the GReat Run


18 May 2009

The hardest part was letting go, not taking part.

My 'Blessed Union' exam came and went. It went as well as could be expected, aside from a slight moment of panic upon seeing the list of questions and realising that I had no idea as to the first two. Still, I found two questions that I could answer with confidence and left the test at 4:30pm with a right hand that has still not fully recovered from the ordeal. Afterward, Kelly and I met for lunch at Quizno's and then went to see 'Angels & Demons' at the cinema. Oh man. Ewan McGregor in priest's clothing. Epic. He simply gets better with age.

Friday was an absolutely horrible day in terms of weather. It had dropped to about 50 degrees and flooded us with a torrential downpour. It would figure that the weather would be so hideous on the one day that I did not have an exam. As a result, I left Warrender Park Road only to get lunch and go running. On Saturday, I woke up incredibly early to walk with Kelly to her exam and to go to the library. Of course, only after getting to the library did I realize that there was absolutely no need for me to have woken so early. Perhaps such a measure would have been necessary during the first few weeks of exams when seats in the library were a hot commodity. However, now that we have entered the final week and most people are completely finished, there are plenty of spaces to be had. Sunday was actually sunny, so I sat out on the Meadows for a while. That night was Kelly's last in Edinburgh, so Katie, Kelly, and I made chips (French fries) and sat in the flat kitchen for a while. It was quite nice.

Yesterday, Katie and I accompanied Kelly to the airport. It is strange to think that the end has finally come and people are leaving. I remember last semster at Oxford when the first of my friends began to leave. Becky left on the Thursday of 9th week and that is when I realizd that it was all coming to an end. That Friday night, when the everybody was in varying states of sadness and chaos, was one of the most difficult of my life. The pain that I felt...well, I can safetly say that it won't be bad this time around, but still...saying goodbye is difficult. Standing at the airport, waving goodbye, was made even more surreal by the fact that I will be in her position in two weeks time. My flight to London from Edinburgh leaves at (or around) 11:45am. I should be back in the States by 9pm (after a 4pm flight from London). I will admit that I am ready to come home. I am exhausted. I want to see my friends (those who actually took the time and effort to keep in touch, that is. As for those who 'couldn't be bothered' - we will be having words) and parents.

What does my return to the States mean for me? A return to normalcy, perhaps. A return to driving on the right, watching television, going to the mall, riding the Metro. It will be odd after so long a time away. Returning to St. Mary's in August will be even weirder after having attended Oxford and then Edinburgh, both of which are in cities and have student populations near 20,000. Luckily, I will be living with people that I like and taking classes that seem interesting. (They had better be - if I have any hope at all for Cambridge, I have to get a 4.0 both semesters.) In the end, it is only a year of my life and then I will be back in the UK for grad school.

What does all of this mean for this blog? I have not decided yet. Viaggiatory - On the move, given to traveling around: that is the theme of this blog. It was established so that others could join in my experiences as I lived in the UK. I doubt that I will be doing much traveling over this next year. Still, the thought of retiring it completely is a bit sad. Perhaps I shall write in it and record the 'St. Mary's experience'. We shall see.

17 May 2009

Class of 09 graduated from St. Mary's yesterday. 2010 is next.

I am next. Wow.

13 May 2009

Exam number one is done!!!! I have to admit that it was rough. I didn't get to sleep until 5:30am (not by my own fault, believe me) and was awoken at 10am by a man coming to measure my window for a new pane of glass. I spent two hours recording important addendums from my class notes onto my revision notes, ate lunch, and then spent an hour and a half reviewing my notes one last time. My exam was held in the Richard Verney Health Centre underneath Potterow. It was a bit daunting to see how they hold exams at a big university. My Popular Religion class was the second one called into the room. We had to sign several forms to mark our presence at the exam and keep our matriculation cards out at all times.

The exam itself was not too hard. We had to answer two questions (out of 8) in two hours, which is not terrible. However, I've pushed myself to the breaking point over the past year and a half, and my hand started cramping up two minutes in. Not a good sign at all. My first question was to discuss whether or not paganism and superstition existed only in the minds of churchmen in the late middle ages. I argued that yes, it did, as by the late middle ages most formerly pagan practices had been christianized and incorporated into the church. Indeed, this was how the church eased the path towards conversion. By taking pagan practices, re-modelling them to fit christian beliefs, and then incorporating them into popular christian practices, they would provide the laity with familiar traditions with which to follow and, hopefully, reconcile them to christianity. My examples included wells and springs (delving a bit into saints' cults and St. Guinefort), ghost and vampire stories, usage of charms, and festivals (Rogationtide).

My second essay argued that fewer women were attracted to Lollardy since the late medieval parish community provided them with roles which Lollardy denied them. Examples included fundraising opportunities (women often arranged festivals, brewed church ales), leadership positions (guilds, alewoman, etc.), domestic (they contributed in domestic ways to the parish community), and devotional (pilgrimages, devotion to images, veneration of saints). All of this was not possible under Lollardy which reinforced gender and familial roles, placing women under the male head of household. I had hoped to get six examples for each question, but this proved to be impossible. I barely finished my second essay in time, anyways. 13 A4 pages in the exam booklet. Ugh, ugh.

Afterward, I joined Kelly and Katie for lunch at Tasty Tatee's, a jacket potato joint. It has been ages since I've had a potato (in stark contrast to last semester at St. Peter's), so it was heaven. I then sat out on the Meadows enjoying the sun for two hours and am now preparing to force myself to get friendly with James VI and I. Oh yeah.

12 May 2009

Exam numero uno tomorrow. Popular Religion in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500. I have over 100 pages of notes, which theoretically means that I should be prepared. Still...

At least the weather has been nice here the last few days. Last week, it was absolutely miserable. The tree outside my leftmost bedroom window actually punched a hole in the window. I came home from my trip to the gigantic Murrayfield Sainsbury's (a grocery store chain in the UK) only to find glass on the window ledge, a golf ball-sized hole in the window, and numerous cracks. It took me ages to get a hold of an RA in order to file a maintenance request and, since I live on the first floor (ground floor is zero here) and, therefore, am not in danger of a burglary due to said hole, was told to place cardboard over the window until a glass repairman can be brought in. Well, that was on Wednesday. It is now Tuesday of the following week and the only change that has been made is that a large plywood board has been nailed to the window. Of course, this is better than it had been. I did not have access to cardboard on Wednesday as most of the stores were closed and I went to dinner with friends at the World's End. It was incredibly windy on Thursday morning and, when I woke up, I had glass shards all over me from where the window had broken further. (My bed is right next to the window.) Luckily, while I was outside with a friend, a repairman came in and nailed the board to the window. So I can now sleep without fear of being impaled by glass. On the other hand, I feel just a wee bit like I am in prison/an abandoned building.

Back to the weather. Last week it was so windy that any trip outside was made quite perilous indeed. I literally went outside twice a day: once to get lunch and once to go running. I no longer even attempt to go to the library as it is impossible to find a seat. Instead, I've been bringing the books home with me. Less is accomplished, but my emotional health is preserved (for now). Coupled with the rain was the weather's inability to decide what season it wanted to be. One moment it would be bright and sunny. The next, it would drop ten degrees and start pouring. Miserable. The past two days have revealed bright, cloudless blue skies. Despite the fact that I should be chained to my desk chair in the midst of heavy revision for exams, I have allowed myself to be coaxed outside to sit on the Meadows for an hour or two. It has been wonderful, save for the damn wind. Still...I will take sunshine and wind over rain any day.

As for exams...I have two this week. Popular Religion is from 2:30-4:30 tomorrow whilst The Blessed Union is on Thursday at the same time. The pile of notes for Popular Religion is quite daunting indeed but I have yet to actually read over them as I've been finishing my reading for The Blessed Union. I literally have to know everything about Elizabethan and early Stuart politics, religion, patronage, foreign policy, interactions with Ireland...everything. This is one of the key differences between US and UK university education. In the US, you learn background knowledge in your lectures or seminars. You are not expected to come with extensive previous knowledge of the subject. In the UK, you are. Since my classes are seminars, I should have come in already knowing most of what we were going to discuss. Unfortunately, I did not get this memo (neither did most of the kids in my Blessed Union seminar, so I don't feel too bad), so I am having to do loads of work now to make sure that I have the necessary foundations upon which to write my essays. It is exhausting work and has left me physically ill. Still, I manage to go running each day in addition to my little Meadows excursions, so I do take some breaks.

Ah, well. We shall see how I do tomorrow. At least I have 'Angels & Demons' to look forward to this weekend!

09 May 2009

I am burned out. I can't do anymore. My inability to push myself further when it comes to revising is raising anxieties over my own suitability for grad school. This has manifested itself in a fear of asking one of my professors here at Edinburgh for a recommendation.

My exams are on Wednesday and Thursday. I think tomorrow I am going to have to take the day off if I have any hope at succeeding in the exams. Otherwise, I may not survive until Wednesday.

06 May 2009

Amazing things are in the works!!! I don't want to reveal them just yet, but just be assured that this may turn out to be the best summer of my life.

In other news, today I:
1. Walked 4 miles round trip to the big Sainsbury's in Murrayfield to use the Coinstar. 36 pounds in change is nothing to laugh at and the trip was worth it.
2. A tree broke one of my bedroom windows. Not cool.
The official results from the Great Edinburgh Run were published today in The Evening News. I finished at 57:12 (a minute longer than I thought I had) and was 3992 out of 8000 or so runners. Not too bad considering that it was my first race ever.

03 May 2009

(Note: The picture is not mine)

As it has been several days since I have last updated, I felt that a post was in order. Not because my life is particularly all that interesting, but more because if I don't post, people get antsy. April 30th was, of course, May Day Eve. In Edinburgh, this meant making the trek up to Calton Hill to watch the Beltane Fire Festival. The events of the night are rather hazy, considering that it was quite dark on top of the hill (which has a bunch of monuments on top of it), but I can honestly say that it was fun. Calton Hill provided amazing views of the city while the sounds of drums, naked dancers, and loads of fire (torches, bonfires, and miscellaneous things burning) created a buzzing atmosphere. The only downsides to the night were the large crowd (11,000 strong) and the general lack of lighting (which, combined with large rocks and dips in the ground, made for almost continuous tripping on my part). I awoke back at WPR on Friday morning bruised and sprained, but otherwise in good working order. A good thing, as I had my final training run for my 10k on Friday. Saturday was spent revising on the meadows (or attempting to...peoplewatching ended up being much more interesting than reading about the political theories of James VI/I).

The other major event that has taken place was the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run. It was my first 10k race and it couldn't have gone better. I was able to leave my flat about 30 minutes before the start and join the small crowd heading towards George IV bridge where the race was to begin. 10,000 people were scheduled to run in the race, with the elite women (Olympians and internationally classed runners) starting at 10:15am. The race route encompassed most of Edinburgh's city centre, so it was odd to see many of the major roads closed to traffic. George IV bridge was almost unrecognizable due to the large crowds of runners, Bupa marshalls, and supporters. I must admit, I think it would have been a bit more enjoyable at the beginning had I been accompanied by someone I knew. Still, the general buzz of the crowds generated an excitement and, during the mass warmup following the elite women's start, I lost any residual nervousness about the race. The starting process was divided into four sections depending on anticipated ending-time. The elite men went off at 10:25, followed by the orange wave (mine), then white, green, and pink. I wish I could describe the feeling of hearing the gun go off, running across the starting mat, and knowing that I had 10km to go before I could stop.

The weather was as perfect as anyone could hope for. Sunshine, mild temperatures, a few clouds. Beautiful. The fact that the race route passed by the castle, Holyrood Palace, Parliament, and the crags (the most beautiful locations in the city) helped to ease some of the distance. Overall, the run was not that difficult. The hill going up past the crags was a pain in the ass and marked the first time that I had to walk a bit in order to save my knees from completely giving out. The only other snag came at kilometer 6 along Cowgate/Grassmarket when I had an asthma attack. I had opted not to bring my inhaler, which proved to be a bit of a mistake, as the attack meant that I had to alternate a bit of walking every half kilometer or so. (So frustrating! I hope to remedy this situation sometime this summer because I have decided to enter a few more races while back in the States for the next year or so.) I crossed the finish at 55:36, almost collapsed while trying to take the timing chip off my sneakers, and then joined the procession to collect my t-shirt/participants medal. I think the only downside to the event was that, despite feeling fine for most of the day, my knees decided that they hated me about 7pm and made it impossible to walk for the rest of the night. Would I do the 10k again? Absolutely. (Note to Edinburgh Uni: If you want to require me to have a grad school interview in early May 2010, I would not be opposed.)

Plans for this week:
* Revisions. (I spent all day in the library and currently have 'Tudor Economic Documents' opened in front of me. Exam time makes me hate my life. At SMCM, it would only one week. Sure, I might have three exams in one day, but at least it would be over. Oh well, next week is exam time.)
* Dunfermline (To satisfy Dad's desire for me to take pictures of graves. Oh, it shall be thrilling.)

Note: As I've mentioned above, it is exam time. In fact, I am entering week three (or is it four?) of revisions. As a result, my brain is slightly addled from the long hours spent reading and taking notes. Writing, in particular, has been quite difficult as of late. As such, please forgive the elementary and increasingly senile nature of these (and future) posts. I shall probably be recovered by the end of June. Of course, by that time, this blog will have become unnecessary as I will be back in the States. Ah, such is life.

30 April 2009

Dear parents, friends, and assorted family members (as well as anyone else who actually happens to read this),

Do refrain from catching the swine flu, please. Not only would it be most inconvenient to you, but it would prove to be a bit worrisome for me, and, quite frankly, I do not needed the added stress at exam-time.

Looking out for your (and her) best interests,


29 April 2009

As usual, the past few days have been filled with revisions, running, attempting to start grad school applications, and avoiding Tristan's phone calls. (As for this last point, I am eager to see how long it takes him to figure out a new way to get a hold of me.) It was quite nice out today, so I got dressed up (which is something I rarely do here in Edinburgh due to the wind) and ran some errands in and around George Square. This mainly consisted of returning books to the library, getting out new books for more revising, picking up my honours essays from the History undergraduate office at WRB, and getting information on the MPhil International Relations from the postgrad office at the Chrystal MacMillan building. My essay grades were a bit disappointing, especially for me, and so I returned back to Warrender Park Road in relatively low spirits. (Don't fear: the grades were not bad. The British grading system is much harder than the US's and, as they freely admit, A's are not handed out on a frequent basis. Had I been in the US, these papers would have been A quality work. In the UK, they are B's and, therefore, most disappointing. :( )

In order to boost my spirits, Kelly (who lives in the flat underneath mine) and I bought a 4-pack of Strongbow and sat in the Meadows drinking and talking. In the end, it was a nice afternoon.

Plan for the rest of the week:'
Thurs: Revisions for Blessed Union, last training run for 10k, Beltane Fire Festival at Calton Hill!
Fri: Revisions, walk course for 10k
Sat: Revisions, stretching, light jog
Sun: Great Run Edinburgh 10k race (and then post-race recovery)

26 April 2009

Pleasant Things in Life:
1. The weather is absolutely lovely.
2. The climb up to Arthur's Seat yesterday was dry and relatively uncrowded, meaning that I could be alone with my thoughts. Exactly what I wanted.
3. Getting high marks on my workshop assignment for Intro to Medieval Europe and overall for my tutorial for the same class.
4. Running

Annoying Things in Life:
1. The fresher boys in flat 25 (the basement) who play their music during the day at levels that would make dance clubs jealous. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for the rest of us who happen to live at WPR to engage in such important activities as revising, sleeping, or even thinking.
2. The fact that at 9:30AM (one hour after the main library has opened), there are hardly any single desks available anywhere in the library. My beloved second floor reference section (I tend to sit next to the 'Popular Slang' and Catalan dictionaries) is almost always completely full at this point, meaning that I have to trek up to the fourth floor. (I don't really believe that there is a fifth or sixth floor despite the fact that I have been told that they do exist.)
3. The 10-book limit for undergraduates at the library. What if I have to take out more than 10 (as I currently need to do)? It's not as if I am going to be able to read my books in the library, as there are no seats. Ugh.
4. The hospital in Edinburgh, which told me today that my chest pains are being caused by stress. I was aware of this, but I had hoped that by actually seeking medical attention I would, well, get it. They weren't having this, though, and so I left empty-handed save for the instructions to 'de-stress, have some fun, and sleep'. As I made perfectly clear to them, it is exam time. De-stressing is not an option. Fun...a bit more viable. Sleep...not at all (save for the three hours that I get each night).

Contrary to what this seems to suggest, I am not unhappy. Just currently very annoyed. The fact that the music has reached a bed-thumping level makes it rather hard to study (which my mother and father would be most happy to hear considering than I am supposed to be relaxing), but also to read my international relations book (which is what I was going to read in order to relax!) So, I shall attempt to read a bit more about the relations between gender and Lollardy, perhaps read a few pages of the Malleus Malificarum, and then go to bed.

22 April 2009

And so it begins...

Today, I went on my grad school visit to the University of St. Andrews and had the first of my grad school interviews. It was a lovely trip, the only downside of which being the fact that it was also an undergraduate visiting day and I had to contend with masses of 16 and 17 year-olds anxiously trying to figure out if this was 'the one'. Equally anxious were their parents, who had no idea what to expect from the university and kept asking annoying questions about laundry services on campus. I wanted to tell everyone to relax, that it didn't have to be as hard/daunting as they made it out to be. On the other hand, I remember what it was like when I did my undergraduate visits to St. Mary's, UMCP, and Arcadia. It is a ritual that every prospective college student has to go through. I hate to admit it, but as a third year student (so painfully close to being done), I am jaded.

I remember that when I visited St. Mary's it was exceedingly humid and I fell ill less than an hour into the pointless admissions presentations. All I cared was that the dorms were close to the campus center and that there was a movie theatre. Having spent less than three hours on campus, I assured my mother that I would apply and we left (stopping at Al's Gator Shack on the way, which is another story entirely and probably should have been an early indicator as to what my undergraduate career was to become). My requirements in life have changed a bit since then, I'm afraid. Dining hall? Don't care. Housing? Whatever. It doesn't apply when you are a postgraduate, since they can offer you neither. What mattered to me today was: 1) How strongly was St. Andrews' International Relations program ranked?, 2) How did I feel talking to the IR faculty?, 3) How close was the library to the IR building(and what were loan services like)?, 4) Do they have any financial aid at all?, 5) Would I be able to survive in this town for another year (or four, depending on which program I am offered). Sure, I listened to the bit about student societies, but considered it unimportant in the grand scheme of things as I am under the distinct impression that when you enter into postgraduate work any social life ends.

As for my impressions of the town: it is small. Students and staff make up 1/3rd of the 15,000-person population. Still, it is incredibly larger than St. Mary's, which is what I need. Of course, it pales in comparison to Oxford...but as my mother has told me, I need to get over my NEED to get to Oxford and consider the possibility that I might not (probably won't) get in. In answer to the above questions:

1) The International Relations program is ranked relatively highly in the UK. It is not the best, but it certainly isn't the worst either.
2) I met with two members of the IR faculty. Both individuals were immensely helpful, made me feel immediately comfortable within the environment, and actually got me quite excited considering the future. Listening to them describe the field and the various programs offered reinforced my belief that I am making the right decision for my future. I haven't been this excited over school-work in quite some time, so this was a bit of an exhilerating experience for me.
3) The library, despite looking almost exactly like Edinburgh's (which I dislike), is centrally located to the IR building. The IR building itself was opened in 2008 and is purpose-built. I tend to be a bit put-off by modern architecture, but I quite liked this building.
4) Financial aid is...eh. I'd have to search extensively for external scholarships to help fund my studies (and take the rest out in loans...gah). In addition, due to the incredibly poor economic climate, the university is in a financial freeze for the next 2 years, which means that there is little to no chance of an unexpected scholarship coming my way (because, you know, I'm so brilliant).
5) Whether or not I would be able to survive in this town for a year (or four) was one of the most important considerations for me. In truth, it is fairly isolated in that one must take a bus or train to get anywhere. Edinburgh and Glasgow are each an hour away by train. Still, it looks like they have an incredibly active student body. And when I was walking around, I felt...at ease. Not entirely comfortable as I do in Oxford (and increasingly Edinburgh), but content. I think that I could grow to quite like St. Andrews.

I suppose that I will wander over to the Chrystal MacMillan building tomorrow in George Square and schedule a meeting with the Politics & IR department's postgraduate office. They don't do interviews here at Edinburgh, but I would like to discuss the merits of the MSc (research) versus the MPhil (taught) degrees here. I should have gone to Cambridge whilst I had the chance but, unfortunately, did not do so, for obvious reasons. (This reason being that its Cambridge. So what if it has a better IR program than Oxford...I am allowed to be biased!)

Other than that, life is back to normal here. Tomorrow will be divided between the main library and the one at New College. Still, I am quite excited for the Retrospect Launch party tomorrow night.

21 April 2009

So what have I been doing since returning from Oxford? Living in the library. Now, don't laugh! I really have been spending all of my time in the library! Surprising, I know.

Exam time is rapidly approaching. I sit Popular Religion on 13 May and Blessed Union on 14 May, both of which are honours exams and therefore require massive amounts of preparation (or so I keep telling myself). Both classes have 11 weeks of material, of which 8 topics will be on the test. I have to choose 2 essays to answer during the three hour period. Not too tough, but I am determined to get all A's this semester and am going to work my ass off. So far, this has meant spending three or four hours at the library each day. Today was day 4 of revisions for Popular Religion, which meant that I spent four hours reading about the role of churchwardens' and their accounts within the parish community. Absolutely riveting stuff, to be sure. I get a bit of a break tomorrow as I am off to St. Andrews to have my grad school interviews with the International Relations and the Sustainable Development departments at the University.

I received my race number and timing chip for the Bupa Great Run Edinburgh on 3 May. It is going to be intense. I am looking forward to it.

A few pictures for your viewing pleasure:

I learned relatively quickly in Dublin that I would make neither a great viking nor medieval warrior.Karen, Veronica, and I at Far From the Madding Crowd for my 'good riddance' party.

19 April 2009

"Oxford is insidious; it works itself into your heart so subtly that you do not realize what is happening until it is too late, by which time you love the place so much that you do not care that it has managed to entrap you." - Me

Yes, I just quoted myself.

17 April 2009

A horrible thing happened to me today. I am fine; it could have been much worse. However, I think that next year I am going to teach karate classes at St. Mary's to those who want to learn. Self-defense so that others can protect themselves as I did myself today.

That is all I am going to say on that matter. If you want the details, you can email me or ask my parents.

10 April 2009

((Posted on Facebook so that all of my friends now know my intentions for the coming years. This is a big deal to me, as having close friends know my goals ultimately forces me to work harder for fear of failing.))

After much consideration over the past year, I have come up with my final list of graduate schools to which I will be applying. I am a goal-oriented person; without something to work towards, I become listless and frustrated with life. As some of you may have witnessed firsthand in the year or so preceding my application to CMRS Oxford, I tend to become rather fixated on achieving my goals. Therefore, I have decided to make my graduate school intentions public so that everyone will know exactly what I am hoping to achieve and why I am no longer able to carry on a viable social life in the coming months. If I suddenly drop out of contact for a few weeks or fail to emerge from my room for days at a time, this is why.

Perhaps I am setting my sights too high, but I do not care. I have been told repeatedly that I should stop trying, that someone such as myself is not of the caliber required by such institutions. I am aware that I will need to maintain almost perfect grades for the next year in order to push myself from meeting the requirements into the realm of possible acceptance. I am willing to work for this. I will push myself to the limits for this. All I am asking for is your support and understanding when I inevitably have a breakdown sometime in November and try to quit school. (As usual, I will not actually quit school, but I will probably refuse to do any work at all for an entire week and then spend the rest of the semester in various stages of stress-induced panic as I realize exactly how foolish I have been.)

This is where I want to be in two years time. This is my public declaration of intent (if anyone cares). That is all.

1. University of Oxford
Course: MPhil in International Relations (2 years) (or) MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy (9 months with the expectation of continuing towards DPhil in Development Studies)

2. University of Cambridge
Course: MPhil in International Relations (2 years with the expectation of continuing towards 2 year PhD

3. London School of Economics
Course: MSc in International Relations (11 months)

4. University of St. Andrews
Course: MRes in International Relations (1 year followed by 3 year PhD)

5. John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Course: Masters in International Relations, Conflict Resolution concentration (2 years)

6. University of Edinburgh (I apparently get a 10% discount for having studied here...sweet)
Course: MSc in Politics & International Relations (1 year)

(Side note: I am taking both the Foreign Service Officer Test and the GRE in October. Is anyone else taking either test at the same time?)

08 April 2009

Chasing the Years of My Life

1. Classes
2. Pub quiz
3. Bath
4. Dublin
5. Interview

Here is the promised, more extensive update. Really, I hope there is at least one person out there who appreciates this blog, because otherwise I just feel like an egotistical prat writing in it. Oh well.

I registered for my fall 2009 classes last Thursday. I will register once more in my undergraduate career. If I don't manage to make it into graduate school, than this will be the last time in my life. A bit scary, to be honest. Anyways, my schedule is as follows:

1. HIST493: St. Mary's Project (My supervisor is Gail Savage. I suppose that I will meet with her once a week at a time to be determined later. For those who do not know, the St. Mary's Project (SMP) is the senior thesis and the capstone of the undergraduate experience at St. Mary's. It consists of a paper (usually around 60-80 pages) and a public presentation in April.)
2. POSC315: Politics of the Middle East (Bilgin. Monday-Wednesday-Friday 10:40-11:50)
3. POSC318: Politics of Terrorism (Suleiman. Monday-Wednesday-Friday 1:20-2:30)
4. HIST395: Theories and Uses of History (Hall. Monday-Wednesday 2:40-4:30)
5. ANTH357: Archaeological Analysis/Curation (Hurry. Tuesday-Thursday 2:00-3:50. This class promises to be especially interesting, since most of the time I will be working in the archaeological laboratory processing artifacts from Historic. I really hope that we get to wear lab coats.)

Yes, I am overloading in my fall semester. I have to make up for the fact that I could only take three classes at Univ. Edinburgh. Also, I am trying to get into the politics honor society, so I have to take two poli sci classes. Luckily, they seem like they will be useful in my future career. There is a method to my madness, believe me. In the spring, I will have a slightly easier schedule: SMP Semester 2, Biology, and then 8 credits of a Museum Studies internship. Ah...relief.

The day of the boat race (March 29) marked the last time that I will ever attend pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd. I was in Dublin last Sunday and, of course, there will be no quiz this Sunday as it is Easter. As a result, we made up for this horrible fact by attending quiz at The Royal Oak last Monday. The Royal Oak is located in North Oxford and has a reputation for being slightly pretentious. Unfortunately, its pub quiz did not live up to my expectations and consisted of more 'pop culture' references than I am used to. Not being familiar with British pop culture outside of the late 70s and 80s (what I had seen on those slightly-dated British comedies shown on PBS), we failed miserably. Indeed, we did not even stay to hear the quiz results announced. It is never a good sign when we have to resort to putting 'Michael Phelps' for more than half the questions.

Last Wednesday, I joined the CMRSers on their trip to Bath. The town was first populated by the Romans, who founded their bathing areas for which the town is so well-known. More recently, it was made famous in the novels of Jane Austen. We enjoyed a brief tour by the venerable Alun Thorton Jones and then were left to our own devices. A few of us went to lunch and then went into a few of the quaint shops situated around the town. At 3, we met up with the rest of the group to take a tour of the Roman Baths, which were quite impressive, considering that they are over 2000 years old. Afterwards, we got tea and scones at a small cafe. The ride home was quite...interesting. There was a major accident on one of the roads leading to Oxford and, as a result, the coach bus had to off-road it on small country roads. On several occasions, the driver had to let the air out of the tires and squeeze past large lorries (trucks). For Karen and I sitting in the very back, it was terrifying to see these large trucks pass centimeters away from us. Indeed, it provided such a spectacle that a few people took pictures and the locals had stepped outside their houses to watch the long stream of cars attempt to make their way past each other on the narrow roads. It was a harrowing experience.

On Friday, I left for Dublin with Veronica. Despite leaving Oxford at 2pm, we didn't actually arrive in Dublin until half 11 due to flight delays. We arrived at the hotel around 1am and were both thoroughly exhausted. The next day (or, rather, the same day), we woke at 8:30 and caught the bus to the city centre. After grabbing a quick lunch and an ample supply of fruit so that we wouldn't have to spend loads of money, Dublin is incredibly expensive, we walked across the city from O'Connell street to St. James' Gate, home of the Guinness Brewery. Now, I love Guinness. I used to hate it, but it has grown on me since coming to the UK. The tour was quite extensive and, at the end of it, we got a free pint. Delicious. We then backtracked and went to Dublinia, an exhibit detailing both the viking and medieval history of Dublin. Since there was a deal if you went to Dublinia and then to Christchurch Cathedral, we went there next. It is quite a small cathedral compared to the ones I've seen in England, but still quite beautiful. Afterwards, we walked around the perimeters of St. Patrick's Cathedral before heading to Anne St to Kehoe's pub, famously frequented by James Joyce. We got a pint of Bulmer's Cider, relaxed, and got dinner at nearby restaurant (13 euro for a salad is ridiculous!) We were absolutely exhausted by this point, so we returned to the hotel and collapsed.

Sunday morning started off early as we checked out of the hotel, caught the bus to O'Connell street and then walked to the Dublin Writer's museum. Unfortunately, it opened at 11 and we arrived at 10, so we sat in the Garden of Remembrance (for the Easter rising of 1916) for an hour watching the ducks and the people. The Writer's museum was interesting but a bit claustrophobic as it was two exhibit rooms with loads of text and an audio tour to listen to. As a result, everyone ended up piling up in front of the display cases. Poor traffic control. Afterwards, we walked down past Trinity College, saw the outside of Oscar Wilde's house, and then went into the National Gallery. Then it was off to Dublin Castle, which actually proved to be my favourite part of the trip. The tour was 50 minutes long and quite interesting. By this time, both Veronica and I were exhausted (and tired of spending money) so we caught the bus to the airport and sat at Starbuck's waiting for our flight to be called. (Note: I don't think that I will ever be able to fly RyanAir ever again. We had terrible landings both in Dublin and at Stansted; so bad, in fact, that I almost had a panic attack during the Stansted landing. It was horrible.)

Overall, Dublin did not live up to my expectations. I have wanted to go to Ireland since I was a small child. As a result, I feel that I thought it would be more...Irish. It was much more European than I thought it would be, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. I feel that if I ever go back to Ireland, I will have to go to either a smaller city, or just travel around in order to find what I am looking for. Perhaps I will go back one day. Perhaps not. Such is life.