Archives by Month: January 2013

Brunch and the Super Bowl

My life has been quite busy lately—busier than I ever really imagined. For the first two weeks or so that I was here in Oxford, nothing was that hectic. Sure, I had orientation activities for the first week pretty much each day for the entire day, but I had no work that I needed to be doing. Then I came to Worcester and had another week to get acquainted there.

This week I started my tutorials. I’m taking a class called “Methods and Modes: Theory, Sociology, and the Aesthetic,” which is a class on material culture and its relationship to both sociology and literature. I’m also taking another class on Oscar Wilde. At Worcester, you take 2 classes per trimester instead of 4 per semester like at Colby. So I’ll have 2 new classes next term.

My first tutorial went really well. I had it Friday. It felt very much like a conversation, but it was still very intense at the same time because I was the only person there to answer the questions, so I had to really think on my feet. I had prepared a few pages of notes with my opinions on the readings beforehand, and I think that really helped me in the tutorial.

I have my first tutorial for my Oscar Wilde class tomorrow. The class is very reading-heavy. I am expected to read about four primary novels or dramas each week, and 8-12 secondary sources. I am also required to write an essay beforehand, as is the case with the material culture class as well. I write so many essays here that I am imagining that every week is going to feel like finals week at Colby. I like the fact that we write essays before each class at Oxford, however, because it gives me a chance to really work out my thoughts quite deeply before the tutorial. I sometimes feel like I don’t have as much time to work on my essays, though, as I would at Colby—that because I have so much reading and 2 essays each week, I cannot revise as many times as I would at Colby.

On a non-academic note, I went to a great brunch on Sunday. It was at the Provost’s house.

The Reception Area for the Brunch:

I was lucky and got seated next to Paula Byrne, the provost’s wife. She is a writer and her new book, The Real Jane Austen, is coming out soon. The book has already received a number of positive reviews in both England and America, so I was excited to be able to talk to her about the book and reviews of it. She invited me to her book launch, so I’m also really excited to attend that.

Besides being pleasurable because I received the opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with Paula Byrne, the brunch was also wonderful for many other reasons. While I was there, I felt like I was on the scene of Gossip Girl or some show about high culture. The house was beautiful and the food was great (I had eggs, sausage, a croissant, salmon, and beans). In the three weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve learned that beans are a staple of British breakfasts. At first I never really ate the beans during breakfast, but I have recently started incorporating them into my morning meal.

On Sunday, the college is hosting an American-style Super Bowl Party. I have never really taken the time to learn the rules of football—to me, it just looks like a bunch of men are crashing into each other on the screen—but I always enjoy the food, half-time show, commercials, and the singing of the national anthem. I’m excited to experience this American event with British students, as I’m sure they’ll provide an interesting perspective on the game.

Cheers,
Kristen

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Study Abroad – Housing

This is it. Getting down to the wire.. two weeks until I go abroad and three more (full) days of JanPlan! I took most of my posters down today and the reality really started to set in. Next week, (this week I guess, since it’s Sunday night) I promise, I’ll do a blog not related to going abroad. Our CS JanPlan project will be done and I should have some good screenshots for you guys! Besides working on that project and not being able to sleep out of travel anticipation, this week I looked a bunch into what my housing situation will be like.

Out of everything I’ve done to go abroad, looking into housing was the most exciting part for me! I’ll be living in a flat with 4-6 people housing they call Te Kotahinga. There are two different parts of Wellington my apartment could be in, but both are pretty close to each other and are in the more downtown part of the city. They’re right in the middle of the harbor area and right near some waterfront pubs! Our backyard consists of nature preserves.

Generally each apartment is part of a pretty small house with a bunch of other domestic and international students, and each flat comes with the following accomodations:

Te Kotahinga also has periodic barbeques for its residents. Not complaining. This is what a flat looks like:

On a completely unrelated note, the school also has a sort of meditation hut which is described as the following: (I just thought it was cool)

Two more blog posts. Then the next one will be from Auckland.. we have a four day orientation there! Ahhh I can’t wait.

Nick

 

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Out and About

Hello!

This week has been the same as the previous two weeks – work, lunch, class, relax, dinner, with some homework mixed in.  I didn’t go to as many movies this week, but I went to Hyde Park on Hudson last night at Railroad Square Cinema.  My friend and I ended up being the only people in the theater so we talked the whole time!

But today, I went on this little trip the Goldfarb Center was running to explore Maine, which not a lot of people seemed to know about (because no one reads the General Announcements, unfortunately!)  There were only three other freshman girls and then a bunch of women who either work at Colby or used to, and then some of the staff from the Goldfarb Center.  First, we went to the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan which opened a few years ago.  They mill grain that has been grown in Maine and then sell it at the Farmer’s Market and other places around here.  It was pretty cool because they have built this mill in the former Somerset County Jail which had been in use as recently as 2007 (I think… I didn’t take notes or anything so my “facts” might be a little off).

We then ate flatbread pizza at The Bankery on the main street of Skowhegan; the bread of the pizza was made using flour from the Mill.  The Bankery is called that, I assume, because the space they’re in used to be a bank (and there were massive vault doors that I could see).

Then we drove up to the Margaret Chase Smith Library and Home, still in Skowhegan.  I had never heard of her but now I can’t believe that I haven’t.  Although to be fair, she was last in office twenty years before I was born, and died two years after I was born.  Her story was pretty inspirational – she only had a formal education through high school, and she wasn’t able to go to college.  Yet she was the first woman to serve in both parts of Congress and the first woman to seriously run for president insofar as she took it to the Republican National Convention in 1964 (where Barry Goldwater was nominated instead).  Considering she graduated high school before women were even allowed to vote, it’s pretty impressive.  She also got 95 honorary degrees from different colleges and universities, her first and last being from Colby.  They’re all hung above you when you first walk into the museum, which is built as an extension of her house.  She also still lived in her house until she died, at which point the museum had been open for over ten years.

Overall, the day was pretty great because although I’ve been out in Waterville more than I normally would this month, I’ve been stewing on campus, so it was really nice to see more of what’s around here in Maine.

(Sorry, I didn’t really take pictures though I meant to!  But here’s a picture of the actual mill which has a millstone and everything, and was imported from Austria because we just don’t do stuff like this any more in North America.)

 

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Back at Colby

Coming back to Colby after being away is always a mixed-emotion experience. I was doing biology research in Costa Rica for two weeks of Janplan, and now being on campus feels a little strange.

First off, it’s hard not to miss the sunshine and warmth of the Costa Rican mountains or the days I spent in the forests with the research team. Even as a Nordic skier and a lover of winter I’m finding the transition to temperatures hovering near 0°F a little tough. Also, although I was gone from campus for an entire month between winter break and my trip, at times I feel like I never left Colby. When I’m sitting in the dining hall or going to practice, life outside of college seems like a dream.

Playing in the San Luis River in Costa Rica. It was dreamy.

Still, in other ways being back at school feels a little like coming home. I realized how glad I was to be here today when I was prepping my skis for a race with the team; listening to music, talking, and getting pumped for the weekend of competition on our home race course.

If you’re just getting back on campus from Janplan or a semester abroad, welcome back. If you’re about to embark on an adventure somewhere far away, remember that Colby will be here for you when you get back.

Happy Weekend!

Alice

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The Food Situation

At Colby, the meal plan is pretty straight forward and simple: you get three meals a day and three dining halls to choose from. Plus, there’s “The Spa” where you can get burgers and quesadillas (and more) and “Take Four” where you can grab a quick lunch to bring to class with you.

Things over here in London are a little different. The British students I live with basically think that the Americans they live with are incompetent when it comes to cooking, and, compared to them, I am. They make curry and other amazing food in no time. The apartment style of living is completely new to me, as is having to go grocery shopping every week. I am slowly building my repertoire of easy recipes that make plenty of leftovers. So far I’ve eaten lots of rice, pasta, and soup. One thing I have discovered is that Nutella is so much tastier here!

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, probably because it’s the simplest. Breakfast sandwiches are my new staple, since they keep me nice and full on my 30-minute walk to school!

And on those days that I just can’t be bothered to cook, I treat myself to a delicious meal somewhere inexpensive. This was an amazing breakfast sandwich, served with a salad. It was an interesting combination!

While it’s been fun cooking for myself so far, I am pretty sure I’ll be ready for Colby’s dining hall food by the fall. Rice and pasta can only be cooked so many ways.

Until next time,

Morgan

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My Walking Diaries

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Wow! I am in Denmark! Can you believe it? No? Me neither! I am so excited I could scream! You know what I am already shouting in my head! AHHHHH!

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So, I hope this gives you an idea about how ecstatic I am.

I love walking. I have always loved walking. Everywhere I went, I walk. Sometimes I go with a map; sometimes I just let my feet wander. There’s a certain charm about taking a stroll that no bus tour or ferry ride can replace; except maybe a trademark Copenhagen bike ride around the city. I chose walking since I aspire not to harm any innocent pedestrian with my truly “superior” cruising skills.

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The first day in Copenhagen, I got hopelessly, wonderfully lost. I didn’t just string the words together because they sound cool. I really was hopelessly lost, I was trying to find the train station, and after walking for 45 minutes, I realized that I was walking in a circle, and back to my original spot; it really was wonderful, because the only way to know a city’s beauty is to stroll her secret alleys, her cobblestone roads, her little coffee shops. It’s almost like an awkward first date. I fell in love after hearing about Copenhagen from my advisor. In a pathetic attempt to understand her better, I turned to the Internet and friends, but nothing prepared me for the real thing. I was charmed and mesmerized, my eyes filled with her lights and stars. I made a fool out of myself by turning into all the wrong streets and corners, making shy eye contacts and timid conversations with strangers, but the fear and worries were soft and clouded by a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was magical.

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famous postcard view.

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Rundetårn, the famous Round Tower, which is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. It is special that it is attached to a church, showing the combination of science and faith in the Renaissance period.

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Apparently danishes are not called danishes in Denmark; it is called wienerbrød. By the way, this is not a danish but a cinnamon roll. Danishes here were amazing though.

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The Thai food here is AMAZING. Good ol’ comfort food for me.

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The Thai royal family with the Denmark royal family.

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beautiful fountains.

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Scientology; I wonder how it is received in Europe?

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Okay, I still can’t get over how pretty these colorful houses are; they are like those doll houses in storybooks! I wish I am a giant so that I can play with them!

The second time I roamed around, the city was even more beautiful, and this time we knew each other a little better. Just like any beautiful person, Copenhagen captivated you with even the smallest things; there were surprises everywhere. In the middle of the street, amidst busy Danes striding by, a musician played the violin. A man, carrying his guitar, hesitated and stopped, drunk in the swirling melody; he shook the musician’s hands after the performance and they shared a lovely conversation. I may not speak Danish, but that excited look on both men’s faces, as if they had found a long lost friend, spoke louder than any text that told me Danes are stereotypically cold.

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With music as their matchmaker, they turn from strangers to friends.

Another walk along the street during the day, a young guy approached and started a conversation …  in Chinese. I was so shocked that for a moment, I forgot that I spoke Chinese too; I just kind of stare back at him as he asked me questions with a keen smile. We talked and talked and we part ways. He somehow made me felt so very at home.

One time, I timidly asked a stern old lady for directions, prepared to be ignored; she immediately broke into a smile, lightening up her face like a ray of sunshine on a gray day. I couldn’t stop smiling myself.

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My heart is blooming. (Okay I am a hopeless romantic.)

It is very easy to feel like the outsider when studying abroad. You look different, you act different, and you talk different. A lot of times we just feel like sticking to the people we know and stay in our cozy little bubble. My advice is to think of the new place as someone you always wanted to get to know (I mean, if you are studying there you obviously are at least a little interested in her). For me that’s Amy Poehler. Get to know her work, read books about her, and talk to other people who have met her. Yes, it would be scary to approach her, but just imagine how great it would be to finally interact with her and bask in her endless awesomeness. I am screaming internally as I think about that; get psyched!

Don’t despair if you are not as outgoing as others, or as social as others; everyone has their own way to adjust to new surroundings, so just be yourself, and find people who like you as you are. Take your time to adjust, and then just walk out the doors and get lost!  (well, bring your GPS smart phone thingy. Or a map. Or a local phrase book with the sentences, “Where am I?” “How do I get back home.” Write down the address of where you are staying. Just… don’t turn off your brain.) Immerse yourself, take some risks, be safe but not too safe; life is short.

Yesterday when I was walking around, it suddenly dawned on me that I recognize that hot dog stand near my dorm. I can see, in my mind, Copenhagen and all her secret alleys, her cobblestone streets, her little coffee shops.

And that was the moment I felt my connection to the city. That was the moment Copenhagen starts becoming home.

P.S.: If you want a postcard, send me an email with your name and address and I will send my love and kisses from Copenhagen. If you are up to it, I can do a postcard chain, where I will send someone else’s name and address and you send them a postcard too. What do you think?

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Pretty, pretty please? My email is liang.is.my.lastname@gmail.com

P.P.S.: Next time on Josephine’s blog: what the hell am I doing in Denmark except getting lost? Stay tuned.

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The Only Way is Up

To be honest, I’m at a loss of what to write about this week.   I started writing something earlier today and the first thing I wrote was a list of how many movies/TV episodes I’d watched this week.  I’m particularly proud this week because I was in the cinema Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and only paid $1 total because Tuesday was dollar night at Railroad Square Cinema, Wednesday I was back there but for class, and Thursday SPB gave out free cinema tickets for Flagship Cinema.  Touting how many movies/TV shows I watch is something I probably do too much considering how what it really says about me is that I sit on my bed and stare at the glow of my iPad, usually until 1am.  To be fair, I do watch some when I’m in the gym because I might as well be exercising while watching.

I gave a speech on my last day at my English school last summer, and in one of my working drafts I had written something about how I managed to watch over 100 movies partway through the year, and the head of sixth form who was proofing my essay was like, “I don’t want to hear about how you spent all this time watching these movies.”  At the time, I was a little annoyed because it was the truth of how I had spent some of my time on my exchange, especially because some of my weekends at school I would spend just in my boarding house.  But then I realized it was a little sad and not something I needed to share with however many hundreds of people were in that hall listening to me speak.

Having time to watch movies/TV is the best thing about having free time to me.  If I have time to relax, I don’t grab one of the four dusty books waiting for me on my windowsill (which I always kick myself for not reading), I put on my pajama pants and a blanket and watch whatever I can find on Netflix or Hulu.

Maybe it is a tiny bit pathetic (and haters are going to hate).  Maybe I can’t believe that after starting this saying I don’t know what to write I have ended up writing about exactly what I set out not to write about.  Maybe I should be working on my resume and cover letters for the summer internships I’ve been looking for. But maybe, just maybe, pajama pants and The Only Way is Essex is my calling right now.

PS – The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) is a British reality TV show that everyone should watch (it’s on Hulu!), and the theme song is “The Only Way is Up” (hence the clever title!!)

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VUW

In the last few months, I’ve thought a ton about how awesome going abroad is going to be, but sorta neglected the academic side of things. So, that’s what this week has been about – I’ve been getting to know VUW (Victoria University of Wellington) and exactly what I’ll be doing there. I’ve gotten my VUW email, access to the student portal, and the final verdict on all my courses. Which, I’d have to say, is pretty good – I got into everything that I needed.

VUW Courses

Today consisted of me getting in touch with all of the department heads here at Colby for the courses that would count towards a specific requirement – major or distribution. So, I’m taking a CS course called Programming Languages, which is in place of CS333 here at Colby – a required course for the Computer Science major. New Zealand is well known for having a very good but very tough computer science program in most of their universities, so I’ll definitely have to do a ton of work and maybe a bit of catching up and review from what I learned this semester in Data Structures/Algorithms.

I’m also signed up for “The New Europe” – basically European Politics with Professor Yoder here on the hill. This would go towards my regional gateway requirement for the government major. After that, only one government course left to complete the major. Ever. It’s the senior seminar. Hopefully I’ll still be taking more in the future, especially with Prof. Corrado.

The third department I had to get in contact with was biology – I’m taking an intro cell biology course to go towards the Colby distribution requirement for a non-lab science. It has a lab anyways, but I guess that’s extra. It’ll be the last of my required courses! Already, being a junior and not having done my science requirement is pretty sad. But, that’s what you get from a mostly liberal arts school.

Last of all, I’m signed up for intro Pysch – but that doesn’t actually go towards anything so I didn’t have to do much for that. Hopefully it shouldn’t be too much work.

Some other VUW stuff:

When I first logged into the student portal for VUW, besides it looking really snazzy and, no offense to Colby, but much better, this is what I got for a school logo:

Pretty cool right? The slogan is in Māori, the language of the indigenous population of the island. (Which they call Aotearoo – New Zealand). It means the place or house of higher learning, at the head of the fish of Māui. Hopefully I’ll get more familiar with the language when I get there, all I know so far is Kia Ora, the common Māori greeting.

This guy is a boss. And, the chief of a tribe on the island.

Anyways, getting back to VUW, I found a bunch of other sweet stuff in the student portal. There was a ton of information about the libraries, (the main library is called Te Waharoa) my schedule, and.. this.

Ahh, seriously?! That is so scary. I guess tests and essays are graded really, really harshly. In my high school, 70 was failing. In New Zealand it’s a B+. And a C is a 50? Crazy.

I also looked into some of the student activities, and found that there are a TON of Taekwon-Do clubs at the school. It seems to be a really big thing.. maybe I’ll finally get my martial arts down. I also found the student government association page, which had a bunch of cool links and found that the school has something along the lines of Colby’s Loudness: something called OWEEK, which is described as:

Comedy night, Hypnotist show, Carnival day, Free BBQs, Live music, Neon Toga Party, Sounds in the Sun (at Pipitea, Karori, Te Aro and Kelburn), and much more.

Sounds really sweet! Next week, I’ll post some pictures of where I’m living.

Nick

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On Tutorials and Snow

I had my first tutorial today at Oxford. It wasn’t really a typical tutorial—my tutor and I just met to discuss my interests and to set a reading list for the remainder of the term. I’ll be taking a course on theories of material culture, and I’ll be focusing on a different topic each week. My tutorial will cover topics such as visual studies and phenomenology. I’ll be writing a paper in preparation for class each week, and then my tutor and I will discuss the theoretical issues that the week’s readings posed. I have not started my secondary tutorial yet, but it will deal with the archives at the Bodleian Library, so I’m excited for that, too.

On another note, it has been snowing more frequently than I imaged it would here. In comparison to Maine snowstorms, though, the weather has been mild. However, since I have to walk further to get to places than I ever did at Colby (it’s about a 25 minute walk to the English Faculty Library from my dorm room, and I spend most of my time there), somehow the snow has felt a bit more bothersome than it feels in Maine. One thing I miss about Colby is how close most of the buildings I needed to get to were to each other. Last semester, I thought that the Diamond building was far from my room in Go-Ho, but now that I need to take a bus to get to the athletic center at Oxford, I realize that that was a comparatively short distance.

The English Faculty Library (this library holds books that are particularly relevant to students of English literature):

I get the sense that the Brits are not used to snow. All of the libraries closed early today because of the weather.

Here is a beautiful picture of the Worcester College campus in the snow:

Until next time!
Kristen

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Book Quest

I never thought finding books for class would be so difficult.

At Colby, finding your books for class is incredibly easy. You just have to go to the Colby College Bookstore website, click on the “Textbooks” tab, and scroll down to “Find your textbooks here.”  When you click that, it will bring you to this screen:

All you have to do is click on your course number, click “Find Books,” and then voila! There appears a list of all the books you need for each of your courses. The best part is is that you can buy them all right from the Colby Bookstore. If you order online, the Bookstore staff will have all your books together and ready for you to pick up in-store within a couple of days. Or, if you don’t want to buy them online, you can go into the store and peruse the shelves where you can find all the books you need.

Here in London, things are a little different. The University doesn’t have a bookstore, so we students are left to find our books on our own accord. It is no easy task. Since the lecturers (British version of professors) all want us to find certain editions of each text, finding the books in a used bookshop is a full day affair. After not being able to find a copy of The Riverside Chaucer is any used bookshop (granted, I probably didn’t look too hard for there are far too many bookstores to explore in one day), I settled for buying my book at Waterstone’s.  Waterstone’s is basically our version of Barnes and Noble, except much classier–imagine carpeted floors, dark wooden bookshelves, dim lighting, and comfortable, cushy chairs. I could wander around the stores for hours. I found this gem among the hundreds of books on the shelves:

The books I couldn’t find in Waterstone’s, I ended up buying on Amazon UK. It was free shipping anywhere within the UK!

Classes have started and I have my books–I am officially a student at King’s College London for the next 5.5 months.

Until next time,

Morgan

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