Thesis Thursday: Big News that has Nothing to do with My Thesis

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

Alright, full disclosure: while this has nothing to do with my thesis, it has everything to do with my future. As you all may know, I’m graduating from Ithaca College in May. As with many grads, I have little money and many loans. As of Tuesday, I also have a (potential) job.

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I’ve alluded to this several times over the past year, but now it’s (mostly) official. Taylor and I–yes, your two favorite fighters–are headed off to South Korea together to teach for a year, starting in the fall. We don’t know where yet, but we’re about to get started with our Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificates and background checks and all that fun stuff.

giphyI’ve never been this terrified and yet excited about something. Sure, I went abroad to London and did a lot of traveling there, but … well … they mostly all spoke my language. The culture shock wasn’t terrible. I did okay. It was also only for four months, and I had a bunch of friends as back up and we were going to a university run by my home college. Everything was as safe as can be.

Don’t tell Taylor, but I wouldn’t have agreed to go without him. I’m not THAT brave. But this is an opportunity that I really, really want and have for some time now. I want to be scared. I want the adventure. Sure, there are going to be obstacles along the way that I am NOT going to enjoy, but I welcome them. I don’t want to be safe anymore. I really want to travel, and I also get to teach.

There aren’t many other times in my life were I would get to do this. That’s the main thing that keeps running through my head. It’s the reasoning that reminds me how disappointed I would be in myself if I didn’t take this chance. So. In a few months … here we go.

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Oh yeah – I’m still going to be blogging as much as possible. It just may end up being a lot about South Korea.

An Open Letter to 2014 (and that London wrap up you never got)

It’s been a crazy time since I last wrote, what with finals and coming home and such. Then there was family to see an holidays to celebrate and then, without taking a beat, this amazing year has less than 24 hours left to it. (And yes, this is going to be one of those sappy, life affirming posts. You’ve been warned.)

About time to do a wrap up post. However, I don’t think I could do one about London without talking about the events leading up to it anyways, so this works out rather well.

2013 was not a good year for me. It was a year that a lot of things ended. A lot of big things. The biggest one–the one that started me on this very slippery slope–was my choice and not one I would take back, but it still led to learning a lot of things I’d rather have never known about myself or some of the people around me. Oh well.

So enter 2014. Me swearing up and down that I was getting better. That I was healing. It just seemed like every time I got a bit of clarity, something would happen or been said and I’d swing back in the other direction. By the summer I was running in circles so hard and fast I had my best friends planning an intervention. I could see the rut I was in, but I didn’t know how to get out of it and I was just about ready to leave myself there.

It was exactly the right time to put myself on a plane and stick myself in the middle of legit foreign territory.

Honestly, the beginning of my study abroad wasn’t the greatest time of my life either. I made some pretty major choices that a smarter person wouldn’t have made, ones that wrecked me out again before I could even really get started. I got there in the middle of August, and by the middle of September I was convinced I’d already fucked up so majorly that there was no going back, that the rut had followed me, and that all the things I hated about myself were maybe things I should just accept and stop beating myself up about them.

It’s a good thing I’m so desperately stubborn.

I didn’t want to be stuck. Studying abroad is the greatest time to make that decision, because you literally aren’t allowed to be. I didn’t have the time to wallow in my own self-loathing, because there was always so much to do. More than that, I had ample opportunity to overcome major fears that I’d never really been able to confront before. I’m not going to spell out every little life lesson I learned, but the major one for me was the fear that I would never, ever been able to stand on my own–in anything. Studying abroad showed me how strong I could be without even trying.

So between London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Barcelona and my multi-city Italy adventure, there was the good, the bad and everything in between. There were a few people who made my life difficult, but there were also people who were practically just acquaintances when this all started who are now the kind of friends I’d walk through fire for and trust would do the same for me. Most importantly, there is this realization here, at the end of it all, that I don’t regret a single thing–especially the bad decisions that left me in a puddle of tears at the time. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to find the solid footing that I needed.

I actually ended up getting a tattoo a week after I got back from Paris because, even then, this journey meant so much to me that I needed to give myself a reminder. The word I got on my right wrist, Surprises, really doesn’t mean anything to anyone except for me, but that’s exactly the point. To me, it symbolizes the past two years and is a physical reminder for the next time things get bad (because they will, that’s life), things do get better. I threw in the towel on myself so many times but thanks to the support of the friends around me I kept going just enough to get to this moment where I can say, “I am stronger now.”

If 2013 was the year I broke, 2014 was the year I started building again. I know I’m hardly done yet, but at least this time I feel like I have a foundation that no one will be able to shatter as easily again–especially me. So thanks, 2014.

Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart

And all of Paris plays a part!

Yes, I know that I said I would be talking about art in my next post, but as it turns out I didn’t get around to that post and it’s better to do that in a few weeks anyways and GUYS I SPENT A WEEKEND IN PARIS AND THAT IS EXCITING.

The trip was through the school, which was fantastic, because1781864_10205559836419871_877643297077200481_n I do love my trips being subsidized. We traveled via Eurostar train to the Paris Gard du Nord station at way too early in the morning and popped out to beautiful Paris … where it was raining.

Performance art at the Louvre.

Performance art at the Louvre.

Undaunted, we commenced upon a big long walk that started at our hostel near the train station and wandered past the Notre Dame until it ended up at the Louvre. The Eiffel Tower was almost hidden in the fog, but that’s okay because we’ll see it much better later. I wasn’t really paying attention much on this walk, because it was raining and I’m like a drowning cat when that happens, but I was still pleasantly surprised by it all. I walked into Paris with absolutely no expectations.

We went back to the hostel and chilled for a while after that, because we had big plans for10609464_10205559854700328_1063314421491552861_n the night. On Fridays, the Louvre is open for free to people under 26 after about six at night until it closes and we were most certainly going to hit that up. Seeing the Mona Lisa was important of course, but honestly not that impressive. However…

The blur is me and that is the shade I was getting.

The blur is me and that is the shade I was getting.

Over the blog posts, I’ve mentioned that I am a fanatic about ancient Egyptian history. The Louvre has HUGE AND MULTIPLE SECTIONS of these kinds of artifacts. I ran through these flailing about like a moron, dragging my group past reliefs and statues and fawning over every single one. THEY HAD SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS REMAINING ARTIFACTS OF AKHENATEN AND RAMESES II FOR GOD SAKE. Ahem. Anyways. I just about cried and I’m not ashamed in the slightest.

Despite being really tired, that night there was a full moon party in the bar beneath our hostel and a bunch of us attended that. Not going to say much about that (hi Mom!) but it was probably the most fun night out I’ve ever had.

10423833_10205559909181690_1545233039349298776_n…the aftermath not so much. I ended up sleeping in really late that morning, so I got a really late start. However, turns out you really can’t go wrong just wandering around Paris. We went back to the Notre Dame to take pictures while it wasn’t raining and then walked along the Seine for a while. It was a gorgeous if chilly day, but all that mattered to me was that I could get out my technology and record it all.

That night, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower and queued to go up to the tippy top. It1560494_10205559935022336_1878353214304840639_n was dark by the time we got up there, but totally worth it. I fall in love real hard for night time at high altitudes with the lights all down below, and so just one corner of the view from the Eiffel Tower was really worth it. If a bit cold.

10470606_10203353653384888_6349130638338917526_nWhen we came back down we wandered around a bit more to see the Tower do it’s hourly light show and see the Arc du Triumph. God, Paris is gorgeous at night. Then, back to the hostel for food and bed! No regrets ever where sleeping is concerned.

We didn’t really have a lot of time the next day, but Sam, Madison and I did explore a nearby market. We met the George Clooney of Salt (don’t ask), bought some super pretty earrings and then made our way back to the train station for the ride back to London.

Given that so many people had told me I would hate Paris, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t do as much as I could have, but I don’t regret that either. I feel like I did all the Paris-as-city things I really wanted to, and I don’t feel the need to go back. I can say I’ve done it and move on, and I’m happy with that. All in all, the weekend was absolutely fantastic. Anastasia didn’t lead me wrong.

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Halloweekend and Other Things

One of the things that I heard before coming to London was “Halloween is not a thing.” This is a lie. There were people dressed up on Halloween, and the days before and after it, of all ages. Huge groups of kids, teens, and adults. Just EVERYWHERE.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!

In the week leading up to Halloween, me and a few of 1899991_10205404887186237_5032713882415195870_nmy flatmates had a great experience seeing a live taping of an episode of the X Factor. Thankfully for us, we got into a performance night, not a voting night, so we got to see live performances of Fleur doing Lady Marmalade and the like, since the theme of that episode was Night at the Movies. We also just got to stare at Simon Cowell and also see the shenanigans that everyone gets up to in the commercial breaks (there are many). We were told that we were the loudest crowd to date in the studio – go us!

My flat had been discussing Halloween for months leading up to it, when we decided that we were going to be the Guardians of the Galaxy. I got the part of Gamora, since … uh … there was enough leather in my closet to make a costume without having to supply much. This was a very low budget, Guardian-inspired move, and I think it came out beautifully.

Our actual Halloween weekend included two 10352735_10205439899301518_2435541998945746223_nseparate parties that were really awesome. The first was a party in the Vaults under Waterloo Station, which our art professor actually got us into. Features included a mist room with “zombies” coming at you, a movie room for relaxing and watching movies like Beetlejuice, a bar/lounge and a dance floor with music by a full brass band. It was crazy!

10301598_10204472764252598_9049521662569891830_nThe second was a party with just friends at a flat, which was awesome as well. I’ve been very lucky with the people that I either came over here with or met/gotten to know better while I’ve been here.

The most recent random thing that’s happened IMG_1640since I last posted about London was our attendance of another football game, this one Charlton Athletic vs. Sheffield Wednesday. It ended in a tie, but it was a really good game all around. We also had these seats RIGHT at the grass line in the middle of the field, so half the time it was like the players were RIGHT next to us. We went in rooting for Charlton (the home team) of course, and totally got lost in the chanting and the noise and the raucous fun of the game. I’m going to miss being able to just pop by a sports game at home.

Coming next time: Me being all sorts of artsy fartsy in London!

Falling for Italy Part 2: Flying through Florence

Back for round two, finally!

You know, Florence was the city that I expected the least of. I realized that I had IMG_1428absolutely no idea what was IN Florence except for great food and ended up Googling a Time Out article to tell myself. As it turns out, Florence is a great place to be if you like food AND art. And boy does my group like art.

IMG_1435One of the first galleries that we went to was the Uffizi Gallery. We went in having no expectations except for FLORENCE ART and it ended up totally worth it. Why? Because we turned the corner into one room and BAM The Birth of Venus was just RIGHT THERE. Casually. Like no big deal. It was amazing. We had no idea just how many pieces straight from art history textbooks were there. We were literally tired of art by the end.

We did of course hit up the tourist-must-dos. I have a picture of the Duomo up there, and IMG_1466then we also wandered over the Ponte Vecchio a couple of times. Honestly, both areas were both so touristy we weren’t there long.

IMG_1491One of the best things we did (possibly in the whole trip) was go on a wine tour up in Chianti. We stopped by the town of Greve and then went to two little wineries and tried a LOT of wine. Just the bus ride to and from these places were picture worthy, but looking out over the grape fields was also amazing. The mist was setting in and the sun was going down and UGH. It was like a postcard. We also just had a lot of fun as a whole–and came back with a lot of wine that was cheap and good. (Greve also had the best gelato we would have all trip.)

The one thing that we said we were going to do in Florence from the beginning was go to IMG_1517the Galleria d’ell Academia and see Michelangelo’s David. Quite frankly, I wasn’t as excited about that as some other people. I mean, he’s just a nude dude, right? But standing up close to him … it was amazing. Just the hand. The detailing of the veins in the hand. HOW is someone that talented? HOW? As I said before, there is nothing that can prepare you for seeing a bunch of things up close, whether it’s the Coliseum or David or anything in between.

Did you miss my recap of part 1 in Rome? Here’s the link! Stay tuned for the final part about Venice!

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A Tourist Gotta Do What a Tourist Gotta Do

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In Scotland, Madison perfected the tourist look.

Honestly, I think me and my friends have been pretty good about not being THAT American. You know, those people wearing American flag pants or backpacks talking loudly on the tube. Actually, we’ve done really well at not being THAT tourist, wandering around wearing I LOVE LONDON sweaters or something.

Sometimes, though, you just have to cave in. You have to do THAT TOURIST THING because at the end of the day, we are overseas for four months and we are tourists. That’s just it.

In my attempt to be all chill about living in London, it IMG_1055actually took me a month to see Big Ben. I KNOW, right? Silly me. But honestly it’s just a clock, guys. And not as big as I thought.

10444678_10204876772298356_4421531040499595570_nAnother touristy moment of mine was heading out to Kew Gardens. These Royal Botanical Gardens are one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen – and SO BIG. In just one greenhouse, they showcase every kind of environment from deserts to rain forests that plants can be found in. And then there are rolling lawns for days. I call this a touristy moment because the second I walked in there, I lost my mind. I didn’t realize I’d been missing green so much, because I just started dancing and running around and generally being laughed at by everyone I was there with. Absolutely no shame.

I think there’s no question about my touristy moment at the Royal Observatory in IMG_1082Greenwich. We climbed the hill and paid the money to go stand in two hemispheres at once and take the requisite picture. In a way, what was cooler was that the museum that they have there had been taken over by steampunk artists, so the history was littered with steampunk garb and art by a bunch of different people. Completely worth it!

IMG_1140I also feel compelled to add in here the trip I just came back from, which was an overnight ostensibly to Stratford-Upon-Avon. On our way there, we stopped at Warwick Castle, which is a gorgeous bit of architecture that entertains you all day long with activities presented by people who really seem to love their job. We saw a trebuchet launch, a bird’s of prey show and an archery demonstration. Total tourist trap, but totally worth it.

While in Stratford itself, we saw a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Love’s IMG_1156Labour’s Lost, which was simply fantastic. The set alone was a marvel to behold. I still don’t like reading Shakespeare, but watching it performed has grown on me a great deal. We also wandered our way out to Shakespeare’s grave, of course, and paid to stare at that. Again, total tourist thing you just HAVE to do if you’re out there. Why not, right?

IMG_1169On the way back, we stopped in Oxford and basically just wandered around. We were all a bit tired by that point. Still, we went and stared at the church where they filmed the Great Hall scenes in Harry Potter and wandered around the college streets.

I’m sure there will be many more moments when I have to suck it up and strap my camera to my belt, map in hand, and I’m not going to regret them. We’re abroad to do those things that you do in a foreign country. Tourist traps are one of them. You just absolutely have to do some of these things. Otherwise, it’s just an opportunity missed that might not ever come around again. No shame from me!

This is What Dreams Are Made Of

Ten points to the correct age group who just got that title reference.

I know it’s been a while, but as it turns out I’ve been really busy! NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but that’s also a good descriptor of me trying to get the most out of my time here. As I write this, just over one of my four months here has elapsed and that is a scary, scary thought.

And yet, I’ve already done so much!

At the end of the last post, I was off to see a production of Medea, which was one of the most amazing pieces of theater I’ve ever seen. Since then, I’ve gone back to the Globe to see Comedy of Errors – SO MUCH BETTER on stage than while reading it – gone back to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a weekend and turned in my first paper of the semester. Along with a bunch of other stuff.

The thing I want to highlight in this post, though, is my trip to Hampton Court a few IMG_0975weekends ago. If you don’t know, I’m a huge Tudor history buff and Hampton Court is just about THE PLACE to go if you love Henry VIII and his crazy family.

I’ve wanted to go for years. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to go. It’s a bit out of the city and tickets aren’t all that cheap, so I ended up having to beg a friend to go with me. (HI SARA I LOVE YOU.) (I’m a sucker for going places alone.)

IMG_1000Getting there was like entering a dream. Pictures and videos will never make you ready for the real thing. It was the absolute definition of the word “majesty.” It was just so gigantically huge that I thought it would swallow me whole and then I’d need a week to find my way back out again. I almost did.

We went ahead and got those audio guide things, which was a great decision because the overall signage in the rooms wasn’t great. There was so much information on them that I don’t know how anyone was going without. We wandered through the rooms of Georgian kings, the suites of William and Mary and then finally – saving the best for last – the rooms of Henry VIII.

It was like I’d stepped through my TV screen. Finally, finally, the crest of Anne Boleyn and IMG_1004the ceiling dedicated to Jane Seymour and the gallery where the ghost of Katherine Howard is said to walk. All in front of me.

I don’t want to gush over long about all this, but I guess my point is that there are dreams that eventually do come true. What sounded crazier than saying “I want to visit this random palace in England” just a few years ago? And now I’ve done it. I’ve wandered the Hampton Court maze and traipsed through Henry’s great hall and now I own a mug with Henry and his wives on it, where the wives disappear when you fill it with hot water.

I did it. That dream came true. And it feels like I can do anything next.

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