Inspired by...Accomplishments

First exam: CHECK!  I survived my Islamic Empires exam with only some minor pain in my fingers (anyone up to give me a hand massage???) and the majority of my sanity, so I am feeling quite accomplished this evening.  Speaking of that, here are a few more accomplishments for Day 19 of #BlogEverydayInMay!

1. Smart Mail: When I got the Operations Intern position with Smart Girls Group, I never imagined that I would get to create something like Smart Mail, and run it a year and a half later!   With support and advice from the lovely Smart Starter of SGG herself, Emily Raleigh, I started a weekly newsletter with a tiny little staff that showcased what was going on in Smart Girls Group.  The staff grew…and then outgrew our weekly spot, so I designed and relaunched the all-new Smart Mail to span four days and give you a little dose of SGG in your inbox in the morning, Monday through Thursday.  Today, we number 22 amazingly dedicated team-members and it has been a privilege to work with them.  (Want to sign up?  Head to newsletter.smartgirlsgroup.com!)

2. My study abroad year at the London School of Economics: 2 weeks premature, but I am on the other side of my study abroad adventure year!  Between all of the preparations to come here (the visa process was quite a hassle), and everything I’ve experienced and learned throughout the year, this is a huge accomplishment that I will remember forever.

3. My 17-day, 9-city EuRail tour of Europe!: Years of dreaming, months of planning, and weeks of preparation came down to my massive inter-rail tour of Europe, which I successfully executed and survived in one piece.  I got to see and experience cities and sights I have been dreaming of, and I got to have an adventure all on my own.  If I can tour Europe for two and a half weeks mainly on my own, I think I can do anything :)

4. Publishing 2 articles to the Fordham Political Review: This was really big for me, because I am not always eager to put myself out there.  I had had ideas for articles ever since I started working for FPR, but I just couldn’t get myself to actually write something.  Writing and submitting an article meant leaving myself vulnerable to so many people — my fellow editors, my friends, readers, the internet, etc. — so it took me a while before I was finally able to write and submit my first article on microfinance opportunities for women.  I remember how relieved I was when it finally went live…and then how I felt when some random reader felt the need to email me a diatribe about how wrong I was.  I was a little stung at the time, but if that’s the worst that can happen, who cares?  My friend Dave actually took it positively when I told him — he said I had started an academic dialogue (!) — so looking back, it’s not that bad.  I published my second article on the aftermath of the Arab Spring a few months ago, and I am pleased to say that it is one of the articles listed on the cover of this semester’s edition!  I’m already gearing up for round three, so wish me luck! (Articles can be found here and here!)

5. Learning to eat healthy on a student budget: London is anything but cheap, so let’s just lead with that.  I am responsible for all of my own cooking, so I had to learn quickly how to eat on a relatively small budget, while still eating healthy (it does wonders for my anxiety!).  I discovered the beauty of soup and how I can make a huge pot for around $12 and have dinner for a week.  Sweet potatoes became the ultimate breakfast and quick meal/snack/anything.  Carrots and celery with hummus are relatively inexpensive and are the perfect lunch.  I can buy a container of soup from Sainsbury’s and use it as a sauce for steamed vegetables and lentils or rice and have that make two meals.  It’s been quite the adventure learning how to really fend for myself (kind of; my parents help me out with groceries #ThanksMomAndDad), but I love the feeling!

And finally...

6. KatherInspired: I had wanted to start a blog and have a little corner of the internet for myself and my thoughts for a while, but it took some time before I was finally able to do it.  I think I came up with the name late one night last year and all of a sudden, tag-lines and logos were popping into my head and I had to do something about it.  Next Sunday (the 24th of May) is KatherInspired’s first birthday — it all started during a weekend shift in the Fordham Security Office when I just gritted my teeth and did it, but I am so happy I started this blog.  It’s been so much fun to muse and record my year in London and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

 

Thanks to www.foundlovenowwhat.com for the challenge! :)

 

Inspired by...London Reflections

Wow, it’s been a busy few days, hence the lack of #BlogEverydayInMay posts!  I usually blog in the evenings, but I’ve had things going on and it’s hard to get back into my usual groove.  Anyway, the two prompts that I’ve missed are: “What is your favourite stamp in your passport” and “What are you struggling with right now?” which I am going to combine in a “London Reflection”!

I love passport stamps.  Ever since I got my passport for a school trip to Canada my senior year, I’ve longed to have this little book filled with details of my adventures.  Unfortunately, crossing the US-Canada border doesn’t necessitate a stamp, so I had to wait until my trip to Paris the following year.  I remember looking at the stamp fondly, as a record of my first flight and first trip to Europe.  My favourite stamp, however, is on page 8 — this is where I have my British visa and a stamp on the right-hand side dating from September 25th at Heathrow Terminal 3.  This is where this whole year began, on a morning I barely remember because I was jet-lagged out of my skull and starting to have that creeping sensation of “oh my god what have I done?”  Looking back on it now, however, and I have fonder feelings towards it.  That sticker and the little stamp on the side represent this entire year and the emotions, adventures, and growth that have come with it.  This year has flown by faster than I realised until about two weeks ago.

 I feel like I’ve been here forever, but I’ve been living in Europe for eight months and will be back in the States in just about 18 days.  I’ve already written about the emotional ups and downs that I’ve ridden throughout the year, but right now, I’m thinking about how close I was to not studying abroad, or not coming here specifically, and I can’t imagine my life without this experience.  This year has allowed me to visit twelve countries, fall in love with London, have one of the most academically-enriching years I’ve ever had, meet incredible people, and grow more than I ever expected.  I am not the person who flew out of JFK on September 24th and am so happy that I have survived.

And now onto the tough part: exams.  Before I can go on my bittersweet way back to the States on June 4th, I have to make it through four exams which the LSE Exams Department felt the need to point out are made intentionally difficult.  Thanks, guys.  I’ve never taken exams in the British system before and these exams in general just feel different to me.  I’ve had a difficult weekend in terms of studying (“revision”!) because right now, I’m feeling very overwhelmed and like I just can’t wrap my head around things.  It shifts from one class to another — on Friday, I was stressing about my Islamic Empires exam, and now I’m stressing about my Politics in Europe class.  I have my first exam on Tuesday which is my Islamic Empires exam and I’m starting to feel better about it, but trying to force an entire year’s worth of information into my head is sparking some of my [until-now latent] anxiety, which is just great.  And it’s not like I haven’t been a good student all year, so much that this year has thrown my confidence in my intelligence for a serious loop, which I believe is completely necessary in terms of growth and all that, but I’m scared.  That’s the only way I can say it: I’m scared to take these exams.  It’s hard to be so close to the end that I can feel what my bed at home feels like, but have four incredibly difficult hurdles to jump over (haha, hurdles, my old elbow-breaking friend) and I find myself saying “I just want to go home” as I try to read my notes.  Friday and Saturday were hardest, but I woke up today in a much better mood and am finally able to take some deep breaths.  Once I have Tuesday out of the way, the exams won’t feel so new, so I think that will help a lot.  Until then, however, I just need to push myself through and it will all be over soon.  Wish me luck!


 
Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by an Exciting New Term!

Lent Term has officially begun here at LSE and wow, did I hit the ground running!  I had a presentation for my European Politics last week, one for my Democracy class this week, and an essay due for my Democracy class next week.  It feels a little more manageable this time around, though, because I have a better feel for the academic system here, and I’m not quite as overwhelmed and in transition as I was last term.  I also started a lot of new projects that are certainly keeping me occupied (I’m learning to stay away from the term busy, since I’m not a fan of the connotation), but I love them!  That’s not to say that I don’t break out my stress remedies every so often, but it’s a different kind of stress, in a way.  

 

What helps is that I’m just so excited for what I have going on right now.  I love making my to-do list on Sunday evening because I get to see, laid out, all of the “fun” tasks I need to work on during the week.  Don’t you love when work is enjoyable?  It makes it so much better!

 

I got accepted to a Faith and Leadership certificate course here at LSE that meets on Monday evenings.  Each week, we’ll be discussing one of the world’s major religions and the impact it is having on the world.  We’ll also be discussing the issues that face religion in general these days, especially in international relations and politics, so I am SO excited for this class!  We had our first class on Monday and we talked about what faith means in today’s world, as well as the basics of the nine major world religions.  I miss my theology classes from Fordham, so this class is perfect for me right now!

 

My study abroad program organised an extracurricular course that they call “Community and Culture.”  It’s designed at teaching us study abroad students about London: its history, people, neighbourhoods, and what life is like in London.  In addition to learning in the classroom, we get to go on a ton of excursions, like walking tours of different neighbourhoods, tourist-y things, and lots of food, of course! Tomorrow, we’re going to high tea in Bloomsbury, and then to a museum to learn about how the sugar industry affected the culture of Great Britain.  I'll be sure to post about that this weekend!

 

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by... Evening Walks

Ever since I was a kid, and even now as an adult, I always loved the way cities look at night.  Something about the bright lights surrounding me feels oddly peaceful and I could gaze at the view for hours.

So, going to school in both New York City and London is perfect for me!  London, especially, because I am living right in the heart of the city and it affords me so many incredible opportunities, such as my newest hobby.

Recently (since I returned to London almost two weeks ago), I’ve been taking long walks in the evening.  Some days, I feel like I’m sitting all day, which drives me crazy!  Any other type-A’s out there?  You’ll know that being sedentary is not good for us….  To combat this and to clear my head at the end of the day, I’ll go for a long walk in my area.  I’m in a lovely part of London (see the British-ness of that sentence?) because I’m right near Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, St. James’s Park, the Thames, and so many iconic places, so my walks are both touristy and peaceful.  What’s even better is that since I don’t have 3G or cell service while I’m abroad, my walks let me disconnect from everything and just get some time for me.  It clears my head after a long day of thinking (thanks, LSE!) and puts me in an excellent mood.  Actually, it leaves me quite… inspired. :)

Last term, my goal was to not get lost going to the grocery store, but this term, I’m focusing more on really being assimilated to where I live, so it’s been good practice!  

My normal route takes me through all of these major parts of my area (Trafalgar, Piccadilly, St. James’s, Westminster, along the Thames) but my favourite part is when I’m walking along the river because it’s so quiet and peaceful (not to mention less crowded!) than the rest of the city.  Also, bridges make for excellent artsy photography:

 

What are your favourite things to do in the evening to unwind?

 

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

LONDON! Week 3

Well, it was another busy week here in London, but I got to get away from the city thanks to an Adventure Weekend that my study abroad program coordinated in the Lake District!  More about that later, though.

 

On Monday, I had quite a bit of reading to do for my Politics in Europe class so I spent the morning in the library, which was actually quite peaceful.  This week, we talked about voting behaviors and different historical splits.  My lecturer for the week discussed voting psychology and ergonomics and whether or not different voting formats affect the way people vote.  Lots of dense reading, but I didn't mind, since the library is such a central place and I don't feel alone haha.  I had a lecture that afternoon for my Democracy and Democratisation class, and this week we discussed the different waves of democratic transitions and whether they can really be historically categorized.  That evening was the first meeting of the Women Leaders of Tomorrow society and wow was it fun!  What I love about it is that it's not one of those ultra-feminist groups that's a little too extreme for me - it's more like a version of The Smart Girls Group (the startup I work for) right here in London.  This society is working to create a community of driven women for support and mentorship so it was a really fun event.  They had booked a classroom in the new academic building, but didn't expect a popularity of over 150 of us to show up, but it was so encouraging!  There are going to be some great events this year and I can't wait!

 

On Tuesday, I spent the morning working on my newsletter for Smart Girls Group and I got a few things done for the Fordham Political Review, as well. Then I had my marathon of classes: Politics in Europe lecture from 12-1, Islamic Empires lecture from 1-2, and Politics in Europe seminar from 2-3!  LSE doesn't give you any time in between classes for whatever reason so I had to sprint across campus for my last class…and was still late unfortunately, but I'll find a shortcut haha.  I could listen to my Islamic Empires professor lecture for hours!  He has this incredible passion for the subject and gets so into what he's talking about that you're naturally on the edge of your seat and so wrapped up in the story of these three empires, that the hour just flies by.  I'm actually sad it's over when it is!  After my classes were over, I got a little more reading done before I headed out to Kensington.  My roommate from freshman year is studying abroad at Fordham's business school campus in London and it was her birthday on Thursday, so we bonded by going to her gym for an insane Tabata class and relaxing yoga, and then dinner at Whole Foods.  Seriously, I was soooo sore that night!  It was so good to catch up with her and I love how we've remained friends, long after we've vacated Jogues 435.  

 

On Wednesday, I was absolutely wiped from the previous night, so I slept in a bit and went for a nice walk in the morning.  It's still pretty mild here so the air felt lovely in the morning, and I got a chance to do some exploring.  I had my Islamic Empires class from 11-12, where we had a map quiz and learned a bit more about the geography of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.  Did you know that "Punjab" (like the Punjab region) means "place of five rivers" because it's the intersection of…well…5 rivers?  It's amazing how literal some geographical terms can be, isn't it?  After class, I did a little reading in the library before I treated myself to lunch at a Chinese restaurant near me.  I had a cold last week and I had read about the health benefits of congee (which is basically rice that's been cooked for over four hours to make a porridge/broth of sorts and is often fed to the sick because it's nourishing and healing) so I had a nice big bowl of that for lunch and it was excellent!  It's not that it was flavorful or anything, just warm and very comforting.  Definitely an excellent choice!  From there, I went to Charing Cross Road to Foyles, my favorite bookstore.  There are so many independent and interesting bookstores in London, and they're all very reasonably priced, so I actually enjoy going in them, unlike the ones in New York :).  Foyles is six stories and I could just spend hours there and keep adding to my never-ending "To Read" list!  I had wanted to get started on one of the books my Islamic Empires professor recommended, so I picked up a copy of "My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, which is a murder mystery set in the Ottoman Empire in the 1550's and is absolutely excellent.  I'm also now a student member of Foyles so I get 10% off every purchase now!  From there, I went to a lecture by the Teaching and Learning Center on "Effective Reading Strategies" which was quite helpful.  The woman giving the lecture had some great tips on managing the immense amounts of reading we have, and on how to actually retain the information for an exam in 8 months.  

 

I had been meaning to go back to Westminster Abbey ever since I had heard that they celebrate some sort of mass every day and that it's free and open to the public, so I took the train there that evening.  It was a short mass - an evening prayer - but so surreal to be saying mass right in a church that's such a big part of British history.  Also, the Church of England allows women to be priests so I appreciated the mass even more haha.  I had just enough time when I got back to quickly change and head off to running club, and it was so fun!  Granted, it was luring so we all got drenched, but we ran over a few bridges and along the river which was beautiful even in the rain.  

 

Thursday started off early since I had a 9:00 class (my earliest!) but it was for my From Empires to Independence class so I didn't mind at all.  Plus, it got me going early so I got a lot done in the morning.  One of my writers for Smart Girls Group lives in London and goes to LSE's rival, King's College, so we finally got the chance to meet over hot chocolate at a lovely cafe right near campus.  She was my first writer for Smart Mail, and it's been over seven months!  We chatted for a bit and then had to get back to work so it was back to the library for me!  I got some reading done for this week in my Democracy class since I knew I would be away all weekend and I got organized which is always relaxing for me haha.  Then I had a lecture for From Empires to Independence on Japanese modernization in the 20th century and it was fascinating!  I couldn't write fast enough to capture all that my professor was saying - that's how good he is.  I had another back to back so I had to sprint to my Democracy seminar, but the TA running it is very nice and understanding so it's not a problem.  Then came the highlight of my day which was a lecture entitled: "Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War."  The lecturer has just published a book on the subject and I can't wait to read it.  I had no idea that the Shah and Nixon had such a bond - they even met up in Mexico when they were both in disgrace…  Definitely a great way to end my week!

 

And now….Adventure Weekend!!!

 

My study abroad program coordinated an Adventure Weekend in Keswick, which is in the Lake District, for all of the UK students and I had been looking forward to a little country air for a while.  We left on Friday, nice and early in the morning.  The tube ride to Notting Hill Gate was quick and easy and finding the office was as well.  It's on Pembridge Lane which I think is mentioned in the Parent Trap lol.  I got there pretty early but I met a few people and didn't feel rushed at all.  People started coming one by one until there were well over a hundred of us standing around in the back garden!  I found some people I had met from orientation and we chatted until we got our coach allocations (Pink Floyd, The Who, Rolling Stones, and of course, the Beatles) and I was the only one on the bus who didn't have a seatmate which bugged me at first, but I was immediately grateful for.  Across the row from me were these two nice girls, Hope and Tirsa and they had just met so it was easy for me to break into their conversation (I remembered what schools were in a consortium with Smith, Wellesley, etc.) and we were instant friends!  Seriously, we talked for about two hours!  Tirsa is from Greenwich Village, goes to Bryn Mawr where she studies Fine Arts.  Hope is from Jersey and goes to Johns Hopkins where she's studying political science but in London, she goes to Kings and is studying War Studies!  How cool is that????  She wants to go into national security law, loves west wing, Pan Am, and all of my favorite shows!  We took a break from chatting and I read my book for Islamic Empires for a while before the first stop.  

 

From there, it was certainly an adventure!  Around 4:30, we hit traffic because of an accident and were at a standstill for about two hours so I retreated to my solo seat, curled up with my scarf as a blanket and watched two episodes of Pan Am to escape.  Tirsa and Hope and I intermittently chatted, listened to music, read, etc. and it felt like it would never end!  I actually didn't mind because I had a 1.5 liter bottle of water, my own water bottle, and was totally relaxed for some reason, despite being a little stiff.  It was quiet and I just stared out the window listening to my entire library on shuffle, which was quite peaceful.

 

For legal reasons, we had to make another stop to give the driver a break but it was nice to stretch my legs finally.  Once we got back on, I started reading since I didn't feel like looking at my iPad anymore, so I got really into my book and I love it!  I totally lost myself in it, which I haven't done in so long, and I can't wait to go chat with my professor about it.  We finally pulled into Glaramara around 10:30 (4 hours behind schedule!  lol) and I was starving!  We pulled our suitcases out in the pouring rain and ran inside to a nice warm meal.  I had fillet of salmon with mixed vegetables and wow did it taste good!  The hotel/hostel was different  but it's nice and warm and the rain falling outside is quite pleasant so I liked it. 

 

Saturday was the big day full of activities!  After breakfast, we kind of sat around for a bit before we took a group picture and split intone activities.  Mind you, it was already a bit chilly and damp when I went to the equipment house for ghyll scrambling so I was a bit apprehensive...  First, we were given lamb skin onesies, then a pair of waterproof pants with suspenders, then a rain jacket, life vest, and helmet, along with a pair of wellies.  Here are some words to describe how I was feeling: sausage, Oompa Loompa, marshmallow, and penguin.  Definitely warm!  Once we were dressed, the instructors gave us a little intro and informed us that the river was just on the verge of being safe and unsafe since it had rained pretty heavily the previous day and that they don't normally wear life jackets.  Okay, I thought, this is how I'm going to die...in a river in the Lake District!  We waddled off to the entrance to the river and climbed in one by one.  After a splash initiation by the instructor which certainly woke us up, we were off!  Now, I thought this was going to be splashing around in a river and exploring and kind of playing.  Nope, we were CLIMBING in the river, scrambling over rocks, down banks, through tunnels, being tossed into pools, the whole nine yards and I was SOAKED.  It was so much fun, though!  The water was so clean and cold and absolutely lovely.  It was such an adrenaline rush and terrifying but such a great time and  I met so many people.  

 

When we got back, we peeled off our soaking wet gear and ran inside into the warmth which was such a relief!  It was a while before our next activity but I got to chatting with a girl who goes to Oberlin and designed a linguistics major for herself and she was really interesting.  It was so fun to just sit around and drink hot chocolate in the living room and chat with everyone- kind of like a ski lodge lol. 

 

It was finally time for my next activity which was dragon boating!  At first, I was slightly disappointed that I didn't get to do paddle boarding, but after this morning, I had absolutely no desire to get tossed in the water again so it was a relief haha.  They drove us to this landing and we boarded small launch boats to take us across the lake where the wind was calmer to our dragon boat which is like a giant canoe with a dragon head carved in front so it's kind of like a Viking boat.  After a brief paddling lesson, we were off!  I have to say, this was the most beautiful part of the trip: this enormous lake with mountains and hills all around us and it's gray and cold, but it's so pure and untouched and clean.  It was incredibly peaceful (even with the very choppy lake!) and paddling was so much fun...mostly because we weren't very good at it lol.  

 

When we got back, I sprinted to the showers and took the longest hot shower ever which was pure bliss, and changed into my dry leggings and big Choate shirt so I was quite happy haha.  We had about 2.5 hours until dinner so I hung around the living room and chatted with people before I took some time to myself in my room right before dinner.  I sat with a bunch of people I had met throughout the day including Tirsa, Hope, and Hope's friends.  After dinner (such a relief to finally eat lol) it was time for a pub quiz!  Spoiler alert: guess whose team won??  THIS GIRL!!!  Thank you high school bowl! We even got medals :)

 

After that was a dance party which was kind of like an awkward middle school dance, but still fun and a good way to end the day!

 

On Sunday, we had a short morning activity before we departed, and I hadn't taken any pictures yet, so I chose to go hiking.  There is probably nothing like the mountains and countryside of England, and it was absolutely breathtaking.  First of all, there are sheep everywhere so it's a funny sight when you're climbing up a hill and you come across about 20 baaing sheep haha.  We hiked for the longest time, over hills, across rivers, through fields, and it was quite the adventure.  From one of the summits, the wind was so strong that it almost knocked me off my feet!  Here are some pictures I took: 

 From there, we boarded coaches to the center of Keswick where we picked up the non-hikers and set off for London.  Luckily, there was no traffic so we made it back in the normal six hours :)  Such a fun weekend and a great way to escape and meet some new people!

 

Well, it was another beautiful week in London!  I've got a bit more work this week, but my reward for getting through it is Scotland this weekend, so it's all worth it!

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

LONDON: Week 2!

Well, it was another full week here in London!  I started lectures this week and I'm pleased to report that they are all fascinating and I'm literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. :)

On Monday, I only had a lecture at 2:00, so I popped into the British Museum for an hour or so, since, like all of the major museums in London, it's FREE!  The British Museum is interesting because it has artifacts from all around the world - my tour guide during orientation said that, "The good thing about having an empire is that you get to take all sorts of stuff from your colonies and put it in your own museum."  Typical Brit.  They have the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from Greece, an Egyptian tomb, and one of the world's most famous chess sets, dating back to the 10th century:

 

I had my first Democracy and Democratisation lecture that afternoon and it looks like it's going to be a great class since we're studying the processes and effects of democracy in countries around the world.  We'll have different lecturers, each of whom is an expert in the politics of a specific region, so that's exciting!  After that, I took the train to Camden to go to the Camdentown Market with a girl I had met on the boat tour.  She's gluten free and had told me about a little place that makes gluten free vegan ice cream cookie sandwiches.  YUM!

On Tuesday, I had two lectures: Politics and Institutions in Europe and, my personal favorite, Islamic Empires: 1400-1800.  We're going to be studying the Ottoman (Turkey), Safavid (Iran), and Mughal (India) empires and the reading list is incredible.  My professor is Indian and has a fantastic British accent so it really is the best combination :)  


There was a lecture that night called "The Paradox of China's Peaceful Rise", so I went to that after class and some Smart Girls Group work.  It's amazing how much the free lectures are a social event - the hall was packed and everyone was so excited to be there.  They were taking notes, tweeting about important phrases, and were some of the most engaged students I've ever been around.  I was actually sitting next to a girl who wasn't even a student here (she's in high school), but loves economics and takes advantage of the open to the public lectures.  Amazing, right?  


Wednesday was mostly a catch-up day, but I also had time to check out the National Gallery over in Trafalgar Square.  From the portico, you get this incredible view of the Square and you can see Big Ben in the distance:

I saw a few pieces I had studied in my freshman year Art History class, including a series called "Marriage a la Mode" which is basically what happens when two rich families in the 18th century decide to marry their children who don't have any real-life skills.  To sum it up, bills go unpaid, the husband has an affair, the wife takes poison, and everyone dies.  The End!


The Teaching and Learning Center has lectures every Wednesday on how to make the most of your time at LSE so I went to one called Intro to Study at LSE and it was actually really interesting.  Their advice on how to tackle your reading made so much sense: simply treat school like a 9-5 job and use the day to get your reading done in the library.  Make a list, make a plan, and you won't be stressed and you won't pull any all-nighters (I haven't yet!).  That was definitely a relief.  There's an athletic apparel store down the street called Lululemon and they have a running club every Wednesday night, so I went for the first time and it was so much fun!  I met a girl who goes to LSE but lives in a different dorm and it was excellent running weather - nice and cool and a little misty.  We ran all along the Thames, across a few bridges, and right by the London Eye so it was sightseeing and a workout all in one!

On Thursday, I did some reading in the library in the morning.  My advisor from Fordham was actually here presenting a paper at LSE so we met for coffee at a little cafe right near campus.  I experienced the joy that is a cappuccino for the first time and I am hooked!  It was great to see him since we've always gotten along very well and he's absolutely brilliant.  He is teaching a class on Comparative Politics of the Middle East this semester and teaches a seminar I have to take in the spring so I'll be seeing him much more when I go back to Fordham.  We were talking about post-grad plans and he wants me to look into applying for a Fulbright or the Pickering Fellowship since I'm looking into foreign service or diplomacy work.  I showed him all around campus and he wants to encourage more people to apply to LSE to study abroad!


I had my first lecture for my class called "From Empire to Independence" and WOW is it going to be amazing!  The whole class is about twentieth century history, but from a non-European perspective, so we'll be looking at Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, etc. and examining how the idea of development contributed to the history of the twentieth century.  My professor is an expert on Japan, interestingly enough, so he'll be giving next week's lecture and I can't wait!  I had my first seminar for my Democracy class and I love how small the class is: only 7 of us!  This is when we go into more depth about what we learned in lecture and have discussions, so I'm really looking forward to it.


I don't have class on Fridays, but I still spent much of the day in the library so I could get ahead for the weekend.  Did you know that LSE numbers every single study spot and you can reserve your favorite spot up to two weeks ahead of time?  They also have an entire section for bean bag chairs on the lower ground floor, so they're definitely committed to making your library experience special. :)  I took a break to get a cappuccino in the afternoon and it was gorgeous out, so I sat outside and people-watched for a little while:

As I was having lunch, I ran into a girl from my orientation group and we were talking about what we were doing that evening, and we actually decided to have the classically-British experience of getting tea at Harrods!  We met up when we were done in the library and headed out to Kensington.  


Now, this was probably the most refined, lovely experience I have had since being here.  There is absolutely nothing like tea at Harrods.  We took the train to Knightsbridge and there it was, right in front of us!  Harrods is a super high-end (as in, I will never be able to afford anything there in my entire life) department store and it is HUGE.  We went up to the third floor and The Tea Room was right there. We queued for only about five minutes before we were taken to a table right in the middle of the room, which was so beautifully decorated.  We immediately decided on tea with scones and clotted cream and jam, since my friend (who completed her Masters at LSE) said that that was her favorite.  We chose a milk oolong tea recommended by our server and it wasn't long before it arrived.  The china was pristine, the tea came in a silver tea pot, and there was a little strainer to place over your tea cup as you poured your tea since it was a loose-leaf tea.  What a treat!  It had a creamy, warm flavor and was quite refreshing.  Then came the scones.  Oh my god, the scones were divine!  Scones can be so tricky, as you know, since they're either too dry and crumbly, or too dense, but these were utter perfection.  It was a plate of two - one plain and one with dried fruit - so we each had a half and spread them thickly with our little dishes of clotted cream and sampled jams from the selection they gave us.  I was in utter bliss!

I savored every last crumb until they were gone, and it was such a treat! We walked through Kensington along Hyde Park since we had wanted to pick up a few things at Whole Foods, and it was a beautiful day so the sunset was incredible.  

 

Yesterday (Saturday) was another big day, as it was my trip to Stonehenge and Bath! We met at the tube station at 7:45 am (yes, you read that correctly!) and took the bus 2.5 hours into Bath.  I had been kept up by rowdy neighbors the previous night so I mostly slept on the way up…  The village of Bath is so quaint and historic and full of pubs and patisseries, and then of course, there is the Roman Bath.  

It was built by the Romans when they were in England and is the oldest surviving one in Britain.  The water in this main pool is over 120 degrees and is actually not very clean anymore, so you can't drink it.  There is, however, a spring you can drink from and it's full of minerals and has a really interesting taste so I think I drank about a week's worth of minerals!  The most surreal thing is that I actually got to walk on paths and stones that the ROMANS walked on over 2,000 years ago.  Is that crazy or what?  They have all kinds of coins on display and statues of the goddess to whom the bath is dedicated, and is such a well done museum.  

 

From there, we took the bus about an hour into the countryside to Stonehenge which was incredible!  The English countryside is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been - so clean, and quiet, and the sky is so blue, and it was so peaceful.  Seeing Stonehenge was also incredibly surreal because it was created thousands of years ago and the technology and engineering that went into its creation was so advanced for its time.  

My friends and I had time leftover, so we actually walked back along a path to the visitors center, rather than take the bus, since it was such a beautiful day outside.  Also, there are so many sheep!  I really enjoyed that haha :)

 

It was another 2.5 hours to get back, but by that point the majority of us were fast asleep on the bus.  Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night!

 

I've been having so much fun exploring the area and living like a Londoner, complete with a trench coat, so it was a great week and I'm even more settled in!  

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine :)

LONDON: Week I

Well, I'm here!!!!  The moment I've been waiting for for the past 7 months is finally here!

I moved into my flat (LSE residence hall) on Sunday and it's one of the closest dorms to campus.  It's a few blocks away from the tube, several grocery stores, and some decent chain restaurants (they're big on chain restaurants around here, but they're quite good!).  High Holborn is organized in flats of five or so people sharing a kitchen and bathroom, and each person has a sink in their room.  Here's the weird thing, though: you can't drink the water in the bathroom sink or in your sinks because it's collected rain water!  How's that for being sustainable?  :)  You can drink the water in the kitchen, of course, so I have a nice filtered pitcher that is my new best friend.  Here's a picture of my room:

It's got a ton of storage (the year I become a minimalist!) and is one of the refurbished rooms so it's brand new and very clean!

 

On Monday, I ventured onto campus for the first time.  It's definitely more "urban"-esque than Fordham is, meaning it's not a huge sprawling campus, but I'm liking the atmosphere.  I checked out the student services fair and walked around a bit before I headed to Kensington to run some errands.  I went to the Whole Foods there and it's HUGE!  It's one of the largest Whole Foods and is stocked with literally everything I could ever need; there's an entire wall of chocolate.  Kensington is the "Royal Borough" and I think Mom said she saw Princess Diana there when she was studying abroad, so that should give you an idea haha.  It has a lot of high-end shops and is gorgeous.  

 

Tuesday was a fun day since there was a big welcome presentation for all of the General Course (study abroad) students on campus.  I have a friend from my summer at Andover here, as well as a guy I worked with when we were on a State Student Advisory Council on Education I did senior year.  Immediately after that was the boat cruise on the River Thames for all of the GC students, which was such a fun night!  I have a slight obsession with night views of cities so seeing everything lit up was absolutely incredible:

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On Wednesday, the Government department had a little welcome session for all its students so I got to hear from the tutors and current students and get an idea of what the program is like.  That evening was even more fun because I went on a scavenger hunt around the city!  My friend Dave (the guy I knew from State BOE) was on my team and we had to answer a bunch of trivia questions like finding out how many capsules are on the London Eye, how late the National Gallery is open on Fridays, what's on tap at the Sherlock Holmes pub, etc.  We came in 4th place, so we didn't win anything but we had fun running around the city for a little while!

 

Thursday was super busy since it was the Freshers' Fair that morning.  Unlike Fordham, which has their club fair around the quad and you can amble as you please, you have to wait in line (queue!) to get into the Students' Union to view all of the clubs.  I was in line for about an hour, but I didn't mind since I made friends with a guy from Canada who's doing a one year master's in Philosophy and Politics.  There are soooo many clubs here but I think I'm going to do Model UN, Women Leaders of Tomorrow (less active than Model UN) and I signed up for the emails from the running club so I can find some good running routes around here.  I also went to a training session given by the library which was quite exciting. The library is ENORMOUS!  It's the largest library of social science in the world and is absolutely gorgeous.  There's a big spiral staircase right in the middle that winds up and up to the different floors, so it's this beautiful open floor plan.  The curriculum at LSE is such that you have an hour of lecture and an hour of seminar per class per week, which amounts to 8 "contact hours" per week.  That may not seem like a lot but you're expected to do a ton of independent studying and reading, and it basically allows you to pursue your own interests.  You're given a reading list of about 80 or so books per class, as well as the topics for the final exam and essays for the course, but you have a choice for all of them, which I love!  You can make the class whatever you want, so that's going to be fun.  The library is so well-equipped because you're encouraged to spend a lot of time there, so there's an entire section with bean bag chairs, cafes, self check-out, no late fees, a borrowing period of 3 days for course books and 3 months for regular collection books with indefinite renewals, and designated zones depending on what you need (silent, quiet, and group).  You can even reserve study spots ahead of time and the library is open 24 hours during the Lent and Summer terms.  WOW!  That definitely merited a training session, right? :)

 

I had a group meeting with my advisor after that, and then we all had General Course registration.  Now, you would think that the London School of Economics would have moved past a circa-1980 registration method, but…. my (new thanks to registration!) friends and I were queuing for over two hours!  The queue started at the seventh floor (which is basically like the eighth floor because there's the ground floor and then the first floor) and ended in a big hall where they scanned your passport and then handed you your ID.  Yup, that was IT!  I actually didn't mind because I met a really nice girl from my program, and a guy who's at American University and we bonded quite a bit.  

 

That evening was a tour of the South Bank and a ride on the London Eye!  I found out that the London Eye has 32 capsules and it's entirely clear, so you basically float above the Thames and get the most gorgeous views.  Then, we had a walking tour of the South Bank which is right on the Thames and includes the Tate Modern Art museum, the Globe Theatre, and some great restaurants.  It was also a pub crawl (my first pub crawl!) and a friend introduced me to "shandy" which is sprite and stout and is soooo good!  I got a half pint which was the perfect amount.  I only made it to 2 out of the 3 pubs and I don't know how people do this regularly!  I could barely handle the half pint and a birthday shot and that was only at the first pub! (I got chips at the second pub haha).

Friday was a very quiet day, as I had a ton of work for Smart Girls Group, SamePage, and the political review to catch up on, but I did venture out a bit to get some hangers from Primark.  I had to order a silverware set from Amazon as I'm still using just one plastic fork that I stealthily stole from Pret a Manger because I could only find 4 person sets for about 24 pounds and who needs that much, right?  Hopefully they'll come soon!  I also spent some time at this amazing bookshop called Foyer's which is the intellectual's dream come true.  It's about 6 stories and has everything you can think of - I spent some time in the religion and history section this time.  

 

Saturday was suuuuch a busy day!  I had signed up for a "Perfect Day in London" tour and it really was the perfect day.  I got up at 7, did some yoga, and left around 8:15 to meet the group at the St. James Park tube station. Well, the District line was shut down where I normally change, so I had to go all the way back on the Central Line, switch to Victoria, and take that a few stops down, and then sprint to where we needed to meet.  I was wide awake after that!  We started out at Westminster Abbey, and I hope I can do it justice here.  It was built in 1066 by Edward the Confessor who is the patron saint of England and is one of the most incredible places I've ever been:

There are so many little chapels and tombs and famous people buried there and I could have spent the day there!  The coronation chair is there and was built in the 1200's and used to house the Stone of Scotland which the Brits stole and kept to show their dominance over Scotland.  They returned it eventually but I think they take it back for every coronation.  I saw the tombs of Elizabeth I, the Princes in the Tower, Henry VII, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Edmund Halley, and so many more!  At every hour, they announce a moment of silence and a short prayer so I actually got to say a prayer in Westminster Abbey!  WOW.

 

After that, we got caught in the rain (guess who wore a denim jacket and forgot an umbrella?  Rookie mistake haha) on our way to Buckingham Palace, but we got to see a bit of the changing of the guard!  It was super crowded, but it didn't take away from the beauty and precision of it all.  The new guard comes out the left side of the palace road and is led by this amazing marching band (with a tenor sax!) and the footmen all wear the quintessential bearskin hats.  

We made our way to Westminster Pier after that, where we boarded a riverboat to the Tower of London.  Let's just say it was a veeerrryyy cold and wet ride :)

The Tower of London isn't just a tower like I though - it's an enormous fortress built in the 1100s and is actually state of the art military technology at the time.  It was pretty much impenetrable!  Right now, they have a display for the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, so they're placing 888,264 ceramic poppies out the Tower and onto where the moat used to be to commemorate the British forces who died.  Poppies spring up in the harshest and most desolate environments, so they've actually been found at major battlefields:

We saw the scaffold where Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard were both executed, along with other high-profile prisoners, and we got to see the Crown Jewels!  They've been used since 1660, when they were recommissioned following the Civil War.  The Crown Jewels contain the largest diamond ever found from the Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa.  It's 540 karats and is so beautiful!  The doors guarding the area where they are displayed are over 2,000 kilos each.  Basically, don't ever try to steal them.  They have footage from Queen Elizabeth II's coronation from 1953, and did you know that if she lives through next year, she'll outtake Queen Victoria for the longest-serving monarch in England?

 

We spent the afternoon around the Tower and we ventured into the armoury and saw the weapons and armor used by most of the kings of England.  Did you know that it's the longest-running visitor exhibition in the world?  We toured and toured and toured and when I finally made it back around 6:30 I was EXHAUSTED!  What a fun day, though!

Well, that's what I was up to for my first week in London!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by Counting Down

In one week, I'll be in London.  Wow.  That makes it so real, doesn't it?  It seems like so long ago since I got the email telling me I had been accepted, and it's actually a funny story.  

I knew I was going to be finding out within the next week or so and I was losing it.  I'm normally pretty patient, but in this case, boy was I impatient!  I had gotten out early from a lab and was visiting with my friend Tyler and, I kid you not, I had just said, "Oh my god, I just want to find out about LSE!" when my phone buzzed with an email from my program advisor.  All I saw was the subject line, "LSE Acceptance" and my heart literally stopped.  I waited for the email to load (at this moment, Fordham's wifi was not on my side) and I read the words that changed my life.  Tyler was the first to hear and then I dashed out into the hall to call my mom and I got to say, "Mom, I got into the London School of Economics!"  For a while after that, it seemed like a far away dream, but being home these last few weeks has made it a reality.  I've been making lists, putting in my meal request for my flight, registering for classes, etc.  I'm SO excited for my classes because I basically get to spend an entire year studying politics and the Middle East at one of the world's best institutions for social sciences.  I know I must sound like a bit of a snob, but let's be real here, it's the London School of Economics.  I finally got to pick my classes the other day and here's what I chose:

I was torn on the last choice between a class called "From Empire to Civilisation" and the Arab-Israeli Conflict course but then I said to myself, "I'm a Middle East Studies major - how could I not take an entire year-long course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict?  Also, I love politics dearly, but I think I'll need to change it up a bit :)  So, the Arab-Israeli Conflict it is!

I love the academic model that LSE and most British schools take, as well.  For each course, I'll have one hour of lecture and one hour of seminar a week. The lectures are open to everyone who wants to come (meaning I can go to any lecture I want! #nerdstatus) but the seminars are capped at 13 or so students.  What I love about the model is that the professors or "tutors" view you not as students who need to be taught, but fellow scholars who are interested in their fields as well.  It's more of a cooperative mentality.  You're expected to do a lot of outside reading and research, as well, so you can learn as much or as little as you want and this will come through in seminar.  Sound intimidating?  Absolutely, but my two years of being homeschooled sparked this love of research and exploration-driven learning that I think fits this model.  I can't wait to read and learn all that I can.

I've also been doing quite a bit of shopping (hello, JCrew fall rollout!) so stay tuned for a photoshoot!  

Until then,

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by Taking a Break

It has been FAR too long since I last wrote, but things got so busy since my last post!  I've been meaning to blog for a while, but the thought that I had so much to write about to catch up stopped me.  Despite that, I've really missed blogging so I'm back after a much needed break!

First: 10 days until I leave for London!!!  It's becoming more and more real by the minute.  I have a nice little travel organizer with my passport, visa, transcript, school documents from LSE, ticket, etc. and it's sitting on my desk reminding me every day about my upcoming adventure.  I'm flying Virgin Airlines and, I have to say, they have the nicest customer service!  It doesn't hurt that they have British accents, but they were so helpful when I called to inquire about meal options.  It definitely reassured me.  My flight leave around 7 pm so I'll be flying overnight but there's something so beautiful about watching the sun rise while flying over the ocean so I'm looking forward to that.  Also, hot chocolate is served all night and I have a huge selection of in-flight entertainment so it's going to be a very fun night!  I should probably sleep at some point, though…  I'll be met at the airport by staff from the study abroad program and they will take the lot of us to a hotel in London for a few days of orientation.  After that, it's off to LSE for move-in, start of term events, and then classes!

I came home! Besides the London countdown, that is one of the most important things that has happened lately.  Yes, I am finally home in Connecticut and it has been lovely!  I really missed my queen-sized bed and my room that my mom redecorated, and taking a shower without flip-flops, of course :).  It's been great to have time with my mom and dad and just rest which I desperately needed.  I've been going to my favorite gym and yoga classes and running errands and organizing for my mom, which I actually really enjoy.  I designed a new bill-paying system for my mom and I'm quite proud of the finished product: a binder with lettered tab dividers for each recurring bill she has to pay (mortgage, tuition, car payments, insurance, etc.) and then a sheet in a plastic divider for the login information if it's an e-bill.  Non-recurring bills (household management, doctor visit copays, etc.) are in a pocket in the front and there's a calendar with each bill category color-coded in the front view pocket of the binder. This way, everything is in one place and she can just look at the calendar and know what needs to be paid right away.  I had also set up a Google calendar account for her a few months ago so she'll get reminders via email.  That's something I'm working on next, though, since Google calendar isn't compatible (from what I can tell) with the iPhone and she's going to (finally!) upgrade soon.  Microsoft Outlook seems to be the best option because we can both access it online, it will send email reminders, and works on Apple products.

I also designed a task-management system for her using an Arc customizable notebook.  She works two jobs from home so she's responsible for figuring out how much she wants to do each day and it's often hard to keep track of everything.  She was using big sheets from a Post-It calendar for each aspect of her life (jobs, me and my brother, my dad, and her personal stuff) but those are too big.  So, I made a notebook with separate tab dividers in it and a calendar in the front with a few zip pockets.  What I love about the Arc notebooks is that you can take out or add in pages and tabs and calendars as you please so she can still use her post-it system for tasks but in a more portable and organized way.  Also, I LOVE the customizable, mix-and-match  covers!  I'm so proud of this :)

I went to DC with my Dad!  The trip that was getting me through my busy system finally came and it was a blast!  My dad and I have never taken a trip by ourselves together so it was a great bonding experience.  We took an Amtrak down on Tuesday which took about 6 hours, but it was quiet and so fun to see the scenery.  We stayed in a Mariott right on Pennsylvania Ave so we were right in the thick of everything.  And trust me, we took full advantage of that because we went EVERYWHERE!  We took a "Moonlight Monument" tour that evening after a bit of exploring and, despite periods of torrential downpour, it was gorgeous and so fun.  

The next day we got up bright and early and had a special breakfast at a grille near the hotel which totally had the aura of an old-boys' club but was quite fancy.  We spent that day at the Air and Space museum, National Gallery of Art, National Archives (I saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution!), and then a stroll through Georgetown.  I applied and didn't get in to Georgetown when I was a senior and didn't think much of it until this trip.  I fell in LOVE with it.  It's such a beautiful area and a prime location because of its proximity to the wonder that is the DC metro region.  I love Fordham, I really do, and I'm so happy that it's my school, but the Bronx a tough area that I really noticed this summer.  I'm definitely going to look at Georgetown or GWU (there's a Whole Foods right on campus that takes meal dollars!) for grad school because I can't get it out of my head!  We finished the day with dinner at the Toombs (a pub right near Georgetown), and Georgetown cupcakes:

 

Thursday was another long but fun-filled day!  We started by touring around Capitol Hill which was very exciting for my ambitions :).  Then we went to the US Botanical Garden which recreates all kinds of different climates like a jungle and a desert to preserve the plants inside and was really interactive, as well.  They had exhibits on herbs and spices for cooking (my personal favorite), medicinal plants, and even plant-based expressions we use in daily life.  We then headed to the Library of Congress Jefferson Building which was ENORMOUS!  I wanted to live there….  They had an exhibit from Thomas Jefferson's extensive library, Persian literature, and even the Gutenberg Bible!  I could have spent days there.  We then went to the National Portrait Gallery where they have every portrait of all of the American president which was quite humbling.  This portrait of all of the female Supreme Court Justices, however, was my personal favorite:

We pushed it a little by going all the way to the Catholic University of America to see the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception but it was completely worth it!  It was mind-boggling how enormous and beautiful it was.  There are several large sanctuaries, as well as smaller shrines, and is the largest concentration of mosaic art in the world, along with being the largest church in North America.  WOW.  

It was a very long day for us so we collapsed when we got back!  When my mom picked us up at the airport the next day, she asked where we went and we both replied, "Where didn't we go?!"  Go big or go home, right?  I don't think I stopped smiling for those three days, though.  Between spending time with my dad and touring such an inspiring city that reminds me of my dreams, it was the most fun I've had in a long time.

That's all for now but I still have a lot more catching up to do so stay tuned!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Sunday Musings

You know it's a quiet day here at Fordham Public Safety when you can read an entire book, start to finish, in the span of a shift and still have time left over!  My Kindle, though some say it is killing the print industry, is a godsend!  I've been doing a lot of reading this summer and have had a few "reading day" shifts where I'll just read an entire book, rather than work on my laptop the whole time.  You get tired of staring at a computer screen, right?  Especially now that I have my iPad, I've been very wired.

I have a habit of "devouring" books - something I've done since I was little.  I learned to read when I was very young and it's always been my rock.  I am never not reading something and when I latch onto a book, I read and read and read until I am completely enveloped in it and it's done.  I'm a fast and passionate reader so it makes a nice balance.  Devouring things is a bit of a theme in my life, as I like to just sit down and get something done; the feeling of something hanging over me drives me crazy!  If I have a huge paper assignment, for example, I'll set aside an entire afternoon and get the whole thing done in a chunk of time.  Of course, I'll edit it (Tutor Katie living up to her title!), but I like to get the whole thing off my chest at once.  In other words, I was the girl who read the new Harry Potter book in its entirety on the day it came out. :)

Today I read a book called Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline which is a parallel story of a modern girl in the foster care system and a girl in 1929 who was sent out to Minnesota on the Orphan Train from New York.  Her family was an Irish immigrant family and my own family (great grandparents) were immigrants from Cork, so I've always liked stories about immigrants.  The modern girl, Molly, and the now-elderly woman, Vivian, develop a bond from their shared stories and it's heartwarming without being cliche at all.  I also loved the Irish cultural references, like the claddagh symbol, which I wear on a ring.  The claddagh is a pair of hands holding a heart that's topped by a crown, symbolizing friendship (the hands), loyalty (the crown), and love (the heart):

My mom brought me back my ring from a trip to Ireland she took a few years ago and someone very dear to me told me it's "like Facebook for your finger" because it shows your attachment status, depending on what way you wear it.  Every time I think of this, I smile because it actually makes sense in a millennial sort of way.  If you wear it on your right hand, you aren't married, and the crown facing out means you are committed to someone, and the heart pointing out means that you are single.  It's the same on the left hand, with the heart signaling engagement and the crown signaling marriage.  I've always wondered if it's a big deal in Ireland but I suppose I'll just have to find out!

One of the many beauties of the iPad is the Maps app.  I can see places in this beautiful layout so I got distracted the other night and started playing around with it and searching through London.  My apartment in Holborn is near King's Cross (the station from Harry Potter), Piccadilly, across the bridge from the Globe, right near the London Bridge, near several gardens and museums, parks to run in, as well as about 6 Starbucks, a Lululemon, a Whole Foods, the British Museum, not too far from Westminster Abbey, and also not that far (but still kind of a hike) from Buckingham Palace!  I had been hitting a bit of a slump with my excitement about studying abroad.  Not that I'm not excited, because I'm absolutely ecstatic, but my fears were starting to creep up on me and it was starting to just kind of cloud the joy.  Then this happened.  FYI: the joy is completely back and I'm ready.  Six weeks from right this second, I will be in London, on my orientation which includes tours and shows and talks about the culture of Britain, etc. etc. and this is actually happening to me.  Also, I rediscovered my joy of being in London itself.  Before, I had been focusing on what countries I wanted to visit but then I realized the other night that I'm going to be in London and there are soooo many places I want to see there, as well.  Yes, I want to go to Scotland, Wales, Italy, Prague (which I know is not a country), Ireland, Spain, Paris, etc., but I can save longer distances for that entire month off I get for Easter or the occasional long weekend or something. I also want to know London.  I want to explore every inch of the city itself.  A friend told me that, when he was studying abroad, he would take the train to a new station once a week and wander around and get to know the neighborhood itself, apart from the touristy destinations.  Isn't that a great idea?  I want to take an afternoon a week and just explore another part of the city and get to know it.  I want to see Notting Hill, Buckingham Palace, all the touristy and non-touristy places alike and I want to be a Londoner.  Like I'm a New Yorker now, I want to be a Londoner too.  I want to embrace where I am and make roots in addition to traveling everywhere else.

I've had so many days, lately, when I've felt like I was bursting with how happy and content I am.  July was a rough month because all I could focus on was how badly I wanted to go home and how tired and overworked I felt.  It took a short phone call to my mom who had been getting the brunt of quite a few complaints, to flip the switch and pull myself together.  Actually, it was my mom herself who told me to pull myself together and that I was fine, which helped immensely.  We all have burdens and things aren't always idyllic, but this is where I need to be right now.  She helped me turn over a new leaf with the beginning of August and I feel so content and sure of myself now.  That being said, I only have 11 days to go home and I can't wait, as much as I've come to love it here!

Here's to turning over new leaves, devouring good books, and rediscovering the thrill of adventure!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

London Musings

On September 24th, I will embark on what is surely to be the greatest adventure I have ever had.  I will spending my junior year at the London School of Economics (and Political Science!). This is also, coincidentally, Jed Bartlett's (President on The West Wing tv show) alma mater.  Every time I think about this experience coming up, I am filled with excitement, fear, and exhilaration.  I'm excited because what could be better than spending your junior year in London and being able to travel all over Europe and immerse yourself in a foreign country and study at one of the top schools for social sciences in the world?  I have a list of so many countries and cities I want to visit and sights I want to see and foods I want to try.  I think about the classes I requested and the unique lecture/seminar mixture model that LSE uses.  I think of the beauty of London and the prospect of an adventure.  

Then, of course, I start thinking about being on another continent, an ocean away from my family and basically everything I know.  I have relatives in Ireland who I kind of know but are very kind, but I text my mom multiple times a day, just to say hi and tell her a funny story.  She is my go-to when I can't figure out what on earth to pair with my cream-colored JCrew Sylvia skirt.  My dad is my go-to for political discussions and help with professional development and book recommendations.  My brother is my 17-year-old best guy friend who I can be silly and serious with, no matter what.  I had a very difficult freshman year at Fordham, also.  I was homesick and overwhelmed by the idea of "being in college" and having to "grow up" and all of that.  It took me several months to feel like I knew what I was doing here and I'm afraid that the immense transition is going to undo this sense of well-being I finally found last year.  I don't have several months to "figure it out."  I want to enjoy myself and make the most out of my time.  What if I'm a mess or don't have any friends or classes are ten times harder than they are here?  What if, what if, what if?

But then this sense of exhilaration washes over me: a mixture of pure excitement, and clenching fear.  That's the energy that inspires me.  It's the good and the bad that drive me.  Yes, I was scared to death during my freshman year of everything unfamiliar but I grew so much that year into who I am now so fear isn't necessarily a bad thing, I've learned.  And, again, I'm spending my entire junior year in EUROPE.  That also helps calm the fear =)

I found the study abroad-specific view book online yesterday while I was supposed to be studying for an exam, and I sat there and combed through the whole thing.  I read about cultural attractions in London, clubs and organizations at the School (as it's colloquially called), famous figures who have spoken there, residential life, course descriptions, and I remembered why I fell in love with this school.  Oh, and I also re-read the program dates on the study abroad website and, instead of finishing in May like I thought, I'll be there until July!  That threw me for a bit of a loop because a) October to JULY?  Wow, that's a long time!  I'll probably come home for Christmas but I'll definitely be immersed after all that time!  b) My brother graduates in June so I'm either going to fly home or someone's going to have to prop me up on Skype so I can see the whole thing. 

Then I watched Downton Abbey since the fourth season was finally released on Amazon Prime and I hear the British accents and mannerisms and I smile and remember that, in three months, I'll be a Brit!  Cheerio!

Inspired to be,

Katherine