Liebster Award!

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award by my lovely Ambassador friend Beatriz at beaslouise (who writes an entertaining blog about her life and opinions..check her out!) and I’m pumped!

liebsteraward

Well, at first I was slightly confused because I had never heard of a Liebster Award. So I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or offended…but then I read her blog post at beaslouise and found out that the Liebster Award is  given by bloggers to other (usually less-experienced, i.e. me) bloggers to recognize and discover upcoming talent, so I was honored to have been nominated. It’s a pay-it-forward award, so it comes with some guidelines:

-You must link back to the person who nominated you, but you cannot nominate them.

-You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the person who nominated you.

-You must select a few blogs with less than 200 followers to nominate, who then have to answer your 10 questions.

 

Without further ado, here are the 10 questions that Beatriz asked of me and my answers to them:

1. What’s your favorite part about blogging?

I really love the community aspect of blogging. Unfortunately once school started in September I have completely let that fall by the wayside :/ I also really enjoy crafting my posts. I think it’s a fun exercise in writing, especially since it’s non-academic. I don’t do enough of that type of writing so this is a great motivator to do more.

2. Who are your top 3 lady heroes?

Beyoncé. Okay… she’s not my hero, I just want to be her. Truly though, top 3 lady heroes are:

elizabeth_iQueen Elizabeth I. And not just because I’m in England. Her fascinating combination of genius, craftiness, and fierce independence made her irresistible to me as a child, and as an adult I truly appreciate and admire her ability to succeed against the odds, in defiance of tradition and under immense amounts of pressure.

mother-teresaMother Teresa. Her life was a true embodiment of love as a virtue. I admire her conviction in the value of spreading love and peace one person at a time, regardless of your resources, using what you have to make others’ lives better.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

“Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echos are truly endless.”

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

mamaMy mother. It’s a combination of a lot of things, but moving to London has made me truly appreciate how impactful my mom(and dad) has been in my life. Raising 5 kids successfully is a feat I don’t know I could repeat as impressively as my parents did. The sense within my family of belonging, acceptance, motivation, and love (among many other things) has been constantly cultivated by my parents’ choices and actions, and that is what makes home my absolute favorite place to come back to every time. I’m a really lucky girl.

3. What is the best book you’ve read this year? Ever?

Well, I’m an English major. Gotta answer both 🙂

This year: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Non-fiction: Enlightenment by Roy Porter (saved my butt going into the term, and is legitimately an interesting read if you’re inclined to learn more about the eighteenth century).

Ever: “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman, and “The Divinity School Address” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

4. It is your last day on death row, what will you ask to be your last meal?

Homemade Velveeta mac-n-cheese and an apple with peanut butter. I’m a simple gal.

5. If you were to be in a reality tv show, which one would it be?

I’m not sure this counts as a reality tv show, but I think it would be incredibly fun to attempt the ‘Wipeout’ course.

Watch “The Best Of”…good pick-me-up on any day.

6. How did you meet your best friend/significant other?

Shout-out to my old roomie, Robyn, on that one. My boyfriend and I went to the same university but didn’t meet til after we both graduated, all thanks to that lovely lady 🙂

IMG_1197

7. What do you hope to achieve by 50?

I hope to have earned my PhD in Literature and found a professorship at a university, and started a family.

8. What has been the best moment of this year (so far)?

Finding out that London would be a reality. I had been accepted to my program to start September 2013 but chose to defer my entrance and try to make it work in 2014, because my boyfriend wouldn’t have been able to go with me in 2013 and I was not interested in doing a 4300-mile/6hr time difference long-distance relationship. Based on how vague everything was for him early in the year in regards to London it didn’t look like it was going to happen at all–I basically told my parents to stop asking–but then in the span of about 3 weeks in April he was offered the position, signed his contract, and set to move in June. It was a whirlwind of a few months for both of us, trying to get everything in order before we left, but the day he signed his contract and I knew we were going to London was, for me, the most fulfilling, exciting, reassuring moment of the year, on so many different levels.

9. Rugrats or Doug?

Shoot. ummm…I think I watched Rugrats more when I was a kid, but honestly can’t remember anything about either show sooo I don’t have a preference whatsoever.

10. If you could own any sort of business, what would it be & what would it be called?

I love to bake, and I love to read, so I think it would be incredible to start a little pastry/coffee shop which was also a bookstore/library. I would have comfy sofas and big cushy chairs and lots of lamps, and people could just sit and read and drink and nibble all day and either borrow or buy any of the books if they were so inclined. Heaven.

I don’t know what it would be called, my boyfriend is way better at coming up with witty names than I am. I’d probably leave that (and all management of everything other than the menu and the book titles) to him.

 

Now for my nominations 🙂 I want to hear from:

whatiluvv

scienceinlondon

rookielondoner

londonartgmt

Your questions are:

1. Why did you choose to study in London?

2. What is your favourite song to dance to?

3. What is the first app you use each day and why?

4. Why were you given your name?

5. What was (or is) the best job you’ve had?

6. If you could repeal one law what would it be?

7. What is your comfort food?

8. (Stealing from Beatriz): What is the best book you’ve read this year? Ever?

9. If you had 10 minutes on a popular TV talk show, what would you talk about?

10. What type of exercise do you most enjoy?

Can’t wait to read your responses! Here are the rules again, in case you forgot:

-You must link back to the person who nominated you, but you cannot nominate them.

-You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the person who nominated you.

-You must select a few blogs with less than 200 followers to nominate, who then have to answer your 10 questions.

 

Advertisements

Houses of Parliament and the no-good-very-bad night bus

This weekend I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Houses of Parliament with my London Ambassador program (for those of you who don’t know, I was chosen to represent Queen Mary as a LUIP Ambassador for the year–It’s been an incredible experience so far, with more to come!).

LUIP_Parliament

The tour was absolutely perfect, thanks to our tour guide Joanna. We weren’t allowed to take pictures once inside the official Houses of Parliament, but if you’re in London and interested in politics and/or history this tour is DEFINITELY worth your time. Ask for Joanna if you can, our coordinator Kim said Joanna gave the best tour she’s experienced (and she’s been accompanying the Ambassadors on tours since the program started, so she should know!).

IMG_0583

The tour gathered in Westminster Hall, on the Big Ben side of the building. Joanna themed our tour around the events of the State Opening of Parliament, which marks the start of each new parliamentary session and is the only day of the year when all three parts of Parliament come together AND the only day on which the Queen enters the Parliamentary buildings. (If you’re interested in finding out more about the State Opening, this website has an excellent, short overview of the day.) Since the theme was the State Opening we began our tour on the opposite side of the complex, in the Victoria Tower:

IMG_0573

We proceeded through the Palace of Westminster (commonly referred to as the Houses of Parliament) from the Victoria Tower to the clock tower (aka Big Ben) accompanied by Joanna’s excellent commentary on the history of the building, the explanations and historical significance of the traditions associated with the State Opening, the current practices of Parliament (which can change relatively easily in comparison to the US, since the UK doesn’t have a written constitution), and the general history of the English monarchy which was illustrated by paintings  throughout the tour.

We finished the tour where we started, in Westminster Hall, where in 1649 they chopped off Charles I’s head and simultaneously planted the seeds for the eventual development of modern-day autonomous government.  I should have put it together prior to my visit, but the current practices of Parliament are a direct result of the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution and the subsequent cultural shifts that happened over the course of the Enlightenment era. Aka everything I’ve been reading, writing, and talking about in classes for the last three months. It was fun to see how the time period I’m studying connects in a very real, powerful way to today’s 21st-century government.

IMG_0582Inside Westminster Hall

After the tour, my boyfriend and I headed over to a friend’s house for homemade pizza, drinks, and good company. We chatted, ate, made some new friends and ended up enjoying the atmosphere so much that we missed the last train for home. At that point, we realized were left with some pretty unfortunate transportation options.

p72 p71

Fun times with friends=don’t want to leave=miss the train=night bus 😦

I knew the night buses existed but had always been cautioned against taking them if it could be avoided at all costs. Now I know why. BUT, since neither Jarin nor I had taken one before, we figured it couldn’t be that bad. Plus we were extremely far away from home and financing a cab ride for that distance would have required another loan. The fact that it was raining didn’t really lend itself to the enjoyableness of the experience, but to sum it up quickly: night(mare) buses don’t have the fleet size or run as frequently as regular daytime buses SO you wait longer for one to arrive, ride longer since they have extended routes, get some…interesting characters considering they are the cheapest form of transportation after 1am, and have much less personal space than usual on a bus. And did I mention the ride is longer? Like, significantly longer. What is normally a 45-minute tube ride turned into a 3-hour marathon. Didn’t get home til 3:30.

Good thing the next day was a Sunday 🙂 It was worth it for the experience, but I’ll be making it a point to get to the tube on time from now on.

All-in-all though, it was an excellent Saturday!

IMG_0589

 Takeaway Tidbit: Visit Parliament. And avoid night buses. Most importantly, pizza parties with friends are the best.

“Why London?”: The Academic Version

International students hear that question all the time, particularly from native Londoners. My response is usually a quizzical eyebrow raise coupled with, “Why not?!?”

For me especially, London made sense. English literature was born and raised and still exists today in England (crazy, right?) so why would I study anywhere else? London in particular has several advantages for students that aren’t found anywhere else: first-rate research facilities, world-class universities (London has 7 universities in the top 200, more than any other city in the world), eminent and acclaimed professors and a plethora of free lectures and other cultural opportunities. And these are only the academic benefits! …Social benefits will be its own post 🙂

The British Library, which is arguably the world’s best research library. A library card here provides access to around 150 million items, with 3 million added each year. They house the Magna Carta, some of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and Beatles manuscripts, among other treasures. The other items include manuscripts, journals, magazines, newspapers, prints and drawings, videos, and obviously much more. You’d be hard pressed to find a topic for which resources don’t exist in the British Library.

british-library-01

The British Library (photo source: Sussex Doctoral School Blog)

Senate House Library, to which I owe my ability to participate in class discussions. The University of London system allows all students within the cohort to access this library, which has over 150,000 books. Because of its size and ease of access many of the professors at Queen Mary assign secondary reading material housed there. The staff doesn’t know me by name yet, but I’m currently sprinting my way down that path.

Archives abound in London. Most universities or public institutions have archives associated with the organization, so if you’re doing research on a specific topic there is probably an institution to help you with your research. The National Portrait Gallery has the Heinz archive and library, the Poetry Library has every piece of poetry published in Britain from 1912 to today, the Dr. Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies has a unique collection of puritan, Protestant, nonconformist and dissenting literature…Essentially, if you can’t find resources for your research in London it means you’re not looking hard enough.

98

The National Gallery during a festival. (The Gallery faces Trafalgar Square, where a lot of free events are held. The square is also the ending point for most protest marches in London.)

Museums here are often free, which is even more impressive when you see the caliber of exhibits on display. The National Gallery features work from masters like Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci–for free. The Natural History Museum, also free, has an incredible dinosaur exhibit, a volcanoes and earthquake gallery with an earthquake simulator, and life-sized models of animals and creepy-crawlers both living and extinct (they have a life-sized blue whale in the mammals gallery). These are just two of more than 240 museums that exist in London, and most institutions also have seasonal exhibits (although these exhibits usually have an entry fee). The British Library is currently featuring an exhibit on the Gothic Imagination, which I can’t wait to visit.

p8

View of Hintze Hall, entryway of the Natural History Museum. That’s a Diplodocus ready to greet you as you arrive.

For factual information about why London is truly the best place to earn your degree and to figure out how you can get over here yourself, check out this blog post.

Takeaway Tidbit: For research and general academia, there’s no place like London 🙂

Differences between America and London

One of the most common, vague, hard-to-answer questions that EVERYONE from America asks is, “So what’s it like over there?”. Personally, I love this question because it gives me an open invitation to talk that person’s ears off (which I am exceptionally good at doing, according to my boyfriend). Plus I know I was most interested and concerned about the differences between America and London before I moved over here.

The thing is, there aren’t many BIG things that are different which Americans don’t already know about. Yes, people drive on the opposite side of the road here but I don’t ever deal with that since, like half of London, I don’t use a car. Yes, people have an accent and are sometimes hard to understand, but then again I’m the foreigner-therefore I’M the one with the accent that’s hard to understand. Although it’s fun adjusting to the big differences, it’s the little, quirky, day-to-day things that catch me off guard and, for the most part, make me love London more. I’m sure I’ll find many other tiny twists as life progresses over the next couple of years so we’ll call this part one of an ongoing list.

♥You don’t have to use the designated crosswalks when crossing the street. You still get honked at if you cross at inopportune moments, but you can cross wherever you want. No tickets for jaywalking. (Just make sure you read the street markings and look in the right direction to check for traffic. The nice, international-friendly city planners remind you which way to look. Or, like me, simply look back and forth constantly because you’re so mixed up on the direction of traffic flow. I wish all streets were as small as the one in the photo.)

Blog18

Don’t ask me what the yellow or blue markings mean. I haven’t the foggiest.

♥Definitely don’t love this part, but heads up: it takes significantly longer to get things set up here than in the States. Getting wi-fi hooked up took a solid 3 weeks. Thankfully most cafes have free wi-fi. I really enjoyed that part; I visited a lot of different cafes around town that way. 🙂 It also took  about 3 weeks to get a bank account set up. The requirements to do so are much more elaborate than in America.

Blog17

♥On the plus side, you can use any ATM- there are no surcharge fees. Doesn’t matter which bank you use or which bank sponsors the ATM, there’s no charge.

♥Because a lot of people don’t have cars, and because apartments/kitchens/fridges are miniscule compared to the States, there are grocery stores EVERYWHERE. Literally. There are at least 3 on my 2-block walk home from the tube (aka subway). Which is fantastic because now stopping at the store 4-5 times a week isn’t crazy. I don’t have to plan and purchase a week’s worth of meals anymore, I can just do it a day or two at time.

Blog13Oh hey dorm fridge and small freezer. And dorm…stove? …at least it works.

♥That being said, the UK rules on food and processed stuff make it really difficult to find things that we use all the time in the States. Besides not having most of my favorite junk food, just this week I’ve had to look up the UK equivalent to corn syrup (doesn’t exist here), corn bread (they don’t do pre-made mixes here so I made it from scratch using polenta. Had to look that up too; that’s what they call corn meal here), sour cream (crème fraîche here), cilantro (coriander), and powdered sugar (icing sugar). That’s on top of discovering that eggplants are called aubergines, zucchinis are courgettes, they don’t have maple syrup bottles larger than 250g or refrigerated rolls of biscuit dough, and they have a significantly smaller selection of gum (apparently Extra bought the rights to be the Royal gum). Among other things.

Blog15

Also, corn starch is called corn flour here (not to be confused with corn meal, aka polenta). Forgot that one.

♥You may have noticed my use of ‘g’ in the previous bullet point. That’s because they use the metric system here. Which is really a mental exercise when you’re using American recipes for things, because you constantly have to do conversions. Grams, cups, ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, Celsius (non-food related: things got really complicated when I attempted to mentally convert distance on a treadmill)… Thankfully, I’m not the first American ex-pat to experience this frustration so there are conversion charts aplenty on Google. I’ve copied a few out and scattered them around the kitchen. On the plus side, weighing myself in kilograms makes me feel REAL good. I haven’t weighed double digits since I was in middle school…or if you use stones as your weight measurement (yes, that’s a weight measurement here. Look up the conversion yourself. Alright fine, I’ve converted it enough times I have it memorized…one stone=14lbs.), I’m in the single digits. Hellooooo newborn baby weight! 😉

Blog17.1

Everything is metric. Even my stove is in Celsius.

See, I told you I could talk your ears off. This is my longest post yet. I’ll call it quits for now, but more to come on this subject later 🙂

International friends, what else have you experienced that’s different? Add yours in the comments!

Takeaway Tidbit: There’s more adjustments to life in London than accents and driving on the opposite side of the road.