Ambassador Finale at the Globe

Last Wednesday, my fellow ambassadors and I were invited to celebrate our year as ambassadors at a reception and awards presentation at Shakespeare’s Globe. As an English major, I was beyond excited as we had the opportunity to meet with Phoebe and Doug, from Globe Education and Marketing,¬†and hear behind-the-scenes explanations of how things work at The Globe. We also got a tour of the theater, and¬†then practiced¬†performing read-throughs of a few of Shakespeare’s plays. First we read from Julius Caesar in the style of Shakespeare’s authentic style, with each of our scripts only including the last 3 words of the line before, so we had to really be listening for our turn (which was much more difficult than it sounds, for me at least!). Next we did a more modern read through with Macbeth in partners and practiced performing different interpretations of the same scene.

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Julius Caesar, Shakespeare style. The orange bookbag played ‘Caesar’s body’.

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Performing different interpretations of Macbeth.

We had our Ambassador reception in the midst of tours and acting lessons, and as always we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Swan (the restaurant associated with The Globe) had stunning views of the Thames and landmarks along its banks, the nibbles were delicious, and the company was perfect.

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I was also awarded ‘Best Blogger’ for the year, which was an honor. Thank you to all my readers for joining me on my journey!

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Me with Ceri, one of my sponsors from Queen Mary, and Kim, our Ambassador leader.

After the reception, we went to the Yard which is the standing-room area of the Globe theater and watched a performance of¬†As You Like It. I’d been to the Globe before but this by far was the best performance I’ve seen. The actors were absolutely brilliant; I was enchanted¬†by¬†James Garnon’s Jacques and enjoyed the interplay between Michelle Terry and Ellie Piercy, who played Rosalind and Celia respectively. If you get a chance, I highly recommend this production. It was excellently done.

Takeaway Tidbit: Study in London. The experiences are incomparable.

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Summer has FINALLY come to London

So I wore shorts today for the first time since…last August. Not exaggerating. I have a new appreciation for why Brits have the bad rep of being extremely pasty (sorry for the people I blinded today). In conjunction with¬†my personal understanding of the pale Brit stereotype, I also have a new awareness of how precious the sunlight here is. Brits (and all of us expats, too) cherish their sunny days and squeeze what they can out of every ray of sunlight. Which means¬†the 7-day forecast for a heat wave has put a summer spring in my step, not the least because 4th of July is in that 7-day forecast. I’m really interested to see what¬†the 4th is like in England…it’ll be an experience, I’m sure. ūüôā

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My heart on the 4th. Thanks, Zazzle, for the accurate depiction.

¬†One thing that has¬†become increasingly charming for me since moving to London is to just enjoy¬†an afternoon in the park. It’s a very European (or rather, non-Midwestern) thing, I think, because in the Midwest usually the only people you see lounging on blankets in a park are families enjoying a picnic. But here, if the weather is above 60F/15C, you’ll see all sorts of people lounging in the park–families, couples, friend, and even people enjoying some¬†solitude. I think it’s due to various¬†reasons: ¬†perhaps because yards are much smaller if not non-existent, the weather is much more mild so when we get a nice day people want to enjoy it and on the other side, it almost never gets unbearably hot here, people are allowed to enjoy adult beverages in public and the legal drinking age is 18 (hellooo Sunday funday), there is a significantly higher number of parks in London than anywhere else I’ve lived, and people simply live in much closer contact here than in the Midwest so getting together with friends isn’t necessarily the drive-across-town production that it can be in the States. And for me, spending time in green spaces is a way for me to feel closer to home when I’m missing the Heartland.

Whatever the reason, it’s one thing that didn’t make sense to me when I first moved here but after¬†a¬†year¬†I fully appreciate the charm¬†of a day spent lounging with friends in the park. And now that the sun is here to stay, the park is calling my name. ūüôā

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Enjoying St. James’ Park. And studying. Also, didn’t know you had to pay to sit in those chairs. Word to the wise: bring a blanket for your lounging pleasure, those are free ūüôā

Takeaway Tidbit: London teaches you to appreciate the finer things in life, on so many levels.

Entrepreneur boot camp and fun at Hampton Court Palace

I spent Saturday with my LUIP Ambassador friends, first at Kingston University and then exploring Hampton Court Palace. Our time at Kingston was wonderfully impelling because we were led through an entrepreneur boot camp by Dr. Martha Mador, the head of Enterprise Education Strategy. Dr. Mador began by explaining the entrepreneur process:

  • A successful¬†opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit can occur at any point on the continuum¬†of¬†discovery, evaluation, and exploitation;
  • In order to be successful, there must be a healthy balance of creativity (the generation of new ideas) and innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas–ideas being accepted in a marketplace);
  • Dr. Mador further clarified that innovation is not just a product or invention, and it’s not necessarily a new idea nor a ‘light bulb moment’. It is a combination of finding novel solutions to peoples’ problems.

After her thought-provoking explanation, we spent the next hour or so working through the entrepreneurial process ourselves. We split into groups, were given photo cards, and told to brainstorm a list of problems based on the pictures we had. The pictures were quite nondescript– a woman running through a field, a row of wind turbines, a person helping another climb a rock–but from those pictures we generated 10 general problems that could be fixed.

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We could even write on the tables…I was awed. English majors don’t get to write on much, other than notebooks.

After generating a list of problems, we chose one and brainstormed solutions to the problem. From there, we created a viable solution and developed and pitched our service to the group. My group decided to focus on the lack of work-life balance¬†for many professionals. We developed¬†a company called Stress Less, a consulting agency that businesses could hire to help convert their offices so that they promoted a more healthy work-life balance. Our pitch even had a jingle, set to the tune of ‘Call Me Maybe’. We won the ‘Best Brand Name’ award…go Team Stress Less!

After boot camp we headed over to Hampton Court Palace, the¬†palace of King Henry VIII (the one who created the Church of England, and had 6 wives in his attempts to have a son. He also fathered Queen Elizabeth I, who is by far my favorite English monarch.). The palace was beautiful, but I was much more enamored¬†with¬†the grounds. The gardens were absolutely stunning, especially the ones along the bank of the¬†Thames. And I was impressed by how successfully lost we became while wandering through the maze. Most of all, I couldn’t have chosen a better group of friends with whom to spend the afternoon.

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The English love their roses. Especially those Tudors. ūüôā

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Kim and her band of merry ambassadors. Photo Cred: Divi

Being¬†guided through the creative process of identifying and developing a business was unexpectedly motivating. I left boot camp feeling like I could actually create a viable business–on paper, anyway. I started brainstorming ventures I would be interested in and that might actually work. However, after my original elation wore off, I realized I would have some serious work to do on the numbers side of developing a business. Let’s be honest: although I find an odd satisfaction in getting the correct answer on a math problem I am nowhere near confident enough to trust a business’s finances to my numeracy¬†skills. Creates a nice opening for a partner, though. Any takers?

Paying for a London degree.

Tuition fees can be overwhelming, but for an international student thinking of studying in London there are many options to help ease the burden of paying for a degree. Scholarships, part-time work, and loans are how I am making ends meet while studying in London

Scholarships

  • Most universities offer scholarships, so make sure to get in touch with the financial department to see what’s offered through your school.
  • Don’t forget to check with your specific department. Often, scholarships are offered for a particular field and won’t be advertised on the general scholarship page. If you can’t seem to find any information, e-mail the department.
  • Check for scholarships specifically for international students. There aren’t as many of these, but most schools sponsor a few scholarships specifically for international students, masters students, non-traditional students, etc.
  • There are sometimes options with your home country for international studies….but not many. For example, in the US you have to be a genius or solving world hunger or something equally as impressive, AKA I didn’t even come close. Look into your options, but don’t be too disheartened if nothing seems to be applicable.

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My scholarship has opened some amazing doors for me–here’s me with the president, Professor Simon Gaskell, at the International Scholars Reception.

Don’t rely on part-time work to help you pay tuition fees! If after scholarships you still have tuition left, make sure you take care of that either through personal funds or through a student loan.

Loans

Loans are the reality for a lot of people when pursuing an education in London. Work with your home government to try to get the best loans possible. For US students, that’s Perkins and Direct Subsidized loans before looking into Unsubsidized, PLUS, or private loans. Once you’ve been approved for¬†your loans, work with your London university’s Financial Aid department to complete all the necessary paperwork and tasks to ensure your loan will be transferred to the right university. Queen Mary has an amazing flow chart and Excel document that walked me through the process step-by-step, and the FinAid people were wonderful and very helpful, which made for a hassle-free loan experience.

Once you’ve covered all the tuition, make sure you’ll have enough to live on as well…London is a VERY expensive place to live! I took out a larger loan than I needed to help me cover living expenses while studying, since I didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to find part-time work. Then¬†if you are able to find a job once you’re here, you can use that income to enjoy life in London:

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 Part-Time Work

**If you have a Tier-4 (Student) visa, you are only allowed to work 20 hours per week.**

  • If you’re in the country on a Tier-4 (T4) visa, you have to be aware of restrictions other than just time. For example, I looked into tutoring as an option for part-time work, but since I’m T4 I can’t work freelance. Most tutoring agencies are freelance since tutoring is¬†often 1-1 and at the request of the tutee. Luckily, I found a tutoring agency that¬†had a scheduled timetable (aka not freelance) and have been working for them while studying.
  • Use your university’s job site to look for part-time opportunities on and around campus. Most job searching sites have filters so you can just see the part-time work available. Many of my friends found jobs as baristas at local¬†cafes or as food service staff at restaurants or catering companies.
  • A third option (which¬†you should be very cautious of when using) is Gumtree, the UK version of Craigslist. I found an amazing nanny job through Gumtree but I’ve heard horror stories of terrible families scamming college students for free childcare. If you choose to use Gumtree be very cautious, meet the family or employer before agreeing to anything (as many times as you need to be comfortable!), set and put in writing clear guidelines for what the expectations, duties, and pay¬†will be, etc. I absolutely love my nanny job and there are great families out there, but don’t jump into anything if you don’t feel comfortable.

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¬†I love my nanny job ūüôā

Takeaway Tidbit: Take the time to make sure you’ve looked into all your options for funding your degree in London.

Why choose London for international study?

This March in London is a celebration of internationality, especially for students. I have been¬†asked often why I chose to study in London, and being¬†a part of such positive, encouraging communities has allowed me to share my story on several platforms. Rather than repeat what I’ve said, check out my reasons on the sites below:

 

Study London website

Quick version– The birthplace of English, Resources in London, Specialist degree options, Student support, and Student life in London

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Queen Mary International Page

Quick version– London allows me an opportunity to “learn something about everything, and everything about something” through my coursework at Queen Mary.

 

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Takeaway Tidbit: If you’re considering international study, DO IT. London has absolutely been the best decision I’ve made.

Reading week in London

This past week was reading week for me, which is the Queen Mary University version of spring break. No class for a week, which, as evident by the title, is supposed to be used for catching up or getting ahead with your reading for classes. Which I did…mostly. But I also took advantage of plenty of¬†activities around London during the week too, starting on Sunday with the city’s celebration of Chinese New Year.

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Photo cred: Kim ūüôā

I arrived early enough to watch part of the parade, but unfortunately the area I was in wasn’t¬†regulated very well and as the parade approached people swarmed to the center line of the street, effectively blocking the performers into one lane of performance space¬†and¬†resulting in me not seeing much at all, despite my early arrival and (what originally was a) good vantage point. However, lunch with the LUIP Ambassadors at Er Mei Sichuan Restaurant in Chinatown quickly put me in the best of moods. We chatted about some of the family traditions observed by the ambassadors from China, and enjoyed a delicious shared meal.

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Three of the 10 ambassadors and our coordinator, Kim.

Monday and Tuesday I did do some reading. I’m currently working on research for my term papers, which will most likely be written on Rousseau’s Confessions¬†and Coleridge’s¬†Biographia Literaria.¬†After a meeting with one of my professors on Monday, I spent Tuesday at Senate House Library reading original texts, doing research, and taking notes. Wednesday I did a bit of reading, but mostly just relaxed. ūüôā

Thursday I went to an art exhibit featuring work done by one of the Ambassadors, Chenyi. The exhibit was called ‘The Cat is Alive!’, a nod to¬†the Schr√∂dinger’s cat thought experiment. It was aptly named since the tag line for the exhibit was ‘Articulating quantum physics through art’. The program provided further information on the inspiration behind each piece:

Space Program students blur the edges of science and art in a project which started in Oxford University science labs and ends in The Crypt gallery with quantum interactions rendered in new physical, spatial, multisensory and experiential forms.

I have to admit that a lot of the scientific explanations provided alongside each piece went over my head, but I was inspired by the common thread throughout the whole exhibit: although not explicitly stated, each piece seemed to be¬†designed to highlight¬†the fact that every viewer will have a different experience. I¬†was also¬†pushed towards the¬†recognition that in all aspects of life every action has multiple and varied reactions. Equilibrium¬†seemed to be the endgame for some pieces, such as ‘Onn/Of’.

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‘Onn/Of’

Others, like ‘The Quantum Curtain’, encouraged participants to record the different and varied experiences,

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‘The Quantum Curtain’

while a piece like ‘Collected Excitations’ allowed each person to interact with the piece and reflect on their unique experiences and the eventual return to balance or equilibrium in a more personal, internal way.

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‘Collected Excitations’

Of course, having spent the first part of the week studying Coleridge (and, by extension, Emerson), I was much more¬†receptive of the omniscient, ‘Oversoul’-esque ideas that each piece inspired¬†and spent a lovely, enjoyable hour reflecting on how beautifully science and art entwine.

Friday I read a bit more and relaxed, and Saturday spend the day with ambassador friends on the London Eye–I wrote a piece on¬†our¬†ambassador scavenger hunt from November, but neglected to mention that my team won the hunt! Our prize was a trip on the London Eye, and although it took us four months to find a time that everyone could attend it was well worth the wait. The views and photo opportunities were incredible, even on a drizzly day, and the company was superbly sassy. ūüôā

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After my time at the Eye, I headed up¬†to Islington to meet friends for an Andrew McMahon concert. If you knew me in high school, you knew how obsessed I was with the bands Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate…so of course when another ambassador friend told me the lead singer/pianist from the band had a solo show in London I jumped at the opportunity to see him perform. He played the perfect mix of old and new songs, interspersed with personal anecdotes and background stories for several of his songs. Coupled with the brilliant company, friendly chatter and high-school-reminiscences it was an excellent way to end a great day, and week.

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Takeaway Tidbit: Use your breaks for more than just vegging…get out and try something new, or use the time to strengthen friendships!

What to do on Pancake Day in London.

Even though Valentine’s Day is this weekend, a stroll through any Sainsbury’s or 99p store will provide not-so-subtle reminders that Easter is the¬†next holiday coming up. For most Christians, that means Lent is just around the corner as well…and so is Mardi Gras¬†(which means ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French).¬†Mardi Gras, also known as¬†Carnaval in many countries, occurs the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a period of fasting and spiritual preparation for the celebration of Easter 46 days later. Mardi Gras is the last day for Christians to indulge in fatty, rich foods before the more austere, penitential period of Lent begins.

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

(photo courtesy of The Telegraph)

However, England has their own, less-lewd-more-delicious celebration: Pancake Day! Pancake Day is officially called Shrove Tuesday, and is most prominently celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. ‘Shrove Tuesday’ comes from the word ‘shrive’, which means ‘to confess’.¬†Pancakes became associated with the day before Lent as a way to use up rich foods like eggs, milk, and sugar before the fasting of Lent began. And for all you pancake lovers out there, mark your calendars: Shrove Tuesday is 17 February 2015…NEXT TUESDAY!!

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A day specifically dedicated to indulge in pancakes? I’m¬†in!

(photo courtesy of Perfect Pancakes)

So rather than fly to NOLA in the States, or to Rio in Brazil, celebrate Pancake Day right here in London.

One of the most famous¬†activities to participate in are ‘pancake races‘, held throughout the UK¬†on Shrove Tuesday.¬†Participants carrying frying pans race through the streets,¬†tossing¬†their pancakes in the air and trying to catch them while running. If you’re interested in participating, check out the following events:

The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race raises funds for London’s Air Ambulance. Teams of 4 suitably dressed up (or down) gather to compete for the honor of becoming this year’s champions. They race up and down Dray Walk and prizes are awarded to the winners, runners-up, best dressed team and best behaved team. To enter a team email info@alternativearts.co.uk There’s a free hot pancake for every entrant!

The Parliamentary Pancake Race has served to raise awareness of the work that Rehab does in enhancing the life chances of people with disabilities and others who are socially excluded in the UK. MPs (Members of Parliament), Lords and members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery gather in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament, where they swap their warm coats and woolly caps for aprons and chefs’ hats and race around the course while vigorously tossing their pancakes in the air.

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 MPs in their racing garb

(Photo courtesy of ukstudentlife)

The Better Bankside Pancake Day Race supports Paintings in Hospitals, a local charity that places fine art in clinical settings. Every year their work brings comfort and reassurance to over 1.8 million people across the UK. Put forward a team or come and support members of the Bankside business community as they show off their pancake-tossing skills at our annual Charity Pancake Day Race.

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Don’t feel like running? Make your own pancakes! Since living in London I’ve discovered there are several different types of pancakes…all of which are delicious. Use up those fatty ingredients¬†and make them all:

American Pancake Recipe Рmakes fluffy and thick pancakes.

European Pancake Recipe – thin, pliable pancakes (aka crepes).

Feeling ambitious? Try out some of the interesting variations on BBCgoodfood’s Pancake Day page.

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German-style cheese and bacon pancakes, anyone?

(Photo courtesy of BBCgoodfood)

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Don’t want to run, don’t want to cook? (Because, let’s be honest, that’s what Fat Tuesday’s all about…indulgence!) Go enjoy one of the many delicious breakfast restaurants around London:

Fat Tuesday doesn’t have to mean a skinny wallet…TimeOut put together a great list of eateries¬†and included pricing guides.

The London Evening Standard also put together their best-of list for London pancake restaurants and features several that I can vouch for (M1lk is just a few blocks from my flat…come visit and I’ll take you there!).

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Takeaway Tidbit: Whatever you do, make next Tuesday the most Pancake-y day of your year so far.