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.

Queen Mary’s English department: Because literature is more than just books.

When I decided to go back to school for my Masters, England was an obvious choice. What better place to study English literature than its birthplace, right? But choosing a school was a bit more complicated. I spent several weeks researching schools around England, but ultimately chose¬†Queen Mary because they are the only school to¬†offer a pathway specifically tailored to my academic interests. Although my research on American schools was minuscule, I don’t think many universities in the States offer explicitly defined areas of study for Masters students. You have your general ‘American Lit’ or ‘English Lit’ programs, but I never came¬†across any programs that were specifically ‘Romantic Lit’ or ‘Shakespeare’ or anything very detailed. queen mary

¬†Queen’s Building, QMUL

Photo courtesy of: The Student Room

¬†My pathway,¬†Eighteenth Century Literature and Romanticism (ECLAR), has completely broadened my understanding of not just literature but history, philosophy, politics, theology, and early science. The professors teaching the modules for this pathway are top scholars in their field and having the opportunity to learn from them has been invaluable. It was a completely new experience for me to be reading a book or article and find that my¬†professor had been quoted as an expert. I would get¬†quite star-struck the next time I saw the quoted professor. ūüôā Queen Mary’s English department also goes out of their way to¬†bring our studies to life. In almost every module¬†I took, we spent at least one class at a location other than Queen Mary using archives, making connections between literature and other subjects¬†(London has an amazing number of free museums!), learning the procedures for different libraries available to us–the British Library was particularly different from any library I’d ever used before, and visiting relevant historical sites like Newington Green Unitarian Church, London’s oldest nonconformist place of worship (founded in 1708) or¬†the Tate Britain to talk about the Turner exhibit and Romantic themes. p44

 Archival experience with the National Portrait Gallery

We even took a day trip to Margate, which is on the East coast of England. That was absolutely one of the most lively and entertaining classes I had the chance to attend. We left just after noon on a Friday, spent the afternoon visiting various landmarks, discussing the literary and historical significance of Margate, mingling with the locals, and ended the day with a beautiful sunset and delicious fish and chips. Margate1 p.11.1

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Our brilliant day trip leader, Dr. Matt Ingleby (left), and a rhapsodic Margatian (right).

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¬†In addition to exponentially broadening my understanding in many different fields, ECLAR and the English department as a whole are dedicated to providing their students with real-life connections to their studies. There are¬†weekly Postgraduate Research seminars which bring in speakers from a number of academic institutions to discuss their current research, and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies¬†also hosts¬†regular seminars and an annual conference. I could not envision a more preparatory English program than the ECLAR pathway at Queen Mary. Obviously if your research interests are different you should seek out a department that can support your pursuits, but when looking into potential universities make sure to think about what they will offer you outside the classroom. Get in touch with people in the department to ask any questions left unanswered by the websites. I’ll be the first to admit that Queen Mary’s website isn’t particularly insightful, but each of the professors I e-mailed responded within a couple days…and that was over their summer holidays! Takeaway Tidbit: Ultimately the choice of university is yours, so make sure to do your research, but Queen Mary provides an excellent approach to Masters-level study and real-world preparedness.

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.

How to build a successful web presence: Google’s 9 Notions of Innovation

This week, I was lucky enough to have the chance to tour the Google London offices. Since each member of the Ambassador group has a blog, our amazing coordinator, Kim, set up a training session with Google on how to enhance and promote our blogs and grow our online presence. We gathered in the lobby of the large, brightly-colored office building that Google shares with a few other companies, and were escorted up to the 9th floor where their main offices are located. I assumed the offices would be sleek and trendy, and as we walked through the reception I was not disappointed:

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We were given a tour of a few of the floors that comprise Google London, and were brought back to the library for our presentations.

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That’s a nap pod through the glass. Yes please.

Our first presentation was “The 9 Notions of Innovation at Google“, in which Harry (one of the three brilliant hosts) illustrated¬†Google’s commitment to its mission, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Currently, just under 30% of the world has access to the internet.¬†To help increase that number and promote the sharing of information,¬†Google is continually developing projects in an attempt to make the internet more accessible. Two projects mentioned were¬†Google Fiber¬†and¬†Project Loon. Having lived in Kansas City, I knew all about Google Fiber, but had never heard of Project Loon…and as Harry explained it,¬†I was blown away. Project Loon (short for ‘balloon’, I think?)¬†“is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters”. Google’s¬†impressive¬†goal is to have Project Loon fully functional by 2020, providing 100% connectivity across the globe. I highly recommend reading up on it if you’re as awed by it as I was. The technology and creativity behind these projects is inspiring.

After addressing the work being done to make the world’s information accessible, we learned¬†how Google is working to make it useful. As new ideas come up, they are put to the “toothbrush test”: is this product/app/etc. going to be used two times each day? If not, it most likely won’t be pursued until¬†it has been¬†developed further. An¬†example of Google pursuing utility is their current development and testing of¬†self-driving cars. Google is also constantly and¬†rapidly developing their search technology such as¬†voice technology,and the new Google Translate app which will do voice as well as Word Lens translations (hold the camera up to text in a foreign language and it will translate the text to your language).

Once we discussed the 9 Notions of Innovation, we paused for a break and had a chance to look around the library.

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It was spectacular.

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Enjoying the atmosphere with (most of) my Ladies Luck team ūüôā …just missing Lei!

Our next presentation was given by Jen, who outlined “10 Fundamentals of a creative strategy on YouTube“. She began by talking about current viewing trends: first, there are fewer people watching television and more people watching content online; and second, people have the ability¬†to engage and¬†interact with the content they watch (through sharing videos, posting comments, etc.) and are increasingly doing so. The 10 Fundamentals¬†provided strategies and questions to ask if we decided to pursue a career as a vlogger/YouTuber. Each strategy related to one of three¬†themes: Get Viewers, Keep Viewers Happy, and Keep Yourself Happy. The entire presentation was thought-provoking and inspiring, because most, if not all of the fundamentals applied to us as bloggers as well. It also got me brainstorming ideas for successful and sustainable YouTube channels…haven’t come up with anything worthwhile yet though.

After Jen had finished and answered our questions, the Google team and Kim had arranged for two successful vloggers/YouTubers to come in and answer our questions, explain their process to successfully developing their channels, etc. We had Sanne from booksandquills¬†and Helen from Helen Anderson. They were both amazingly informative and graciously answered all our questions referencing¬†their own experiences. As an English major I really¬†enjoy Sanne’s channel, especially the videos where she features places around London which are referenced in books. I’m consistently¬†awe-struck that most of the locations Dickens and his contemporaries were writing about still exist today, so the fact that she took time to walk around and video the locations (not necessarily Dickens’ books, the video I watched was on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf) and then put it together in a video is genius, in my opinion.

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Harry is on the far left, and for the vloggers Sanne is on the left, Helen is on the right.

At the end of the night, I was racking my brain trying to figure out how an English MA degree would get me a job at Google. Still working on it (and highly doubtful I’ll find a connection). But hey– a girl can dream. ūüôā

Takeaway Tidbit: Really consider¬†the 9 Notions and 10 Fundamentals…they’re applicable to much more than just Innovation and YouTube.