September 2010


My dad and I have been in Durham for two nights and about two days.  It’s lovely to be back in such a picturesque and historical city, though the scholarship is causing a few hiccups.  I’ve met with the reception in the college, put my ginormous suitcases and recent bedding purchases in my room, and met with one of the professors and IMRS participants who championed my acceptance and reception of the scholarship.  All seems well, and the sun is shining brilliantly outside over the cathedral!

However, now that these little things are cleared up, or at least on their ways to being cleared up, I have some big decisions ahead of me.  I have to choose modules (American “classes” or “courses”).  After having experience at the Cambridge summer school and at the University of Washington, I have so many modules I want to take!  First, there are the languages.  I want to have at least some basic understanding of Old English, Middle English (1 term already), Old French, modern French, and Latin (3 years already).  I want to be able to teach classes on Shakespeare, medieval literature (with a focus on later poetry, Arthur, epic, and romance), composition (hooray for my Texas TAAS standardized teaching prep actually coming in handy!), manuscript tradition, and the classical tradition’s progression from its early inception in Greece through the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe.  Whew, that’s a lot!  Plus, a good background in the history of the Middle Ages is something I feel I need, and I’ve gotten some excellent education on that.

The modules I’m looking at are Narrative Transformations (classical antiquity to Renaissance), Roland to Orlando (epic), Paleography (reading manuscripts), Codicology (formation of manuscripts and early print), Old English, and romance (focusing on Arthur).  I know I want to take Narrative Transformations, but so much looks so good!  Is it good or bad to want to know everything about literature in the later Middle Ages?  For the master’s program, perhaps it is.  Perhaps it isn’t and it’ll allow me to fine-tune my specialty.  I want to have a specialty in epic literature and antiquity’s influence on medieval literature.  For me, epic includes things like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (a traditional romance), and folklore legends that become epic, like Robin Hood and the entire Matters of Britain and France and Rome/Vulgate Cycle/Arthurian romance.

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I’ve been battling customs, crowds, and a lack of internet all day, but I wanted to give an update…

I’m in LONDON! On Tuesday, I’m meeting with a Gustavus and a Cambridge friend for dinner, and Wednesday is a tour of Canterbury (I’m only part way through this book, but it’s a source of great inspiration: Walking to Canterbury).

On Thursday, September 22, we go to Durham, and I’m really looking forward to getting things settled and some of this hideously heavy luggage dropped off!

Cheers!

P.S.  I spent part of my flight watching movies I wouldn’t ordinarily see, such as Sex and the City 2 and The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  Meh.  I probably should have rewatched How to Train Your Dragon, as both of my in-flight films were let-downs.  Quick moral of the story: reviews actually are quite accurate, even if you love the premise.

I’ve seen that there are, indeed, people out there Googling “Hild Bede postgraduate.” Hooray, I’m not alone! Please, speak out and introduce yourselves. I’m fairly clueless right now, so any impressions, anxieties, hopes, and excitement I hope you’ll pass my way in the comments section.

I finally did actually get some kind of information from Hild Bede today. I’m unclear as to whether I should be there on the university-wide postgrad move in day (September 29) or at the HE postgrad move in time (September 18-19). The little information I have is creating more questions. All this, with less than a week to go before liftoff!

Good news, I get a single room. Bad news, not en-suite. Good news, there are postgraduate activities during orientation. Bad news, I’ve seen the other calendar for Ustinov.

I’m sure it will all work out and everything will go fine. It’s just a matter of me staying up really, really late tonight and calling the office. I’m thrilled that I’m finally getting some communication from the college itself. It’s comforting to know they know I exist! Plus, they’re already taking care of switching my enrolment forms, etc, from Ustinov to Hild Bede.

Tonight I’ll be filling out more paperwork and calling the college. I’ll be sure to say how it goes and what my impression of this college is (or, at least as much impression as I can get over the phone!).

Coming soon: pics of my new glasses and my own odyssey to find the perfect, non-breakable pair.

No, I haven’t joined Match.com or anything, but I have discovered a wonderful blog concerning all things university, and in particular, all things British university.

The University Blog

I found a link to this blog by clicking my way from The Glamourous Grad Student (see previous post) to one of her posted “Weekend Reads,” and then stumbled upon this post, “10 Great Ways to Push Past Uncertainty.”  TUB has covered the brand spanking new Harry Potter course at Durham as well as getting rid of writer’s block and frustration.  It’s a great place for academics to look for both entertainment and inspiration, and even though I’ve only read about 8 posts, I’m hooked.

I find myself looking for reassurance anywhere I can, and the internet happens to be the best place at the moment because of its worldwide collection of authors and contributors.  The UK Student Room forums are giving me insight into the collegiate lifestyle in Durham and allowing me to get to know some of my fellow MA students online, albeit in a fairly superficial way (which is one terrible drawback of online forums like the UKSR or Yahoo!).

I think even though it is the web (and we can totally trust everything on the ‘net, right?), these little tips written by complete strangers help me to get a grasp on just how lucky I am to be able to fund almost all of my own tuition and accommodation through pure hard work and how normal my doubting and anxiety is.  I need to focus on the positive more than ever; hey, I walked onto one of the largest campuses in America and did a pretty good job, if I say so myself, with commuting, paying rent, and staying on top of full course loads.  I made great connections with professors and peers and jumped into classes I would have presumed to be too over my head a year ago.  (Funnily enough, even though I love history, I really stink at remembering dates and details.  Especially with ancient and medieval history, in which there are so many Philips, caesars, popes, and Edwards, not to mention fairly unpronounceable names, I struggle.  However, I jumped into early medieval history and well my first quarter, proving that my fear of the details is conquerable.)  I should remember this.

I know it’s silly, but at this juncture in my life when everything is so uncertain, these little reminders of potential and the strength of the human spirit and mind help me put everything in perspective.  You won’t find me posting any Hallmarky cards up on my wall anytime soon, but I think we all can use a bit of inspiration now and then.

And hey, if nothing else, this blog makes a darn good read when procrastination sets in…

I’ve been doing shopping research on everything from cameras to boots to bags lately, so it’s unsurprising in this age that some of the top Google and Bing results are blogs and YouTube videos. At first I ignored them, as I was looking to actually see reviews and prices for things, but as I was getting anxious about finding a bag, I got desperate and clicked. What I found surprised me. There are grad students here in the US and in the UK that have, gasp, time for making regular videos and for updating amazing blogs about fashion and style and organization.  There is life beyond academia, despite what some of my professors seem to think (admittedly, the two I’m thinking about do lack, well, people skills, and don’t seem particularly keen on breaking out of that professorial shell).

As I’ve been preparing for Durham, I’ve been considering how to be the “grown up” I’ve envisioned.  For the most part, my uniform of choice at Gustavus consisted of layered tees and sweatshirts or fleece, jeans, and sturdy Minnesota-winter-suited boots.  It was rare that I would actually take time to put on makeup (except perhaps, if I was lucky, on some wayward pimple), and incredibly unlikely to do my hair.  At UW, I tried to break out of that by at least doing makeup everyday and by trying to keep my t-shirts for home use.  Lots of cardigans and sweaters became my most-used items of clothing, and my regular jeans were replaced by two much-loved pairs of trouser jeans (lots of washing!).  I even began incorporating dresses, tights, and leggings, and found ways to wear my flourishing scarf collection.  Facing my new life, I want to do more of that, though I am aware a bit more creative layering is needed, as the nighttime temperatures now are in the 40s…  Hooray, cold weather!

I think my biggest inspiration is my friend, Alicia, who is currently a grad student in history.  She’s a real style model, and looks amazing!  She’s proof that a busy schedule (filled with work, studying, puppy parenting, and a wonderful husband) doesn’t have to detract from looking professional, put-together, pretty, and, yes, adult.

Photos of Matching Nerd Glasses (Via: bruunsbazaar, thefashionisto)

In the virtual world I discovered during these searches, I’ve found three inspiring blogs/YouTubers:

The Glamourous Grad Student This is perhaps my favorite blog thus far.  The writer is in Ireland, so lots of the things she talks about are helping me to figure out what’s available in the UK.  Her posts are funny, well written, and informative, and lots of her style posts ask questions that are helping me to pin down who I want to portray in my clothing. This is the post I originally pulled up on Google.

Fashionable Academics This was the post that popped up in my search, about a green (!!!) bag.  This blog is written by several contributors, and it tends to have more affordable fashion and pieces.  There are styles and outfits from women of every shape, style, height, and coloring, and I could look at the pages of this site forever.  FA gives me ideas to try and encourages me to try new things with my own wardrobe.

apeelingaustin‘s YouTube  This video gave me insight into what a grad student carries around all day, and what I could (and should) expect.  Plus, she’s in history as well, and so I can relate to her field and need for notes, places for handouts, etc.  It was amusing to see her pull out her old reading material from one previous class, and I have some ideas thanks to her for my bag basics.  I never thought of keeping a folding/rolling bag in my daily bag…  Good idea!  She also has some makeup “haul” videos, which I haven’t had time to look at yet.

Nerdy Chic from shopstyle.com

After looking at these, I’ve determined that I’m nerdy chic with a soft spot for big, yet simple, jewelry and scarves.  I really do like patent Oxfords, wool pencil skirts, bold glasses frames, and blouses layered under sweaters.  I like to be able to wear one pair of shoes on my commute and in class, and so favor flats and boots.  I like wearing neutrals which I dress up with a bright scarf or pair of shoes.  I feel more confident when I have cinched my waist, put something pretty on my feet, straightened my hair, spritzed some happy perfume, and applied makeup.  Just because I want to look cute doesn’t mean that I want to in reality be killing my feet or go overboard with obsession about clothing.  I like things I can mix and match and that last forever.  I love Kate Winslet’s style of simple hair and makeup and clean lines with bold colors and/or textures.  Hopefully, this ideal style will work its way into my wardrobe and I can look like a grown up while kicking butt in the academic arena.

In my preparation for leaving, I need to put away all the things I brought home from Washington and college.  To do that, I have to have room in my room for those things.  (Sorry about the repetitiveness; oy!  My excuse will be that it’s late and I’m tired…  Yes.)  Unfortunately, that means cleaning my room from top to bottom and decluttering.  Nothing is getting past me!  Every piece of clothing, each paper, and anything my mom has tossed onto my dresser is being inspected, albeit quickly, and put into a pile for laundry, donation, closet, back room / library, or trash.  So far, I’ve gotten through most of my room, not including my bookshelf and under my bed.  That was a huge accomplishment, as I had some “cushioning” shots in both knees today, which is not the most, erm, comfortable experience ever…

Anyway, among the treasures I’ve so far found are my Swarovski earrings and ring from senior year P-Ball, my stuffed golden retriever from my Dad on my 9th birthday, and letters from my dormmates and friends from 2004, the year of my partial freshman year at Gustavus.  I’ve always had weak knees, and the night before my first college exam, my friend and I were walking back from the biology tutor’s when my knees buckled.  I found out later that it wasn’t torn ligaments or cartilage, but two poor knee joints which are prone to allowing the kneecap to pop out, much like a dislocated shoulder.  I had to pull out of classes and go home for physical therapy.  I was frustrated and angry that my own body would do something like this to me, but in the end, I think it was for the best.  I believe God has a plan, and his entailed me graduating with the class of 2009 as a classics major.  If I had stayed on, I think I would have stuck to my original plan and majored in biology or another science-y discipline, like psychology.  I’ve had so many wonderful experiences because of my major and graduating class, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I had completely forgotten about those cards and letters, and I was truly touched when I read over them again.  One of them was from a current close, sister-like friend, Ann.  She called me “mi paco” and wrote that I was “spifftacular.”  It definitely put a smile on my face and brightened my day, as I’m sure it did then.  The girls who wrote the other letters or signed the floor’s card are mostly friendly acquaintances now and we’re friends on Facebook.  They are amazing people, and even though we’re mostly out of touch, I think they’re wonderful girls.

Tomorrow I hope to conquer that bookcase and scary area under the bed, as well as my bathroom and closet.  Then it’s onward to the alcove with my desk and then (cue dramatic chord) the putting away and PACKING!  Ugh, September 19th is so close, and yet I can’t wait to be there!  So much to do…

The Berenstain Bears' messy room, looking much like mine at the moment! (Minus the Tiddlywinks!)

On the whole school front, I still don’t have much information on the scholarship.  Snail mail hasn’t produced anything official-looking in a long while (uh, hooray for catalogues?), and vague emails are trickling in.  I’ve gotten two “don’t panic” type messages thus far!

On another side note, I am mourning the death of the click-wheeled Apple iPod Nano design which has been replaced by a Touch-type interface and screen.  Being the old-fashioned kind, I’m trying to locate a new Nano to put away before they’re gone, as Apple has already replaced my beloved old design with the new one in the online store.

I haven’t been terribly scholarly since I’ve been home, which is fine and allows me to read modern novels instead of thousand-year-old poetry, and so listen to more distracting modern music instead of studious symphonic tracks, but it’s putting me off my blogging goal.  I apologize if my much more personal musings aren’t quite as interesting and neutral as the venting or rambling I tend to do…  I do recommend The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the prequel to the amazing, fantastic, shout-it-from-the-rooftops-good The Shadow of the Wind.  Also, I recently got The Lais of Marie de France after studying Lanval (Arthurian legend) and Bisclavret (about a werewolf whose wife betrays him).

As for preparations thus far for my trip, I’ve gotten some important pieces for grad school life recently, and am planning on buying black rain boots and glasses, as well.

First, my grown up bookbag:

by TheLeatherStore, Etsy

I got the black one, which is a large, zippered bag with a long, crossbody strap and two handles.  It’s large enough for my laptop and some books, and the seller assured me that it would be large enough for everything I need.  She uses this bag, herself, and tosses in books, lunch, makeup, and her computer!

Secondly, my pride and joy splurge:

Coach Julia Wallet

My searching for a good zippered wallet was not going well, and I happened to just check out a Coach wallet on sale at Dillard’s.  The shape and details were exactly what I was looking for, but I wasn’t really into a wallet that was A) covered in the signature Coach “C” pattern or B) so bloody expensive!  I bought it, and then went to Macy’s to look for a bag like I ultimately found on Etsy (see above).  There, at the Coach display, was the same wallet I had just bought in a beautiful silver with a lavender interior.  I loved it, and wound up taking the first patterned wallet back the next day in order to buy the plain silver one.  So, waiting in its wrapping is my first Coach piece.  It’s my extravagant purchase for the move, and money did come out of savings, but I love it and am reassured by their lifetime warranty!

The pieces I’m getting for school are all things that need replacing (bookbag–my lovely college backpack’s straps began to fall apart while at UW) or that I haven’t had the need for as a resident of fairly warm climates.  Minnesota’s winters got pretty cold (!!!), but I was lucky to live a maximum 15 minutes from any place I needed to go.  Plus, snow can be brushed off, whereas rain is a bit more of a soaking issue.  As I’m truly minimizing my belongings now, both that I will pack for the UK and keep in my room, I want pieces that define me.  I’m cleaning out everything in order to make room for a new beginning, and this change begins with my everyday pieces.