So, I’m pretty set on accepting this Hild Bede Scholarship.  I am still incredibly waffly (is that a real word?) about this, as I have no idea what the College of St Hild and St Bede’s postgraduate community will be like.  It’s apparently the largest college (Good?  Bad?  I don’t know; more people but pretty gardens and a library), and most of my tuition and accommodation will be paid by the university.

I know it’s so silly that I even considered turning it down.  I suppose it’s because on online forums and through my communication with a MA Med/Ren student from last year I felt like I know what to expect from Ustinov.  I don’t really know anything about Hild Bede, as I was supposed to be prepared for this and notified by the college by now (and, really, about the scholarship about 6 weeks ago, ha…).  It’s a very queasy feeling.  Do I take what I know or take the money and bet my living arrangements, hoping with three weeks to go I’ll have everything arranged?

My main motivation is for my parents.  They’ve been so wonderful, and I know that grad school, especially in another country, is pricey.  This scholarship means that airfare, other travel and paperwork, and a bit of the tuition as a non-EU student is all we’d pay for out-of-pocket.  One of my wisest friends, Heather, said that she knew how I felt about community and the social aspect because, let’s face it, I am rely on my friends and connections.  They’re my life.

Another decision I’m coping with is what to take with me.  I know that there are things I need to buy… and quickly:

  • bookbag or backpack of some variety, probably leather for a “grown up” lifestyle
  • day trip tote/purse for camera, wallet, books, and various smaller necessities
  • coin purse (Damn you, coinage!  How dare you scatter all over the bottom of my bag!)
  • boots, waterproofed
  • coat, waterproof, warmer than my raincoat
  • camera, larger than a pocket-sized, but not $800 like some photo shops would have me buy

And then there are the things I want, and think would be practical, if not necessary:

  • printed photos
  • books (Oh, the agony of whittling down my bookshelf!  ARGH!)
  • DVDs, iPod, computer with its new international ports
  • little reminders of home
  • maps and guidebooks I’ve picked up along the way

Plus the absolutely necessary: clothing, setting up a bank account, passport with completed visa (ta-da!!!), transcripts and related academic stuff, toiletries, etc.

I need to buy a lamp, bookshelf, sheets, etc. there, which will be a pain.  I definitely smell a trip to Newcastle and a large order on Amazon.co.uk.

Amazon reminds me of my time yesterday at Half Price Books, a dangerous, dangerous place for me.  I have read several of Marie de France’s lais while at UW, including Lanval (knight of King Arthur’s court) and the wonderful Bisclavret (werewolf, based some on Petronius’ Satyricon, hooray!).  Not one person in the store had heard of it, but I did get one amazing anthropologist staffer intrigued!  I think before bed I’ll order the book, which will make happy reading.  I also picked up J. C. Holt’s book on Robin Hood, the Old French Tristan saga (translated!), an anthology of women poets from antiquity to modern times, and a good resource book on Arthur, including the research and theories about the legends beginning with Malory, Wace, and Laȝamon.  Good stuff.  Very bad.

I’m reading the second book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind.  It’s called The Angel’s Game and am loving it!  I also recently read my first book by Isabella Allende, Inés of My Soul, which was completely appropriate with its just post-Inquisition Spain/Peru/Chile setting following my Late Middle Ages’ lecture on the Reformation, the Reconquista, and the Inquisition.  Mmmmmm…  So many books, so little time!

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I thought I had everything worked out.  Well, at least mostly.

Of course, this means that Fate, Fortune, the Universe, God (whichever deity or force you believe in) has thrown me through a loop.  Of course.

I was set on Ustinov College.  It’s the only postgraduate-only college at Durham University and has a large international community.  Sure, it’s rather far from the city centre (comparatively) and has no dining service, but every student there will be going through the same “Holy crap!  What did I sign up for with this whole grad school thing?!”  I believe there would be a great sense of community, which is a key ingredient for my school experiences.  There are seminars where we present our research and bond with other postgrads.  It looks so great!

However…

This morning I got an e-mail saying that I had gotten the Hild Bede Scholarship, which is one of the very few funding opportunities for non-UK/EU students.  Money is fantastic!  Don’t get me wrong.  The HBS is full tuition at the EU/UK rate plus room and board and three squares a day.  It’s close to the city centre and almost all the academic departments and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful colleges at the university.

However…

Most of the students are undergraduates.  I have nothing against undergraduates, but they have not yet worked out their academic niches for the most part and don’t have the same types of classes or pressures as postgraduates.  From what I imagine of grad school, high school to college is a big leap, but classes are relatively the same format with homework, papers, and reading.  The type of social and community scenes are the largest difference.  From college to grad school, the workload changes (300 academic hours per class per term, bare minimum) and the classes are seminars once a week.  The reading, as I understand it, is more reading a lot of what is assigned, but not all, and the reading leads to a large paper which is the basis of the grade.  I didn’t really understand that until I took a graduate-level class and looked at a possible schedule for Durham.

So, what do I do?

Do I take the generous offer and possibly forsake close ties with many other postgraduate and international students at Ustinov or depend on my parents’ generosity more than before and forsake ready-made meals and all that money?  Either way, I’ll be at Durham, but the location of my accommodation and the price out-of-pocket for tuition and board will be different than I’d ideally like.  Why can’t Ustinov offer a scholarship?!

At any rate, I will doubtless have to spend more time on paperwork, as I will need to accept or reject the offer (if I can even reject it) and change my details on my enrolment (sic!  Britishism!) forms and visa paperwork.

I can’t make that decision now, but maybe a nice Italian meal and some bonding with Hamlet and Suetonius will help.  Chocolate never hurt, either.

In the spirit of the wonderful new film, Toy Story 3, my roommate and I had a long discussion over dinner one night about toys we played with and toys the current generation has.  I remember having a large, blue, plastic Fisher Price easel, which helped to train me as the best artist in my first and second grade classes.  (Sadly, the artistic ability and perfectionism ruined any future career plans in that field.)  I had actual wooden blocks, Legos which were not from special $200 sets that boxed one into building one particular thing, Barbies, My Little Ponies, a plethora of stuffed animals, an American Girl doll with furniture made by my grandfather, honest-to-God real Golden Books, and King’s Quest games which required my dad to type instructions instead of pointlessly pointing and clicking.  Ryan also had many of the toys listed above, including a few race cars and action figures.  These toys fueled our imaginations, and enabled us to spend hours and hours by ourselves, creating new worlds and fantastic relationships among our toys.  Who says a teddy bear and a Barbie can’t date?  What do you mean that a Lego house can’t live inside the plastic refrigerator?  Why can’t Kirsten be the shepherdess of the ponies?

Kirsten, my American Girl Doll

High Flier, my favorite My Little Pony of all time

Now, the world seems to be filled with cheap imitations of the toys I remember.  I’m hard-pressed to find a quality kickball or set of blocks in this day and age; believe me, I’ve tried.  Everything seems to either run on batteries, talk, or need a television.  What happened to quality counting for something?  Despite the feminists’ understandable rage against Barbie, and I’m including myself in that group most of the time, Barbie is an excellent role model.  Her multitude of career paths foster creative thinking and problem solving, as well as show young girls that women can be astronauts, military personnel, and doctors.  Sure, there are the usual cheerleaders, teachers, and fashion models, but there’s a good balance of “independent” and “strong” female careers and supposed Barbie personas which blend in with the “soft” and “feminine” options.  I am going towards a career as a teacher, myself, which fits right into that stereotypical female career range, but for a time during my childhood, I could imagine myself as a politician, a firefighter, and a CEO through my Barbies.  Not to mention, they had fabulous clothes and furniture.  My allowance usually went into acquiring new clothes and pieces for the house I’d create under my mom’s desk.  I even set up a “shop” in one of Barbie’s cases, creating the hangers out of pipecleaners and tags out of small, cut pieces of tape.  (Of course, I stopped playing with Barbies by 1996, so I don’t think any of the scandalous costumes had surfaced yet.  And Bratz?  Don’t get me started…)

Australian Barbie, my first "nice" doll in my copious collection and an example of the kinds of Barbies I chose and played with as a child

I’ve made the decision to limit my future children’s exposure to commercial Dora video games and dumbed-down versions of the toys I once had.  Nothing I buy or create for my child will be a cut-and-paste scenario; the fun in being a child and in playtime is that anything is possible.  I wouldn’t have been the person I am today without such a wonderful, creative childhood, and I am determined to forbid any toys from boxing in my children.

Bridal Beauty My Little Pony, my second favorite MLP, often cast as High Flier's mommy

Long live playtime, and thanks to all the dedicated toymakers out there who understand the importance of a well-crafted and simple toy.

Or play with a toy...

Tunnel, Glastonbury

In whatever I do in life, it seems as though I’m always chasing that darn light. All through elementary, middle school, junior high, high school, college, and now the “Real World,” I have had deadlines and dates that are marked with arrows and stars, signaling that this, this one HERE, is the last day I will have to take an art exam, return a college textbook, see my friends before I move to the UK. These days are my tunnels. Tunnels aren’t necessarily bad things (they aren’t cornucopias of love, either), but they’re milestones of anxiety, relief, grief, frustration, and energy. When I get through one, another is immediately in its place, and I may be hurdling down several other tunnels at the same time!

Today, as I see the quarter drawing to a close, that tunnel’s light is getting brighter with each sentence I type and with each page I read. However, another, more personal tunnel has descended, and is ready to consume me. This is a more emotional tunnel, and I fear the darkness may try to undo me and all my work and accomplishments. However, after speaking to my dad, who is truly the best advisor I could ever ask for, and reading this post, I know I can weather this storm too, and burst out of the tunnel whenever it ends.

Although tunnels can are an indication of “to do” lists, deadlines, assignments, work, and other necessities, my life would be incomplete without them.  I hope the tunnels never stop.  Otherwise, it would mean I’d stopped learning and testing myself.  After all, Lillian Smith said: “When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die.”

Awesome.

Here is 1000 Awesome Things’ Post #567: Getting to the light at the end of the tunnel.

#567 Getting to the light at the end of the tunnel My world was spinning in 2008. After finishing school in Boston and going on a cross-country road trip with my friends Chris and Ty, I moved to a dusty suburb to live with my brand new wife in my brand new life. Yes, we got married young, we got married quick, and after living on opposite sides of the border we were finally moving in to get busy living. So I slapped on a crisp, fresh shirt and started a new office job while trying to settle into … Read More

via 1000 Awesome Things

This past week, I’ve gotten every single bit of my grad applications in and done!  WOO-HOO!  All the online applications and attachments, my GRE score, my snail mail packets – all finished!  I’m praying for Durham and York to accept me, as well as at least one US school for back up.

Speaking of Durham, I got on the bus yesterday and sat in front of a guy I recognized from my history class.  We talked a bit about our paper assignment, for which I used The Life of St Leoba and he used Bede.  I told him that I have a special place in my heart for Bede, as Durham Cathedral is where he is buried.  Amazingly enough, this guy actually is looking into Durham for grad school, too!  We talked a lot about that and our medieval interests.  He seems really nice.  (And no, I am not thinking “nice” in a romantic way; somehow some of the physical features of my two college exes would up in this guy’s face.  Very strange!  Although, he doesn’t have the social awkwardness and pretentiousness that the both of them can have.)

I dropped that comp lit course, finally.  I didn’t want to, as it’s the course I was the most excited about and is the only lit course (on paper, at least – it’s really an art history/religion class) I was taking this term.  The professor just didn’t seem to have all his ducks in a row, all his marbles, etc.  Pick whatever cliched analogy you want.  He wasn’t responsive and seemed out of it sometimes.  It was like World Religions all over again, on an epic scale.  Plus, I wasn’t learning anything.  That was the sad part.

I’m hopeful I can get into a senior sem on medieval outlaws, Chaucer, and Middle English for next quarter.  All three of those classes sound amazing and would give great background for my postgraduate studies.

It’s Ryan P’s birthday today, so we’re probably going out to dinner.  I don’t know where yet, as he is perhaps the least apt decision-maker I know!  Not that he can’t come to a decision, but it takes a long time.  And that’s saying something, as I’m really bad at it, too, as are Em and Hannah.  We’re all the “Uhh, you choose!” kind of people.  Which I love, I might add.  It makes whatever we do that much more spontaneous and adventurous!

Not much else to tell, really.  My friend Alicia won a grant for research in Greece, and is there now.  She waved at the ruins today and saw her first defixio (curse tablet) today!  I’m so very proud of her and of her husband, Ryan I.  They’ve really gone after their dreams, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them.

Spring break is coming up in March, I think, and my grandma’s 85th birthday party is that month in Florida.  I would love to be there for my parents and grandmother, but I feel like I don’t belong in the family.  My parents are the most generous, kindhearted parents I could ask for, both towards me and my friends.  They’re sending me to grad school and want the best for me.  I think that they raised me well; I didn’t drink until I was 21, I’ve never done drugs or smoked, I take my faith seriously (though I’m not an avid church-goer except abroad, it seems like) and believe in abstinence before marriage.  I try to be as polite as possible and believe that anyone who’s had an important impact on my life, I should stay on good terms with.  This means my exes, friends from elementary school, teachers, professors, friends, and peers.  Who am I leaving off of this list?  My extended family.  I never had much contact with them growing up, and they all seem so much different from me.  I’ve been insulted and hurt by several of them, whether they meant to or not.  This whole party is being arranged by my other, older cousins, who discussed this over Facebook and didn’t include me at all, which, granted, may have been because I’ve been on the other side of the country.  However, I would have liked to help, especially knowing that I may not be able to go because of school.  I feel like I’m lightyears away from them.  I don’t want to put my dad in a place where he spends however much money for me to go to the state I hate the most (I drew that state by lot for a project in 5th grade and begged someone to trade me and since then have excluded colleges and grad schools in southern California and, yep, Florida) and then feels responsible for me being unhappy the entire time.  I should mention that I dislike Florida for the climate and the allergies, and not because of my family, and have always disliked it.  I’m a mountains person, not a beachy person.  It really stinks that Florida seems to be where my family ends up.

However, I’d skip my spring break and go to Florida for my dad and mom.