Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tutorial Relapse

I was sorting through my papers from last term, trying to get organized for my next academic adventure (which, naturally, started yesterday - no rest for the wicked, I suppose), and realized that I hadn't yet done a summary of my tutorial topics from Trinity term. I had so much fun with both my tutorials this spring, and even though they were both a huge amount of work I really felt like I learned a lot and became a better scholar in the process of grappling with them. So, like I did for Hilary term, here is a summary of the topics I covered over my seven weeks of term, with the question/title and then a slightly summarized version of my response:


1. How Useful is the Term 'Post-Impressionism'?

(As useful as you want to make it, bitches)

2. How Does Seurat Paint Modern Life?

(Like a scientist, an anarchist, and a democrat. Those all go together, right?)

3. To What Extent is Gauguin's Art 'Primitive'?

(Not much - it's hard to a) time travel and b) fully immerse oneself in a 'primitive' culture when one is in fact the epitome of the forces that are destroying that society. Sorry Paul.)

4. What are the Main Preoccupations of Symbolism and how does this Emerge in their Painting?

(Religious Revolución!)

5. 'Art is the Property of Everyone:'
Democracy in the Vienna Secession

(It's hard to be truly egalitarian when you not only come from a privileged class, associate only with other members of the privileged class, and sell your paintings to folks of an ever higher class. Nice try though.)

6. How does the Post-Impressionist Treatment of the Nude Address the 'Crisis of Painting'?

(Up the scandal, keep painting alive. Unless you're a woman, in which case your paintings are obviously lesbian fantasies, no questions asked. Obviously.)

7. Divergence:
An examination of the extent to which the writing of Roger Fry and Clive Bell shaped the course of British Modernist painting

(Keep dreaming boys, your movement will come eventually)



1. The Allied Invasion of Normandy

(Way to get lucky when it counts, Allies)

2. Was the Allied Bombing Campaign in France an Operational Success?

(Sure, if the 'operation' was to kill innocent civilians for relatively little strategic gain)

3. Failure Holland:
Operation Market-Garden

(Putting the cart ahead of the horse a bit, aren't we Monty??)

4. Unhappy Legacies:
Norway 1940

(Note: when performing an invasion of an arctic country in winter, skies, jackets, and maps are usually a plus to bring along. Maybe thoughts for next time.)

5. Window of Opportunity:
The Possibility of a Japanese Victory at Midway

(Again, way to pull it out where it counts, Allies)

6. A Reevaluation of the Japanese Capture of Singapore

(Brits, Get. Your shit. Together.)

7. On War and World War II:
A Series of Vignettes

(Some things never change)

It was certainly a quarter to remember. Now I'm currently sitting on the commuter rail, heading into the city for my next adventure: a summer of intensive German.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

Well, it's happened. My European adventures are, for the moment, complete.

I'm sitting here in a hotel room in Norway 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, feasting on a candy breakfast before packing up for my endless flight home (seriously, it's going to take 20 hours) and looking back on the past six months. I can still remember very clearly those days in early December when I was just starting to get packed up and getting so itchy to start my blog that every day I had to ask myself it was too soon to begin.

Since then, there have been many highs, few lows, and very few regrets. I've found the abroad experience more complicated than I expected--it wasn't just "ZOMG this is amazing!!" all the time, like I perhaps naively thought it might be--but incredibly gratifying. I leave Europe feeling like a better scholar and a better individual. I've had to be independent (more so than I already was - and I thought I had been doing pretty well!), stretch myself socially, and most of all WORK HARD. I've seen some amazing things and gotten some pretty outrageous opportunities. I've missed a lot of things about home, the horses especially, but I still think it was one of the best decisions I've made in college so far.

I'm so thankful for my parents first and foremost for giving me this opportunity. They've never once paused in supporting my dreams, and this was just another mind-boggling display of their generosity. I'm also extremely thankful to the Stanford overseas program, my professors and programme-mates, Emily at Eventing Magazine, and John at I don't know when I'll ever have an opportunity like this again, so I owe these individuals a lot for making it so special the first time around.

I have a good few posts left to do as recap, but I thought I should mark the end a bit more formally. Everything from here on out will be recollections and nostalgia. I've never been opposed to such activities, so bring it on =)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Goodbye Oxford

Well here we are: my bags are packed, I'm (sort of) ready to go, and I'm getting really excited for the next adventure. I'm feeling a lot better than I was earlier in the week, though I may be suffering from minor impaction colic as a result of eating THIS last night:

Yes, I went back for the Mac 'n' Cheese Burger at Atomic Burger again. And it was soooo worth it.

Next time I'll write will be from beautiful Luhmuhlen!! Bring it on =)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I just finished my last Oxford essay!!! It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was handing in my first paper a week early (whoops...). It's really hard to describe how much I feel like I've gotten out of the process: it's been the most rigorous, thought-provoking, academically stimulating six months I've ever experienced. I'm utterly exhausted from the process, but couldn't be more thankful. I've had highs, lows, and a few tears, but have come out of it a better writer and a better thinker as a result. I'm going to miss it, but am also excited to apply what I've learned to my writing at Stanford when I get back.

Because I'm a huge nerd and, despite being totally not math-oriented for 99% of my life (I was called out this fall for taking legit 5 minutes to figure out how to divide 1000 by 200... it's 5, right?), for some reason love statistical reviews of things, I decided to make one for my time at Oxford. It's not as intense as the one I did on my year off, where I actually kept a page at the back of my diary that I dutifully updated every day with the number of stalls I'd mucked (that stat got depressing rullll fast), horses I'd ridden, books I'd read, movies I'd watched, states I'd visited, miles I'd driven, etc., but it still sums up my six months abroad pretty succinctly, I think:

Words written: 73,264
Pages written (double spaced, A4 paper): 302
Libraries used: 10
Books read/consulted: 163

Nationally published articles written: 2 (well, will be after Luhmuhlen)
EN articles: 4
Blog updates between here GBE: 101 (with more to come!)
Pictures taken: over 10,000

National Hunt Races visited: 3
CCI****s: 2
CCI***s: 2
Countries: 6-8, depending on how our itinerary works out in Finland

Played polo on a grass pitch
Went to a Formal Hall
Went to a Ball
Danced the night away on May Morning
Made new friends
Ran 14 miles in one go, and over 250 miles total
Played Squash

...Man, it's a good life.

I have a few more updates (I realize I never really talked about the formal hall I went to, which I think deserves a post of its own) and will try to do a better wrap up post than this a bit later on when my head is a bit clearer, but in the meantime I just had to write something. My junior year of college is officially complete!! Just in time for another adventure to begin =)

Last Days

I've spent the past few days (in between being horribly, horribly sick - booo) stuffing as many digestive biscuits into my face as I can manage, taking sentimental pictures of things I've already photographed and dozen times before, and doing trial run packing experiments to see if I can fit all the extra junk I've accumulated over the past six months into my already limited baggage space. This can only mean one thing: I've come to my last days in Oxford.

In fact, after today I only have one full day left, and it will be pretty crazy with finishing up my last paper, having my last tutorial, attending a farewell Pimms party in the garden, and trying to get packed up. Where has the time gone? It doesn't help that I'm leaving ten days early, but I've known about this early departure all spring and I'm still being taken by surprise. I'm really sad that I'm not feeling better, because there is so much more than I want to do and see, and I'm just not feeling physically up to it at the moment. Oh well; I've definitely had a great quarter and a great six months. Oxford has become a second home, and I'm going to miss it very much. But I'm also getting really excited for the next adventure!

Here are some pictures from the last few days, trying to put a cap on the wonderful experience my time abroad has been:

(Trip to Atomic Burger for the INDESCRIBABLY INCREDIBLE Macaroni and Cheese burger, which yes, is exactly what you think it is - before...)

(...and literally five minutes later. I barely had enough time to take a picture of it I inhaled it so quickly)

(Out for a last run along the river - I made it further than I ever had before (about 30 minutes down, 30 minutes back))

(Sweet bridge I found further down the Isis)

(Last walk in Christ Church Meadow at sunset - the cows are out now and it's almost too idyllic for words)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ode to an Oxford Library (or Ten)

Well, it's happened. I've visited the library for the last time. Yesterday I spent a good six hours split between the Sackler and the RadCam, and I was walking out realized with a pang that there was no reason for me to ever have to enter a library at this university again; the only three readings I have left between my last two papers are either online or in a book that I own. It was a bittersweet moment.

I've never been much of a library person. Oh, I certainly enjoy them, and love admiring a well-ordered bookshelf or a beautiful, Beauty and the Beast-style reading room. But I've never really used them before to the extent that I have at Oxford. My high school library was depressing except for one reading room where my friends and I would occasionally hang out to 'work on group projects' (which really meant sitting around updating the campus gossip blog that we ran... and I wish I was joking), but I can honestly say that I probably never even checked out more than a dozen books in my entire time there. There weren't many research papers (and the one big one I did write, our junior year US history paper extravaganza, was on a topic--the architectural history of Atlantic City--too obscure for my school's resources) and for regular papers rarely had to look outside the class's required book list.

At Stanford, I've obviously had to use the resources of the library more often, but since there's an unlimited book checkout policy, I've almost always chosen to take the books out and use them in my own room. Actual study in the library has been restricted to 'big events,' like studying for finals or completing my PWR 2 paper.

But now at Oxford, I've become a library regular. I've really had no choice, because we aren't allowed to check books out, but I've been surprised at how much I've come around to the lib life. Sure, it may still take some serious self-motivating to get up to the Japanese Library way up on Banbury Rd (a good 20+ minute walk, even at my brisk pace), but the quiet solitude and internet-free ability to concentrate have been wonderful.

As a tribute, I thought I'd run down the different libraries I've called home over the past 6 months:

The Sackler

(I used to find the rolling stack system really novel because there's only one library at Stanford that uses it - then I found out pretty much every library at Ox uses it AND it can be a huge pain when you have to unroll like fifteen stacks to get one tiny paperback that you're going to read three pages out of. But it's cool, there's still the added excitement of getting squished and the added fun of moving things)

(Friends and lovers)

(The Sackler on a happening Friday night)

(Ironically, the Sackler was my library of choice for both Ancient Sumerian Studies AND Modern Art - talk about a broad spread!)

(The Sackler as I said goodbye to it yesterday afternoon, looking exactly as it did that first day in January - so long, friend!)

This has been the library that I've had to go to more than any other, probably at least once a week since Week 1 Hilary Term, way back in January. It's the Ancient Studies/Art library, located on the back of the Ashmolean, and while I can't say I find it the most beautiful (it's circular which means I always get lost and has ver few windows and sort of industrial feel), I certainly feel the most at home there now. Plus, while the walk is pretty far, it's a perfect excuse to go from there up to the Big Bang for awesome post-studying bangers and mash =)

Radcliffe Camera

(I'd put a strong bet that this is probably the most photographed building in Oxford - I've certainly taken probably 50 pictures of it since I've been here!)

(Busy and studious)

(The stacks give the different studied area a nicely cloistered feel)

(From that one Friday night where I was legit one of three people there)

This building is probably one of the more iconic in Oxford, and certainly has one of the more lavish reading rooms I've been to. It's nice and very studious feeling, and is definitely my favorite place to send books from the Bodleian bookstack when I have to order them, but it's almost always packed (except for that one cool kid night when I was there at 9pm on a Friday...) and so it can be stressful to find a seat. Still, very cool, and it feels very official to walk through the gates posted with the NO VISITORS signs (which are usually surrounded by tourists trying to peek in) and up the walk to the building.

Social Science Library

(Modern architecture ftw)

Everyone from the Stanford program hates this library, but I have to admit I'm kind of a fan. It's very 'modern,' but has a lot of light and big comfy chairs to sit in. Since I hate sitting at desks, this in itself is enough to put the SSL pretty high on the list.

Japanese Library

(Worth the hike)

(Hmmm... probably not the most helpful books for me per se)

(The nice, quiet cozy reading area, with lots of natural light and a view out on the garden)

I only discovered this library a few weeks ago, and I have to say it might be my favorite one. It's small, not crowded, and very quiet, and has a lovely view out onto a flower garden from the ground floor windows. It's the furthest away, but I love how peaceful and serene it is. Plus the things I've read about there have been pretty fascinating (the battle of Midway and the fall of Singapore), which alway helps the time go faster!

Rhodes House Library

I've only been here once and had a slightly annoying experience. It seems like a nice enough library, but there's little about that makes it much more special than any other reading room, and it's far away and has a really bothersome semi-open shelf system where it's really hard to know what you're going to find on the shelf and what you have to get ordered. Boo.

Continuing Education Library

Soul-sucking, windowless basement, outfitted with uncomfortable chairs and outmoded furniture? Check, check, check, and check. Seriously, it's pretty depressing. There's an upstairs reading room that's a bit better, but the people there always frown at my laptop (even though there are no signs to the contrary) so I never fell very comfortable.

History Library

I don't have any pictures of this one but I wish I did because it's pretty beautiful, with big windows looking out over little courtyard gardens, the King's Arms, and Broad St. I only got to go twice, but liked it immensely both times.

The Bodleian Reserve

My least favorite library: big, crowded, full of people who are ready to glare at you if you so much as scuff the floor with your chair as you're trying to sit down, and not anywhere near beautiful enough to merit such uppityness. I only ever go there when I've maxed out my reserves in the RadCam, which mercifully has only happened twice all winter and spring.

American Library

(Such big windows!!)

(Private study carols = awesome)

This one is a close second to the Japanese Library in terms of a favorite of mine. It's got cool architecture, nice private study carols, and enormous windows that look out on a beautiful English garden. It's a little bigger and busier than the Japanese library, and so feel just a smidge less cozy, but it's pretty awesome.

Corpus Christi College Library

(Classic Ox)

Technically my 'home' library, but it feels weird calling it that because I almost never go. CCC has very few books that are very useful to me, and so I didn't go very often. I did always enjoy it when I did, though, as it definitely had the most traditional "old library" feel of them all, right down to the 17th century vintage oak study carols. I especially enjoyed studying there when the organist was practicing, as the chapel is right next to the library and the sound would come through. It felt like I could be all the way back in the early 1600s again when the library was first founded.

So there you go! The incredible thing, of course, is that these libraries are but a small fraction of those offered at the University. I think it could honestly take a lifetime to get to know them all! All right, I've officially done nothing useful today, so perhaps I should try to get a little work done before the day has completely run away with me...

(The last book I ever called up from reserve, a cool treatise on British Modernism)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bramham and Birthday!

The last few days have been a whirlwind, and it's hard to believe that I'm down to my last seven days in Oxford - howww did that happen? Well, partially it's come so quickly because I've literally felt like I've barely had time to set my feet on the ground of late!

Last Friday I woke up at 5am (after having completed my most recent tutorial essay at 3:30... sigh), slung up my 15 kilo pack, and set off for the Oxford train station. From there, it was a four and a half hour trip up to beautiful Yorkshire, where the sun was shining and the temperature was positively summerlike (well, for that day - it proceeded to get good and chilly as the weekend wore on). I was heading to the Bramham horse trials, which was a bit out in the country and so difficult to get to by public transport. I assumed that it would be like going to the National Stud or Badminton, where if I got to the closest train station I would leave the platform to find a taxi stand, tell them where I was going, and have them nod knowingly and make some comments like, "off to see the horses, eh?" In other words: easy.

(A verry early morning at Birmingham New St)

Well, I got off in beautiful Micklefield, a tiny town about halfway between Leeds and York, only to discover that my first assumption right off the bat was wrong: no taxi stand. In fact, very little resembling an urban center whatsoever! It seemed like I'd been dropped right into the middle of an entirely residential neighborhood, with no sign of a center of town (or even which way to go to get to a center of town) in sight. I gulped, but, refusing to let this get me down, starting walking down the road in the way I sensed might have something promising on it.

(On the way to Micklefield)

A little ways down, I got to a tiny little restaurant that seemed to serve nothing but jacket potatoes and thick strips of greasy ham bacon to a very blue collar local crowd. Already knowing how much I stick out like a sore thumb in more diverse environments (a young woman with a boy's haircut traveling alone with a 30 pound pack tends to draw stares in most places), I set my jaw and walked in. Sure enough, the conversation died pretty quickly upon my entrance as most of the older men stopped to gape, but I walked up to the counter and promptly asked, as brightly as I could, if I could get help calling a cab.

The man looked at me like I wasn't speaking English. "Umm, a cab?" I repeated hopefully. He paused, then gave a sort of half smile and replied, "Sorry lass, you'll have to go out back to do that." I obviously looked confused and didn't move a muscle, so he elaborated, "you want to use the toilet, right?" WHAT? How on earth could "Can you help me call a cab?" be construed as "I need to use the toilet"??? When I stressed that I in fact wanted a taxi, the guy said of course in a 'why didn't you say so in the first place' kind of way and picked up the phone.

Soon a taxi was being called and I was feeling much better. My heart began to sink again, though, when he asked me where I was going and upon my reply (Bramham Horse Trials) he again looked at me like I wasn't speaking English. He relayed the message to the cabby, who also obviously had never heard of it before. Yikes. Then he asked me for a name, and I replied, "Kate." YET AGAIN, he acted like I hadn't responded properly. He replied, "No, what's your name?" To which I had to say, "That is my name. My name is Kate." He looked confused and suspicious and relayed the message, and again the cabby on the other end seemed confused. The guy on the phone literally had to be like, "The name is Kate -- Kate -- yes, Kate," each time glancing over at me suspiciously as if I was trying to pass off some joke on him and all while turning over the greasiest fattiest strips of slab bacon I've ever seen in my entire life. Finally he seemed to convince the guy on the other end that I was in fact real, and I thanked him and got out of there as quickly as possible. Seriously, Yorkshire? Are there no Kates in the entire region?

The cab finally pulled up and it was a bit of a nightmare. The cabby didn't speak English too well and kept asking me for a post code. Obviously I should have had one, but I very naively thought that it was going to be so simple that I hadn't bothered to write it down. I knew that there was another Bramham about an hour away, and it was becoming clearer and clearer that that's where he was trying to take me, because he kept making comments like "oh no, very far, very expensive" when I knew I had chosen Micklefield because it's supposed to be legit 15 minutes away from the event. Finally, to avoid disaster, I whipped out my iPhone and turned on the über expensive mobile roaming just so I could pin down an address for this guy. I got it, but he seemed to think I was an idiot at this point and so set off with a distinct grumble under his breath.

I was indeed correct and it was just a 15 minute drive away. The cabby tried to insist that we go in the OFFICIALS AND HORSEBOXES ONLY NO PUBLIC TRAFFIC entrance, because that's what his GPS was telling him to do, despite the like 4 million signs when we got closer that were all indicating where the caravan park was. I had to get a little short with him, but finally we pulled into the campground. I was pretty happy to say goodbye to him, and did NOT ask for his card to get a ride back. Walking would be a better alternative!

After that rather dramatic entrance, the rest of the weekend passed in a hazy blur of horsey awesomeness. It was really hot on Friday and I had a great time melting by the side of the arena and dreaming about being back at the horse shows this summer (even if the crazy redneck burn I got ended up being a bit of a pain!). On Friday night I went for a run around the CCI*** course, and, despite being totally worn out by the rolling hills of the Yorkshire parkland (so different from the flat plain of Badminton!), had a great time. The course looked awesome and I couldn't wait to watch it get tackled the next day.

(Bramham beauty on my run on Friday night)

Saturday flew by in a wash of nonstop cross country action, though very sadly it got colder and colder as the day wore on. I missed the heat!! The riding was spectacular, though, and it was one of my favorite horse experiences in England so far. Sunday came too soon, and before I knew it I was back on the train for another (this time five and a half hour, thanks to wacky Sunday schedules) trip home. On the way, I had my first burger at a mainstream fast food place in over six years... because Burger King in the UK sells veggies burgers! It was sort of disgusting but I was immoderately pleased about the whole thing because, even though I haven't actually eaten a fast food hamburger/cheeseburger since I was 3 (really), there's something so satisfying (in a very fatty American kind of way) about being able go up and order a sandwich like everyone else. The In-n-Out cheeseburger comes very close, but since there's no patty of any kind involved in that, it doesn't quite count (but it is, unlike the BK veggie burger, incredibly delicious... mmm I could have it right now).

(Home again, home again, jiggity jig)

The excitement didn't stop when I got back, because just a few minutes after I got in so did my mom!!! I was so incredibly lucky that she got to come visit from Sunday night to yesterday (Wednesday) morning, which of course included my birthday on Monday. She's looking really good, and it was beyond amazing to get to catch up with her in person after so long. Even though I came back to the US over spring break, I spent so much of it in South Carolina that I didn't really get to see her at all, let alone have her all to myself, so this felt very special. We had some great meals, going out to some of the fancy restaurants that I've had my eye on but haven't gotten to actually try out all term. For my birthday itself, we went to Jamie Oliver's italian restaurant, which was one of the best meals I'd had since coming abroad.

Mom's trip flew by wayyy too quickly, and I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked because I was also simultaneously trying to cram in a ton of reading for my last three tutorial papers (what's new), but it was sooo amazing. We also got to do a bit of birthday shopping, and I came home with a new dress, skirt, and three pairs of shoes - thank you Mom!!! I know I'll see her again in just 17 days (!!!), but it was very hard to say goodbye to her yesterday. What a perfect birthday present.

(Birthday run along the river)

The only downside to my birthday was that I had an epic lockout experience that rather put a damper on the end of the evening. I hadn't been locked out once yet in my six months in Oxford (an incredible achievement given my record at Stanny - in the fall, I almost get reported to campus security as a burglar/intruder because people saw me breaking into my own room so often), and so of course it had to happen for the first time with me in sweaty running clothes, one sock, and no shoes... all five minutes before I was supposed to meet Mom for my birthday dinner. Fortunately my friend lent me her dress which miraculously fit and I knew Mom and I share the same shoe size, so I ran over to her hotel unshod and borrowed a pair. That crisis may have been averted, but I never did get back into my room that night, and ended up having a totally sleepless night on the couch of the music room, ending with a tutorial coming in and kicking me out. Oh well. There are worst places to spend an evening!

Now I really must be off to get some studying in. I think this will be my last trip EVER to the Sackler Library - crazy! The "lasts" are officially beginning! Let's just hope I can keep it all together and make it through the two "lasts" that really count... those last two tutorial papers!