Updates | 02

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Admittedly, I’ve been rather absent on this blog for a while, and that’s because the last few weeks have been an emotional free-for-all. This year has been an incredibly stressful one in terms of figuring out what I want my future to look like and the steps I need to take to make it so. And what I decided in all of my soul searching was that following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to get my master’s. So last summer, I began the process of researching programs, compiling letters of recommendation, editing my writing sample, and studying like a maniac for the GRE. When fall rolled around, I was doing all of that plus my schoolwork for my final semester, my duties as the editor of a literary journal and president of the English honor society, my work as a research assistant to one of my professors, and trying to make the most of the time I had left with my college friends before I moved back home. And I was stressed. I am someone who experiences stress both emotionally and physically. It caused my lymph nodes to swell, my shoulders and neck to develop severe tension knots, and my anxiety to spiral. But I got my applications submitted and graduated shortly thereafter, leaving me with a few months to decompress.

Fast-forward to March when grad school admissions decisions were being sent out. Because I am someone who wants to build my career on academics, I only applied to top tier programs. In other words, I had no safety school. But my GPA, test scores, and recommenders were really good, so while I was hopeful about my applications, I wasn’t too worried about them. And then the rejections started coming in, and I was crushed. One of the things I value most in myself is my intelligence, and rejection in an academic sphere felt like a rejection of what I saw as my most vital self. I was accepted to some programs but not given as much funding as I would have liked, and in my already discouraged state of mind, I counted those acceptances as nothing but softer rejections.

I applied to five schools, and by the first week in March, I had heard back from four of them – two acceptances and two rejections. The only school I had yet to hear from was my top choice and the most prestigious program I applied to. I thought that being rejected from the lowest-ranked program I applied to meant there was no way I’d be accepted to my highest-ranked program. But y’all, I was. I received the email right as got to my desk one morning and immediately burst into tears and called my mom and cried some more.

So I’m excited to officially announce that in the fall, I’ll be moving to England to pursue a master’s degree in English literature from Oxford University! If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember that I studied abroad at Oxford one summer and that I fell in love with it. I’m so excited to be returning and that all of my stress about my future and self-doubt over my abilities have subsided for the time being.

The point of this post – other than to keep you updated on my goings on – is that I’m an emotional gal. And that has meant that for the past month or so, I’ve been preoccupied with feeling all of my feelings and that blogging has not been something I’ve had the desire to do. But I’m slowly coming out of the funk, so expect to see some more posts from me soon. And within a few months, I’ll be coming to you from a new location!

– Lauren

Why We Should All Be Tourists

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Something I’ve noticed in my day-to-day life, but particularly during my time in England, is the negative attitude regarding tourists that, personally, I feel is a little uncalled for. I have friends who won’t take photographs on vacations because they don’t want to look like tourists. Several shopkeepers have sighed at me while I struggled to count out the correct amount of a currency that is unfamiliar to me. And multiple times as I was meandering through the streets of London, several people pushed past me on the sidewalk, annoyed with my pace.

Though I understand it can be frustrating for a native when visitors in your country interfere with your daily routine or prevent you from catching your train because they have no idea what they’re doing, those instances shouldn’t outshine or overpower the many valuable aspects of tourism.

I think back to a conversation I had with the boy who served me ice cream on my first day in Oxford. I expressed my delight at the beauty and history of the city, and he said, “You get bored with it after a while.” As an outsider, I could not fathom ever being bored with the incredible architecture, cobblestone streets, and cute little shops on winding side roads. But the more I thought about it, I realized that I do the same thing with my own hometown. It’s so easy to become desensitized to your everyday norms.

A tourist is defined as “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.” Essentially, a person who delights in being in a new place and observing everything it has to offer: its food, history, architecture, and culture. Aside from the obvious economical aspects of tourism, that is its advantage.

Sure, tourism does a lot for the economies of certain places, but the value of being a tourist goes beyond that. Tourists aren’t numb to the gems around them in the way that many locals are. They allow themselves to be enthusiastic about things like architecture or the fact that the tax is already included in the price listed on the menu. They have no qualms about marching up to a red phone booth and posing for a picture, while the locals walk by and roll their eyes. They are willing to try something new at every restaurant instead of settling into a rut. Tourists know how to experience more fully the time that they have within a place. They can see its value and want to soak up every bit of it that they can.

Shouldn’t that be the way we always seek to live? As a friend recently told me “to live deep and suck the marrow out of life”? Tourists understand something that most natives do not, and that is that moments are precious and that every place in the world has something to offer us. Those moments and lessons and offerings should be wrung out as though from a sponge until you’ve gotten every little bit out of it that you possibly can.

So, no, ice cream guy. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the way the sun sets over the spires of the Oxford colleges or the fact that there is a tea room on every street corner. The mild summer weather and waiting for pizza from the truck outside Christchurch will never not be wonderful, and playing Taboo and laughing with friends in a pub will always make my heart happy. And if I’m going to trip as I walk down the street, I’m glad that it’s on cobblestone. I’m happy to be a tourist if it means that I experience life every single day as fully as I can, that I live it and wear it out like a favorite sweater or a beloved pair of socks.

Here are some shots of me being a tourist during my first weekend in London.

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Oxford Study Abroad

My month in England has sadly come to an end, and over the past few days, I’ve found myself scrolling through my own Instagram feed and Facebook album, trying to relive the memories. For the month of July, I studied at Worcester College at Oxford University, and when I wasn’t taking classes I was exploring Oxford and taking trips to various places within the United Kingdom. It was an absolute dream. Throughout the entire trip, I visited London, Canterbury, Dover, Stratford, Bath, Manchester, and Edinburgh, and with the help of my very beat-up journal, I plan to take you through the most incredible month of my life.

Worcester College, where I stayed and studied, is situated on the largest grounds of any Oxford college. The gardens are immaculate, so much so that there are certain areas where you can’t even walk on the grass. However, the open grounds more than make up for it. There was a small lake with swans and Romantic willow trees as well as large grassy fields to lounge and study.

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After I got settled into my room at Worcester and took a quick tour of Oxford, the first thing I did was go on a walk to University Parks and the suburbs to see J.R.R. Tolkien’s house and a bench where he often sat. One of my favorite things about Oxford that I discovered over the next couple of weeks is its rich literary history. Going into the trip, I knew that many world-renowned and canonized writers had come through Oxford, but the fervor with which Oxford celebrates its literary history was incredible to me. For example, every year on the first Saturday of July, Oxford celebrates Alice Day, which recognizes Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. People dress up in costumes; carnivals are held in the meadow; and there are even Alice-themed afternoon teas. And bookstores around town have special displays for Oxford writers, such as Lewis, Tolkien, Carroll, and Wilde.

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Afterwards, I stopped by The Eagle and Child, favored pub of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. It was here that they would catch up and read each others’ work. The pub is decorated with various Lewis and Tolkien-themed things, which serve as yet another celebration of literature in Oxford. It’s perfect in every way.

Stay tuned for more posts about my month in England!

-Lauren

Delightfully Vintage

IMG_5980Hello from England!

I’m currently studying abroad at the University of Oxford in England, and between classes and weekend trips and exploring Oxford, I’ve been pressed for time to write. Oxford is an incredible city, full of history and art. The architecture is swoon-worthy, and the literary history is so rich. I’m in heaven. I’m only here for two more weeks, so I feel as though I have to pack as many experiences into a short amount of time as I possibly can. To try every restaurant and coffee shop and pub, visit every museum and library, and find every off-the-beaten-path treasure. Time is passing too quickly.

And of course, I’ve been doing some shopping, mostly at vintage and independent shops, where I’ve managed to find some really great things. My favorite purchase I’ve made so far is probably a green faux-leather midi skirt that I found at a vintage shop on Cowley Road. That being said, I am pretty keen on my new Oxfords. English summers are pretty mild compared to what I’m accustomed to. Since I’ve been here, the temperature has gotten above 75 only once or twice, so a leather skirt was perfect for my recent trip to Canterbury.

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 Skirt – Vintage / Oxfords and Sunglasses – Independent shop in Oxford / Purse – Vintage

IMG_5978Stay tuned for more posts about my study abroad adventure!

-Lauren