Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The best year of my life (thus far, of course!) is officially over, as I have made my way back to the corn and soybean fields of rural Ohio.  The journey from Oxford to the Heathrow airport was one of the hardest emotional experiences thus far, but I know that, looking back on the overall year, I wouldn't trade that heartache for the happiness that I experienced.  This year has opened my eyes to many things, some serious, some funny.  I've learned a lot about myself, about my goals and aspirations, and about my new-found love of everything Europe.  I've also come back to the states with a bag full of ridiculous English phrases, a love of hard cider, cheese and chips (french fries) and pub atmospheres.  I don't want this entry to be a particularly sad or reminiscent one, as that becomes far too emotional - so instead, I think it's pertinent to detail a pretty little list of what I've learned while in England.  I'll call this my 'The England encyclopedia for keen Americans' - here's hoping it is useful (and funny) for those of us yanks who have already experienced Britain or those of you who will, someday!

Without further ado: The England encyclopedia for keen Americans

  1. Please do not ever use the phrase 'double fisting' when referring to holding an alcoholic beverage in each hand.  I promise, the Brits will misunderstand, and it will get awkward.
  2. In the same realm as the one above, do not say 'bumming' without following it with a suitable word, such as 'around.'  They think that 'bumming' is much more literal than our usage of the word.
  3. Brits have the best insults: wanker, tosser, muppet, bloody idiot, chav, lad, arsehole, blighter, bugger, etc.  The list is endless.
  4. Adding the word 'cheeky' in front of any possibly offensive phrase makes it automatically unoffensive.
  5. Instead of saying that something is 'sketchy' or a bit on the creepy side, please use the word 'dodgy.'  This word is also only allowed to be said in an English accent, because it sounds horrid in an American one.
  6. Do play up the American stereotype, in good humor.  The Brits secretly enjoy our tendencies, such as exploiting the word 'freedom,' discussing where to buy guns, discussing how big and cheap Walmart is, and noting that the portion size in England is much too small.
  7. If you don't try beer or cider, you will be ostracized.  Okay, maybe not that extreme.. but seriously, why wouldn't you?  That's just ridiculous.
  8. A lot of students take a gap year between high school (they call it sixth form) and university, and will talk endlessly about this gap year during their first year of Uni, which becomes an ongoing joke.  Oh, pronounce it 'gap yah' if you want to be understood correctly.
  9. The appropriate time to go clubbing in Oxford is at 9:30pm.  That's right.
  10. If you ride a bike, please ride with traffic on the left side of the road.  If you do not, your chances of perishing are great (not to say that riding a bike with traffic really eliminates all chances of perishing... crazy drivers)
  11. The Brits love their roundabouts and put them in every road, regardless of whether or not they are useful.
  12. If you're trying to talk to someone from the very north of England, it's okay if you don't understand a thing that they say... most British people don't.
  13. Spelling things with an 's' instead of a 'z' and adding a 'u' to most words becomes an instant habit in England.  If you misspell realise (not 'realize'), the grammar Nazis will be upon you.
  14. Each boy at Oxford brought at least 2 suits with him to University.  Let me know if you ever find a boy at an American university who even owns two suits.
  15. The term 'fancy dress' means to dress up in a costume, to Brits.  Do not confuse this with 'formal attire' - common mistake.
  16. Any word can be made into a euphemism for being drunk.  That's right: plastered, pissed, mailboxed, shattered, upholstered, etc.  You name it.  Oh, and it's 'chundering' not 'vomiting'
  17. They actually DO say 'bloody,' 'bollocks' and 'brilliant' a lot.
  18. If you want to sound like you know what you're talking about when paying for an item, say 'quid' instead of 'pound' for the currency
  19. 'Cheers' is the equivalent of 'thanks.'
  20. Brits are some of the nicest, most wonderful people you will ever meet.


I'm sure there are many more notable facts, but these are the most important, off of the top of my head.

So, England, here's to you - thank you for the memories, the lessons learned and the absolutely wonderful friendships.

I'm sure I will be seeing you soon.

The view out of my dorm window, St. Anne's

One last formal with great friends

Oxford is truly beautiful

A final drink in England - cider, of course!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday already?

I just finished my last tutorial of term.  This term was especially good academic wise, which I was very happy with, but the crowning moments were definitely my time spent with the lovely friends I've made here.

Sabrina, Lilian and Hugo all fly off to Cornell tomorrow (already?!), so their summer is pretty much short lived.  I fly out Monday, so that means that I have to start considering what to pack soon.  Everyone else leaves tomorrow as well, so Keir and I will probably be one of the select few staying on Anne's campus until Monday.  It'll be strange watching everyone pack up!  I don't think I'll be noticeably sad, only because the happiness of this year far outweighs the sad, and I much prefer to remember the happy moments than to dwell on the goodbyes.

Our last formal of the year (and clubbing adventures) brought many quality pictures:


normal

we're dwarves compared to Lilian

some beautiful ladies

the gents!

a fabulous group

cocktails!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Final Countdown!

Cue dramatic music!

T-7 days until my return to the fatherland.  Very, very strange.  In the meantime, I intend to live it up with my British friends (and Americans!) and hopefully finish up this last essay tonight so I have nothing else to worry about for the rest of the week.  I've acquired a new carry-on suitcase and still have my massive suitcase that I came over with, and yet I cannot think of how all of my stuff is going to FEASIBLY fit into those and my backpack (which I am determined to convince the airline is a 'personal item').  I think I'll have to make a trip to the thrift store right before I leave in order to get rid of last minute items.. yipes.

I'm slowly but surely coming to terms with returning to the states and eventually back to Bryn Mawr for my final year of university.  It's an odd thought that I only have one more year, but an exciting one as well.  I've got a lot on my plate for this summer in terms of preparation: scholarship applications, signing up and taking the GRE, doing some part-time work to make money, applying to graduate schools and in general just sorting out my life for this coming year.  I want to have a viable plan for the Crew team because I feel like the team is often unprepared coming into the season, so I want to have a running goal list for September.  I also need to start contacting international Red Cross organizations and creating a goal timeline for International relations on the National Youth Council, which will be taking up a fair amount of time.  I'm being flown out to San Francisco in late July to meet with my fellow NYC members, which I'm very excited about (minus the plane thing).  I also intend to get back into my workout/healthy regime, as I've gone off the deep-end in England!

England has decided to grace our last week with a whole lot of rain.  That part I surely won't miss... I need a little sunshine back in my life.  I'm sure I'll be regretting this last statement having been home for about 2 weeks and sweating in the humidity.

--

In other, less depressing news - these last few weeks are exam weeks for the students of Oxford, mostly the first years (who are taking their prelims) and the finalists (who are taking their last exams).  The finalists get absolutely TRASHED after their last exam... which entails ketchup, beans, confetti, etc.  The first years get off a bit easier, seeing as they don't want to ruin their subfusc just yet.  Yes, I said subfucs --> all Oxford students MUST sit exams in full suit and subfusc attire.

My good friend Scott, a first year, after completing his prelims in Biochemistry
Note the red carnation in the picture.  You wear a carnation for each day of exams to signify how close you are to being done: a white carnation for the first, a pink carnation for the middle exams and a red carnation for the final exam.  Quite fitting!  Maybe I'll bring that tradition back to Bryn Mawr...

We also celebrated Anne's birthday last week.  Since it was her big 21, Hannah and I decided to concoct a very creative cake for her.  Seeing as Anne really loves the phrase "let's open up a can of woopass" we decided that making two cakes shaped like CANS of WOOPASS would be entirely fitting.  Oh yes... we went there.

Intricately making the pop-top portion of the can
The back of one cake
My intricately created bar code and initials!
Nutritional information:  Anne - 21yrs, Energy - 1 million kJ, Fat - 0, Alcohol - Lots!
Birthday girl with her two cans of woopass!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Red Cross - a look back

The journey began 5 years ago.



In December of 2006, I was elected as the first youth board member on the board of directors of the Delaware County Red Cross, working with then-Executive Brandon Feller.

Early 2007, I began the Buckeye Valley High School Red Cross Club and was elected its President.  The club accumulated hundreds of volunteer hours, 80 members and is still an active part of the high school community to this day.

BVHS Red Cross Club, 2008

Mid-2007, a youth coordinator was hired to the DelCo Red Cross branch in order to facilitate more youth involvement, which had been spurred on by the BVHS club.  The Delaware Hayes High School Red Cross Club was created and continues to this day.



Late 2007, I was honored with Youth Volunteer of the Year and Youth Hero of Delaware County, both thanks to the wonderful opportunities given to me by the DelCo Red Cross.



Early 2008, I was one of two recipients nationally who received the prestigious Navin Narayan College Scholarship via the American Red Cross.  Navin was a remarkable individual (see: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2000/03.16/nara.html) and I couldn't be more proud to have received a scholarship in his name.

2008 - 2010, I was the student coordinator for the blood-drives held at Bryn Mawr College.  We accumulated the most units of blood donated at the college in over a decade and the involvement of peers grew with each blood drive.

2010 - 2011 marked my time abroad in Oxford, where I have been pondering the significance of international relations amongst Red Cross societies around the world.  I decided to apply to be one of the 13 youths who make-up the National Youth Council of the American Red Cross, in hopes that I might be able to contribute to international awareness and bring my Red Cross experience to a national level.

June, 2011 - I was elected as a member of the National Youth Council of the American Red Cross to serve a 3 year term, beginning immediately.  I am also the projected International Representative, as my unique experience abroad has leant me much valuable information that the council believes will be useful in this role.  The council has many goals in the next year and subsequent three years, most of which center around gaining face-to-face interaction with the nation's youths (aiming for numbers in the thousands), promoting National Youth Involvement Month (November), redoing our website to become more user friendly and interactive (redcrossyouth.org) amongst many other things.  I am incredibly excited to be undertaking this role.  It will be a lot of work and time, but it is entirely worth it.  I will also be traveling (all expenses paid) up to 5 times a year to different locations around the USA to meet with my fellow members.

"The American Red Cross National Youth Council (NYC) is a group of 13 youth members and 3 adult advisers who work to better serve the youth volunteers of the American Red Cross. We advocate for youth involvement throughout the organization, create resources, and run awesome websites like Redcrossyouth.org. We strive to further the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross by empowering youth and young adult volunteers to become community and organizational leaders. Drawing upon their creativity, dedication, and energy, the National Youth Council seeks to promote young volunteers as an organizational resource and help young volunteers reach their full potential in serving their communities through the American Red Cross.  We work in close partnership with the Office of the National Chair of Volunteers in implementing its initiatives. Twenty-nine percent, or 169,312, of American Red Cross volunteers are youth or young adults, defined as age 24 and younger."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I can't believe I only have 13 more days in this lovely town/country and amongst friends :( it's gone so quickly!

Keir and I made a trip to the Natural History Museum and Pitt Rivers (Archaeological/Anthropological) Museum right near St. Anne's on Saturday, which was fun.  We also visited the Ashmolean Museum (Archaeology) a few weeks past.  Trying to see all that Oxford has to offer before I have to head home!

Natural History
Pitt Rivers
Another view

I've also started an application for the Marshall Scholarship, which is one of the most prestigious scholarships offered to graduating students to continue their postgraduate studies in Great Britain.  It's comparable to the Rhodes, although not quite as intense.  Nonetheless, I'm definitely going to have to make my application stellar to stand out - here's hoping for a good result!  The internal application isn't due until September, so I thankfully have all summer to work on it.

I emailed the professor that I'd like to work with for my DPhil here at Oxford, so I'm hoping she emails me back in time to potentially meet in person before I head home to the states!  Perhaps get a foot in the door.  She works in the Clinical Neurology department, doing plasticity/connectivity research with fMRI, specifically focusing on brain rehabilitation after stroke.  DEFINITELY the closest research to my personal interests that I've found to date!  I'm having trouble finding professors to work with at USA universities, for some reason.  No one seems to be as interested in brain repair as they are here in England.

I just sold my bike!  It makes leaving seem all the more real... terrifying.  However, I made $65 off of it, so not bad for having it for 8 months!

For those of you interested in what a "BLADE" actually is (what I won with my rowing team), here are a few through the years:
A very old, pencil style oar
Macon-style oar, which is what we'll be getting.  This will look almost exactly like ours, except our blade is red with a grey tip.  (Notice Pembroke III bumped our second boat on this blade... and our second eight bumped them this year!)
Cleaver-blade style

Sunday, June 12, 2011

23 years in the making...

a few more pictures!

Champagne shower!  (me in the lower left)


Just as we passed our boathouse after winning blades!

I am apparently a mermaid?  After getting thrown in

To the river

If you look closely, you'll see my striped shirt amongst the 8 sweaty men

happy!
and, of course... tasting victory!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

BLAAAAAAAAAAAAADES

WE DID IT!

That's right - we did what hasn't been done in over two decades (since 1988!) at St. Anne's by a 1st men's crew: we bumped every day of Summer VIIIs, which thus gives us blades!!  We get to order customized trophy oars with our names/weights on it, to memoralize the moment forever!

Day 1: Bumped Christ Church II
Day 2: Bumped Queen's
Day 3: Bumped Lady Margaret Hall
Day 4: Bumped Jesus

We also made all of these bumps in absolutely record time, in about the first 500m of the 1700m course.  In other words, we were much, much faster than all of the above crews and it showed!

video
The blades bump!  Look at the power-up right when we bump.. and then listen for the ROAR at the end from my crew as we realize we've won blades!


Another view of our final bump... play until the very end where you see the Jesus cox put up her hand to concede to us!


Here we come Jesus!  Jesus in the foreground, running from us on the last day!

Here we come, Jesus!

WE DID IT!  BLADES!

I was stroke seat for the celebratory row in


Champagne upon landing!

In I go!

Already been thrown in, as you can tell

Love this team

Another view of the crowd!
Right as we land.. all of those people were cheering for us!
Our boathouse, celebrating the arrival of a victorious M1!
Thrown in the river!