A Semester’s Recap

Hey, so it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I kind of dropped the ball on this whole blogging game for a while, mostly because this semester was one of my most challenging academically and emotionally. Returning from London was a whirlwind and taking my two most difficult classes of my college career in addition to reintegrating myself into organizations, RAing and just university life in general again made it very complicated and was not a great choice in hindsight. But, hey, we’re on the other side now! And while this semester has definitely kept me in check with how imperfect I am, I’ve also learned a lot and made some really close friends in the process, and I am so excited to spend my last summer before becoming a college graduate in Ithaca. But since I don’t really want to write out an actual recap of my semester, here’s a list of things I have learned this semester.

1. It’s okay to say “no.”

As a perfectionistic overachiever, I always think I can do more than I can actually handle. Up until this semester, I’ve always said it’s okay to say no but I never really had to. This time around, I turned people down when they asked me to be in productions, make things for them, hang out, etc. As bad as I felt about it, I’m really glad I did as my mental health and my grades would have suffered (… more than they already did …)

2. People come and go in your life.

I lost some really close friends this past semester but I also gained some other awesomely close ones (many of whom are staying for the summer, which is phenomenal). But sometimes you have to let people go – and it’s often been hard for me to accept that everyone won’t necessarily like you all the time. Friends are like waves. You get really close to some people and then they fall out of your life, and that’s okay. Things change. People change. You change.

3. Work hard, play hard.

This also has been the first semester I’ve really allowed myself to let loose. I don’t know if it’s being able to drink legally, knowing more people who throw parties, nicer weather recently, forcing myself to make time to enjoy things, or what, but my weekends were often filled with hanging out with friends, playing League, going off-campus and just enjoying myself which really helped when the semester was so stressful.

4. Let yourself feel.

This is something that I’m still learning and started to learn last summer through meditation. But it’s something that was still so important this semester because I was messing around with medication levels and lots of other things and had an overwhelming amount of emotions regarding friendships, relationships, academics, missing London and so much more. And I have to consistently tell myself that it’s okay; it’s a journey.

5. You will make it through classes you hate.

You may not enjoy it, but you’ll survive.

6. Tindering in a college town is a bad idea.

You either run into biddies and bros, people from the rural outlying areas, and/or everyone you go to class with.


The various friend groups I’ve been in this past semester have often run into a lot of tension because people thing that passive-aggressively leaving notes or ignoring people is the way to solve problems. If you have something to say, for the love of all that is holy, just say it.

And we’re now at the start of what hopefully will be a wonderful Ithaca summer. Back home in June for two of my best friends’ weddings and to snuggle with my puppy again. Stay tuned!

Leadership Lessons Learned Abroad

Most likely surprising no one, being abroad taught me a lot of things. While I’m only required to write about one lesson I learned for one of my scholarships on campus, I’m notorious for wanting to overachieve and we all know how much I like lists, so I decided to compile a list of some of the leadership lessons I learned while I was abroad.

1. Let other people lead (sometimes)

This was probably the biggest lesson I learned, which is why I’m starting with it. I’m a pretty big control freak (to put it lightly) and have a really hard time delegating because I have a “if you want it done right, do it yourself” kind of attitude because I’m afraid of other people mucking it up. But an effective leader allows others to learn from their experiences – I was often the person in new places with the maps, the tickets, the saved lists of things to do, and I had to let some of my companions wander and learn about the cities for themselves without my dominating knowledge. Of course, I always had that information on backup, especially if we needed to get somewhere fast, but it was much more enjoyable to let others discover things on their own too.

2. Planning isn’t everything

As may be expected, I’m a huge planner. Before going to London, I had spreadsheets of places to see and go and what to do and when to do it. But something I quickly learned is you have to be much more flexible, because sometimes the best experiences happen on the fly and when you’re least expecting it.

3. Experience as much as you can

I found a lot of good leadership happens when the leader has a lot of experience in multitudes of situations – from new cities to how to deal with difficult people to navigating in an unfamiliar area. I got to see a lot of different parts of London, and of cities in Europe, and I found that I learned a lot by just seeing lots of things. My flatmates and I really tried to seize the opportunity we had of being abroad, and did lots of different things. Many of my classes also took us out into the city so we got to go to private art views, special exhibitions, theatre performances, small museums and more. Having a broad range of experiences to pull from and a large knowledge base makes it easier when you’re faced with decisions in leadership positions.

4. Respect others

This seems like kind of a “no, duh” kind of lesson, but I was honestly fairly shocked by some students’ lack of trying to immerse themselves in another culture. It’s important as a leader to respect others on an individual level as well as a cultural one, especially when dealing with international situations. I think especially as students, it was surprising to me that I knew some people who wouldn’t try to speak the language of the country we were in (even for small phrases like “please” and “thank you”) or would get annoyed at cultural differences like not handing the money directly to the vendor or how the public transport worked. It’s important as a leader to at least be respectful of others, even if you disagree or don’t understand them completely.

5.  Listen

Similar to the first lesson, I’ve previously had a really hard time not trying to interject my own opinions most of the time. This semester I learned (sometimes the hard way) that I often needed to simply shut up and listen to others because they have valid opinions and ideas too. This was a really hard one for me, and one I’m admittedly still working on, but something I’ve started to become more aware of in my own behaviors.

Things I Will Not Miss About London

As great a city as London is, it definitely had some drawbacks and things that made me miss the States a lot. Luckily, there were more things I loved about London (which you can see in the counterpart to this post) than disliked, but here ya go, my fellow glass-half-empty people.

1. Lack of public water fountains


2. Cramming onto the Central line

3. Not being able to find chocolate chips

4. Children on field trips on the tube

5. The excessive heating on the tube

6. Lack of specialty liqueurs


7. Commuting


8. Tiny showers

To be fair, this was definitely specific to our flat. But come on. I just want a real shower.

9. Getting talked-down to because you’re American


10. The transfer from Monument to Bank

Actually, just tube transfers in general.

11. Not having Michael’s or other craft stores


12. No maple syrup


13. Lack of Target


14. Using an adaptor

So there’s really not that much.  London, I’ll miss ya.

Things I Will Miss About London

While I was in London, I fell in love with a lot of different things. This is a post that I wrote a while ago but forgot to post when I got back, so you get it as a Christmas present! It’s fairly obvious that London is a kick-ass city. It was been a pleasure to live there for a month, despite some downfalls (found in the counterpart to this list, Things I Will Not Miss About London), and there will be some things I will definitely miss while I’m back in the States. Here they are!

1. Mozzarella sticks at McDonald’s

2. “Driving” the bus and/or DLR

3. Coins instead of bills for dollars/pounds

4. The Cloud

Wifi is everything, all hail The Cloud

5. Cider on tap

6. Scones and clotted cream

7. Running down the escalators

8. Millionaire bars

9. Cadbury chocolate

10. Time Out day

11. Rush Hour Crush

12. Delores

Our friendly tube announcer lady.

13. The weather

14. Football games

15. The ICLC staff


16. Automatic toilets that actually flush at the right time

17. “Cheers”

18. TfL


20. Off-Licences

21. Primark

22. Included tax

23. Falling in love with strangers on the tube

24. Free ATMs everywhere

25. The diversity of the city

26. Bus drivers who actually wait for you

27. Let’s be real, just about everything

Culture Clash

And now, for something completely different. Over the course of the semester, I have seen a variety of shows. We’ve gone to about one show per week, sometimes less, sometimes more. It’s been an amazing way to immerse in the theatrical environment of London and see a lot of different theatres and areas of the city as well. But one of the most interesting aspects of seeing all these different shows is how they reflect on British culture and how that juxtaposes with our culture as Americans.

The first show we saw after coming home from break was a very odd but enjoyable production called Teh Internet is Serious Business. This was, by far, the most temporary show we saw – it focuses on very modern-day scenarios and internet popularity, so in a few years’ time, it won’t make sense and/or be entertaining anymore. This is kind of an interesting concept for a show because, in theory, the dream is to have a production that can outlast the years – think of Phantom of the Opera, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This show did a really good job of bringing together the multi-dimensionality of the internet and the unique aspect the web has of bringing people from all over the world into a space together where they can communicate. The characters in Teh Internet is Serious Business were based in all different parts of the globe – UK, US, Asia, etc. – and I think this show highlighted the communal culture of the internet and how that culture can change based on your attitudes, the current events and where in the world wide web you are. It brought to attention how similar everyone can seem behind a screen and how culture and the ideology of someone’s location don’t always come through when talking to them on the internet; often, it is how you paint yourself and how easily you can morph your identity when it’s not real life.

Actors in “Teh Internet is Serious Business.” Credit to The Telegraph.


The next show we saw was King Charles III. This was a really engaging look at the royal family and the current dynamic of politics and the role of royals in contemporary United Kingdom life. This show is set in the future, after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died and Charles has assumed the throne; it was written in the same meter and style as many Shakespearean classics, using the iambic pentameter and rhyming verses. I was wary of this at first since it could have easily been very kitschy, but it turned out to be really brilliant. This performance was really interesting for me since I know about as much about the royal family and British politics as the average American citizen – which is not much at all. King Charles III examined the relationship between the queen or king and Parliament and how the king or queen is very much a figurehead and doesn’t exercise much or any power that s/he may have. This was really intriguing to see since while Americans often think of the President just being a figurehead, this is even more prevalent in the United Kingdom. The show also looked at the relationship between the royal family and the media, a very similar situation to celebrities and tabloids’ obsession with them in the States. This was one of the best-written shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing and I think it painted a picture of the future of Britain that has encouraged people to talk about their government and how it’s led.

Actors in “King Charles III.” Credit to The Times.

Next, we saw the Chekov classic The Cherry Orchard. I’ve never been a devoted Chekov lover but I did really enjoy reading Uncle Vanya in high school and was excited to see what this director had done with the production. Her intent may have been good, but unfortunately, I don’t think her ideas translated well to the stage. The show itself seemed flat and rather boring. It did a good job of making the viewer think about the importance of home and physical things like money or property, but that was much more due to the acting and Chekov’s writing than any of the staging or direction choices. Unfortunately, this was a show that didn’t give us a lot of insight into anything, really. One of my favourite things about seeing so much British theatre this semester is I appreciate how willing British actors and directors are to take risks – and while this show did something that was not classic Chekov (trying to strip away a lot of the over-the-top intense emotion), it didn’t take risks in the right ways.

Natalie Klamar as Varya in “The Cherry Orchard.” Credit to the Arts Desk.

This is unlike the next show I saw, which took all the right kinds of risks. I saw Henry IV outside of my Drama and the London Theatre class because the Shakespeare course had some extra tickets and I nabbed one. This production of Henry IV was special because it was set in a women’s prison and therefore performed entirely by a female cast. This was a really cool take on the show since it is so dominated by father/son and traditionally “masculine” roles such as kingships and war leaders. I think this did a phenomenal job of examining the dynamics between the genders (which, of course, interested me as you could tell by my last essay for this class) and brought the audience’s attention to the words and story itself since they had a very barren set. One thing I will say that was unsuccessful about this production was the fact that they set it up as a play-within-a-play (granted, a great idea), but in a way that was fairly confusing to some audience members. You were ushered in by “prison guards” through the back entrance of the theatre, and it was unclear in the beginning of the show that this was supposedly being performed in the prison. I picked up on this early in the show, but it went unreferenced until almost the end, and I know many of my peers were frustrated by the lack of attention drawn to the fact that it was a performance within a performance. Other than this, I think it was a brilliant revival of Shakespeare’s classic.

Harriet Walter as King Henry in “Henry IV” at the Donmar. Credit to the Arts Desk.

By the end of the semester, we starting to explore more of the major West End (the London version of Broadway) productions, and our last three shows were popular and widely-known shows. We first saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, based on the book more affectionately known in my household as “the upside down dog book.” I had read this in the past and really loved it, so I had high expectations for the performance. Luckily, it definitely lived up to the hype. This show was a great look into modern-day family dynamics in Britain and by far the most technically stunning production we saw this semester. They used every space in their theatre really well and did a great job using technology and lighting effects without being too overwhelming. This show was based around Christopher, a 15-year-old boy who lives with his divorced father and goes on an adventure to find his mother, who his father said was dead but he discovers over the course of the story that she is indeed alive. In this production, one of the biggest things about British culture that I took away was a look at the family dynamics and dealing with a child who can be difficult or has special needs. This prompted a great discussion in class of the differences between American and British school systems as well, which is always an intriguing – if heavily debated – topic. I think there are a lot of similarities in child-rearing between the countries and their attitudes toward educating kids who don’t learn the same way as everyone else.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” Credit to The Stage.

The penultimate show we saw was War Horse, which, in short, I was extremely disappointed by. This was a great look at World War I and I took a lot away from our research of the war and the dynamics of the different countries – especially France and Britain, since they had such a tumultuous relationship in the past. War Horse was wonderfully staged and the puppeteering was phenomenal, but the story itself fell flat and that was distracting to me. It seemed like the performance dragged for me since the only truly engaging part for me was the construction and operation of the horse puppets. This show highlighted a large difference I’ve observed between the UK and the US which is the focus on remembering and commemorating wars – we have much more influence on celebrating events and dates in history but not as much focus on things like Veteran’s Day or other days of remembrance, while in Britain they have the Poppy Appeal every single year which prompts discussions surrounding wars and the horror that comes with them.

“War Horse.” Credit to The Stage.

The final show we saw was Billy Elliot, which I had, of course, heard of before, but had never seen, so I was excited to be in the audience. One of the things that surprised me about this show was how Brit-centric it was. Definitely not in a bad way, just since I had heard of it so often in the States I was particularly interested in how a lot of the story focused on a majorly British event – the coal strikes while Margaret Thatcher was in power. Before coming to study here, I hadn’t heard much about Margaret Thatcher and the attitudes surrounding her role as PM. Adding the context of British attitudes towards her and her decisions, especially regarding the coal strikes, (which are fairly consistently negative) made this a much more interesting show to watch (especially the ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’ scene, which wouldn’t have made any sense to me before coming to Britain).

“Billy Elliot.” Credit to One Stop Arts.

Overall, this semester has been a great glimpse into British life. Sometimes, there are major differences between UK and US culture, and other times, there is barely any at all. I think many of the shows we saw gave us a good historical and contemporary context of living in Britain (such as The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, Billy Elliot, Little Revolution, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, King Charles III), while others, set in a more mystical landscape, still said a lot about the differences in British and American theatrical styles and staging – especially when examining the different theatres in London and how that can affect the technical aspects of shows (such as Pitcairn, Teh Internet is Serious Business, Medea, Antony and Cleopatra). It’s been a pleasure to be able to experience so much theatre in such a short period and I cannot wait to go back to the States and examine the differences and/or similarities between our cultures even further.

A Jaunt in Paris, Cardiff and Barcelona

Why hello again, it’s been a good while. I’ve been away adventuring and I do have to admit I was slacking a bit on the blog posts. This has been an amazing experience so far in London, and we now have less than a week left. I’m unsure as to how that happened, but here we are. I’ve been away for quite a time and so I’m going to try and catch you up on some adventures and a couple more stamps in the passport book.

Vogue-ing outside the Louvre.

Vogue-ing outside the Louvre.

A few weekends ago, the ICLC did a group trip to Paris. We took the Eurostar under the Chunnel and stated in a lovely hostel (if in a bit of a dicey part of town).

The weekend opened to a grey and rainy weekend in the city of lights. Best friend Bill took us on a walk around the city anyway, and we saw the Bastille, Notre Dame, Louvre, love lock bridge and more. We also got a taste of the French metro system which, while functional, was definitely not as nice as the tube (nor as rickety as Rome’s sad excuse for a metro system). We also got into the Louvre for free that evening (can I get a hoo-rah for student nights?) and got really tired and very lost trying to find our way in that maze of a museum. All I kept thinking was how hard it would be to clear everyone out of the Louvre and therefore how interesting it would be to try and stay overnight… But I didn’t.



The next day, Andrew and I headed to the catacombs while Madison, Gretchen and others climbed the Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Andrew and I popped by for a look at the Tour Eiffel but decided it wasn’t worth it to go up to the top (Andrew because he already went, me because I knew it couldn’t beat skyscrapers of more modern cities… Also I didn’t want to spend money. Pretty much the same reason I haven’t been on the tourist trap that is the London Eye. I digress). We had a lovely French dinner in a nearby restaurant and had an early bedtime.


Notre Dame

Sunday morning, my friend Kelsey and I attended mass at the Notre Dame (since we didn’t get to go at the Vatican). Then Madison, Gretchen and I wandered around a market, ate a delicious crepe and headed back to the train station.

It was lovely to see Paris and a very relaxing weekend. The next time I’m in France I think I’ll definitely aim to see more of the countryside now that Paris is off the bucket list.

Trying to climb down the stairs at Cardiff Castle. They were steep, okay.

Trying to climb down the stairs at Cardiff Castle. They were steep, okay.

Two weekends ago, on Sunday, the Burrow took a day trip to Cardiff, Wales, which was a ton of fun. We saw Cardiff Castle, laughed at the Welsh language, discovered what a lovespoon is, wandered around a Christmas market and checked out the wonderfully interactive National Museum. It’s been a great experience for another few destinations in Europe.

Derpin' around Cardiff Castle, you know how it goes.

Derpin’ around Cardiff Castle, you know how it goes.

Last weekend, our last excursion was a girl’s trip to Barcelona. One of my good friends, Caleb, is studying there for the semester and Madison was very excited about Spain so we decided to go for a weekend. It was the longest trip we had besides Italy and it was a wonderful way to end the trip.

Montjuic and Caleb!

Montjuic and Caleb!

On the first day, we checked out a lovely cafe that Caleb showed us and wandered around some of the outdoor spaces in Barca – La Rambla, outside the Museu d’Arte, the old town, the cathedral. To end the night we got bottles of cheap champagne and drank them on the shores of the Mediterranean, which I stuck my toes in despite it being windy and freezing just to say I had done so.

Bubbly on the beach.

Bubbly on the beach.

On Saturday, it was rainy and we slept late then made our way to the Parc Güell and the outside of La Sagrada Familia, which was beautiful despite being kinda drizzly and then checked out the art in the Museu d’Arte (as well as some Gaudì, which is everywhere…), and ended the day with some delicious tapas and a bottle of wine.

Hello Parc Güell

Hello Parc Güell

On Saturday, it was rainy and we slept late then made our way to the Parc Güell and the outside of La Sagrada Familia, which was beautiful despite being kinda drizzly and then checked out the art in the Museu d’Arte (as well as some Gaudì, which is everywhere…), and ended the day with some delicious tapas and a bottle of wine.

To finish the trip, we saw the Picasso museum, which was phenomenal, and for free, which made it even better. We had an early flight the next day and headed back to London… unfortunately, in the course of which, Madison accidentally left her phone on the bus from the city centre to the airport. We, as a flat, have apparently had horrendous luck with phones and public transport this semester. Luckily, we only had two weeks left and her family has an upgrade on their plan so it won’t be too expensive.

Outside the Gothic Cathedral in Barca.

Outside the Gothic Cathedral in Barca.

And now we’re here. We have 5 days left in this city and so much to do. This weekend, one of my friends from home was visiting so we saw some things for the last time – wandered along the South Bank, saw the British Museum, visited some of our favourite East End markets. Gretchen and I saw Phantom of the Opera last Thursday which was honestly a dream come true.

This week is going to be full of essays, a Harry Potter studio tour, tea with cats tomorrow, souvenir/Christmas gift shopping, packing, cleaning, and crying over the fact that we have to leave.

Until next time, when you shall see a list of things I will miss about London… and will not miss about London. Adieu.

19 Things Learned in Italy

So hey, I spent 10 days in Italy for Fall Break!

I haven’t blogged in a while because of that, and we’re now back on the air. Hello, testing, testing… ah, yes. We flew first to Roma, took a train to Firenze, then to Venezia. I’m sure you don’t want a day-by-day recap of what happened so I’m going to do what I do best and list it out for you, Buzzfeed-style.

1. Italian bus drivers are the worst.

We took buses in every city we went to, and they were all jerky as all get out. This was, of course, compounded by the fact that a lot of the cities are built on cobblestone.

2. The best gelato you’ll have is not going to be in the cities.

We had a religious experience with the gelato in a small town called Greve in Chianti and it was miraculous.

3. Tuscany is just as beautiful as you think it is.


Gretchen demonstrates the beauty of Tuscany at a wonderful little vineyard we visited on our wine tour.

Panzello vineyard!

Panzello vineyard!

There’s just no getting around that.

4. Italy will ruin wine for you.

Wine tasting in Tuscany? Don't mind if I do.

Wine tasting in Tuscany? Don’t mind if I do.

Andrew and I model a cart of wine at Panzello Vineyard in Chianti.

Andrew and I model a cart of wine at Panzello Vineyard in Chianti.

We had wine and gelato every single day and I don’t regret a thing.

5. Say goodbye to vegetables.


Pizza and pasta are great for a while, but when you don’t want to shell out another 4 quid for some green stuff, you’ll end up missing things that will help round out your meals.

6. Tap water at restaurants isn’t a thing.

This is, by far, the only real qualm I had with Italy. You shouldn’t need to pay another few euros just to have a glass of water. Perché, Italia, perché?

7. Don’t pet the dogs.

Lint ball in Venice (that, fortunately, we were allowed to touch).

Lint ball in Venice (that, fortunately, we were allowed to touch).

I don’t know why. But I got yelled at.

8. Everything costs money.

I think I got way too used to being in London, where a day can be well spent with free museums, free activities or just wandering through parks, which are free. There’s definitely a lot to see in Italy, but if you want to get in anywhere, you’re going to have to pay for it.

9. Cover up!

We are now properly dressed to enter a church, apparently.

We are now properly dressed to enter a church, apparently.

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me, but the very first day in Italy we were in Rome and attempted to visit a church. It hadn’t even crossed my mind – even as a born-and-raised Catholic – to not wear shorts. Yeah, no. Cover your knees and shoulders or Italian bodyguards will be upset with you.

10. Tourists are disrespectful.


So many people at the David. SO MANY.

So many people at the David. SO MANY.

And it’s super annoying. We visited the Sistine Chapel, where you are asked to remain silent. But with so many people packed into such a tiny room, there are some chatterers. Which takes away from the whole experience, believe it or not. Michaelangelo’s work is breathtaking, of course, but the tourists were not. Bleh. The same deal with David in Florence – not unnecessarily noisy, just disrespectful and more focused on the *ahem* anatomy than anything else.

11. Look at so much art.


Madison examines a sculpture at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Madison examines a sculpture at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

12. Walk everywhere.

London is a lot of walking, but Italian cities are much smaller, meaning it’s totally feasible to walk from one end to the other in most cases (not so with London – I’d like to see you walk from South Kensington to Islington, HA). Wear comfy shoes and get ready to see a lot of the city (and maybe get lost a lot).

13. Be nice to your waiters.

Free limoncello shots!

Free limoncello shots!

Sometimes they bring you free shots.

14. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

I’m always terrified of looking like a tourist so I try and avoid asking people for things most of the time. But Italy can be confusing, and (most) Italians are really friendly and willing to help.

15. Ask the locals.

We found some of our favourite spots through just asking the front desk at our hostels or chatting with people we met at bars. Chat it up, you may discover some gems.

16. Vatican City is just as breathtaking as you think it will be.

Hey from Basilica di San Pietro.

Hey from Basilica di San Pietro.


17. Eat biscotti for breakfast.

This is one of the best things about Italy – breakfast cookies!

18. Eat so much Nutella.

Italians have Nutella with everything. I don’t know why. But it’s amazing.

19. If you look like me, Italian men will fall in love with you.

"Let me tell you how to make Italian men love you"

“Let me tell you how to make Italian men love you”

Andrew is convinced this is because I look like the pinnacle of Italian beauty. Regardless, I got hit on almost every day by shopkeepers and other various locals. Who knows why. A guy I bought cannoli from tried to make me a drink. A mask-maker called me “bellissima.” Who knows. Come to Italy with me and I’ll find us husbands.

Overall, I can’t wait to return. Italy has been my dream country for a while now and going there absolutely solidified that. Venice for Carnevale is still something that is at the top of my bucket list and I want to see so much more of the countryside. But for now, I’m just chillin making ridiculous faces with my lunchbox in front of London Bridge.