Saturday, 28 September 2013

Afternoon Tea and Hardwick Hall

After the stress and chaos of registration, it’s been nice to have a couple of nice relaxing days. Thursday I wore my sweatpants all day. I guess I went on a run so I changed into shorts, but then got right back in my sweatpants after I showered and stuff. It was awesome. Yesterday we had afternoon tea with our Nottingham tour guide, Chris. Chris was so kind in inviting us to his house and spending the afternoon with us. It was delightful! His backyard and his gardens were so quaint and beautiful and English and I loved it. Chris loves telling stories and he is such a great storyteller! It was wonderful just to sit and listen to him. He can just talk forever and I love it! I could listen to his stories nonstop for a week and never get bored.

Life lesson from Chris: “Even when life is shitty, you never know what’s right around the corner.”

After we all got back to the flat we simultaneously changed into sweatpants. Kailey, Sarah and I baked cookies (they did most of the work, I did most of the eating) because we wanted to have cookies. My ice cream withdrawal is now turning into a general sweets withdrawal. It’s been hitting me pretty hard the last couple of days.

Today I set off on my first ever actual adventure!!! My destination was Hardwick Hall, a beautiful house built by Bess of Hardwick, a character who is fast making a place for herself in the category of “my people.” Her life is so fascinating! Did you know she was poisoned by her third husband's brother?! Also as a woman she was basically a badass for her time. Hardwick Hall is a little inaccessible without a car, but somehow I managed to get there. These were my directions via bus from the Hardwick Hall website:
"Alight Glapwell 'Young Vanish,' and cross the road, walk up the hill and take 1st right following signs to Rowthorne and Hardwick. Continue toward village then take 2nd right and 1st left, arriving at Rowthorne gate. Continue straight to access Hardwick Hall."

They might seem like detailed instructions. They were not detailed in real life. My bus ride from Nottingham was about 75 minutes, and I left Nottingham a little after 9:00am. Special shout out to the very kind man who sat next to me on the bus! Not only did he point out Hardwick Hall through the mist across the highway to me, but he also made sure I got off at the right stop and he pointed me down the road I needed. From there I literally just walked into the middle of fucking nowhere small village English countryside. It was a little scary, just because I had no idea where I was going! I didn’t have any maps with me (fuck you google maps for not working with me here) but magically I found the gate listed on the directions. About two miles from my bus stop, after walking through a village, down a country road, through the gate, not knowing if I was going the right way, and literally walking past sheep in a pasture to get there, I found it.

"Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall"

The things I will do to get to my people…

Hardwick Hall is so beautiful and incredible. The house wasn’t open for another hour still when I got there so I meandered through the gardens. The gardens were also beautiful. I made sure to spend a lot of time in them, resting and just soaking it all in. Sometimes when I’m by myself at historic places, I feel like I’m constantly rushing around trying to fit everything in and see everything and do everything. It’s really important for me to take a minute and sit back and relax. So it was nice to do that today. Right before the house opened, a costumed Bess of Hardwick came out and greeted us and told us about her life! It was great.

I want to be her

Hardwick Hall is filled with old tapestries, one of the best collections in England I’m pretty sure. More importantly (to me), the Long Gallery of the house is filled with portraits. I spent a lot of time with “My Henrys” in the corner—portraits of Henry IV, VI, two of Henry VII, and of course one of Henry VIII. They also had a portrait of Catherine of Aragon!!!!!! Can I get a what what?!?! Best surprise ever!!! Unfortunately, the most famous portrait of Elizabeth I wasn’t there, since it’s on loan to the National Portrait Gallery for their new exhibit called Elizabeth I & Her People. I’ll have more to say on that in a couple weeks I’m pretty sure :) It also didn't rain all day!!! Thank you, weather, for behaving for me and making it warm and sunny all day.

Getting to Hardwick Hall and back home honestly was one of my proudest moments. I have never felt so independent and so accomplished!  I was really nervous that I would get lost or that I wouldn’t be able to find it, that something would go wrong, that I’d take the wrong bus, etc. But I made it there and not to go on an ego trip, but I’m just beaming with pride for myself right now. It’s scary to be on your own and trust your gut instincts and be by yourself, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had so far. I wouldn’t trade in that feeling for the world! I guess that’s what this year is all about :)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Love Letter to the Luther College Registrar

Dear Luther College Registrar,
Thank you for being so wonderful and simple and easy. Thank you for doing registration online. Thank you for just making me click a button at a certain time on a certain day. Thank you for clearly communicating to me when my registration time is. Thank you for having set days for registration and not having a million and making me run around campus like a chicken with its head cut off. Thank you for not making me run across campus over three separate days collecting signatures from who the fuck knows in different departments. Thank you for not making me physically wait in line for hours and hours. I love you. I am so excited to register with you in Spring of 2014. Our reunion will be amazing. I am sorry I took advantage of you for so long—never again. I am yours forever.

With all my love,

The last three days of registration here have been complete chaos. I have never been so stressed/crabby/anxious about school basically ever. The system for registering for classes at the University of Nottingham is totally different from our system at Luther. None of it is online, and instead you have to run around campus getting your entry form signed by all the different departments you want to take classes in. Not even the Brits know what’s going on. It’s insane and I hate it. All you do is wait in line. And then sometimes you’re in the wrong line, sometimes you have to talk to random people to get into secret add/drop sessions that they don’t tell International Students about, and sometimes you get in line at 7:45am for registration at 9:00am only to find out at registration is at 10:00am and so you didn’t need to get up at fucking 6:30am to be first in the queue. (But if this magically happens to you as well, the building custodians are very nice so chat with them for a bit to make the wait a little less boring.)

I am not amused.

But I am proud to say that I was the FIRST PERSON in the queue not once but twice to register for my classes. And since I am a nerd/go-getter, I am very happy to say that I was able to get into all the classes I wanted. Here’s to waking up at an ungodly time and queuing for hours and being crabby and pissed—and getting what you want! Since I’m only at the Uni part-time (the rest of my credits are with the Luther group and Bob) I’ll be taking two classes each semester. This fall, I’ll be taking Polish, and Building Sovietness: Russian Culture under Lenin and Stalin. I’m taking Polish just for shits and gigs, because I have time and want to have fun. I like languages and I don’t know if it’s a language I’d ever be able to teach myself. The Building Sovietness class should count for my Russian Studies minor, so I’ll have that completely finished after this semester! In the spring, I’ll be continuing with Polish, and then taking a history class called A Protestant Nation, focusing on England from 1558-1640. This is basically the closest I’ll ever come to taking my dream history class. I was the first person in line at a secret add/drop session and took the last available spot in the class. Miracles do happen. I’m one lucky girl.

Overall, I am just completely exhausted. This week has been so stressful. I am so, so, SO relieved to have the classes I want, especially getting into my dream class. Most of the classes are structured with a 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar, so I think I’ll only have each class two days a week. I conveniently have Mondays off, so that will give me a nice long 3-day weekend this semester! I’ve been pretty anxious to get settled into a routine and finally get my schedule, so I’m a lot less crabby and stressed now that I’m actually registered. I can't wait to finally have a schedule in my planner! Time to celebrate by taking a nap. I had to say it was a good day!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Orientation Week

So I guess more happened this week besides my 21st birthday, but that was obviously the most important event. I'll be continuing my 21st birthday until I get back home to the USA in June, of course. This week (starting on Tuesday, my birthday) we were staying on campus at the University of Nottingham for the International Student Orientation. There are several different campuses but the one we were staying on (and where I’m pretty sure most of my classes will be) is the biggest one, called University Park. It’s a pretty big campus and getting around the first day or two of orientation was a little confusing. But! It’s a beautiful campus and I’m looking forward to spending more time there when it’s not raining.
The Trent Building, by the lake

The Downs, in the middle of campus

We mainly had a lot of meetings (some of which were helpful, some of which were not) during the mornings, and then more optional activities. I spent a lot of time walking around the campus during the afternoons. For my best friend Sigrid: I think I finally understand how great you felt during that one super long walk at Hatfield House two years ago! Walks are great. I'm really learning to love them. We all met some people and it was really interesting to see just how many different countries and majors are represented at the university. There are so many people from all over the world! The University of Nottingham has campuses in China and Malaysia, so there were a lot of people from there, especially from China. It was also interesting meeting so many postgraduates and people doing their Masters. Going to an undergrad-only school, you really don’t meet a lot of people who can tell you about grad school and what they're actually planning to do with their lives.

Anyway, it felt like we were on campus for forever, and so we convinced Bob to open the flat early today after we were done with registration. After that we were running errands all afternoon, mainly getting our bus passes! I had to get a bunch of other random toiletries and got a city library card. Tonight we had cake to celebrate my birthday, only a few days late! Tonight we’re having a 90s jam sesh, tomorrow we’re having ladies night and going clubbing! Registration for classes is on Monday. The first day of classes is also on Monday. Interesting. I am not happy. Too stressful. As someone who loves plans, schedules, routines, this is really hard for me. School is fucking up my life and isn’t offering one of my dream classes, but if everything works I should still be okay credit wise with the classes I’m hoping to take! I’m really stressed/anxious about everything, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. Hopefully Monday goes well! Fingers crossed!

21st Birthday!

A picture is worth a thousand words:

My 21st Birthday!
That's all. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing night! :)

Monday, 16 September 2013

London baby! (and Lincoln too oops)

Holy shit! I am so tired and there is so much to talk about! London was awesome, I’m so glad I went, and I feel so independent and accomplished that I made it on my own. I didn’t get lost and didn’t get hit by cars! But I got back at 11:20pm last night and then we were in Lincoln all day today so I am ready to get in my bed. Brief summary of the places I cried this weekend: the British Library, National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square when I was remembering The Best Day, on the train to Hampton Court Palace, at Hampton Court Palace, outside of Westminster Abbey, walking to the Tower of London, at the Tower of London, and a fair amount of places in between.

Saturday: Well my plans didn’t work out so I started off pretty pissed—my alarm didn’t go off so I missed my 7:02am train to London, and had to buy a (much more expensive) ticket for the 8:02 train at the station. I went straight from St. Pancras station in London down the street to the British Library as soon as I got in. I was able to register for a reading card, but one of the two books I really want is off-site, which means they need 48 hours notice to have it sent to the actual British Library. I was able to see one of the books I needed though! They’re pretty uptight there, you have to have your Reading Room card with you to get into any rooms, have to carry all your belongings in a clear plastic bag, and you can’t bring pens in, only pencils. But now I know for next time! I think one more trip and my research will be done!

Next I walked across the city to Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. I retraced my steps from The Best Day, July 7th 2011! It was amazing to be back in the same exact place that Sigrid and I were before, watching some of the greatest celebrities walk past us. Then I went back home—to the National Portrait Gallery. It was unbelievable. They rearranged the Tudor Gallery a bit, they now have a newly identified portrait of Catherine of Aragon (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) which they have next to Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn’s portrait is the next over. So amazing to have all of them together. Unfortunately, they had moved Elizabeth I’s coronation portrait (they’re opening a new exhibit starting in October!) so I didn’t get to see that, but a lot of my other favorites were there. I have never felt so happy in my entire life. Getting to see all my people and being with them again was just amazing. It’s been several years since I was there and being back felt like being home, it just felt right. They were all just waiting for me and I could just feel it. It’s such an unbelievably warm loving feeling, when your body and your heart and your soul are all in the same place. The feeling reminded me of this part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after the battle when Voldemort is defeated, and Harry goes to the headmaster’s office to see Dumbledore’s portrait. So I’ll just let J.K. Rowling explain what that feeling is like:
 “He had one, brief glimpse of the stone Pensieve on the desk where he had left it, and then an earsplitting noise made him cry out, thinking of curses and returning Death Eaters and the rebirth of Voldemort –
            But it was applause. All around the walls, the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts were giving him a standing ovation, they waved their hats and in some cases their wigs, they reached through their frames to grip each other’s hands; they danced up and down on the chairs in which they had been painted…
            But Harry had eyes only for the man who stood in the largest portrait behind the headmaster’s chair. Tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard, and the pride and the gratitude emanating from him filled Harry with the same balm as phoenix song.”
The same balm as phoenix song—exactly what I was feeling. This is so nerdy and I so don’t even care.

After that I walked to Waterloo station and caught the overground train to Hampton Court Palace, where I cried some more! It was so nice being able to take my own time to go through. I made sure to see the H and A in the Great Hall (Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s initials, after the execution they were all removed except they missed this one at Hampton Court), and sat in the Chapel for a really long time. The Chapel is so beautiful. I could have stayed there crying all day. The ceiling! So amazing! One of the most beautiful Tudor ceilings still in existence. It was so great. And thanks to my Historic Royal Palaces Membership, it was free and I got a 10% discount in the gift shops! :)

I had a really nice (and much needed) resting period on the train back and then checked into my hostel. I met up with a friend of mine and we got drinks in Soho, and wandered around Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square and Covent Garden, it was great and I had so much fun. I didn’t get hit by cars and I’ve officially learned how to j-walk like a Londoner!

Sunday: I literally walked across London three times and I am exhausted just thinking about it. I checked out of my hostel and walked essentially from Kings Cross to Westminster Abbey, walking through Whitehall which was annoying since there was some fucking bike race that was in my way. I had been planning on going to the 11:15 service at Westminster Abbey (since you get in for free), but it was invitation only because of a Battle of Britain service, so I just waited outside with the rest of the people/tourists and watched fancy people coming and going in from their cars.

Then since I decided I hadn’t done enough walking, I walked across the city again to the Tower of London. I met up with one of my best friends, Peter, who is studying abroad in London and it was unreal! We've been friends since before we were born, and I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that we’re living in England. 
Peter and I on our first day of school

Peter blowing out the candles on my birthday cake (thanks)

London baby!!!

I had assigned him homework (know all of Henry VIII’s wives) which he didn’t take seriously, so I had to fail him for his first pop quiz. He gave my Tower of London tour a 9/10, so I’m pretty happy with that! First we went on the Yeoman Warder’s tour, which was fantastic. My goal of marrying one so that I can live in the Tower of London is in reach, since our tour guide wasn’t wearing a ring (I looked). Like last time, I was the last one in the Chapel since I was busy crying. The beefeater had to kick me out since there was a new group coming in. Some things never change. Then we did the Medieval Palace, Wakefield Tower (Henry VI was murdered there on May 21st, 1471), Bloody Tower (Princes in the Tower!!! I gave Peter the whole story and, like myself, he voted for Richard III at the end for who killed the Princes), White Tower (restrained myself at the gift shop), and then saw the Crown Jewels. All so so amazing! I’m so glad I was able to meet up with him! He had never been to the Tower before, so being able to show him everything and all my people was amazing. I’m so lucky!

And since I really wanted to walk more, we essentially walked from the Tower back to Kings Cross, with a brief layover at Peter’s flat so I could meet his roommates and eat their food. My train left at about 8:15pm and I struggled really hard not to fall asleep. I was so exhausted. When I finally got into Nottingham I was worried that I wouldn’t make the last bus out of the city center (my train was due to arrive at 10:49 and the last bus going to my flat leaves at 10:53), so I ran with my huge backpack for four blocks. And I made it!!! I got back at about 11:20 and was exhausted.

Today we went to Lincoln on a day trip, which was great and a lot of fun. We had time to wander around and explore the city before going on a walking tour (including the cathedral!) at 1:00pm. The only places I went into seemed to be book stores and the Whisky Shop. The owners gave Kula and I free tasters of two South African whiskys! There’s nothing greater in this world than free whisky. They also sell the smallest bottle of whisky in the world, and so I bought three of them. Also I'm still not used to the British spelling of whisky without the "e" but I guess I'll get used to it. Our walking tour was excellent, Lincoln has so much history. There have been people living there since the Iron Age (I think?), and there are still a lot of Roman ruins in the city. The cathedral is magnificent. Lincoln has been on my list of places to go for a while, mainly just because I want to see the cathedral. It is just unbelievably beautiful. I’m so lucky! Part of it is still surviving from when William the Conqueror had it built, starting in 1088. Just amazing. Being in England just reminds me how young the U.S. is—we just don’t have that kind of history in the U.S., we just don’t have that level of old. It is so unreal.
Lincoln Cathedral

It was pretty chilly/windy/it kept raining, so for the rest of the day after our walking tour it was pretty low key. I passed out on the train ride back cause I’m so tired. I have no idea how I’m still writing this, that’s how tired I am. Tomorrow is International Student Orientation, so we’re all staying on campus at the university in the dorms from Tuesday until Friday night. Obviously my 21st birthday is important enough that they planned the first day of orientation on it. This is super long but mainly I just wanted to get everything out so that people aka my parents knew that I made it home from London safe and sound! I am so tired but it was so worth it. And now: bedtime.

P.S. For sure said “cheers!” to a Brit today for the first time and it was awesome.

Friday, 13 September 2013

First flat day trip!

Today we had our first flat day trip! Our first stop was Haddon Hall, a beautiful medieval manor house that’s been used in several movies, including the Princess Bride (“I give you, Princess Buttercup!” aka it was Prince Humperdinck’s castle). Haddon Hall has been on my list of places I want to go to since before my last trip. I feel so fortunate that I got to finally go here today! One of my favorite parts of the house was the chapel, which had these beautiful wall paintings. It was so old and so serene. The gardens and grounds of the house are also amazing, nestled into the English countryside. For the first time since I’ve gotten here, I finally felt like I was in England. It is such an amazing feeling. It wasn’t really until I was standing up by the garden looking out onto the green pastures and cows and sheep that I could feel it, that amazing feeling—that I’m in England. I just couldn’t be happier. I've been waiting for that feeling for so long now, it feels like it's been so long since I've been here last and every time it just floors me. I'm so fucking lucky.
The inside courtyard of Haddon Hall

Our next stop was Chatsworth House, a gorgeous palatial amazing place, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, coincidentally also on my list of places I want to go to. I'm so lucky!!! It was unbelievable. Besides the fact that the house itself is amazing, it has very impressive art galleries (some of them were of my people, so I put up with it—saw my first Henry VIII portrait of the year!) and gardens/grounds that are stunning. Chatsworth House goes back to 1547 when Bess of Hardwick and her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, bought the land and decided to build. I’m just starting a biography on Bess of Hardwick, so hopefully I’ll know more about her soon, but she has a pretty fascinating story. She was married four times, and accumulated enough wealth as a widow (and due to her longevity—she was 80 when she died!) to become the richest woman in England, after the Queen of course. Her children spread throughout the English aristocracy and Elizabeth I once said about Bess, “I assure you, there is no Lady in this land that I better love and like.” I always love a connection to my time period and my people, so that was just an added bonus.

Chatsworth House

(also just wanted to say that I can't believe I figured out how to put both pictures and captions in this blog, I'm brilliant shh!)

Chatsworth House has also been featured in lots of movies, including the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy’s house). I spent a couple hours wandering around the gardens—there were weird sculptures and ponds and a group of us finally made it to the center of the maze! Chatsworth House was also set deep in the English countryside and so the scenery was beautiful. It was raining but I didn’t even feel it. Again, it was one of those magical moments when I could feel that I was in England. Simply amazing. Today, I feel like one of the luckiest girls alive.

Tonight we went out for Indian and had cake for Kaia’s birthday. I have to wake up super early tomorrow to catch a train to London. My first ever solo trip! Even though it would be nice to explore Nottingham more, I really need to get back to my people. I’ve been waiting so long to go to my favorite places! They’ll all be waiting for me, I know. I’m going to cry so much! I’m meeting up with my friend Peter, who’s basically been my brother since before we were born, on Sunday to take him to the Tower of London for the first time. But now it’s time for bed! As someone who hates mornings, I’m not excited to wake up at 5:30 am, but I’ll do it for my people. And if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is… London baby!!!

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Today was another long day in Nottingham! Last night we all went out to a pub called the Lion, which has their quiz night on Wednesday! Bob (our program director) treated us all to the first round of drinks, which was excellent. He is so nice and so sweet—I am so lucky to have him as the director!

Today we were exploring the city center and were there basically all day. Nottingham is a fascinating city, the architecture is beautiful and there are so many interesting places with amazing stories. I’m really glad we had the time today to go off on our own and do our own exploring. I have a pretty good sense of direction, but it always makes me feel a bit more secure to actually walk the streets. During our wandering we found our first ever red telephone booth! I actually forgot to take a picture in one last time I was here… sorry for sucking at being a tourist.

We had a walking tour with a delightful tour guide, Chris, who knew so much about the history of the city and surrounding area. Nottingham really seems great and I’m really looking forward to getting to know the city center better. 

Nottingham city center, Old Market Square

One of the streets in the Lace Market

It’s a pretty quick bus ride (about 15 minutes) from our flat, and there are bus stops a block away that get you direct into the center. Tonight we had our first fish and chips! It was greasy and delicious and wonderfully British. I was almost finished with this post and then someone said they had gotten into the library, which is inside the church below the flat. Totally nerded out!!! So many books to read! I picked out a couple that look pretty good. I really miss reading books for fun and am definitely having some separation anxiety with my books at home. But I’m super excited for the books that I can read now!

Tomorrow we’re doing a day trip to Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House, both two places I’ve been hoping to go to since my last trip! I’ve finalized all my plans for my trip to London this weekend, and I can’t wait to get back to all my people! :)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Made it to England!

My first blog post! If you’re reading this, that means I got the blog and technology to work, which means hell has frozen over and the Vikings are probably going to win the ring this year. This blog is probably going to be inside jokes with myself and a list of places I cried at, have fun.

Also if you’re reading this it probably means you already know that I’m a nerd, obsessed with history, and have no shame about it, so to explain my choice for the title of my blog: Anne Boleyn’s motto was “the most happy.” Although I in no way expect to be 100% happy for my entire year, Anne wasn’t always happy either (see: having to wait 6+ years to get marry the man she loved. See also: execution). But all in all I think it’s a nice tribute to one of my favorite women.

I am finally in England!!! It is just as amazing and wonderful as I remember. From the second I got off the plane, it felt right. I’m finally back where I belong! The trip here was long (flight delay because of a drug bust at Humphrey Terminal, keep it classy Minneapolis) and yesterday I was pretty tired. We’re all pretty much settled into our flat here in Nottingham, which is really nice. There’s two quads, two doubles, and a single. The quad I’m in is nice and fairly spacious, and the ceilings are really high and so it doesn’t feel cramped. My bed is great and I love it.

Today we walked around our neighborhood and tomorrow is our first trip to the city center. I’m hoping to be able to find some nice routes for running that I can map out! It doesn’t really matter if it’s scenic or not, but just something around the neighborhood that I can do easily. We don’t have any flat activities on Saturday or Sunday so I’m hoping to go to London this weekend!!! Gotta get back to my people!

Cheers :)