Sunday, 26 January 2014

Exam Weeks

Well, I finally made it through four weeks of traveling, two weeks of exams and trips, and a night in a haunted castle. Now I can breathe and relax for approximately five minutes before I start freaking out that spring semester classes start tomorrow and I have to adjust to a new schedule and actually do real work. Ugh. All I want to do is sleep in my own bed for 3+ nights…

So I came back from break on Jan. 12 around 2:00pm, and had my Russian Culture exam at 1:30pm on Jan. 13. It was not fun. I was able to do some studying over break (I brought the book that half the essay was on, so I could review that part) but really not a lot, so trying to cram everything I need to know into 23 hours when I’m exhausted was pretty awful. The exam was two essays, so besides preparing for those there wasn’t anything concrete I could study. I think it went okay, the first essay (on Vasilisa Malygina, the book I read over break) was definitely better than the second. It could have gone much better if I hadn’t been so tired/stressed/exhausted and if I had had more time to study. Oh well. We don’t find out our grades for another two weeks, and all I have to get to have it count for Luther is a 42%. Shouts of “FORTY-TWO” were quite common in the flat during our exam weeks.

I had a few days to study Polish before heading to London for a quick trip. One of my good friends from Luther, David, was in London for a J-term trip, and his group had a few free days! It was so much fun to see him and show him around the city. 

Hanging out with David in London!
Unfortunately, despite apparently writing it down and studying prior to my arrival, David failed his quiz upon arrival at the National Portrait Gallery. Hopefully this public announcement will shame him into studying harder next time. I took him to a bunch of my spots, and I got to do things that I hadn’t done too! The second day we got a pint at the Blackfriar, a pub that was built on the spot of an old Dominican friary. This Dominican friary happened to be Blackfriars, the scene of my favorite moment in history.

June 21st, 1529: During the divorce court proceedings, Catherine of Aragon is finally given a chance for defense. She went down on her knees in front of Henry and gave a badass speech, basically saying she was a good wife, she sees him as the head of justice in the realm, and she’s taking her case to the Pope. Then she got up and walked out. As the crier called her back, she continued walking and said something along the lines of “this court has no meaning for me. Onwards.”

What a badass.

Anyway, that is a brief summary of my favorite moment in history, and I got to stand exactly where she stood!!! It was an amazing feeling.

Standing where Catherine of Aragon stood, nbd
Then it was back to Notts, where I studied for Polish for a few more days before my exam on Tuesday. This exam was so much better than my Russian Culture one, I knew most of what was on the exam and there weren’t any major surprises. Our professor had given us a practice exam beforehand, and the real exam was really similar. My Polish friends and I had a big Polish party the night after our exam, and that was tons of fun!

The next day I ran around trying to figure my life out and open a UK bank account. The woman at Barclays who set it up was Polish, and so we chatted in Polish a bit! Literally the day after my exam, and I use my Polish in real life! It was kind of awesome.

Jan. 23: Headed to Cambridge to meet up with a good friend Abbie, who had both studied abroad during her undergrad and did a year of grad school in Cambridge. It was SO great meeting up with her!!! I learned so much about Cambridge and the whole system that I never would have learned otherwise, and I actually felt like I was starting to understand the whole culture. It’s so weird to think about, people who actually attend these universities just live in dorms that are 400 years old and go to services in these beautiful chapels. We saw St. John’s College (founded by Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother), Trinity College (founded by Henry VIII), and of course, King’s College. The King’s College Chapel is one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve been in. The fan ceiling is gorgeous, the stained glass is simply stunning, and the number one reason I went there: the organ screen has an “H&A” for Henry and Anne Boleyn, and it is one of two surviving initials after her execution! (I have, of course, seen the other existing one at Hampton Court Palace.) It was such an amazing experience to be in this chapel, so much more magnificent than any other university chapel. Wow.

Abbie and I outside of King's College Chapel
H&A on the organ screen, one of two that is still surviving in England!
Abbie and I went to some gift shops, hung out in a café, got a pint at the Eagle (the pub where Watson and Crick discovered DNA) to avoid the rain, and then went back to her friend’s place (where we were crashing for the night) to get ready for our formal hall. Formal hall is basically like the Yule Ball from Harry Potter, except not as fancy and without dancing. But you eat a meal and the fellows sit at High Table and it’s all very fancy and you buy bottles of wine and bring it in. Because Abbie is awesome, she got us tickets to a formal hall at Trinity College, so I got to eat a 3-course meal underneath a giant portrait of Henry VIII. Amazing!!!

Formal hall at Trinity College, livin' the dream!
Jan. 24: Abbie and I headed out in the morning to see Ely Cathedral. I have to admit that Ely was not on my list of places to go (which is heavily made up of cities that have famous cathedrals), and I am thoroughly embarrassed. Ely Cathedral was one of the greatest cathedrals I’ve seen, and let me tell you, I have seen a lot of cathedrals. It’s massive, with an octagon tower in the middle and the Lady Chapel (heavily damaged during the Reformation) on the side, the quire and altar are gorgeous. Definitely worth the trip. 

Ely Cathedral, it's so big that I couldn't fit everything into one shot, sorry this picture doesn't do it justice!

I headed to Bury St. Edmunds to go to St. Mary’s Church, to see Mary Tudor’s grave. She was Henry VIII’s younger sister, who followed his orders and married an old French king, and then as soon as he died she married one of Henry’s best friends, Charles Brandon. Her grave isn’t extravagant, even though she was Queen of France. Just a slab on the floor with a white edge to give it some height, and two plaques on the wall. Apparently, the church is the parish church with the longest nave in England! It was sweet and quaint and I think it was a nice resting place for Mary Tudor. 

Mary Tudor's grave, St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds
I wandered into St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, and around the old abbey ruins, which were awesome. The abbey in Bury St. Edmunds used to be the third largest in England, but it was destroyed in the Reformation (Mary Tudor was originally buried there, but when they were going to wreck it Henry gave permission for his sister to be moved to the church. How nice of him.). I met Abbie again at the train station and then headed back to Notts, exhausted. It was so great to see her and so much fun to explore Cambridge with her as my tour guide!

Last night…I had a sleepover at Tutbury Castle!!! Tutbury Castle, unfortunately, was destroyed by an Act of Parliament by Oliver Cromwell in 1647-1648. Fucking Cromwell. First he melted down all my crown jewels, and now he ruins Tutbury for me… We had met the curator, Lesley Smith, at one of her performances a few months ago. I’ve stayed in contact with her (mainly because she’s a fantastically brilliant Tudor historian) and she invited us to spend the night at the castle! Normally they charge £85/person, but for us they did £5 each. Such an incredible opportunity, wow.

Tutbury Castle is supposedly one of the most haunted castles in England, and after the assistant (who stayed overnight with us there) locked the gates, we were literally the only ones there. I saw the ruins of the chapel and kneeled at the same altar Henry VIII kneeled at! We went to the dungeons (with real torture equipment), stood in a circle and turned off our flashlights, and tried to call ghosts, which freaked me the fuck out. I might have gotten mildly claustrophobic, but it was scary as hell. Not a fan. No ghosts though! Wandered around the south range with our flashlights, then headed inside the castle. We slept on the floor in the Great Hall!!! In the same room as portraits of Anne Boleyn, two of Elizabeth, two of Mary Queen of Scots…wow. It is right next door to the King’s Bedchamber, which is supposedly one of the most haunted rooms in England. I wasn’t a huge fan and of course expected that whenever anyone moved in the night, it was a ghost coming to kill me.

south range of Tutbury Castle

The Great Hall, I slept on the floor between the throne and the chair and suit of armor!
 Seriously, getting to sleep in a castle is an experience I’ll never forget. Being the only group at a castle is an experience I’ll never forget! I am so grateful to both the curator, Lesley, for inviting us, and for Bob and Marilynn for prioritizing the program budget to make this happen. Literally living the dream and having sleepovers at castles!

Tomorrow is the first day of spring semester classes, which kind of freaks me out since I haven’t thought about new classes at all. I’m taking two classes at uni again, I’ll be continuing with Polish and taking a British history class, A Protestant Nation: Society, Politics, and Religion 1558-1640. I’m super excited to keep going with Polish and mogę spędzać czas z moją polską rodziną! My history class is basically my dream class, so getting college credit for learning stuff I care about hopefully will be awesome as well.

Also, anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will probably know this already, but there’s been some pretty exciting news the last few days! In October, I did a bunch of research on Joy, the dog belonging to the last Tsarevitch of Russia, Alexei Romanov, and in an article published on Jan. 21st, The Siberian Times credited my blog!!!

The article is excellent, and contains many of my favorite pictures of Alexei and Joy that I had in my blog post! Here is the link to the article:

The Siberian Times would like to thank and salute blogger Maja Proescholdt for her research in bringing the story of Joy to a new generation. You can read her superb account here.

I obviously care very much about this story, about the Romanovs, and about Joy. I am so honored that my research has been credited, but I am mainly thrilled that someone has published an article on this, helping to publicize and broadcast this story to the world! I want everyone to know about this story! The Romanov saga is so entrenched in misery and tragedy, but it is a great comfort to me, and I hope to many others, to know that Joy survived. I sincerely hope that one day everyone who reads about the Romanovs will know this story as well. RIP Joy, you are not forgotten.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me in this journey and helped me in my research! It means the world to me to have family and friends who encourage me daily and, no matter what, always support me in following my heart and pursuing my dreams!

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