Thanks For All the Tea, England!

Three Weeks, One Country & Too Few Hours to Survive It

For a young and mostly independent woman like myself, nothing excites and frightens me more than travel.

I knew I needed to start traveling early in my life, so I signed up for one of my universities many study abroad programmes. (Oh, look! English spelling influences) I returned from my freshman year of college and immediately signed up for as many hours at work as my boss could allow. Working a lovely 20 hours a week, I saved over $1,100 for food, shopping & misc., and my parents (very x 100,000) generously paid for my room & board and assisted with my plane tickets.

My destination: University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

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Look at that view. Boomer Sooner in front of the Camera! (Note: The Camera I am referencing is actually the dome shaped building behind me)

Yes, that Oxford. Specifically, the College of Brasenose of Oxford University. It’s as prestigious and beautiful and old as you imagine. Beautiful spires and church bells echoing in the cobblestones streets, and sunsets lighting the city, making a romantic atmosphere of the best National Geographic.

One of the benefits of this programme was the independence it allowed students. With the three-hour courses meeting Tuesdays through Thursday and no itineraries from the professors, students could make as many (or few) plans to travel anywhere they could afford. Many groups travelled to other parts of the U.K., including Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but also Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels in Belgium.

With all these opportunities to explore and the responsibilities of class still present, I learned many things about England, travel and most importantly, myself.

Too High Maintenance for Hostels

For those who do not know what hostels are (God knows I didn’t know before this trip), a hostel is an inexpensive version of a hotel that focus its services to students, backpackers and other low budget travelers.

I had never heard hostels, so when I was looking for a place to stay in London before my classes started, I was shocked to see the option for Dorm style accommodations. In my first hostel, the cheapest option was a Co-ed 20 person dorm room.

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My hostel: Gallery Hyde Park. Photo by me

I was meeting with a friend who had been staying in hostels for the better part of six weeks, so I felt I could handle living with 18 strangers in a relatively safe area.

Boy, was I wrong.

I am a notoriously light sleeper, and a paranoid one at that, so when I tried to sleep in my hostel, I was often disturbed by the entrance of Pub Crawl survivors and then kept tensely away by my fear that one of my male roommates would mistake my occupied bed for his. Looking back it seems silly, but I could not overcome my sleep deprivation and intense paranoia at any point on the trip.

Conclusion: hostels are great on a budget, but I need to spend the extra dollar on a private room if I want to a.) get sleep and b.) enjoy my travels.

Stress & Stress Management during Travel

A big portion of traveling for the unseasoned traveler is the ungodly amount of stress. The unfamiliar cities, possible dangers and, especially when abroad, being away from home all pile in your brains and cause a lot of worry.

I have problems with stress and managing it when I’m having to take care of myself. It can get to the point where it causes me to physically seize up. Other side effects I endure include lack of sleep and intense headaches.

Me with an old castle building in York, England

Me with an old castle building in York, England. This day was particularly stressful, though I am smiling in the picture.

My high maintenance self underwent many trying situations, including but not limited to attempting to navigate the London night bus without a working credit card or a general knowledge of public transportation, intense fear of rooming with strangers who are drunk and could possibly take your important items, and having to write a five-page essay until 3 a.m. (that last one was my fault.)

In attending this trip and undergoing these intense hours, I discovered many things about how I need to manage my stress:

  1. Sleep: One of the main issues that caused the most amounts of stress was the lack of sleep I was getting. Often I would be having 14-16 hour days running amok in the streets of England whilst running on only 2-5 hours of sleep. That kind of exhaustion drains you physically, mentally and emotionally. I did not enjoy my travels sometimes because I felt so tired all the time. So, while experiences and adventure are fun, sleep does take a priority, whether in the form of an entire day to myself or simply going to bed at a reasonable time.
  2. Plan: When thinking about this trip, I figured everyone would pretty much make up their plans as they go, with a few planned in advance. However, I arrived at Oxford with the least amount planned and no one to go with me anywhere. The last minute over night trips were fun, but the lack of places picked out and inability for most of us to communicate caused far too much stress than I should have experienced.
  3. Breathe: I sometimes get so emotional and tense that I break down. One point during this trip included me sitting down on the Brasenose Chapel steps and sobbing in pain for five minutes. The only thing that made me feel better, after about a half hour of more crying, was just lying in bed taking deep breaths and letting my mind and body relax in the comfort and privacy of my own room.

Everyone stresses differently, but I hope that sharing my experiences with travel stress will help some of you from having a few breakdowns.

Drinking (Legally)

I am an over-18-but-under-21 American. The legal drinking age in England is 18. You can bet all the pounds in your pocket I took advantage of that opportunity.

Before I continue, let me say that I hate being drunk. Drunk people annoy me to no end, but I don’t hate people who drink to get drunk. I personally do not enjoy the feeling of being out of control, being vulnerable and being handicapped. But there are people who do not feel that way when they are drunk, and they usually are responsible enough to know their limits. I respect their choices, and they (normally) respect mine.

So when I set out to the pub with my comrades abroad, I don’t buy more than one or two shots with a few sips from my friends drinks. (Never feel pressured to drink more than you want. It’s all about your comfort zone.)

All of us in my group enjoyed a nice pub called The Four Candles, a well known almost touristy pub in Oxford. This is where I learned my drink, and my comrades discovered that it was completely normal to have a proportional drink from a pitcher.

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The Four Candles in Oxford England. Link to source

My Favorite Drink

1-2 shot(s) of Smirnoff with Lemonade (Sprite in the US)

An Experience Every Day

Through the ups and downs, the painful hangovers and delicious meals, there is no moment I would change from this trip.

I have grown in many different ways during this trip and have made friends that I already dearly miss. I discovered new places, taken exhilarating chances and had many adventures.

I’ll always have the memories of an ancient and beautiful Oxford summer.

Feedback!

Now that my nostalgia is over, please tell me about your experiences! Have you travelled anywhere? What were somethings you learned about yourself from traveling that you wouldn’t have learned before? Comment below!

 

Book Review: “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” by Anne Rice

I use my religious beliefs in this review since the novel is over a religious figure. I respect your beliefs, so please respect mine.

Thoughts Before:

My mother read every one of Anne Rice’s Vampire ChroniclesAlthough I had seen these novels around our house throughout my childhood, I never read nor watched any of her work until I picked up one of her more recent novels, The Wolf Gift. I loved how she brought the supernatural in to the reality.

Cover of my copy. Click through to purchase from Amazon.

Growing up hearing about Anne Rice produced a picture of this great Horror writer. When I saw her book Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt I felt drawn to read her perspective. As a non-scholar and known as a horror writer, I wanted to see how someone of this perspective would portray Jesus, a character and deity I’ve grown up learning about.

Child Jesus: A Lost Perspective

Growing up in a Christian household, I heard the stories of  Messianic Jesus throughout my life. In the Bible, Christ as a child is limited to the most extraordinary events possible.

Christ the Lord shows Jesus before he was Christ. Jesus is portrayed as a young boy looking for answers to his past and his powers. I never thought of Jesus as ignorant of what his purpose is as we are of our purpose. Reading him pray for answers and facing prejudice because of his birth renewed my understanding of who Christ is as a deity.

(Small Religious Rant; Skip if You Desire)

Churches tend to focus on the God Jesus who died for us. In reality, it was the human Jesus that lived as a child, went through puberty, became a man and died as a human for us. He lived as an example to lean on God throughout life.

(End Rant)

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

This novel held my attention and showed well-researched. Confusing moments in the book addressed the idea of Jesus being both human and divine simultaneously. It’s a hard concept to grasp in normal religion anyway, but I think Rice does an adequate job at explaining it through her story, similar to how Jesus used parables.

 

 

If you’ve read Christ the Lord or thought about it, please leave your (respectful) comments below! (Featured Image: taken from my copy of Christ the Lord: the Road to Cana)

Third Person Autobiography

Introduction to

Writing for Mass Media: 2033

The ‘Oh-Shit-How-Do-I-English’ Class

At the esteemed University of Oklahoma, all journalist majors have to endure a class that will stretch their writing skills far beyond their sanity should allow.

JMC-2033: Writing for Mass Media

In this class, we are required to write an unGodly amount of material and in the process discover if we have what it takes to survive in the world of Mass Communication. My first assignment already had me questioning my writing abilities.

The first assignment was a third-person autobiography about a small aspect of our lives. We were to write, edit, and finish it by the end of class. 350 word minimum, should be easy. Right?

essay-stressIn the forty-five minutes given to write it, I struggled through each sentence, agonizing over my love of complex sentences and the self-promotion I had to do. I only wrote one draft, not even giving it a proper closing because I could not think of one in the ten seconds I had left. Sadly, I knew a multitude of edit markings would appear on the graded piece.

But to my pleasant surprise, my returned copy of edits contained few markings. Of course my lack of proper ending was noted, but over all I had a total of three small mistakes.

In celebration for exceeding my own low expectations, I will share the autobiography, which focuses on my unusual singing voice,  here!

Enjoy!

Devon Gadberry may look like an average young woman, but she certainly does not sound like one. Even at a young age, Ms. Gadberry’s voice possessed a certain man-like quality. This proved a problem when she started taking singing lessons.

With music stars such as Christina Aguliera and musicals like Andrew Llyod Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Devon longed to belt out the high notes. Vocal lessons were often filled with arguing over how her higher warm ups sounded. Her vocal teacher Ms. Sarah Harkins* insisted on stopping the warm ups before reaching those notes Devon so craved to sing. Later on, this insistence saved the young girl’s vocal chords. At the time, however, the precaution destroyed her self-esteem as a singer. She had never heard of any female artist, in a musical or in popular music, who sang lower range songs, specifically. The lack of precedent lead to the conclusion that she simply could not sing.

Over time, as the lessons continued, Devon’s vocal warm ups pushed her voice lower and lower, instead of higher and higher. Paired with school choirs and private lessons, Devon’s singing voice developed much faster, revealing the bass under the feminine face. As an alto in her eighth grade year, she could sing lower than most of the boys in her choir. Even though she had the advantage of the boy’s unbroken voices, Devon’s lower register stretched well below F3, which she considered the lowest note for the average alto. Ms. Harkins stated that Devon’s vocal depth was “a freak of nature.”

Devon’s high school years allowed her to explore the hidden benefits of her freakish alto voice. Musicals through the school theatre department and her community theatre contained roles for mature, and lower, voices, which Devon quickly auditioned for.

Her first major role was Marmee for the musical Little Women. As an older role, the gravelly quality of Devon’s voice gave the illusion of age better than any makeup could. The role that truly showcased her masculine voice was Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. As a junior in high school, Devon negotiated with her music director into letting her sing the most powerful songs in her lower register.

Devon Gadberry as Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr.

Devon Gadberry as Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.

Her deep-as-the-sea voice instilled fear into children during the show and caused them to flee when she greeted them after the show. Some songs brought her voice so low that one parent did not believe Devon was female until she showed them a  normal, non-theatre picture. The recognition Ursula brought Devon gave her pride in her manly voice.

[Impromptu ending for it]

As she moves forward into her college career, Devon continues singing as an alto in the Redliners, an a cappella group on OU’s campus. Every now and then, she drops down and joins the basses, too.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

What do you think of it? Should I post an example of my singing voice? Do you even believe me? Comment your thoughts below!

Essay: Fandoms & Social Media

Something Academically Nerdy

College is the time to discover your passions, and none have served me so well as the Honors class, New Literacies. In it, we examined how the ‘new literacies’ – e-mail, texting, blogging, all social media- could possibly be an equivalent to the book when it was a new technology, and how the these literacies could change over time.

The class itself was invigorating and challenging, a class that I did not so much focus on the grade, but on the ideas being taught. It taught me to put aside moral ambiguities and look at the different communication platforms available to us through an objective viewpoint. Even more useful, the class taught me how to write a good essay for college, the subject material making it much easier to improve my technique.

The final essay required a self-analysis of how I utilize ‘new literacies’ and what I thought ‘new literacies’ could look like in near future. Since it was such a broad topic, my professor expected all of the students to choose a narrow topic to use. Being the nerd I am, I chose fandoms.

After many grueling hours (and my floor mates will agree that they were grueling), I found myself 99% satisfied with this essay. I would not have reached this level of satisfaction without the help of my honors writing assistant, my good editor friend, and her editor friend as well. Out of respect for their privacy, I shall keep them nameless. But without their edits and suggestions, the essay would not be half as good as it is. (The remaining 1% is just the writerly perfectionist within me that cannot accept that something is completed. ) And now…

Without any further adieu…

Fandoms & Social Media

 

 

Leave your thoughts and comments below! Since I had only a twelve-page limit (only 12 pages… ha!), there are many social media platforms I left out! What other social media platforms do you think are critical to the fandom culture development?

(featured Image taken by me)

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