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    A little bit about me and my reasons for travel.

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    Photos from all my travels both near and far.

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    Get in touch with me while I'm abroad!

September 23--Three Days before I Leave!

The last dates I went on with each person in my family <3

Three days before I leave for Iceland (and then Oxford), I am not at home. I am in Springfield, celebrating with my boyfriend and his family our last weekend in the United States for a while. I am glad to be spending time with them before we head off, and I find it absolutely fascinating to see how different families prepare for this change. 

As some of you may know, I have been interning with the Harriman-Jewell Series over the summer preparing for their annual fundraising event. While it has been a huge blessing in my life and has helped me to save up for this coming year, I will be thankful to finish it and head abroad. This internship requires me to be up at William Jewell for two days per week; it started in late May and will not end until the night before I leave.

I must admit that being on campus, while fulfilling, has been quite odd. I feel like a ghost every time I walk on the hill and see people who expect me to be overseas. It's not an unfriendly thing, just one that reminds me that I don't quite belong back on the hill for now. It seems as though while I don't quite belong there, I'm not gone yet and not where I'm supposed to be either. It's a weird sort of place to be in, but I know it's temporary. 

With all these things aside, I do look forward to being settled in my room at LMH and feeling grounded again. I look forward to studying with tutors about subjects with which I am very passionate. But perhaps most of all, I look forward to what I cannot yet know--the rainy days and windy afternoons, the perfect cup of tea and quiet study spot, and the laughter of new friends and old.

It will be a different year. And sometimes I am afraid of what I do not know, and afraid of being a ghost in a world I do not understand. But it will be a good year, of that I am sure.

September 27--Reykjavik, Iceland

Yesterday morning at 5:00 am I woke up to leave for the airport, and right now it is 11:09 am in Iceland. We are all settling into our home-away-from-home lodging for the next few days. So much has happened in so little time! It is freezing here and the sun isn't out, but it's gorgeous nonetheless. It feels surreal to finally be in a place I've been planning and hoping for over the past several months. 

I cannot wait to share more, but I need to rest and the wi-fi is not entirely cooperating. However, it is safe to say that we are all happy and healthy and we all made it in one piece. 

A view of Talbot Hall, one of the main buildings in Lady Margaret Hall.

October 4--Wednesday of 0th week

It is impressive, the power that comes with having a bike. What once took 30+ minutes of walking and disallowed solitary travel after dark now takes 8 minutes and brings a good amount of safety. To be fair, I will not travel alone after dark often; however, having the option available to me without fearing for my safety is, to put it simply, nice. 

Today marks my third full day in Oxford at LMH (Lady Margaret Hall), and while there have been many amazing experiences so far, these days have also brought about a fair amount of difficulties. It is hard being 4,000+ miles away from home and from family. It is frustrating being lumped in with the freshers (freshmen) again as a visiting student and having to go through an entire week of orientation, especially when I already have gone through most of it. It is not easy to be living alongside exuberant young people, ready to take on the world (and all of the pubs within a 2-mile walking radius) at night. It is extremely difficult to be living far enough away from my friends I already love not to be able to see them often enough for my liking, especially when they are the family I have here at Oxford thus far during my time abroad. All of these things compound (and certainly jet lag could not have helped matters) and it is extremely hard to be okay sometimes. And that's okay.

And yet, I am making it.

On Monday, I went to the post office and collected my BRP (biometric residence permit) which allows me to live in the U.K. and allowed me to officially enroll in LMH. 

Yesterday, I was able to meet with the head of the college, Dr. Alan Rusbridger, and he offered to play the piano for me while I sang (Schumann, of course). I also met my visiting student director and personal tutor Dr. Benjamin Skipp, and we talked for a while about music (as his dPhil is in musicology) and adjusting to new things. 

Today I was able to attend the University-wide Fresher's fair and sign up for auditions for several choirs and clubs all throughout Oxford. 

All throughout my travel experience, I have had an amazing family and set of friends to help me grow and mature. A mother who reminds me who is ultimately in control, a father who reminds me whose I am, and a sister who constantly encourages me. I have a boyfriend who goes above and beyond to make sure I am okay, and friends who text me to check in to see if I am alright when they can't see me. 

Some things in life are difficult, but that does not mean that they are not worth doing.

In fact, most times I find it to be quite the opposite. 

Sunday, October 15, 2nd Week

Views from in and around Oxford

What can I say except for I am settling in?

I finished my first full week of term, I have been trying new things (like octopus and Oxford Union events), and slowly but surely making new friends and finding my place here. I have sat at the pub C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien discussed ideas, I have walked through one of the oldest libraries in the world, I have had a conversation with the previous editor in chief of the Guardian (for over 20 years!) where he offered to play the piano with me sometime, I have (literally) rubbed elbows with Malala Yousafzai, and I have seen Howard Shore speak on his work composing for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have been blessed with the opportunity to live and study in Oxford for a year, and settling in feels nice.

I got real groceries for the first time yesterday, and tonight I made myself an entire meal.

I turned in my first major tutorial paper, and my tutor said it was well done. 

I have certainly come a long way from where I started out freshman year on the Hill, and I'm proud of that fact. Certainly I am not perfect--and in fact far from--but I am improving and I will continue to improve for as long as there is opportunity to do so. (Hint: there is always opportunity to do so). 

Swans at the Tolkien bench

28 October, Saturday of 3rd Week

Tomorrow marks exactly four weeks since I arrived in Oxford; I have been away from home for over a month. 

That seems like quite a long time, and yet like no time at all. 

It has been beautiful weather for the majority of my time here--it has not been too hot or cold, and the sun has been out (at least in passing) almost every day. The leaves are changing colors, and walks in the uni parks are made even more beautiful knowing that soon it will be winter. 

I have four more papers to write before the end of term. Tomorrow marks the beginning of fourth week, which means half of Michelmas is gone! 

Last night, Zak and I were able to help out Just Love--a homeless outreach ministry in Oxford. We were able to hand out sandwiches and hot drinks to several of the homeless out in Oxford, as well as listen to them and pray with them. I think last night blessed me more than it did them. It has been amazing to see God's heart in the students here at Oxford.

Not too much to report over here otherwise. I have been working on essay after essay for the past two weeks with no break in between. That's kind of tough. But on the bright side, I certainly am getting better at writing within a limited timeframe! ;) 

October 8, Wednesday of 5th Week

The Christmas lights at Oxford Street in London.

I am over halfway through my first term at Oxford; I am trying to remember and enjoy every bit of it. I have been to a trivia night with some new friends at the Oxford Union (Patrick, this is for you), I have seen fireworks go off on Guy Fawke's Day, and now I have officially explored London (albeit just a small portion of it--I can't wait to go back). 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things I have experienced while being here is the juxtaposition of the old and new. I have seen buildings over hundreds of years old near new and renovated shopping centers, cars, and restaurants. I sat in the Westminster Abbey and listened to their choir perform an evensong, participating in a daily tradition over a thousand years old (which absolutely blew me away). And just a few days prior I explored Westgate (the shopping center that opened about a week ago in Oxford) and got to experience the newness there.

However, it's not just the juxtaposition of the physical locations I have visited, but the people I have interacted with as well. Even though the Jewell people here with me are only my friends by a couple of years, they know me well and deeply--we not only survived intro seminar together, but applying to Oxford and actually moving across continents together as well. They are my 'old' friends now--ones that I have shared memories with, both fond and melancholy. I have shared food, laughter, hugs, and tears with these people; knowing that they can be here with me, even if I cannot be physically with them all the time, has certainly made Oxford brighter. 

But I am also making new friends here, and that is wonderful in its own right. There are other visiting students from LMH that I am getting to know, and my college parents have been a delight. The choirs I am participating in have been instrumental in building new friendships and meeting different people. 

It has been an absolute delight to widen my circle of friends and to continue to enrich the ones I have already. Having the old and the new together can be disorienting at times, but it can also be a very nice way to view the world.

November 23, Thursday of 7th Week—Thanksgiving Day

After my first concert of the term—the LMH choir sang Faure’s Requiem.

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving!

While today marks my first major holiday away from home, I realize that I still have much to be thankful for. 

I finished my first academic term in Oxford yesterday (finished my last tutorial—I still have several choir things left to complete, although those will be finished Sunday night). 

I get to travel for a time with some dear friends to places I have never been before (C.S. Lewis’ home—the Kilns, Southampton, Munich, Prague, and Salzburg).

And I get to come home for Christmas to see my family that I really miss. 

My first term has been amazing so far, and the people have been so kind—the visiting student directors here at LMH are even organizing a Thanksgiving Dinner for all of us homesick Americans. 

As the term is wrapping up (although perhaps for some it certainly may not feel like it yet!), I’m trying to encourage myself to take note of where I am, who I am, and what I have been able to accomplish with the help of others. It has truly put me in a grateful frame of mind. 

 

And on the off chance that this has made you think of some of the things you’re thankful for, I would love to hear them! Shoot me a message or an email and let me know how you’re doing. I miss you all!

The RadCam at night

December 3rd, Sunday—First (Official) Day of Christmas Break

As of this moment, I am listening to Frank Sinatra Christmas music (thanks, dad) and reflecting on my first term at Oxford. It has been a surprising slew of ups and downs, and I am sure I have grown because of it. It seems inadequate to try and describe what this first term has been like, as I have been writing and rewriting this sentence for nearly five minutes. (Apologies in advance for what is sure to be a lengthy post.)

Before I try and describe some things I have learned during Michelmas term, I wish to tell you a bit about my past week. Tuesday afternoon I was able to see Haley and her wonderful parents before she went off to Paris (I was so happy to see the three of them together again!). Tuesday evening, Zak and I went to The Kilns, which is where CS Lewis lived for most of his life. We helped prepare snacks for the CS Lewis society and were toured around his house. We saw the room he died in, his study, and the room where he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. We heard the scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Father Christmas returns, which was made all the more special with this group’s shared admiration for CS Lewis. 

Wednesday morning, I woke up early to travel with Thais to Southampton. We had been trying to plan an excursion for the entire term, and so I was really looking forward to that day. We went ice skating, toured a Tudor House, almost died of fear in a bomb shelter (don’t worry—nothing bad happened!), saw an exhibit on the Titanic, and toured through a board game museum. However, my favorite part of that day was eating lunch with Thais at about two in the afternoon, and being able to slow down and have good conversation with someone that I care deeply about over a cup of tea.

Thursday afternoon the visiting student program at LMH took us to Waddesdon Manor to see the house and the Christmas markets. While it was very cold outside, good cider and hot chocolate (and friends!) kept me warm.

And Friday afternoon I was able to have tea with Meg, a very dear friend of mine, to catch up again on the end of term and holiday plans. Every time I am able to spend time with my Jewell friends, I am reminded of this quote by CS Lewis in one of my favorite books:

“In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births...the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these changes might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been a work. Christ...can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

I find so much truth in this statement, and especially in the last sentence. I have been taught (and am still learning) how to see the beauty in the other. The things that are different from what I have grown up with—the people who are not the same as me. Each location I will be blessed to live in, and each person that I come across, will be different and will offer beauty that nothing and no one else can offer. It’s just a matter of seeing it. And while this might not be a foolproof way to live, I think it’s a closer approximation than the one I had before.

 

Some smaller nuggets before I sign off today:

Moving to a new place is hard, especially when you have one large and one small suitcase with which to carry your whole life. But it gets easier. 

Learning that minims, crochets, and quavers are the English equivalent of half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes is something best learned before the music rehearsal.

Staying in touch with family and friends from home is difficult, but worthwhile. Staying in touch with Jewelligans also in Oxford, perhaps even more so. 

Mince pies do not contain meat and they are sweet, and crackers are not edible if people mention them during Christmastime. 

Pudgies are a type of bird that does not exist in the United States but apparently does exist at Oxford.

 

Within the next eight days Zak and I will be traveling to Munich, Prague, and Salzburg before flying home for Christmas. I hope to update you all with pictures and stories soon! 

Much love and Merry Christmas!

11th February, Sunday of Fifth Week

A wonderful Oxbridge-fam dinner:)

Hello all! 

Right now I should be writing an essay, but seeing as how I have not updated this blog in a couple of months I thought this more necessary. 

Hilary term is already half over, and I have just under a month until my family flies over to visit me! It does not seem real that today/this week marks exactly halfway through my time at Oxford. It has been a blessing to have this experience--not only has it been amazing to see new places and walk in the footsteps of scholars who have gone before me, but it has been wonderful to meet some of those scholars and affirm several of my own aspirations and beliefs (and changed quite a few along the way as well!). 

As far as things I've encountered this term? Some great time with friends here and abroad (I am so thankful for Facetime!), a day trip to London, a concert about Debussy (amazing!), beautiful weather as far as winter goes (blooming flowers and sunny skies in January?? who knew!), and work (tutorial, Latin, senior year things, etc.). 

Sometimes when I think about the future (even my future in a month or so!), I feel overwhelmed. And yet, it's fifth week already (halfway through term)--the future will come soon enough. And until then, I've got a good cup of tea, good music, and even better friends and family by my side. 

31 October 2018 - Reformation Day

Today I am writing to reflect on my time at Oxford. While this is a required activity, I do find it meaningful and necessary to look back at my year abroad.

 

I went abroad to study music. 

 

I came back having learned about how sacred music is formed, what it means to different cultures, and what it means for myself.

 

I came back with a different understanding of myself--I am more capable than I had believed, more flexible, and hopefully more understanding as well.

 

I came back having grappled with subjects way outside of my comfort zone--from the history of electronic music in the 1950's and 60's to the way that music and capitalism intertwine, as well as the history of women musicians and composers and some of their lives at Oxford University. 

 

I came back having met wonderful people that became dear friends. To you all in Oxford and abroad, my time with you is something that I will cherish always. I have learned so much from you! I have sung with some of you, taken tutorials with some of you, laughed with some of you, and in all likelihood, cried as well.

 

I came back engaged, and am now married to a wonderful guy. (that's weird, right?)

 

My heart aches to be back in Oxford, but I know that Kansas City is my home for now, and I am doing my best to make this last year meaningful. I understand how much a year can matter when you have only one to give to a certain group of people. 

 

There is so much more that I wish I could write, but I will end with this: life is short and time is precious. We will not be on this earth forever. It is important to learn from the history that surrounds us and to be content with where we are. And also to be thankful. But we must not forget to do good for others around us and to do what we can to make this world a little brighter.

 

When I was younger, my parents always reminded me to leave things better than I found them.

 

I hope that I have done so.