Mini-piphany

I finally understand why travel is so crucial for self-discovery! In a way that’s concise and easily put into words!

We are defined by our actions. Having just spoken with my bff and giving advice that I know I’m just as likely to forget as I am to heed (a personal weakness), I know very well that actions speak much louder than words.

Travel is all about acting and reacting. How do you cope with no wifi and a delayed train? Do you sit and grumble for a minute, ten minutes, or until the train finally arrives? Then, what do those choices tell you about yourself? That you like to thoroughly evaluate your situation and let yourself experience those negative emotions, or that you’d rather try to brush them off?

By meeting other people from intensely different backgrounds, what happens when they tell you about how they’re a humanist and believe we should all get bioinic arms immediately? Do you find yourself armed with tens of arguments about why humans are doomed and we’re really no better than animals, and that bionic arms undermine our human condition and are extremely dangerous? Once more, what do these reactions tell you about who you are?

In sum, I realize travel is really all about setting yourself up with lots of situations- strange, challenging, exciting, painful situations- and by finding ways through them, you discover personal characteristics. It’s impossible to simply peer inside yourself and spelunk for a personality trait; you must find something that will provide you with an opportunity to act, then reflect on your performance.

Travel is great for finding the weirdest of the weird as well as the stunning sights that push you to your boundaries and elicit out-of-the-ordinary responses. It truly provides opportunities to figure out how to persevere amidst never-before-experienced situations.

Go studying abroad!

Comical Professors and Van Morrison (!!!)

I’m not used to having classes that are so blatantly applicable to life! Examples: lectures on feminism and postmodernism in my European Culture and Society class, and the value of nature in a capitalist economy in Geographies of Nature. So REAL!

I’d like to tell you a quick story from my last Euro class. The scene: our professor is shooting out all these incredible facts about how we live in a postmodern world and what it means and what is everyone’s favorite Starbucks go-to and can we ever prove the eclipse happened and all of a sudden he springs

“You don’t even know if you exist unless you’ve taken a selfie that morning.”

Whoa. No wonder this guy has tenure! (In case I’m not being clear, this sentence was so powerful because it completely encapsulates the essence of postmodernism and simultaneously couldn’t resonate more with our mostly eighteen years old millennial class. And it’s funny.) Man, the professors here are just full of goodness.

Which brings me back to our old friend placenta prof! Today he added another moment to his “greatest hits” collection.

So, we’re learning about the precursors to humans, namely Homo australopithicus and Homo habilis. He keeps reiterating the important advances that eventually led to our species, like the use of tools and having bigger brains. Yada yada. Excitement level is unwavering at zero. That is, until he reaches for his baby and pelvis props, announcing, “I will attempt to give birth this morning!”

The entire class explodes with laughter. Even the “manly” men couldn’t help but giggle. (Overall, England seems much more patriarchal than the US, and that’s reflected in the sociology of the sexes here quite noticeably. But that’s for another time.)

So he takes his pelvis model and a baby doll and actually shows us how much trouble it is for a baby to traverse the birth canal because of our ginormous brains! Now that’s LEARNING!

He also told us that hominins (a type of ancient humans) have gained “two tablespoons of grey matter every 100,000 years”. Chew on that unexpected measurement of intelligence! (Sorry for that unsavory pun. <– but not for that one! 🙂 )


I’m going to a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL on Friday!! And, as they’re conjoined, a Cheese and Wine affair too! As my funny father quipped, I’ll probably regain the ten pounds I gave for a ticket after a day’s sampling of chocolates and cheeses. (Get it? Go punny papa!)


On Wednesday, Van Morrison and I decided to meet at the Royal Albert Hall and have a conversation. We talked of many things: New Orleans, gypsy souls, dancing in the moonlight. But the subject matter wasn’t the main takeaway, no. As I wasn’t the only one involved in this meeting of friends, I’ll let the grown man sitting in back of me explain what we were all feeling after the conversation had ended:

“YAY!”

His exclamation resounded with a pure sense of joy… a vulnerable, raw display of genuine human happiness. It was especially unique because of my location in London, a part of the world known for its reserved residents. That’s the magic of Van Morrison: his music zeros in on the part of you that’s grown numb to the spirit of life and taps it awake. His music is interwoven with spirit and soul. I left that theatre feeling renewed with motivation for life. That’s big stuff right there. Other reactions blurted out seconds after the last chord ended included “Brilliant!” and “Utterly brilliant!”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It wasn’t til the last half hour of the show that the magic really started for me- the first hour was him playing his lesser-known music and duets with “friends” that I didn’t recognize (but will post pics in case anyone can solve the mystery.) But after he played “Days Like This”, the audience knew what was coming next. He really saved his allure for the end, in my opinion, letting loose his legendary voice and leaving me feeling awed, thinking, “he’s still got it.” “Brown Eyed Girl” was a pleasure to behold, “Into the Mystic” sent waves of relaxation and good feeling about the entire concert hall. There was no way to avoid the goodness he poured over the crowd, even if you were in the limited legroom, obstructed view seat you bought for 50 pounds four days before the concert.

So yeah, Van’s the man!

Glad-I’m-not-an-English-major week

Extremely concise revelation from studying abroad for just over 2 months:

I’ve learned more about myself in those two months than I did one year at Wes. At the very least.


This week I’ve written two essays and have one more due next week, totalling about 6500 words. That’s about 26 pages of double-spaced, 12-font words. As a science major, that’s way out of the ordinary and has been a big challenge. In case anyone cares, I wrote one essay about Perissodactyla, an order of ungulates whose members include tapirs, rhinos, horses, and the largest mammal to ever live; my second essay is about how museums appeal to emotion in order to educate visitors, using three examples of London museums; the last has an undecided thesis, but may be about colonialism and Jose Saramago’s “The Tale of the Unknown Island”. One more 4000 word beast due in April too. So yeah, words don’t come cheap this week!

Instead, I’ll share some pictures. Below are some pics of street art around Brick Lane, very unusual stores at a krazy-kool pop-up mall in Shoreditch, a lovely event celebrating International Happiness Day where I received free hand and back massages, candy, and a daffodil (and a pic with a bellboy host with whom I unintentionally cuddled up to because I had endorphins falling out of my ears, I was so happy), and a crazy haircut to top it all off. Long story short, I was a hair model for an academy and got a free haircut (would’ve cost about 60 pounds normally at this place!) that in the end turned out quite nice after I washed out all the mousse but for the rest of the day left me looking like orphan Annie’s stunt double. It’s straight now, but I have about half the hair I did before!

And one last thing- spontaneously bought tickets to see VAN MORRISON at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday! I’m so freaking excited!!!!

TODAY WAS AWESOME. And Tips for Not Getting Run Over by London Pedestrians!

It’s eleven o’clock, your half-interesting biology lecture about rodents has just let out, and you’re on your way across campus to a comfy study area. A novice would break out the internal sunshine, but a seasoned walker would know to resist giving in to so soon. Indeed, that stroll will be no walk in the park: it will demand agility, instantaneous decision-making, and something between assertion and aggression. What am I talking about? What it takes to simply walk somewhere in London!

It’s strange, for sure, but the thing is, here, nobody respects any logical rule of staying to one side of the sidewalk. Oddly, they do hug escalator flanks like magnets, but that’s the one exception. So, what you see when walking pretty much anywhere is a horde of people coming at you from every longitude of pavement. But fear not: from a little over two months’ practice, I’ve figured out how to survive unscathed and now you can too!

Behold: the Boston driver trick. If you don’t make eye contact, keep your eyes on a focal point, and bluff as to discourage anyone from trying to alter your pathway, you can silently command the walkway! This doesn’t always work, especially when there are big, lumbering man personalities involved, but it is pretty effective. So there you have it: act as if you refuse to change your walking path and others will accommodate you. Sweet.

It sounds sort of arrogant. But to live in a city, sometimes you have to be ruthless. Especially if you don’t want to expend half your latte’s energy before you even get to work simply by dodging people!


That was this morning. What happened in the hours afterwards was just… a combination of serendipity and good fortune and London magic, I think.

First was lunch: a shockingly delicious chicken and rice soup that I’d made, frozen, and forgotten about. I was rushing to explore London before class, but this soup stopped me in my tracks! It forcefully proved how integral is genuine chicken stock in a soup. The rice, chopped leeks, and a little roasted chicken commanded me to sit down and enjoy. I may have found my go-to recipe! How exciting!

But the fun didn’t stop there. I’d heard rave reviews about this gelato place called Gelupo, so I sought it out and let me tell you– no wait, I sort of can’t, because it transcended language- how delicious this gelato was. I started conversing with the gelatoista (?) about the five-star reviews that had brought me there, and she, in her thick cat-eye makeup and blooming flower balanced above her ear, warmly offered me rapid-fire samples of every single flavor before I could even finish a mind-sentence about how incredible the last flavor was. It’s a pretty nice position to be in, should you ever find yourself practically being force-fed otherworldly desserts on tiny shovel-shaped spoons.

In this instance, I was sold from the first sample: Ricotta and Sour Cherry. I paid four pounds for my treat- a princely sum for a rather petite scoop. But never did I doubt its worth, for soon after I dove into my dairy dream, my mind unconsciously raced through its thesaurus of tasting superlatives until it settled upon the thought of praying to the cherry swirl. I kid you not. I may have had an out-of-body experience today. There were no witnesses, so we’ll never be sure!

I might name my first child "Gelupo"

I might name my first child “Gelupo”

Also around this area of Piccadilly Circus was a fantastically cheeky clothing shop called Lazy Oaf. I’d found it online a while ago, but being in the physical store was a million times more fun! In true Sophie fashion, I tried on the most garish thing there and took a series of embarrassing/YOLO-y pictures. Here’s the least nutty one:

DSC01784

I felt like a kid in wearing a candy store.

Next was my Museums of London class’ trip to the Saatchi Gallery. I went previously with my mamacita a few weeks ago, but since then they’d changed up their art and displayed some exceptionally exciting art:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And one last fun day stop:

A tea shop! Ironically, I’d just purchased two cartons of tea at a shop a few minutes before, so upon the sighting of this much cooler shop, I was disappointed. However, after elevating my mood by sampling a trio of cocoa-tinged teas, I told my saga to the sales associate (after asking her what it was like to work at a tea shop; she replied that she is never stressed, gets to give people relief after a long day’s work in (healthy) liquid form, and hears loads of great stories) and she generously gave me a lightning tea lesson and three loose-leaf samples along with a make-your-own-teabag teabag! All for free!

London, you’re the best.


On Monday, Matthew and his friend Forest visited after their trip to Scotland. We had a great time catching up and walking around the city! I was proud to show them Queen Mary, my beloved hot salt beef bagel shop and Brick Lane, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St. Martin in the Fields and its Crypt Cafe, and they explored Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Park on their own. As with Michelle, it was deeply enjoyable to spend time with another Wes pal and reflect on our adventures together. And exchanging severe dad jokes and puns that make every other person cringe (but not us!) 🙂

DSC01782

Figuring myself out

So I planned to have other posts done by today but that didn’t happen, so sorry if you were confused by the change in scheduling. Gosh, I sound like an administrative bureaucrat… sorry!

A roundup of odds and ends and personal revelations (not too personal, don’t worry. But on that note if you’re interested in mainly my travel logs, this post may not apply to you very much. See what you think):

Eggs in Britain are very different than in the states. For lunch a few days ago, I fried two and the yolks were neon orange. Yes, neon! And they were much, much tastier than their American counterparts.

Sophie-cles moments:

sophiecles

I’m becoming increasingly reluctant to spew words for the sake of limiting silence. Similarly, I’d rather stand alone while waiting for class than engage in some shallow, worthless conversation about deadlines. When you get me rolling on a juicy topic of course I’ll unlock my verbal gates, but if we’re riding on a bus and it’s been a long day and my mind is blank, I may not speak much. Some perceive this as me having a conversation with myself, and they are often right. Call it whatever you like: internal dialogue, zoning out, daydreaming… happens a lot in my head. If something like this happens when I’m around you, you should probably take it as a compliment that I feel comfortable enough to sit with silence because I don’t feel pressure to forcibly make memories. In sum, I side with Gandhi when he stated, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

I’ve noticed that I’m also reluctant to engage in high-intensity conversations that require deep knowledge of a subject and the sufficient arrogance/stick-your-neck-outedness to defend your views. Happens a lot when males talk about sports, for instance. I’d rather refrain and know myself than be provoked to convince others of my views.


Thoughts inspired by today’s Geographies of Nature class on Technonatures:

Let me start by stating that throughout the past 50 hours, I’ve gotten 9 hours of sleep (the Venice trip started at 1 am Wed morning and I got back this morning at 2 am.) This morning, I zombiely (new word, heads up Merriam-Webster) drank a latte and trudged to the aforementioned class. You’d probably think this story goes on and on in a tired tone but this is where is miraculously breaks that trend: today’s class was so inspiring (as most are) that I’m motivated enough to skip a nap and BLOG instead. That’s true inspiration, people! Also a warning that my grammar may be affected by lack of sleep/coherence.

So yesterday on the Venice trip, I met a chemistry major who spiritedly talked and joked with me about loving biology and chemistry and reading science textbooks to fall asleep (not because they are boring but because they are interesting enough to read during free time. I don’t identify as much with that as he did but do to an extent.) In the middle of a post-security checkpoint corridor leading to the food court at 5:20 am, I felt energized and extremely receptive to passionate philosophical thought. That shocked me. And then today in class, when we discussed OncoMouse, a strain of mice highly probable to get cancer so we can experiment on it, and the basis of fear in governing our scientific experimentation boundaries, I felt like flying. (My latte could’ve also affected this.) But what I mean to conclude with is that I’ve realized that there’s hardly anything that makes me as happy as being provided with infinitely pithy discussion topics. That’s not the entire package, but there you have it: a way to my heart. Publicized and analyzed online. Good golly. I’m keeping it though. Why not express what lights you up?

This is who I am (for the moment)

(Before I start, I’ll preface this by saying that it has little (or possibly all) to do with studying abroad and that it may not be the right place for a post like this but I’m doing it anyway. YOBASAO (you only blog about studying abroad once.))


It was around middle school when I began a long and soul-searching traipse along the “who am I?” avenue. I think that before those years, I was satisfied with my self- and peer-appointed labels that included “spunky” and “smart”. I could continue with mentions of middle school hierarchies and fashion fads but let’s not discuss middle school any further.

In addition to trying to keep myself up-to-date with who I am, I’ve also perpetually led a parallel quest to keep everyone else  who might care up-to-date. Long story short, I think that looking back at adolescence, some of my choices reflect this necessity to correctly convey my personality. Psychoanalysts (such as one in my head) might say this arose from occasions in childhood when I was incorrectly judged or labelled- the most common offender that I was “quiet”. Ugh, it irks me just to think about how often this word was carelessly splattered all over me! But back to those adolescent choices: I’m talking about clothes that had to extremely clearly reflect parts of myself, such as shirts with jokes I’d laugh at on them or plastered with music I felt a strong connection to (Beatles, Wicked…) I’m talking about how (I think) that a reason I was so attached to Facebook was because it allowed me to transmit phrases I actually stood by to anyone who looked at my posts, versus the answers I’d share in school, formulated with the knowledge that when I spoke it, at least 20 of my peers might be listening and if I made a mistake, they’d all hear it. Painting my Facebook personality let me inform those 20 kids that I did have charisma not easily heard in classroom answers to questions about tenements and skeletal systems. From early on, I’ve felt that there have been untrue reputations of myself floating around in, most often, the minds of my classmates. And since those days began, I’ve felt the need to rectify those ideas of who Sophie was.

[Before we go on further, let me say that I fully understand that while I was so busy focused on myself, possibly a fraction of my worries were actually picked up by others. In other words, the majority of all this chaos could’ve been limited to my own mind. As they say, don’t worry so much about embarrassing yourself because everyone else is too busy focusing on themselves to notice.]

I feel so self-centered right now, and that’s because I’m writing a post that’s basically 100% about me. So I’m sorry if you’ve gotten to this point and have waning interest in reading any more about this girl’s musings about teenage psychology. Feel free to leave! But I’m gonna keep on analyzing. As I was saying-

Whenever I unearth a new iota of who I might be, I’m desperate to inform others lest they maintain an untrue description of my character. That’s why I’m going to type the sentences following this one.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m abroad or am on the verge of turning 21 or what, but I have some news of who I might be.

Thanks to the fortnight of transition and orientation at this new school, I may have orienteered myself (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? 😉 ) closer to unlocking or recognizing who I am (!)

Thanks to a recent examination of the Myers-Briggs test (thanks Elior!) and lots of reflection on how I’ve made friends at QM, here’s what I have to report:

I’m both introverted and extroverted, almost equally, but with the former slightly outweighing the latter. When I’m around many outgoing people, I often recede from conversation, preferring to talk with someone one-on-one or with a group of less loud people.

It’s hard for me to be anything but thorough with things like friendships and travelling. With friendships, you’ll find that it might take me a while to start opening up, but that’s because I’m feeling out what our chemistry is and am slowly beginning to anchor myself to this new commitment. When I make a friend, I intend to nurture the heck out of that friendship to keep it happy and prosperous for a long time. When I went to college, it was really hard to think about leaving my home friends behind (because I still liked them and put so many years of work into our relationships), and so, I’ve stayed in touch with at least five of those friends. In sum: I’m a k-selected species that invests in the long-term and values stability. With travelling, let’s just say I’ve scoured every site about inexpensive things to do in London because I don’t want to miss any of it. I can certainly be spontaneous, but I find peace in planning out trips so that I can be as efficient as possible about spending money and time in a foreign and/or special place. When it comes to things like these (sorry, cleaning my room isn’t on the list), thorough is my middle name.

I think that’s enough for now. Better to read about me in chunks than for me to bare my soul all at once. Probably.

P.S. I’ve dreamed about letting posts like this fly freely on the internet where I can economize my words (reach the most people.) I’m still not sure if this was a good idea or not. But it’s done and I hope that if you’ve made it this far, you’ll respect my vulnerability and maybe even share some of your own.