Being Busy Isn’t a Bad Thing

Hello!

I thought I’d start my first post as a student blogger with a little introduction of myself. When someone asks me how I am (which is a lot, because I go to CNU, where it’s the norm to acknowledge people), I usually say good – then immediately follow it with, “but busy!”

However, being busy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If I’ve learned anything since being a student here, it’s that your time here is what you make it. I lucked out going to a school where it’s normal to be busy, because being busy means you’re involved and being involved means you’re making the most of your time here.

I am a junior this year and a sociology major with a psychology minor. People just interest me, what can I say? I am a resident assistant on East Campus, which means I live in one of the apartment buildings and serve as a resource for all the students living there. I am also a Greek life recruitment counselor. That means I’m involved in Greek life, but am currently disaffiliated so I can help women going through recruitment by providing a completely non-biased perspective. I have been disaffiliated since September and will be until after recruitment is over in January. I work in the Scheduling office and answer phones and emails and help people book rooms on campus. I am also now a student blogger – which I am super excited about!

All this being said, I don’t have a lot of free time on top of being a student. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade the friends I have made, the leadership positions I have gotten the opportunity to have, or the times up way too late because I procrastinated on yet another assignment because I was doing something else.

There really is something special about being at this school and really immersing yourself in all it has to offer. While some may look at a small school and see few opportunities, I look at it and see many. Opportunities to make a name for yourself, to branch out and to leave your comfort zone.

I could trade my involvement and positions for a life involving more Netflix, but until I find someone who sponsors me to lay in bed in fuzzy socks watching “New Girl,” I think I’ll stay just the way I am – good, but busy!

Hold That Door!

Can you believe another semester is half over? I can’t. There are days I walk around campus feeling that I’ve finally mastered the college life: my application for the Master of Arts in Teaching Program is chugging along, I’m living in an apartment in CNU Village with a beautiful view for sunsets, and I can point visitors on campus to (almost) anywhere they need to go. However, there are also days when I can’t quite figure out how to use the stacks in the back of the Trible Library, and I have been known to walk into the wrong classroom on the first day of classes (as an upperclassman, too!) But, mishaps like those make for fun stories to tell my suitemates when we’re all finally gathered back in the room for the night.

One thing I have noticed about my college life at CNU thus far is a pattern of honor among the students. Honor’s kind of a weird, heavy word to throw around, isn’t it? When I hear the topic of honor brought up, I start thinking of knights and all things medieval. How does honor translate over to CNU’s campus?

At CNU, there’s an unspoken tradition of holding doors open for people. I know that seems really simple, and hey, isn’t that something people do normally? Here at school, it becomes clear in a short period of time that our students think nothing of waiting a few extra seconds to keep a door open for a fellow student, professor, staff member or anyone who happens to behind them. It’s a tradition founded on honoring one another — a small act of service allowing you to put someone’s needs above your own. Yes, it may be awkward to wait with a door half-open as a stranger jogs to reach it, but it’s such a respectful thing to do. And, after living on this campus for a couple years, I’ve gotten used to our tradition. In fact, I’ll go off campus and unconsciously hold doors for people and then be surprised by the fact that they’re surprised! Wait, you mean not everyone goes to CNU and honors their fellow [wo]man?

Those are my thoughts on my favorite CNU tradition; I would LOVE to hear yours, so comment below this post! I can’t wait to share the rest of my junior year with you through this blog; my friends, it’s only up from here!

My Very Own Adventure

“Oh the places you’ll go,” they all told me. Growing up I would read all the time. The library was one of my favorite places to visit. Mystery was always my favorite genre because I got to read about grand adventures. I never wanted to know the ending because I loved figuring it out all on my own. However, when I was about to leave for college, I knew I was embarking on my biggest adventure. This wasn’t a story I could put down and save for later. This was going to be a four-year journey that would challenge me mentally and physically. There was no predicting the outcome like in my books; I had to write my own unpredictable stories. When people say college will be the fastest four years of your life, I did not believe them at first. I thought I had all the time in the world, but it’s true these four years will fly by. As I write the final chapter of my college journey I am proud of myself for accomplishing so much during my time here, but there is still so much I want to do. Looking back on the last three years, I can honestly say I’ve changed into a whole other person. I wish I could take a mirror, see my freshman-year reflection looking back at me and see how much I’ve transformed. For the next few weeks, I’m going to post about what I’ve learned over the past three years and how they tie into CNU’s core values scholarship, leadership, service and honor.

One of the main things I’ve learned is to branch out of your shell.

In high school I tended to be more shy than outgoing. I was always very talkative with my close friends but would get nervous around people I did not know well. However, when you enter college, you have to leave your comfort zone behind. Freshman year is the best time to meet so many wonderful people and to come out of your shell. Freshman year I did what I thought was the impossible:  I started the rowing club on campus. Through the process of forming the club I had to push myself more than I ever had before. One of the reasons the formation was so essential to me was because it made me into a leader. Through my long journey of forming the club, I learned the importance of leadership and that in order to be a positive role model in someone’s life there has to be a purpose and drive when leading an organization. An inspirational leader is someone who lives a life of significance. A leader is a support system to others and understands the meaning of being a part of something that is bigger then oneself. I have learned how to be a leader because of my experiences at CNU and as I continue to write my story here, I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had during the last three years.

It’s Still A Captain’s Life For Me

Yes, I am officially that upperclassman casually telling freshmen that time flies, that college will be halfway over before you know it, and that those emails from Franklin Council are from just one person, not a secret CNU society.

With the advent of a new school year, I’ve felt more reflective than usual. And, as a junior, I’ve spent many hours just this year comparing my recent past with my looming future. What does this mean? Two short years ago, I was up to my shoulders in Welcome Week activities, first college classes and awkward hall bonding. Freshman year fall semester is definitely a growing time; high school seems so distant, yet acclimating to the university lifestyle is not instantaneous, either (at least, it wasn’t for me). Though it was tough at times to transition into a more self-disciplined homework schedule, life begins to even itself out. Some of my fondest memories at CNU so far come from the first couple months of freshman year, a time when everyone I met was a potential new friend and navigating academic buildings was an adventure.

Can I tell you one of the (many) things I love about CNU?

This place hasn’t lost its novelty and welcoming spirit.

I’m on my third year here, and I still meet new people (who sometimes become great friends) every day. The construction around campus amazes me; I love watching our gorgeous buildings being pieced together – honestly, I am REALLY excited for the new Christopher Newport Hall to be finished! Students still hold doors for each other, professors still learn my name, and the Regatta’s and Commons workers are still as friendly as ever.

I decided on CNU because of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program and beautiful campus; I’ve continued here because this school has mastered the art of progressing while retaining the values that drew me here in the first place.

I can’t wait to share my life as a Captain with you this year.

No longer abroad in Oxford

I’m writing from an office in the Suntrust building, back home, back on campus, and back to work. I’ll start by saying it’s great to be here, it really is, but I do miss Oxford. For Dr. Kidd, Dr. Redekop, Dr. Underwood, and Dr. Gagnon (the four professors who basically run the trip), please consider somehow making the trip longer for future generations of students–they will all be incredibly grateful.

Okay, now I’ll talk about the last days of the trip.

In Paris, ambition became a major theme for us. We would just say it constantly, holding onto the first syllable, accenting the “b” and accelerating through the “tion” sound. Especially when we were walking of wandering or figuring out what to do, someone would say ambition. At this point, we were tired and just running on pure ambition throughout the rest of the trip. Anyway, on our second day in Paris, we broke off into two groups because some people had additional museum passes that a few of us decided not to buy. Four of us just wandered a bit and bought some crepes and souvenirs until it was time to meet up with everybody. We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant (Yes, we ate Chinese food in Paris, but it was by far the cheapest option in the area. Besides, it was actually really good.) on this street called Rue Cler, which was a really neat area. It was away from the hustle and bustle of the urban areas and was kind of a classy, relaxing neighborhood. The street was full of bakeries, chocolatiers and sidewalk cafes, and after our lunch, we visited one of the bakeries. We bought macarons, one of the must-try foods  in France. It’s basically, two really light, airy cookies made into a sandwich around some sort of flavored filling (the place we went had about 10 flavors). They are tiny, unsubstantial and expensive (one euro for one macaron  where we ate — another place charged one euro and eighty cents), but they are heavenly. They were delicious, and we all made the same “ohmygosh” face. Thinking about them makes my belly rumble. The lady who baked them seemed pleased with our reaction.

Our next stop was the catacombs, which I believe is a system of underground tunnels and tombs and is apparently pretty creepy. But, as you can guess by my speculation, we didn’t get to go. They were closing up by the time we arrived, and the line stretched around the block. So we improvised. We went to a palace, the name of which I don’t remember. We didn’t enter the palace, but its gardens served as a public park. We took the chance to relax and sat around a nice fountain and found an area of shade trees. Most of the people there were on picnics, but we decided to lay in the cool grass for a bit. Some of us ended up dozing off, but that charged us up for the rest of the day.

That evening, we were all staying in different hostels, so we split up to check in to our places. Mine was located in the Montmarte district (apparently the art district, but there wasn’t much to attest to that) and was definitely geared toward young adults, vagabonding around the city. It was a much older building, but it had a cool atmosphere, and I wish I had hung out there a bit more an met some of the people there. I stayed in a mixed six-person suite, meaning it was six strangers (guys and girls sharing the room), but every time I was in the room, it was either empty or full of sleeping travelers.

We all met up at the Louvre and then found a pizza place. The waiter spoke barely any English, and we had limited French, but he was a great host and it was a fun meal. A lot of confusion and gesturing, made more confusing because the waiter was always joking and sarcastic. After the walking and residual fatigue from the previous day, we basically called it a night and went to a bar to watch the soccer game. After that, we went around dropping people off at hostels, riding the buses and metro until they closed.

On our final day in Paris, we kind of ran out of ideas of what to do. Dr. Kidd took us to this giant flea market full of weird stuff (if you’re looking for a teal and purple Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket from the mid-90s, there’s a guy in the flea market who can help you out). We were modest with our shopping and didn’t stay too long. After we left the market and before we left Paris, I had to do two things: eat a macaron and buy one more souvenir. Three of us went back to Rue Cler for the macarons and then walked to the Eiffel Tower. This was the day before Bastille Day, and there was a dress rehearsal for the big celebration concert under the Eiffel Tower. There was an orchestra and a massive children’s choir who ran through some of their repertoire (including Tchaikovsky’s “1812 overture,” a really famous piece and one of my favorites). It was a great random thing to see, and I felt incredibly lucky to have wandered upon it. Anyway, I haggled with some souvenir salesmen and got seven euros worth of merchandise for three euros. And then it was time to head back to England–overall, a roughly five-hour excursion. Once back, we met up with the group who went to Dublin, bought some street food, packed, slept and left for the airport at 6 a.m.

And that’s just about it. Our two weeks summed up in a few thousand words. There are a few quirks to the trip I want to bring up that I missed in the other posts.

Bathtubs — I had to use a bathtub in Oxford, and it was kind of weird.

Portions — they don’t give you enough food and the food trucks become a must in the evening.

Paying at restaurants — they don’t usually split up tabs and paying at the end of a meal was always really confusing.

Water — there’s never enough water to drink at meals. It’s not customary, and it comes in pitchers or bottles that are not enough to serve the whole table.

Americans — there were so many Americans everywhere we went, and the locals seemed pretty used to it.

Locals — for the most part, everyone was very nice, especially store clerks and waiters, and I didn’t experience stereotyped rudeness or snobbery in England or France.

Croquet — I talked about it before, but I just wanted to say here that croquet is a cutthroat game that is more frustrating than any other sport I have played.

Bikes — everybody rode bikes, which I thought was pretty cool. Cars weren’t a big deal at all.

Clothes — everyone was fashionable (not the tourists, the locals) and no one looked casual. No sweats or gym clothes (I don’t think they exercise), lots of suits, dresses, designer shoes. Also, if you’re fashion conscious, Converse All-Star sneakers (high-tops especially) are huge there, so they’ll be making a major comeback in the U.S. If you want to get ahead of the game, snag a pair soon. They’ll be big starting in either the fall or spring.

I talked a lot about the trip, but not much about the people. I only knew a few people going on the trip, but I’ve gotten to know all of them well. I’ve never had a class at CNU with Dr. Redekop or Dr. Kidd, but they’re now two of my favorite professors. At our formal dinner, one of the guys (he coined the ambition theme in Paris) I became good friends with toasted the group and characterized the group bonding well. He said he was only friends with one other person here before the trip, but now he would happily call all of us friends and wave to us or stop to talk whenever we ran into each other on campus. I think he summed it all up very nicely, and I definitely share his sentiment.

I hope the students there now and all the lucky people who get to go again have the same amazing experience. I learned a lot, lived it up and experienced more in two weeks than I believed was possible. I went to Oxford, watched Wimbledon, used the Bodleian library, read and wrote and researched, toured Louvre and climbed the Eiffel Tower and ate snails and tiny cookies. This was the reason I came to CNU, and this is the greatest possible validation of that decision. I loved every bit of it and am forever grateful for everything that it was.

Abroad in Oxford: Heading home

I’m writing from Heathrow Airport, in London. I’d like to say we’re at our gate to board and get home, but we got here so early that it hasn’t opened yet. So we’re just relaxing and sitting—a welcome experience after our last few days.

A lot has happened since I last wrote. On Wednesday, we had a class with a war hero (he won a battle in the Falklands War when he was outnumbered and outgunned). He was awesome—Google him, Chris Keeble. We had a British accent contest, a longstanding Oxford trip tradition (congrats to John, who won a majority of the votes—I made it to the final round, by the way).

Everyone went punting, which is gondola-style rowing on a nearby river. I couldn’t make it on that excursion because I was behind on work, but two people fell into the river, and according to Dr. Redekop, they were the first CNU students to fall out of the boats in the history of the trip.

While I wish I had seen those guys fall in, I managed to get a lot done on my project then. For our big projects to save the world, we had to write a 10-piece annotated bibliography and a brief project outline—about 3,500 words total, but a lot of research. We all spent a lot of time in the libraries. The branch of the library I frequented was about a mile from our campus, so that walk was rough and it rained pretty hard once. But it was nice enough; I got to see a bit more of the city, especially when I got lost and wandered the old neighborhoods.

Four of us climbed St. Mary’s Cathedral, which didn’t look that tall, but the trip up was an adventure of its own. It was a lot of stairs, and the final leg was an extremely narrow spiral staircase. From the top, we could see all of Oxford, and I finally got the view of Oxford I wanted. At that moment, looking down on the old libraries, the camera, the churches and the main castle, I felt as if I had arrived. Because the university is dispersed throughout the city and its central location is blocked to the public, I never felt like I was there—it just seemed like another beautiful and ancient city—but not like the University of Oxford as I imagined it. But seeing everything, the big picture, the vast antiquity, was a moment of realization of where I was and what it meant to be there. I credit this moment as the most breathtaking of the trip and the final motive and push for me to finish my project.

Those projects consumed our Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday we had a fancy, formal dinner, complete with a nice table setting, cocktails, Harris Manchester wine and three courses, and we played a final croquet game (while still wearing our dress clothes). Besides that, it was writing and research. The papers weren’t due until the next evening at midnight, but none of us would be able to turn in the paper because we were leaving England. That quirk to the assignment pushed our due date to whenever we left, and I submitted at 4:50 a.m., moments before we ran through the streets of Oxford to catch our bus to London.

Seven students (including me) and Dr. Kidd spent a few days in Paris, and nine students and Dr. Redekop spent their weekend in Dublin. To get to Paris, we rode a bus to London and took a train to Gare Du Nord station. We arrived at approximately 10 a.m., Paris time, and immediately set out for Notre Dame Cathedral. It was packed there, and we did little besides take pictures, but it was nonetheless beautiful and profound. It’s definitely one of the sites you have to see in the city. After that, we happened upon a bridge that was covered end to end in padlocks. I recognized it from one of those “just girl posts” or “before I die, I want to..” accounts on Twitter that so many people retweet. Basically, couples bring a lock to the bridge, scribble their names onto it, and latch it on, signifying a commitment or promise (I think it’s a pretty lame gesture considering the thousands of locks attached) to the relationship. While unexpected and mostly insignificant to us (none of us happened to be carrying locks or in the company of a significant other), it was cool to recognize the bridge, and we spent a good amount of time taking pictures of it.

Then, we broke off from Dr. Kidd and his wife, Holly, who joined us for the weekend, and visited the Louvre. Now, I don’t know anything substantial about art, but I know the Louvre is as good as it gets. And while everything on the inside was really cool and picture-worthy, nothing about the museum quite hit me like when I first looked around its interior courtyard. It is a massive, old, and beautiful building—impossible to see everything in one day. In the courtyard are these giant glass pyramids and fountains, and from the proper angle, we could see the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, our first live glimpse of Paris’ other crown jewels. Beyond the adjectives you’d expect me to use to describe the Louvre, the main one that comes to mind is exhausting. There is so much art and so much to see and so much walking. We were there for a few hours, and once we saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, we had to quit. There is such thing as an art overdose, and we were fast approaching it as we left.

After dinner, we decided to see the Eiffel Tower up close. Once there, we decided to climb it. It was bright out when we arrived, but by the time we began, the sun had set. The Eiffel Tower is really tall, and we took the stairs up to the halfway point. It was a lot of stairs, and I feel like all of us had a freak out moment at some point, thinking about how high up we were (some struggled much worse than others). Regardless, we trudged on—actually we just got in line—the rest of the way up was by elevator. It’s irrational to be afraid on an elevator ride, but that was probably the worst part for me. The fear evaporated at the top, 281 meters high at the peak of what was once the tallest structure on Earth. Only a chain link cage and some bars confine you. You feel the wind and chill of the height. You can reach out to the city and see all of it. At night, all of it is lit up and it looks as if the sky repositioned itself to sit below us on the ground.

We stayed until the tower closed—about midnight. On the ground, we saw the train was closed. At that point, we had two options to get home, by cab or by foot. Being college students in a city where the currency is one-and-a-half times more valuable than the U.S. dollar and everything is overpriced anyway, we walked. The route was simple. Walk along the river, turn left at Notre Dame, follow the road until you get to Gare Du Nord, and the hostel is a couple blocks to the left. It was about five miles away though. It was an interesting walk, and while Paris is glamorous, it is one the world’s big cities and its debauchery is magnified at night. But it was a cool experience, and we got to see the parts of the city hidden from tourist brochures. After getting barely any sleep, crossing the English Channel, walking the city during the day, hiking the maze that is the Louvre, ascending the Eiffel Tower’s seemingly perpetual stair case (up and down), and trudging back home, I was tired, and my feet hurt. We all stayed in the same room that night and slept incredibly soundly. I can’t believe how much we did that day, and it was only day one of three in Paris. I’ll get to the rest later, because this post is getting long, and thinking of the last two days in the city is just exhausting (besides, my feet still ache from it).

I’ll write my last post soon, and I’ll recap the last days and talk a bit about the overall experience. The other group is already in England, and I’m about to be home. I’d say (still reluctantly) my Oxford trip is just about done. All that’s left is a flight, a train ride and one last blog post.

Abroad in Oxford: Getting Caught Up

Hi again!

It’s been a bit since I last posted, but we’ve been kept pretty busy. I’ll lay out just about everything we’ve done over the past few days.

Last Wednesday, we visited Blenheim Palace, which everyone said is England’s most grand palace (I have no frame of reference to confirm or deny this, but in my opinion, it was pretty grand), and was Winston Churchill’s place of birth and sort of his childhood home. It was a gigantic and lavish building, and it’s hundreds of years old. There were plenty of giant paintings, ornate decorations, things we definitely could not touch–basically everything you’d expect Britain’s best palace to be. After our tour, we wandered the gardens and grounds of the palace and then headed home. Once back at our college, most of our days have been spent working on our research papers. This assignment consumed all of our non-leisure time until it was due on Sunday at midnight, but it’s done now, and I’m not going to worry about it again.

Thursday was our uneventful recharge day. We didn’t go anywhere and mostly wrote and researched. We had a class with a retired English literature professor, who was exceedingly nice and could read aloud unlike anyone I have ever heard. Afterwards, more writing, more researching. I got hungry late at night and decided to test out some food trucks. While walking around, midnight hit, Independence Day began, and I got myself a lamb kebab pita.

Independence Day celebrations were the day’s main concerns, and a lot of us spent the day decked out in patriotic gear. We had a couple more classes, meals in the dining hall, and more writing, more research. But once our scheduled activities were done for the day, we set off to celebrate. We went to a few pubs and encountered plenty of other Americans. And while the English didn’t mind our excitement, they didn’t exactly join in with us. We went to Turf Tavern, the Eagle and the Child (where Tolkien conceived of The Hobbit), and a couple other places whose names I didn’t catch. The best part was that all of the students on the trip stuck together, and we were able celebrate as a group. It was definitely the best Independence Day I’ve ever experienced.

After the late night, it was an early morning (started at 7 a.m.), and we headed off to London. Initially, Dr. Quentin Kidd, of CNU’s Department of Government, showed us around (he knows the city well) and got us to Buckingham Palace, through some of downtown, to the parliament building and Big Ben, and then to Trafalgar Square, where he left us. We were all pretty nervous cause we had no idea what we were doing. I ended up sticking with four other students for the day. The first thing we did was get some free T-shirts with a picture of us on them. It was a pretty cool souvenir, and of course, free. We ended up in Picadilly Circus, a big market area with lots of shops and restaurants, and we ate pizza in this really cool underground bar. Our next destination was Wimbledon. None of us were big tennis fans, but we’re near Wimbledon, during Wimbledon, so we had to go. Getting there was an adventure–a lot of walking, a half-hour subway ride, bus passes, more walking, not being sure if we were getting in, waiting in the queue (the line for people with unreserved tickets, thankfully it was short for us), and rain–but we got in. Our tickets weren’t to see the women’s final or anything; they were general tickets that got us into any match with unreserved seating. There are courts throughout the complex, and we got to sit courtside at two matches. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. We watched a junior men’s match and a junior doubles men’s match, and these guys were awesome. All of the players we saw were 16 or 17, ranked well, played well, and have legitimate chances to be tennis greats. We became devoted fans to a pair, Kozlov and Rublev (the top junior doubles team and individually ranked 6th and 1st in the world for juniors), and even got a picture with them. Unfortunately, they lost in the finals, but I’ll be rooting for them at their future tournaments. After their match, we got a glimpse of center court (amazing) and took some pictures and began the long journey home.

Sunday, besides our professors treating us to dinner, was spent writing and researching for the papers due at midnight.

Monday began our real work; our individual projects for bettering the world. We have an annotated bibliography and project proposal to write. Basically, we have free rein to do research on any topic, using this immense, intimidating and ancient library of seemingly infinite resources. I’m focusing on education, coming up with a supplemental program to enrich learning for people of all ages utilizing local educators and resources to foster a more literate, well-read, informed and engaged citizenry. It’s one of the simpler ideas here, but I think it would be impactful. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m excited to progress.

Now, besides the project, we have some classes, some sights to see and people to meet. In our free time, we’re all hanging out, trying to catch the World Cup at the pubs (we don’t have TVs), playing croquet and getting good at it (some of us can compete pretty well with Leadership and American Studies Professor Dr. Redekop, practicing our accents and living it up. We only have a few more days here and then some time on our own in either Dublin or Paris (oh yes, there’s more!), but we have a lot to cram in. Two weeks is too short a time, but there hasn’t been a moment wasted.