My 2012 In Review

After a long and thoughtful walk through Fullersburg Woods I have had a chance to reflect on all the events of this past year; and what better time to reflect than the present? I’m astounded at how much has happened in one year, and hope I can give an accurate summary of it all.

January 1st, 2012 found me waking up long before sunrise in my dorm room at the University of Leicester in England. Together with my college friend Erica, we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Dublin, to spend some time in beautiful Ireland and Northern Ireland. From the illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Kells, to a traditional Irish music pub crawl, and finally the stormy coast at the Giant’s Causeway, my visit to Ireland was a memorable one.

Looking goofy at the Giant's Causeway - very windy and rainy

Looking goofy at the Giant’s Causeway – very windy and rainy

But schoolwork was always calling me back to Leicester, and much of January was spent in class or at the library. But I had more international travel to look forward to: a weekend in Madrid, Spain spent exploring the streets with another college friend, Jackie. Less than a week later I was off to Berlin, Germany to visit the many astounding museums, Prussian palaces, the Berlin Wall, and a concentration camp covered in snow. It was an icy cold, but edifying experience in German history.

Brrrrr! is all I can say – at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

February and March were stressful, writing essays, choosing a dissertation topic, and applying for a museum internship. Spring Break could not come soon enough, and yet there were still diversions to pass the time; Queen Elizabeth II came to Leicester, plus a visit to the enigmatic Stonehenge, and hiking in the British countryside. The beginning of April marked the beginning of Spring Break, and a chest infection kept me stuck in my room. I hunkered down and began work on my dissertation, waiting for my parents to arrive for their 10 day visit. I enjoyed showing them the best of Leicester, and we explored Oxford, London, and stunning Blenheim Palace together, and celebrating my birthday in style.

May and June were devoted to reading, researching, interviewing and writing my dissertation, which filled most of my days. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration was a good chance to get away and go camping in Wales with friends, and Sean came all the way from Chicago to visit England for a few days, and even sat in on my Bollywood dance class. Entering into July, it seemed as though time was speeding up, and my dissertation deadline was looming. Before finishing my time at University, I saw the Olympic torch and held it for myself, made a wee trip up to Glasgow, Scotland, and had a farewell night out with my Bollywood dance class in true Bollywood style!

Getting my turn at holding the Olympic Torch!

At the end of July, I turned in my final dissertation and packed up and moved south to Exeter, to start my internship at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. It was the best museum I could have worked at, with the most entertaining staff, lots of tea and cake, and a giraffe for a mascot. Exeter was beautiful, and I spent my weekends exploring the area, hiking in the rolling hills, and visiting the birthplace of crime writer Agatha Christie. There was time for another camping trip when friends from Leicester came down for a weekend and we piled in the car for the coast. Mom and Dad even made it to Exeter for a weekend, and helped me pack up some of my things for my impending return home. Soon enough the internship was over, and I had to say farewell again.

In mid September my brother got engaged, and soon after he came to meet me in London and we spent a few busy days there before catching a flight to Italy, and spending a few days with my friends Anna and Enrico in Verona. From there it was on into the Dolomite Mountains, then back towards Milan, with a breath-taking train journey through the Alps to boot! Completely exhausted, we returned home to Chicago at the very end of September.

Verona - city of spectacular views! And my former home

Verona – city of spectacular views! And my former home

The first thing I did was visit my grandparents, and family, and much of October was spent reconnecting with old friends. I soon started a holiday job working at a department store, and in my spare time I worked on a very ambitious scrapbook project. Mid November I was hired on as an intern at a children’s museum, working in their office twice a week. Better yet, I received news that I had passed my Masters course with ‘distinction’, and my dissertation got high marks. Unfortunately, my busy schedule prevented me from spending Thanksgiving Day with my relatives in Indiana, but my Grandma Smith and I kept each other company that day. Also unfortunate, our beloved dog Shadow died just a few days before Christmas, but friends and relatives have been a support as we adjust to him being gone.

Catching up with Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas Day

Now, a few days away from the New Year, I can reflect on everything that has happened this year. This little summary serves as much an update as a reminder for myself, and I look forward to attending my graduation ceremonies in Leicester next month, and several important weddings next year. Bring on 2013!

4th of July – We still celebrate in the UK

Thanks to Danielle for the use of her backyard, and to everyone for coming and humoring me. I do appreciate the irony of celebrating 4th of July in the UK, but this is all I need to celebrate Independence Day – hot dogs, beer, good weather (mostly), and friends. I’ve also learned that hot dogs do in fact come in aluminum cans in Britain.

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Olympic Torch Relay Celebration

The Olympic Torch has been making its way around the UK these past few weeks, and I was lucky enough to see it pass through Leicester. Here are just a few of my better pictures.


My chance at holding the real Olympic Torch!


Stage entertainment at the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration in Leicester


Children’s chorus sings after the ‘Olympic Cauldron’ has been lit.



The Samsung photo of the crowd in Abbey Park. I’m in there!

Leicester, Oxford, London

I guess it’s been about a month since I last updated. The first week or so of April I was still recovering from the chest infection, but it was a darn good excuse to stay in and rest, but also to get work done. We’re now fully into the dissertation period, and I have my second meeting with my supervisor next week. A lot of time has been spent in the library! Spring is in full swing, which means lots of rain, which inadvertently helps me focus on work. I’ve also gone to a few Indian dance classes in the evenings, like bhangra and bollywood, just to change things up a bit.

And come Saturday April 21st, Mom & Dad arrived in Leicester! This was the vacation I was waiting for. We spent the weekend in Leicester and I showed them some of my favourite places around town, including the open market and Mrs. Bridge’s Tearooms. This allowed them to get over jetlag before we headed off to our next destination, Oxford. Oxford has plenty of museums to explore (Ashmolean, Pitt-Rivers, Natural History), we toured through one of the many colleges, and ate at the same pub as CS Lewis and Tolkien, ‘The Eagle and Child’ (apparently they nicknamed it ‘The Bird and Baby’). We took a day out to visit Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke of Marlborough, and although it rained on and off all day, we still agreed it was our favourite day.

We celebrated my birthday the night before we left for London, with dinner at a Jamie Oliver restaurant, and banoffee pie for dessert (an English thing with bananas, cream and toffee). The rest of the trip we spent in London, seeing the sights. We attended a service at Westminster Abbey, and visited the amazing Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. We of course visited many other museums, and I enjoyed the ‘Dickens and London’ exhibit celebrating 200 years since his birth. We spent a day in Greenwich, devoted to astronomy and all things maritime. Dad and I sat in the public gallery at the ‘Old Bailey’ to see the men in white curly wigs and black robes. And possibly best of all, I got us some £10 theatre tickets for ‘The King’s Speech’ at the Wyndham Theatre. I wish I could go to the theatre every weekend…


The beautiful Blenheim Palace

The Queen visits Leicester!

While a few weeks late in writing this, I thought it deserved its own post. Anyway, this is for people back home who want to know what I’m up to these days, or for people who are curious. Here are some pictures taken between myself and my flatmate when Queen Elizabeth visited Leicester in March, at the start of her Diamond Jubilee Tour celebrating 60 years reign. Of course Philip was there, and also Kate!

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A new month, a new update, and welcome to Spring Break!

I don’t know if I’ve already said this, but March has been one of the toughest months since I’ve been here. At the beginning of the month we were still in the early stages of group exhibition projects, summer internship placements were being decided, and the deadline for dissertation proposals was looming. I was thinking to myself that April could not come soon enough…

Group 'Faraday' and finished exhibition! Photo courtesy of Yoomin Ko

Six weeks ago we were split into groups with people we had never worked with before, given four unique objects, £150 budget, a project brief, and sent off to create an exhibition. Through a lot of agonizing team meetings, consultation with staff members, and a lot of DIY spirit, we came up with our exhibition ‘Reflections of Decoration’, that is now on display in the Museum Studies Department. In that time I’ve also managed to secure a summer internship placement at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, just recently reopened after a £24 million refurbishment. And yes, I submitted a dissertation proposal on the topic of museum disposal (throw stuff away! Uh, just kidding…), and have since had my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor.

Museum Society End of Lectures Party. Photo courtesy of Laura Gordon

To alleviate the stress there were fun times too. I was able to see the Queen (and Prince Philip, and Duchess Kate) start her Diamond Jubilee tour here in Leicester. I’ve never seen any US president, but now I have seen the Queen! I also made a visit to the famed Stonehenge, and nearby Salisbury Cathedral, where we viewed a page from the 1215 AD Magna Carta on display. There was also a daytrip to Liverpool, home to the Beatles, and to a multitude of museums of which we tried to see as many as possible. And unfortunately, through all of March I was sick multiple times, to the point where I cancelled a trip to Budapest, Hungary this weekend in order to recover from a suspected chest infection. Sad.

Regardless, I’m relieved that it is now SPRING BREAK, and I have the chance for some real rest and relaxation. Thanks to family and friends for their support thus far.

Six months down, six months to go…

Stonehenge is behind there somewhere...

Stonehenge Panorama

Liverpool Panorama, view from the Museum of Liverpool.

CS Hike The Peak District

I went on another hike last weekend with a few British couchsurfers. The destination this time was the Peak District National Park, and we were fewer in number because it was going to be a more intense hike… I thought I’d have no problem. I got picked up at 8:30am on a Sunday morning and we were on our way by 9am. The Peak District is north of Leicester by about 60 miles (near Sheffield), and when we arrived I checked my watch as we started off about 11am.

We began hiking along a ridge, walking through the clouds, which was rather atmospheric. I was doing ok so far, and keeping up. As we descended down a ways, my friends were having trouble deciding where we were, as we were still wrapped in so much fog. We began making our way across a bog, and I came to the realization that the boots I got for Christmas are definitely not waterproof. My spirits definitely began to sink into the mud…

We took our first break about 1pm, which is when the skies began to clear, and I discovered we were on the opposite side of the valley from our starting point. Somewhere off to our left was our goal of a pub lunch, and more than halfway to go on our route back to the car. Keep going! The scenery got prettier but short legs make for twice as many steps. Around 3pm we were making our descent into the village (pub lunch!), and I discovered it was just as painful as the ascent: I felt like a mountain goat, and didn’t have much energy left.

Finally made it to the pub! The ‘Old Nag’s Head’ has supposedly been in the town of Edale since 1577, and the sign on the door said ‘Families, dogs and muddy boots all welcome here!’ I learned that the Peak District was only the beginning point of a trail leading all the way up to Scotland called the ‘Pennine Way’. I contemplated my aching body over a beer and lamb burger before my friends told me the bad news: we had to climb back up to get to the car! In reality it was only an hours walk, and we made it back by 5pm, with a definite feeling of accomplishment. We drove back to Leicester in relative silence.

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