ASK Musings

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Grad School Archive



October 2009



It’s been a month? Really?

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I moved here just over a month ago, and I’ve been able to do a lot in that month. I’m really enjoying my program, and I’m loving this city. There’s so much to do and see, and I’m lapping it all up.

This week I went to Cambridge, which is a town filled with these amazing old colleges. Seriously, they’re celebrating their octocentenial. 1209-2009! What was going on in NYC in 1209? Were native americans even there yet? I genuinely don’t know. The town is larger than I expected, and full of twisting streets and loads of pubs. We visited two: The Anchor (which is on the river) and the Eagle (where Watson and Crick announced their DNA double-helix “discovery”). There’s also a great market right in the center of town. Because my friend Dan and I went on a Sunday, we were able to see the chapel at Kings College for free, as we attended Evensong and heard the amazing Kings College Choir. Damn. They’re really, really good. The trip was the first of about 20 I really want to try to do before I leave here – pictures are below.

This week was busy, with a few extra lectures (one on post-war mental health for civilians, one on LSE essay writing and one on risk assessment in health care). The work load is still manageable, but I haven’t been assigned an essay yet. I think for all three of my courses I’ll get the questions in about a week and have a week or two to write them. I’ll have to get on it early, because my first visitor is coming! I’m so excited – Allegra is coming in November, and we’re going to head down to Barcelona for a weekend. I’ve never been to Spain – if you’ve been and have suggestions of things we must see, let me know!

Wednesday was suit night in my building. We’re kind of silly, so a few of the guys dressed up in suits, us ladies went with dresses, and we sat around drinking and playing poker. Excellent.

Saturday, however, was the most ‘cultured’ of my days this week, even including the trip to Cambridge. I met up with Suzanne in the morning (it was overcast and spitting rain on occasion) and we took a tour of the West Cemetery at Highgate. It is gorgeous and overgrown and creepy and PERFECT for right around Halloween. I’ve attached some pictures. My camera was acting up (spooky!) so I didn’t get great ones inside the crypt. Oh. And there was this eerie moment where a leaf was just spinning in the air. At first it seemed like it was maybe hanging from a spider web thread or something, but then the wind shifted and it moved in a way that suggested it was just stuck in a pocked of air. When I started to walk as the tour moved, it got right up in my face. I like to think one of the spirits wanted us to remember where exactly we were.

Finally, last night I went to Royal Albert Hall to see the Carmina Burana. It’s such an amazing piece of music. And it was performed in what is actually a pretty smalll performance space, with FOUR HUNDRED SINGERS. And a huge symphony orchestra. So amazing. SO amazing.

And now it’s Sunday again, and I need to study. But I got an extra hour in the day thanks to the surprising time change. Back to GMT.



October 2009



Week 1 – Check!

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I’ve attached below some pictures of the neighborhood, campus, and THE QUEEN.

The week was full of a lot of everything. A lot of class, a lot of reading, a lot of wandering the city. Yesterday it really started to feel like fall; it was bright and sunny but had that feeling of the sun being a bit lower in the sky. It’s chilly in my apartment – the heat only stays on for two hours at a time – so I’m getting a lot of use out of my sweatshirts, scarves and hoodies.

Classes are good. The lectures are great primarily (in my opinion) because they are true lectures – there’s really no Q&A piece. And you all know how much I loathe Q&A in most situations…

Tuesday I went to a lecture that was ostensibly on the penal system. I think the lecturer’s thesis was interesting, but I was so focused on staying awake (and on the fact that the seats seemed like a huge fire hazard) that I missed a lot.

The seminars are a bit different. They are supposed to only have 15 students (although the dissertation one has everyone in the program, or 28 of us), and are the appropriate place to discuss the readings and the lecture and go deeper into the week’s topic. One of my seminars has an amazingly obnoxious person in it – someone who starts sentences with “well, obviously” and continues on by stating something that is an opinion an by no means obvious or factual. That is possibly my least favorite type of comment, followed closely by the “let me tell you a story I want to tell so I can feel like I contributed but has no bearing on the discussion” comment. There were a couple of those in my seminar today (that’s right, I have a seminar on Friday mornings), but not nearly as bad as the obnoxious person from earlier in the week. Actually, he’s in my program, so I’m lucky I don’t have all of my seminars with him.

I’m done with my required readings for week two (that’s what happens when I have two days off during the week), so this weekend is for fun in London! I’m sure I’ll study some on Sunday to prepare for my four hours of lectures on Monday, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy some of the uniquely London events around town.

And Sunday is the Royal Parks Half Marathon. If you want to contribute and still haven’t, there’s still time!

Finally, the Queen. She was at St. Paul’s for this: UK Armed Forces Memorial. Apparently two of the three princes were there (Charles and William), as was the Prime Minister. But I timed my walk home well – I got to the barriers about five minutes before she exited, and was able to get a few pictures.



October 2009




Written by , Posted in Random

I’ll post something this weekend about my classes – spoiler alert: they’re awesome – but I have to get this out so that I don’t turn into the mean old lady who keeps the ball the neighbor kids kick into her backyard.

My apartment is on the lower (basement) level. To allow for sunlight, the basement apartments all have these awesome, massive old windows, and there is essentially a moat around the building to allow for sunlight. In my case, that moat is covered by a grate that serves as the disabled-access ramp to the building. It was a bit loud on move-in day, but has been quite since.

Unfortunately, my apartment is directly below the front door / reception. What this means is that everyone who smokes convenes essentially in front of my apartment (albeit about eight feet above) at all hours. If they’re making their way back from the pubs, they stop and hang out in front first. And these windows, while old and stately, do nothing to keep out the cold, let alone the high-pitched slightly-drunken squeals of over-stimulated graduate students living in a foreign country for the first time.

I’m exhausted. I’d love to sleep in (it’s pretty calm in the mornings), but I have to be up at 7 for a 9 AM class. It’s quiet now, but generally these moments of silence last just long enough for me to *almost* fall asleep, only to be awakened from that odd pre-dream state where one’s heart starts racing and it takes a minute to figure out what just happened. I have one of those noise block Brookstone toys, but like an idiot I plugged it into an adaptor without a converter, and  blew out the plug. Tomorrow I will track down batteries or a British voltage plug, but for now –

Oh goodie. They’re back. Arg.



June 2009



Figuring it out

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Okay. So, I’m now sure that I did not accidentally apply for access to the US, but that was, no joke, a moment of panic for me last night. The proper response to my admission of this fear to friends was “so you can get into LSE, but can’t figure out the visa application? Huh.”

This morning, however, I was able to decipher what I need to do to complete the visa application, and have all but one of the documents ready. Oh, Sallie Mae, in a perfect world “print Visa letter” would be an option from your approved loan website. 

My last day at work will be August 4. I have at least two, possibly three visitors coming in the next six weeks. I have to ship home a bunch of stuff, and figure out to where I can ship things in London at the end of August so that I have it all there when I arrive and don’t need to ship it to California and then back to London. That just seems wasteful.

I’ll probably be back in California from August 6-14, and then come back to NYC, since I have the half-marathon on the 16th. Then I’ll have a week or so to clean out the rest of my apartment, then it’s back to California for good. Then hopefully up to Seattle from September 3-10 or 11, and back to the Bay Area until I leave for London on the 22nd or 23rd.

Lots of travelling, but that seems to be what I do best. So really I have about eight total weeks left in NYC, to live it up. I plan to have a blast (I’ve been doing it for seven years, so no need to stop now), but it’s weird to think this is my last summer here! I mean, one never knows what will come to pass, but right now I plan to spend 12 months in London and then move straight from London to Seattle. Ideally with a good job, or some plans for the next step.

I realize for the three of you who read this some of these posts may seem a little . . . well, lame. But I’ve stopped keeping a journal (too tired to write most evenings), and I figure getting this all out in print somewhere is a good thing. Why not on the interwebs, right? Don’t worry – the next post will rock.



June 2009



Visa – it’s everywhere I want to be. I think

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I submitted my visa application today. You have to apply online, apparently, if you live in the US. I screwed up by applying more than three months prior to when I want to arrive, which means I may get it approved by have to get there by September 16. Which is about eight days early. But I’m sure I could figure something out. And I have a bunch of documents I have to send, but it isn’t entirely clear to me exactly what they are. I’m waiting for a letter from the loan folks (should get it tomorrow), and I have a letter from my school. Every site says something different, and the UK visa site might as well be written in greek, because I can’t make heads or tails of it. Gotta figure it out in the next week, though, as my biometrics appointment is in early July.

I did get great news this morning though – I got my official housing offer, and I’ll be living in a one bedroom that is bigger than my NYC apartment by half, AND costs just about the same as I’m paying now. I’m really excited about it. As long as I don’t get denied the visa, things are falling into place.



May 2009



Ah, navigating financial waters yet again…

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Oh Sallie Mae. I send you money every month, as you were so kind to lend it to me for NYU. And now I’m dipping back in that well, only this time you’re not making it that easy. Is it because I’m leaving the country for my education? Are you mad that I’m going to be in the UK and not the US of A?

Or am I a total idiot? If I ask too many questions about the loan process, will LSE rescind my admissions offer? If it says “you can apply online or by mail” as well as “mail us the documents,” is it odd to want to double check that if I apply online I still need to mail them the documents?

I really don’t want to completely screw it up, Sallie. Because Sallie, honey, you’re what’s standing between me and my MSc. And I want us to stay on good terms.

(Really good terms. Like 2.75% terms. Please?)