Hello from London again, folks!
It’s been a while since I’ve written, so this first post back will be kind of a summary of the last few weeks. Despite my radio silence, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs. My visit back home was wonderful and also quite packed. Highlights included (mostly in chronological order):
Getting a surprise pickup from the airport from my brother Franz. My luggage was delayed which caused a bit of a ruffle in my plans for getting back to Michigan that night, but we made the most of it– espresso nap at Franz’s apartment and then a quick costume change before I accompanied him to a work Christmas party.
Receiving a ‘Welcome home!’ from my Grandma Berkemeier, who passed away (shortly after this cherished hug) on December 22. Although our hearts were sad to see her go, we were filled with peace knowing that she was able to celebrate Christmas with Grandpa Berkemeier (who passed away when I was in 6th grade). ‘Give us a reason to celebrate, and we’ll celebrate!’ she used to say. So celebrate we did. St Mary’s Star of the Sea was still beautifully decorated for Christmas and though it is the largest (by space) Catholic church in Jackson, I dare say we did a good job of filling the pews and the air with her favorite pieces of music. Oh… and there was butter pecan ice-cream at the luncheon. 😉
Swinging by A2 for a quick visit with some amazing friends. I was also invited to sit on the other side of the RMJ interviewing table. This was a revitalizing experience that reminded me of the intentions of the fellowship, the goals that I began making when I embarked on this journey not too many months ago, the progress I’ve made since then, and the many moons I have to still cover. Congratulations to the 2015-16 fellow, Allison McDonald! You will all be in for a treat in following her adventure next year.
Cheering loudly for my sister Gretchen as she received her Master’s diploma in Clean and Renewable Energy from the University of Dayton. You go girl! Such a role model for me!!
Spreading some Christmas cheer with good ole’ caroling. Of the 20 or so friends and family that participated in the shenanigans this year, I believe Joan Campau won the “longest journey” competition: home from Panama, where she has been serving in the Peace Corps since Feb 2013. Such a treat to see her in person!
Hosting Christmas festivities at our home this year. We managed to prepare an Americanized wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve dinner) with the favorite dishes including pierogi (dumplings stuffed with potato, cheese, etc that are then boiled & fried) and barszcz czerwony (beet soup). Attempting to pack 15 of us around the dining room table produced a scene fit for television. Despite the chaos that inevitable comes with having the house brimming with people, it was so wonderful to be surrounded by the people I love. Slumber partying on the living room floor also brought back fond memories of scheming with my older siblings to stay awake until Santa arrived.
(The less than exciting part)
Exams were waiting to greet me <48 hours after I arrived back in London. As if jet-lag wasn’t enough to combat, King’s College London has an exam system that is about as foreign to me as any of the experiences that I have yet had over here. I’ve grown used to the UM Engineering (honor code) un-proctored exams so to be circled by people with INVIGILATOR stamped on their brightly colored vest was… well, different. It was also a bit nerve-racking because the exam took place at a convention center that was 50 minutes away from campus. (Not too bad of a commute, considering how large London is.) Furthermore, we took the exam with students that had exam lengths that were of different lengths than ours. Imagine trying to concentrate in a foreign environment when you jump with the sound of the loudspeaker:
One hour has now passed. Those students taking one hour exams must now stop. You are reminded that continuing to write after the exam has finished is a violation of….
And then after 1.5 hours… and 2 hours. FUN.
Oh well. Not worth being anxious about a situation that can’t be changed. I just chock that up to experience. Though entering a new discipline has been challenging in more ways than one, I have learned so much. I look forward to continuing to learn in my remaining months as the RMJ fellow, not only via structured lectures but also through kitchen chats with my flatmates.
Here’s to many more exciting adventures in 2015! xx (<– One of the British ways of signing off that I’ve adopted. Kissing is more ‘proper’ than hugging I guess haha.)
[Featured image: A winter sunset from Waterloo bridge. No photo editing, folks. I’m not pretending that London skies are always this clear, but when I can see the sun, it has a tendency to take my breath away.]