“The First True Test”

Hello my lovely, lovely followers. I am happy to say that today I passed my first true milestone of living in the UK. And no unfortunately it has nothing to do with using the phrase “sixes and sevens” properly :)

I officially braved and succeeded in my first true UK shopping haul!!!!

This pilgrimage of apparel came courtesy of the UK retailer Debenhams (IMO kind of like the British Nordstrom).

Photo Credit: Thomasons

Oh, it was magical! I hadn’t been shopping in so long, both here and in the States, that I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. I’m usually not the typical, shopaholic-type girl, but every now and again my estrogen rears its ugly, hormonal head, and the only thing that can satisfy it is SHOES!!

(Warning: it’s about to get REALLY GIRLY from this point on. Proceed at your own risk!)

In this case, I first started with refreshing my supply of Clarins skin-care products, specifically the Multi-Active Night Cream. When it comes to skin-care, I stick to a basic few, and do not experiment with other brands. I’ve been using Clarins for a few years now, and it truly is the best product out there. Through my teens, I tried all manner of lotions and oils, but my skin was always dry and would break out.

Finally, I found my epidermal messiah in the form of Clarins (HALLELUJAH). Their products are on the more expensive side, but you use so few and so little at a time that it really is worth the money.

My regime consists simply of the Gentle Foaming Cleanser (Normal/Combination Skin), the Multi-Active Day Cream, and the Multi-Active Night Cream. Plus, whenever you buy something they usually give you TONS of free samples to try. All in all, it is definitely worth the extra cost because unlike other pricey brands, you really are getting quality for your investment.


Okay, next I proceeded upstairs to Women’s Apparel. Now as most of you know or can probably guess from previous posts, I am most definitely not a size 2 (Meghan Trainor rules!). I love how I look, and I love buying clothes. Granted, I wasn’t always this confident.

Being “curvaceous” or really anything but skinny, you get plenty of messages from the world about how much you need to change. I went through what most girls of my body-type did as a kid and young adult: I hated myself, I thought I needed to change, I put myself through crazy diets and even experimented with eating disorders.

Then, I’ll never forget this one night when I was about 14, I randomly just took off all my clothes and stared at myself in my bathroom mirror. It had been so long since I’d seen myself completely naked (you avoid mirrors like the bloody plague when you hate yourself as much as I did back then). I just stood there for what seemed like hours until finally I had this epiphany: I had no problem with how I looked.

Such a simple truth that took so long to dawn on me. I didn’t hate myself, I had never really hated myself. It was only when the outside world told me that I should feel that way that I started to. But here, now, standing before that mirror, I knew for the very first time how I truly felt.

And as far as I was concerned, the world could go fuck itself. Really, there aren’t bigger problems/issues in the world that you have to concern yourself with my jeans size?!?

I am who I am, and I don’t want to change. I look exactly like myself: big, over-the-top, and contrary to the norm.


There are many fat stereotypes that drive me crazy, but none so much as the assumption that all big people secretly hate themselves, are unhappy, and want to change. And for so long, I ascribed to this stereotype. It’s so hard sometimes to separate what it is you think from what the world tells you you should think. But on that night, at 14 years old, I finally did it. And I will never apologize for how I look again.

And for those of you who claim that you are simply criticizing an unhealthy lifestyle, eat a dick (as long as it’s not too high in cholesterol). First of all, my health or anyone else’s is none of your business. We all lead our lives how we want, and if you have a problem with that, it’s your problem not ours.

Secondly, the whole “health concern” is a bullshit smokescreen. You don’t criticize big people because you care about them or are concerned; you do it because it feels good. You think it’s funny. It’s what society tells you is permissible. And most of all, it’s an easy distraction from whatever sucks in your own life. Plain and simple.

Here is my bottom line: if you are legitimately unhappy with how you look, skinny, fat, and everything in between, then fine, you do whatever you feel like you need to do to look like yourself. But please, let it be your decision and yours alone.

Trust me, nothing will make you more unhappy in this life than trying to please the world in any manner of speaking.

And, with this newly adopted, revolutionary mentality of self-love, I moved forward. It wasn’t easy or without doubt and occasional setbacks, but I did it. Now, more than 10 years later, here I am, in a department store in Oxford, getting ready to plow through another unsuspecting selection of clothing.

I was immediately surprised, and pleasantly so, not only at the selection of clothing but how it was laid out. In my experience, shopping is both fun and torturous. Your senses are overwhelmed by all of these beautiful clothes, but then the realization that most of them probably aren’t going to be in your size hits you, and it kinda sucks.

However, this was most definitely not the case in Debenhams. There was no pitiful, plus-size (a term which annoys the crap out of me by the way) section pushed off to sartorial Siberia. Everything was just together! This is going to sound silly, but I honestly felt a bit like a renegade when I first saw this.

For the first time, I didn’t have to go search for “my section”. Everything was my section. Sure they had separate departments for Petites and Juniors, but Women’s Wear was just that: for all women.

After regaining control of my senses, I suddenly figured out that I had exchanged one set of complications for another. I now had way more to choose from than I am used to!

Trust me this was a lovely problem to have; however, as a student, I’m probably going to need to eat or buy toilet paper again at some point. Thus, I tried not to go too crazy.


It was truly liberating. Walking up to pretty much any rack I wanted, knowing that, unless they were sold out, I could try everything on in my size!

I’m not sure exactly how much I tried on that day, but at one point I did break one of the hooks in the fitting room off the wall because it had so much stuff on it (sorry Debenhams, yes that was me!!).

The final haul came out as follows:

Spectacular Green Coat: Honestly if this coat were a person, I’d stalk them until the end of time!!



Cute Jumper: It’s rare that I find a sweater I really like, but in this case, how could I resist?!?



Sweet Little Blouse: I immediately found this top adorable without being too adorable (trust me it’s a chick thing).



Professional/Fun Jacket: After seeing how this looked on me, I immediately took back everything bad I ever said about corduroy :)



Bad-Bitch Boots: Okay these boots speak for themselves. And if they could actually speak they’d just tell you to “Fuck Off”.



After this soul-changing shopping expedition, I found out that Debenhams also has a restaurant inside it and decided this was a perfect time for a late lunch. And when I say restaurant, I mean legit restaurant. You can order anything from a Panini, soups and salads, fish and chips, to a complete roast dinner!

I settled on a ham and cheddar Panini with a packet of crisps (bag of chips, I’m learning!!), and a bottle of Raspberry-Apple Juice. I’m really digging how the UK has a lot of raspberry-mix juices. I’m kind of addicted.


I sat at this little table that was off in its own nook, complete with a window that offered a spectacular view of the city. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it was literally one of the best lunches I’ve ever had :)


Afterwards, I decided to call it a day and trek back home. However, it dawned on me that I was going to have to lug all of my lovely new vestments the 35-40 walk back. Ugh! So I figured I’d already gone way overboard with how much I spent, so what’s another £10 for a taxi (lazy!).

All in all it was a pretty successful shopping day in the UK :) But I may edit this out later once I receive my bank statement :-/



Photo Credit: Human Rights Campaign

Well readers, I can honestly say that today (10/6) was officially the most momentous day since I’ve been in the UK.

Not only did it mark the one week anniversary of my arrival on this splendid isle, but in fact it marked a sweeping change in human events. A change that I have been waiting for for a long time, and a change that has been massively overdue.

Now before I get you too excited, I should clarify that, ironically, this incredible change had absolutely nothing to do with me being in the UK. My day had been pretty standard: running errands in Cowley and then stopping by the local chippy for some rockfish (yum!!).

It was there, as I was waiting for my order, that I received the grandest news ever via Facebook. Approximately a little after 4pm here (around 11am east coast time), I was informed that…wait for it…


Photo Credit: Equality Virginia

At first I thought it had to be some kind of prank, but once I read the details of what had happened, I could rest assured this was no trick.

Now for those of you who are not big political buffs (I get it!), let me explain: today the Supreme Court announced its decision on whether or not it would take up appeals from five states (VA, OK, IN, UT, WI) on the issue of marriage equality. Lower appellate court rulings in all of these cases had overturned same-sex marriage bans in these states; thus SCOTUS was the next step.

However, SCOTUS decided today to not take up these cases, effectively letting the lower court rulings stand. Thus, same-sex marriage is now legal in all of these states!!

Now of course, the court not taking up these cases was a bit disappointing in its own way. What we (and when I say we I mean supporters of marriage equality i.e. the right side of history) had been hoping for was that the Supreme Court would take up one or all of these cases, and in June 2015 hopefully rule in favor marriage equality, thus ending the patchwork quagmire of state marriage laws and legalizing same-sex marriage for the whole country.

And all that is still certainly a possibility, but for now the Supreme Court is staying out of it. But in staying out of it, they still made a positive decision for same-sex couples in those five states. The hope now is that SCOTUS will either make the same decision with future appeals that will come before them from other states or the lower courts in question will see the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter and not appeal at all.

Regardless, this is a positive step, bringing the U.S. one step closer to truly being free.

Now back to Virginia. I can honestly say, I never thought I’d see this day. I hoped for it, I dreamed about it, but I thought that if it ever did come, it would either take much longer than this or it would only come once the Supreme Court had made a blanket, national ruling.

To know that my home state of VA, which I and so many of us have been at war with for so long over this issue, can finally own up to the motto “Virginia is for Lovers” is a dream come true.

Photo Credit: Think Progress

To be a member of the LGBTQ community (I identify as “B” by the way) is still a difficult thing in the U.S., although we have come such a long way. But to then also be a member of the LGBTQ community and live in the South comes with its own set of complications as well (as does every region of the U.S.).

Much like with this blog, I can only speak for myself, and the experiences I have had. Now, luckily, I escaped most of the horrific connotations that might come to mind with being a sexual minority in the South. My parents always knew who I was and loved and accepted me, and for that I am truly thankful. And despite my initial misgivings about going to a small, private, Methodist college, I found the greatest, most loyal and vibrant LGBTQ community at Randolph-Macon, both from the students and faculty/staff.

In between though (i.e. high school) is where I, like so many others struggled the most. As you can tell from the verbal gold that is this blog, I am a pretty crazy/weird person when it comes right down to it (THANK GOD!). However, what this ultimately translates to is that in high school, as with all things different, I did not have an easy time.

I kept my sexual identity secret my whole four years, which is something I wish I could change now.

But I did hang out with “those people”. Oh don’t we all know “those people”? The freaks, the outcasts, the smart, quirky kids who tell everyone else to go fuck themselves because we know that, with the exception of getting halfway-decent grades, these four years matter less than a pile of dogshit to the rest of your life.

Yeah that was me. And I was happy about it (sometimes). I didn’t want to be like everyone else; the trouble was at that time, I also had no clue as to what I actually wanted to be. I knew I was good at school; that was the one thing I could always count on.

For better or for worse, I knew how to study and how to get good grades. And I knew, I believed that if I just kept my head down, didn’t get involved in all the social bullshit, I could not only make it out of high school alive but hopefully get to a place far, far away from where I was.

Now to be clear, it wasn’t so much Virginia that I had the problem with, but rather the Virginians I had to be surrounded with from ages 14-18. Most of them came from the same rich neighborhoods, drove luxury cars, were either blonde or bottle-blonde, and worshipped Polo and Izod. Basically it was very conservative, very Christian, and thus very hard to deviate.

Only thing I knew for sure was that I both did not fit in and did not want to fit in. Because I knew that whatever was different about me was going to be my ticket out. And I was right. However, not in exactly the way I thought.

I was sure by the time I was 18 that I would have to get a million miles away from Virginia before I could ever be happy. Hence the previously mentioned debacle with the school in Pennsylvania. But I was proven very, very wrong (trust me I don’t let it happen very often).

Ironically, the first place that I ever felt free to be exactly who I am was in fact a little college in Ashland, VA (I never saw that coming). I had resisted the very notion of going to college anywhere in VA for so long that this was almost unconscionable.

But luckily it worked out the way it did. I can’t even begin to imagine who I’d be without my time at Randolph-Macon, not just in terms of my being out, loud, and proud but as a person in general. I had always had a voice, but R-MC taught me how to use it. I wasn’t afraid of being called a “fag” or a “dyke” anymore. I had spent too long worrying. I was ready to just tell them all to fuck off and be the best “fag” I could be.

Photo Credit: Randolph-Macon College

And I was able to accomplish this with the help of OSMA (Organization of Sexual Minorities and Allies), the R-MC GSA (BEST CLUB EVER!!!). We had actually tried during my senior year of high school to start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), but of course we got shot down. I was extremely happy to learn a few years later though that my high school eventually did start one, and I am very proud to say it is still active today.

Okay, I could go on all night so I’ll try to wrap it up now (sorry!). I guess all I can say is how happy today makes me, not just for the obvious reasons but because it gave me a chance to look back. And there are a few things I wish I’d done differently.

I wish I had spoken up more, spoken out in high school. There were a few kids who weren’t afraid; some guys who wore pink clothes and eyeliner and some girls who didn’t give a shit about wearing dresses or having long hair. I admired them. I wanted to be them. But at that stage, I wasn’t ready yet. I had had a strong sense of myself and who I was for a long time. But it was going to take a bit longer before I was ready to share that with the world.

But life leaves very little time for us to dwell on regrets. Now all I can do is hope that with today’s decision and all the progress that has been made since I was young, no kid will have to worry about who they are or be afraid to be themselves. And not just because they might be struggling with their sexuality but because of any difference in general.

You are beautiful, you are perfect, and you are exactly who you are meant to be :)

Congratulations to all the happy couples in VA and all over the country who now can legally sanctify what they’ve known in their hearts all along. And when I go home in December, I will for the first time be truly proud of where I’m from.

Photo Credit: SUNY Potsdam LGBTA


Note: I have credited all photos used in their description boxes. I do not own and/or did not take any of the photographs used in this post. All rights are reserved to the parties/organizations with which they originated.


“Strike a Pose”

Sunday in Oxford. Such a time evokes images of crisp golden leaves falling on the pastel suits of gentle old ladies as they sip their afternoon Earl Grey following the morning church service.

For me, however, it was simply another day of rest and relaxation in my flat as I slept off the massive amounts of Tylenol PM I had ingested the previous evening. My ankle thankfully is feeling loads better. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be able to go the market without looking like I’m making fun of people with polio.

A little after noon, Lidiya popped up to the rest of us on Messenger, asking us if we wanted to come by around 6 to pick out cocktail dresses.

A bit of background: no, this isn’t something girls just randomly do to kill a Sunday afternoon. As part of next week’s rigorous calendar of college social events, there will be a formal cocktail party. Thus we need plenty of input on which dresses to wear.

I myself do not own an extensive collection of fancy dresses, but in prep for this I brought my grand total of 3 to Oxford.

So around 6pm, Jenny and I ventured over to Lidiya and Yulia’s side of the building to kickstart this fashion show. I for some reason decided to wear one of my dresses over and bring the other 2 (I don’t why I do most things I do!).

We were joined on this sartorial adventure by two of L & Y’s flatmates, Veena (from India studying Law) and Maria (from London studying Experimental Psychology). I had actually met Maria my first day here when I braved the Cowley wilds in search of a hairdryer. She and her boyfriend (that is a boy who is her friend) were nice enough to direct me to the nearest Boots to buy one.

Anyways, as I was the only one dressed in cocktail attire at that point, I was selected first to be judged. The first of my three is this blue and white sheath dress with this really cool swirly blue and black pattern and a blue shrug. The girls all loved it, as did I since blue is my favorite color.


Next for me came my favorite dress, this white silk (not real but I can dream) with flowers and sequins on the bottom. It also has a tulle at the bottom so it has kind of a flirty, fifties thing to it. Luckily, this seemed to be the favorite with everyone else as well :)


Third was a black cocktail dress with three rows of rhinestones at the waist. I like this dress, but I definitely need to find a bra that doesn’t show in it as the dress is pretty low-cut. And while I consider my boobs to be both a spectacular sight and a gift to all humanity, I decided that all-out cleavage wasn’t right for this particular event. Plus, everyone still thought the second dress was the best by a long shot and I agreed.


Jenny’s dresses were the very definition of classy sexpot. From the little black dress she first sported to the custom made silk, red floral dress she had made in China, it was impossible to pick. In the end, we decided the black was best, but it was a very tough decision.

Yulia’s choices were the epitome of tasteful and unique. She looked absolutely beautiful in her first pick, this white silk dress with ¾ sleeves and a grey and champagne pattern weaved throughout. It was a perfect reflection of her personality: professional but fun and distinctive at the same time. Her second was a classic, red V-neck much in the same style as the first which we all went crazy for as well. Her third pick though blew the rest out of the water. It was a form-fitting black lace cocktail dress with a black belt and nude sheath underneath. Her first two choices were lovely, but this dress took it to a whole new level :)

Lid’s selections went above and beyond in terms of elegance. Her first dress almost knocked us all on the floor. It was a strapless, floor-length red halter with gathering on the left hip finished off with a stunning circle of rhinestones. Honestly, this is what people mean when they use the phrase “dressed to kill”. Her second choice was a fun, flirty knee-length purple dress with a full, knee length skirt followed by a form-fitting navy blue cocktail dress with slight ruffles and ruching. Honestly, Lid was beautiful in all of them, but there really was no stopping that red number! No brainer on this one.

Maria, who literally looks as if she’s stepped out of 60s Mod London, had no shortage of fantastic selections as well. The winner turned out to be her first pick too, this short white sequined dress with short sleeves that I know Twiggy must have owned at some point. She paired all with sheer black tights and black heels. Seriously, she could have chosen to wear a burlap sack and would still have looked like a rock star.

Veena unfortunately couldn’t participate in our impromptu modeling project as she was busy Skyping with her parents. However, she was kind enough to indulge us by showing us the dress she will wear, a sleeveless aubergine silk dress that she plans to pair with a black belt. Can’t wait to see how incredible she looks!

All in all, we are some seriously hot women if I do say so myself (and I do!). Of course, we will need all of the mystical voodoo of hair and makeup to complete our looks, but as Lid so classically put it “BOOBIES!!”.


“Spoiled (In The Best Way)”


After yesterday’s gravity-not-defying debacle, I was pretty much confined to my room for my first Saturday in Oxford. Not that that’s a bad thing. It was raining most of the day, and I, along with most of my friends were completely burned out from the first week of social events (if I have to ask/tell one more person what they/I do, I think I’m going to snap).

Mental breakdowns aside, I was more than pleasantly surprised mid-afternoon when Jenny stopped by my room and asked me if there was anything she could get for me at the store. As she had said she was going for an ice cream run, I couldn’t help but get in on some of that action, along with a little caffeine :)

Almost simultaneously, Yulia messaged me as she was going out for a run and offered to stop by the pharmacy and buy me an ankle brace on her way back :) The chocolates last night were one thing, but now I am just being flat-out spoiled!

Jenny returned first, brandishing not just a tiny 20oz. bottle of Diet Coke, but rather one of those big 1.75L bottles!! She also made literally the best choice she could have with the ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked w/ Cookie Dough and Brownies!!!!!).

She also informed me that there is a milk thief in the communal kitchen; someone literally took her whole bottle! I had experienced a similar theft the other night, noticing that my previously unopened bottle of apple/raspberry juice was suddenly missing half its contents. Really?!?!? We’re all grad students well into our 20s, yet we still are going to have to put our names and room numbers on all kitchen items. Come on!!!

Regardless, both Jenny and I had the same intention of spending this Saturday in PJs in our respective rooms, worshipping Netflix.

Yulia arrived a short time later, generously dropping off the most fabulous ankle brace ever made (seriously it’s helping so much!!). I tried to pay her for it, but she absolutely refused :) A quiet, relaxing Saturday was her intention as well.

And if that weren’t enough, I received messages from both Lidiya and a girl named Hannah making sure I was okay too (I had met Hannah a couple nights prior; she is studying Particle Physics which the rest of us have managed to reduce to simply “LASERS”!).

Seriously though, I don’t know what I did in a previous life to deserve such amazing friends, but if I get used to this kind of treatment, EGO=NUCLEAR!!


Today (10/3) I was painfully reminded that in addition to hanging out with amazing people from all over the world and going to pubs every night, I’m also here to learn (lame!). Classes don’t start until the week after next, but today was my official orientation.

Luckily, you are not required to go to every event, so I was able to roll into the City Centre a bit before noon (getting pretty good at this bus thing I might add!).

It was mandatory that I attend a lecture on visas/immigration, which of course is very important information. However, there was no sign in or registration for the talk so apparently the mandatory thing was a smoke-screen to get us there (curses!).

After that, we broke for lunch, and I decided to take yet another infamous stroll around the City Centre. The Exam Schools are located on High Street, which is pretty much the main street that runs through central Oxford (think a really proper Fifth Avenue). The Schools are a great starting point for walking as they are almost at the beginning of High Street, so let the journey begin.

I first came across a few of the older colleges (Queen’s, All Souls). There really are no words to describe when you first see them up close.

stroll1 stroll2

Being a student, I still just can’t believe that I get to be a part of all this. It all still seems just so out of my league. But as luck would have it, I crossed over the adorable, not to mention quite aptly named “Logic Lane” for the first time. I immediately wondered how many couples had ventured onto this street in the midst of an argument, realized where they were standing, and made up immediately because such occurrences are just too damn good to ignore.


As my walk took me further into the city, I was once again greeted by the many talents of Oxford’s street performers. Today, I had the privilege of listening to, in my opinion, the most brilliant opera singer I’ve ever heard. It was surreal. There she was in jeans, with a little Peavey amp and a pie tin for money, belting out “Ave Maria” with a power I’ve never experienced before. Once again, I’m sorry for the lack of pic on this one, but I was once again so mesmerized by her voice, I just forgot.

I wanted to just stay there the whole day and listen to her sing, but unfortunately I had to carry on :( Luckily, my spirits were lifted when I came across another performer who, unlike his predecessor, was much more keen on making people laugh than weep. No description needed, the title of “Bunny Bubbles” says it all.


I must say as much as love taking these random walks throughout the City Centre, they do make me glad that I’m not living there. When I first applied to Oxford for housing, I listed accommodation in the city as my first choice. I’m so glad I didn’t get it. Nothing against the city, it is a wonderful place to visit for the day. But it is so overrun with tourists that it would be like living directly in Times Square. Plus, it makes it all the more refreshing to come home to my neighborhood everyday. Cowley is a popular area as well, but more with students, and it definitely never gets as crowded.

Next, I made a quick stop, actually it was more like a pilgrimage, the Oxford University Press Bookstore! Once again, no words, just pure, nerdy bliss…


Anyways (after yet another famous digression), I got to my college a little while later, and for the first time dared to check my mail. I’m trying so hard to conceal the fact that for the most part I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing, that it inevitably only makes it more clear that I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing (it’s a vicious cycle). Luckily, the Head Porter, Paul, is EXTREMELY patient with my ignorance and has a great sense of humor. He showed me where the pigeonholes were located, and I was able to cross the mail milestone off my list (Phew!).

After that, I decided to be brave and finally journey to the famous Bodleian Library, as call me crazy, this might be a useful building in the future. I got a tad lost at one point but managed to avoid panic and got back on the right street (I’m getting there!). And after that, I made it back to the Exam Schools around 3:30 to finish up Orientation and to open my UK Bank Account (yay!).

At this point, my phone was down to about 9% battery, so I had no choice but to go back home to charge it. I had been planning on staying in the city, as there was a college BBQ at 5pm, but as we all know too well, iPhone trumps all (sad).

Now just to reiterate, I probably walked collectively about 5 miles today. I conquered treacherous cobblestones and innumerable marble staircases with no railings with grace and ease. So of course what happens next? I spectacularly face-plant right in the middle of Cowley Street about a block from home!

To be fair, I knew it was coming: I am a born tripper by nature and am as uncoordinated as someone wearing roller-skates during an earthquake. Plus, I had been having little mini-stumbles all week, which I knew had to be a prelude to the great fall to come. Worst part was that there was absolutely no good reason for it. There was not a stone or bump or piece of uneven pavement in sight. I just went down! Trust me when I fall, I make sure I MEAN IT (it’s the overachiever in me).

Was it incredibly embarrassing? Absolutely. There were dozens of people on the street and in their cars who saw the whole thing (one very nice gentleman stopped his car to make sure I was fine).

Am I used to this sort of thing? Absolutely again. This ain’t my first time at the gravity rodeo! My old nemesis and I have met many times before, and we will again. Plus, it does make me feel good that I gave so many people a funny story to recount when they went out to the pub later haha! So from the bottom of my heart, you’re welcome Cowley :)

A few scrapes and a twisted ankle later, I made it back to my room, still planning on the BBQ. Unfortunately, my ankle had different plans, as when I tried to get up again, it screamed NOOO!!! I was so pissed at myself as I had been looking forward to the BBQ with my friends, but eh, nothing to do about it at this point.

Yulia, once again drained from a day of lawyer-ing, had decided not to go, so I only had to disappoint Jenny and Lid with the absence of my glowing presence (HELLO EGO!).

I let them know what had happened and then commenced turning my office chair into a temporary walker. Luckily, I am in possession of a massive amount of Tylenol, so I was not without some relief.

A couple hours later, I got literally the sweetest surprise ever, as Jenny and Lid stopped by to bring me chocolates (which as we know cures EVERYTHING!!). They totally made my night with that :)


They then regaled me with the events of the BBQ, which was slightly less than stellar. You had to bring your own meat to cook, which most people didn’t know about, otherwise, you didn’t get to eat (lame). There was also another unfortunate, awkward encounter with “Mini Cooper”. Let’s just say nothing has changed and everything we suspected was spot on.

Regardless, Lid and Jen made it back unscathed with groceries, my chocolates, and McDonalds in tow. They kept asking if I was sure I didn’t need to go to the hospital which was so nice and sweet! We soon all decided to call it a night, but not before Lid, Jen, and Yulia all made sure to let me know to ask them if I needed anything :)

I swear for a day that included a serious face-plant, a twisted ankle,  and a slightly bruised ego, it was actually one of the best days so far in Oxford.

“A Breather (But Not Through My Nose)”

I hate to repeat myself in any sense, but in this case it is necessary: Day 4 in Oxford, and I still feel like shit! Whatever I have has now moved from my throat into my chest. My voice literally makes me sound like a 14 year-old boy who just hit puberty.

Ironically, despite the way-more-than-the-recommended-dosage amount of cold pills I took, I woke up insanely early (at least that’s what 7:30 is to me). I decided to have a little breakfast and then drag my pitiful ass back to bed.

However, as it turned out, this was the first day that the maintenance guy came to clean our rooms. Yes, at Oxford we are so spoiled that we have someone to vacuum, dust, and clean our bathrooms (I’m sorry!!).

In order to both not be in his way and to hopefully breathe through my nose again, I thought this would be a good time to walk up the street a bit to the local pharmacy for some decongestant spray.

On the way back, I decided to finally take a stroll through the old church in the neighborhood, The Church of Mary and St. John. It has these absolutely beautiful pathways that wind around the tombstones in the churchyard. Most of the headstones date back to the mid-19th century. Most afternoons when I’ve walked by, I’ve usually seen teenagers hanging out there talking and smoking, and mothers taking their kids for walks. But this morning, it was different. It was completely empty and quiet, which made it all the more inviting. Step into that churchyard and you’ve stepped completely out of time. Immediately there is a peace that floods over you, as if you’ve never been more safe in your life.

Normally, I would feel weird and slightly disrespectful just roaming around a cemetery with delight. But I couldn’t help myself. Being there made me feel like I was the last and only person on earth. But there was no loneliness, no fear, just this blanket of silence.

Well after waxing poetic (not well I might add), I journeyed back to my flat, nose spray in tow, and reinhabited my now fantastically clean smelling room.

I then spent the majority of the day in bed, knocked out in a NyQuil coma. I apologize for the lack of high-octane thrills in this post which you may have come to expect. But hey everyone’s gotta have a slow day.

There was, however, a special treat: I finally found a way to watch the new episode of “Sons of Anarchy” in the UK!! It had aired on Tuesday, so I was dying to see it. Plus, I knew this episode marked the return of Venus Van Dam, the Belle who does not Tell! Played by the insanely talented Walter Goggins, Venus is a fan-favorite and literally one of the best characters in the history of television.

Bottom line: no matter what your day has been like, “a little Venus love” cures all :)

“Tea, Anyone?”

How is Day 3 (10/1) starting off? With me feeling like someone has taken a Brillo Pad to my throat!!! Of course just as I’m starting to seriously enjoy myself, my damn immune system has to go MIA on me! Not really though, I know it’s just the nature of college life. And unfortunately it was not just me, as I discovered throughout the day that Yulia, Lidiya, and Jenny were all feeling the same level of shitty :(

Regardless, we must press on, and after taking a bit more than the recommended dosage of Nyquil, I ventured back out into Cowley, this time with Jenny to go grocery shopping. This was the first time I had undertaken a massive grocery shop in the UK, so I admit I was a bit unprepared.

tesco1 tesco2

As is common in the U.S., I have been spoiled by my car, and thus am not used to having to lug a week’s worth of groceries home on foot. But as it turns out it wasn’t so bad. I discovered many new cool things in the local Tesco’s: Polish Cheetos (which as far as I’m concerned is the only kind to eat now), Krispy Kreme (AAAHHHH), and coconut water, which definitely will make my soon to be sister-in-law Miranda happy. The Polish Cheetos by the way are not like regular American Cheetos but are closer to Cheetos Puffs. Either way, RIDICULOUS!

cheetos krispykreme coconut sandwich

After our Tesco expedition, Jenny and I walked home with about £100 of stuff collectively in tow. It was definitely a good workout for our arms and legs, although bruises of every sort and shape were rampant. Regardless, it was actually fun.

Everyday there is a feeling of a bit more freedom, a bit more independence. I’m 25, and as sad as it may sound, I’ve never completely been on my own before. That being said, I know what it is to have to take care of myself plus another person. I guess what I’m getting at is these past few days are really the first where I’ve only had to think about myself, and no one else. It made me realize that I’m almost a stranger to myself sometimes. In a way, without getting religious or anything, it’s sort of like being born all over again. At times, I’m like a child grasping and searching for a piece of steady earth that makes me feel like I’m truly here. And while it may not seem like much, grocery shopping on a Wednesday afternoon in Oxford got me one step closer to that goal.

Anyway, back to reality. We got home, sweaty and a bit more ripped if I do say so myself, and began putting stuff away. Afterwards, some much needed rest was capitalized on as well as some snacking.

That evening, the main social event was a movie night at 7:30 which I planned to attend with “The Mojito Gang”. Unfortunately, we all kind of simultaneously hit our wall in terms of energy and feeling not like crap. I had been fighting a sore throat all day and later discovered the rest of us were doing the same. Jenny was understandably exhausted and decided to skip out on the evening, trading it for Marvel PJs and a “Castle” marathon (RESPECT). Yulia had also spent her whole day in the Law Library and deserved every bit of rest she could get. Lidiya was already in the city center, having spent her afternoon meeting her department colleagues, and planned to head to the college afterwards.

I decided to join her, despite my feeling less than awesome, as I was looking forward to lil evening out. Plus, I desperately needed to learn how to ride the bus myself so I actually know where I’m going once classes start (useful maybe?!?). But I did it! Cheated a little by following other people who were getting off in the City Centre, but hey it’s a start. I only got lost one time when walking to STX, but this did allow me to stumble across a really cool street performer, of which there is an abundance of in Oxford. When I came across him, he was seriously nailing an acoustic rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. I wish I’d snapped a pic but I was so mesmerized that I forgot :(

At last I found my college, but unfortunately, at the last minute, the time for the movie was changed from 7:30 to 8:30, and we all got to the Common Room way too soon. This turned out to be not so bad as we got to meet some new people (another circle to go round) who all were very nice. Lidiya also had one of her famous moments which I now exclusively refer to as “Lidiya-isms”.

In this case, it was Lid asking a guy who had come into the Common Room to join us and take his clothes off. She just meant his jacket, but it was a truly wonderful moment. She always has a way of breaking the tension and making everyone laugh whether it’s intentional or not. She apologized of course, but I just reminded her that no matter what mistakes she makes in her pretty much perfect English from time to time, they could never compare with the stupid things I would say in Bulgarian if I knew any :)

Lidiya was exhausted, however, and not feeling great herself, and as I was definitely not dead-set on seeing the movie, we decided to walk home together.

Once again, any night out walking in Oxford is like drifting through a dream. There really is no better place to just saunter around and discover. On the way, Lidiya decided she was going to make ginger tea for me, Yulia, and herself, which was such a lovely gesture. So we stopped at the Tesco’s in the City Centre. Plus, she was so excited to finally show me her adorable tiny tea kettle that I had heard so much about.

As we walked home, we once again had another one of those amazing conversations where you talk about anything and everything. We discussed among many other things, the events of the previous night and how inappropriate it got at times. Let’s just say it was apparent to both of us that what happened was so obviously rehearsed and not the first time for the other parties involved.

We also discussed our frustrations with how women are treated based on what they’re wearing; like it’s an invitation to eschew all social courtesy and blatantly hit on someone just because they are wearing a nice cocktail dress (LAME!). Newsflash: being sociable in a bar does not equal an open invitation for sex. It’s just being nice.

Lid also had another of her precious “Lidiya-ism” moments, when I complimented her on her amazing nails and she offered to “do me”. Immediately she realized how it came off and was embarrassed but seriously, it’s those things that make my night!

Once we got back, Lidiya and I went to the kitchen to get the tea started (that is to say Lidiya made the tea from fresh ginger and lemon zest while I watched). Yulia joined us shortly after we got back, and once again all 3 of us had one of those awesome conversations that just go all over the place. We talked about sex, gender inequality, sexual assault, racial and ethnic stereotypes, and, just to lighten the mood, the little tea kettle I had seen in an antique shop on the way home that SOOO wanted to get (on sale for £19.50 which is still a lot but it was hand-painted and had a matching tea cup!!).

For some reason, the one point (although many excellent ones were made) that stuck in my head was Yulia’s about the stereotypes of Ukrainian women. She explained how automatically when most people hear she is from the Ukraine there is the instant connotation of being easy or being a prostitute. Once the USSR collapsed, so many women from her country were and still are forcibly trafficked for sex. I was aware of this problem prior to her discussing it, but something about Yulia talking about it from her own personal perspective just made it all the more sad. It made me realize how lucky I am.

Yulia also expressed her frustration with how when people find out that her family is from the eastern part of Ukraine, that she must automatically be sympathetic to Russia and their takeover of Crimea. She doesn’t mind people asking her about the whole situation (I have done so myself), but it’s when someone speaks to her about it authoritatively when they have no personal experience of what’s happening there that she gets a bit aggravated (rightly so). Sometimes it’s almost like the countries involved are nothing more than pieces on a chess board when discussed. I think it’s meeting Yulia and putting a face to what before was just a headline on CNN is what makes the difference.

We all have our own unique problems, tragedies, biases (myself very much included) but making assumptions like the ones above is an action I am now going to be even more vigilant about in the future.

Sorry, didn’t mean to get too serious there!! In the end, the night was once again quite lovely. The ginger really helped my throat and having a quiet evening in was just what I needed.

It just goes to show you that sometimes, the best way to experience Oxford is not in the many historical landmarks or city attractions, but rather in a student kitchen with a sore throat talking with your friends.

“STX, Salsa, and Some Serious Popping and Locking”

Welcome back for Day 2 (9/30) of my interesting Oxford experience (that’s definitely in the eye of the beholder!). Taking into account my serious jet lag and that I didn’t get home until midnight last night, I ended up sleeping for like 12 hours :)

Needless to say it was mid-afternoon by the time I got up and out. There were some more Freshers’ events that I could have gone to, but I decided hanging out in Cowley and running errands was higher up on the agenda.

This brings me to my first trek to Tesco’s, the local grocery store (they are in fact all over the UK). Nothing too special to report there, just bought general things like tea, water, toilet paper etc. ya know all the fancy stuff.

I got back to my flat around 4:30-5pm and made my first pilgrimage into the group kitchen. Kind of just put things away where there was space, although I guess I’ll find out later if I’ve mistakenly invaded another roommate’s territory.

The main event for that night was a Cocktail Night at the STX Bar (yes, one of my new favorite things about the UK, they cut out the middleman and put the bars in the colleges. Take note USA!).

Anywho, Lidiya, Yulia, and I decided to meet up outside our building and take the bus into town together. We got there around 9-9:15, and as we were expecting, it was CRAZY CROWDED. Of course you tell hundreds of students that there will be discount cocktails at a bar, and it’s like March of the Fresher Penguins!

We stood in line for about 20 minutes, trying not to sweat to death, and making conversation with a few new people. This is where we all first met Jenny, an American student doing an MSt. in Environmental Archaeology (quick note: for master’s programs at Oxford the main types are either an MSt. or an M.Phil. The components vary across the disciplines but basically the main difference is the Mst. is one year and the M.Phil is two).

But I digress (see I warned you it would happen again). As it turns out not only did Jenny live in the same building as the three of us, but she also is from Washington DC, is in the room next to mine, and our birthdays are only one day apart! I know that the odds of something like that happening are not nonexistent, but still to come all the way to Oxford and to end up living next to someone who lives basically an hour-and-a-half away from you in the States is pretty cool (to me anyways!).

We all finally got our drinks (shot of Jager and a Red Stripe for me please) and sat down to talk some more. It was incredibly loud in the bar (I know obvious) so conversation was a bit of a challenge but we made do. It was at this point that Lidiya spotted someone she knew, an unnamed guy as I have yet to obtain his permission to use it. So for the sake of anonymity, we’ll just call him “Mini Cooper”.

After a few more attempts at conversation despite the massive inability to hear the person sitting next you, we all decided to go upstairs to the Common Room to talk. It was at this point that things got a bit awkward as there were some mixed signals happening between certain people and some unwanted attention going on (keeping it vague out of respect for the parties involved lol).

Despite this, we all decided to go out clubbing together, with two other guys in tow (once again for the sake of anonymity as I have not obtained their permission to use their real names, we will call them “Cherry” and “Roy”)-all pseudonyms are totally random!!

Unfortunately, we experienced a bit of a problem with the clubs as they were not accepting Uni Cards as IDs and were asking for Passports or licenses. Okay, first of all, walking around with your Passport is not a very smart thing (which is why I had mine), but others did not so we were not able to get into any clubs that night.

However, we did end up going back to STX and making our own party in the IT room. A bottle of wine, some fun, disco lights, and some killer dance moves later, we were all living it up pretty well! We did a bit more karaoke (“Timber” by Pitbull & Ke$ha and “Chandelier” by Sia were the main ones), and then we just fully gave ourselves up to the dance fever that usually possesses a bunch of 20-somethings after a few drinks.

We threw it back to some old-school Black-Eyed Peas, Missy Elliot, and of course “Milkshake” (American Classic!!). Lidiya also attempted to teach us all some basic salsa moves. She was an excellent teacher, but I was not much of a student.

After that (and a few interested people coming in and out wondering what the hell we were all doing in there, as well a few more awkward, misinterpreted signals later), Jenny, Lidiya, Yulia, and I all decided to call it a night and walk home. It’s a good 35-40 min. walk from the city back to our building, but Oxford is such a lovely place to walk around at night. Plus, it’s so cool at night this time of year that it was an unbelievably pleasant respite from the sauna we had created after popping and locking so hard!

Conversation was once again hilarious, interesting, and easy when you’re hanging out with a group of girls who are as cool as we are (ego popping up once again). Plus, Jenny was such a wonderful, welcome addition that we immediately decided to make her the fourth member of our “Mojito Gang”. Thus why I had to wait until now to post the first official pic of “THE MOJITO GANG”: (drum roll please…)

mojito gang

“The Birth of the Mojito Gang”


Okay, so this first post will be a little backdated (9/29) but bear with me.

First day in Oxford was hectic!! After 2 planes (totaling 10 hours), a bus, and 2 taxis, I finally made it to my room. For those of you who have stayed in the typical American dorm rooms before, trust me it gets much better in grad school (at least at Oxford lol).

The room is small but so lovely. I have my own bathroom (HALLELUJAH!), the bed is nice and comfy, quality desk, drawers, lamp, what more can a student ask for?


We all share a kitchen and washer/dryer but so far everything has been nice and clean.

Once I arrived, I was of course a bit jet-lagged and tired, but I was so excited to be here that there was no way I was going to sleep! So I decided to put on more comfortable clothes and go explore my neighborhood a bit.

The main road that runs through where I’m living is called Cowley Road, and it is literally like the whole world is living on one street. There are an innumerable amount of shop and restaurants with food from every country you can think of.

What I truly love is how all of these exceptionally modern places are built around the kind of the classic architecture one expects when they think of Oxford. There’s literally a 400 year old church (don’t quote me on that), just in the middle of pharmacies, groceries stores, and car washes. I love when you have that kind of historical juxtaposition right in front of you.

I walked for a bit and explored (while simultaneously looking for a place that sold a hairdryer). I eventually found this neat little discount shop with every appliance, sundry item, toiletry you can possibly think of. Everything is crammed in there so tight you can barely get down the aisles. Thus if you’re claustrophobic in any way, not the place for you! But I was successful in my blow-dryer crusade and afterwards walked back to my flat.

That night (which was the first night in what will be 2 weeks of orientation activities), Freshers of St Cross (my college) gathered for a night out in Cowley. Quick note: at universities like Oxford and Cambridge, they have individual colleges within the university where you live. It’s kind of along the same lines as the four houses of Harry Potter, except there are 38 at Oxford and unfortunately none of them include a Chamber of Secrets (as far as I know).

As some of you may know, a few scenes from Harry Potter were actually filmed in Oxford (the Great Hall, the oak tree where Malfoy gets turned into a ferret) so it kind of fits :) All colleges have people from all over the world studying in all different disciplines (so it’s not like there’s one college for Biology people and another for Modern Languages etc.). Some colleges have both undergrads and grad students, but mine is graduate only.

Anyway, we all gathered and went out to an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately about double the number of people showed up than what had RSVP’d, so we had to break up into two groups. I decided to go with the smaller group (about 12-15 people) in search of another restaurant. We eventually ended up finding this all you can eat, Chinese-Thai-Indian buffet which was amazing. Conversation was much easier to make with the smaller group as you don’t feel obligated to talk to 30+ people.

I was very happy not only for that reason but because that is where I met Yulia and Lidiya. Yulia is from the Ukraine and doing a D.Phil (PhD) in Law and Lidiya is from Bulgaria and studying Social Interventions. We had made some initial small talk given the situation, but it was not until I, inadvertently, said something that made Lidiya and Yulia laugh that we started to become more than just general acquaintances.

Once again out of respect, I won’t get too specific with names of people who don’t know I’m writing this blog, but let’s just say someone was talking with their mouth full, and I, once again inadvertently and off the cuff, managed to shut it. This was appreciated by my new comrades so much that afterwards when the group went out to a pub, we all bonded over an order of 3 VERY STRONG Mojitos.

And this dear readers was how “The Mojito Gang” was born (yes, I trust future historians will look back on this day with great significance and wonder!)-pic to follow in next post :)

We made more conversation with each other and those around us, which I’m happy to say was much lighter and more interesting than our previous experiences (once again not trying to be disrespectful to anyone, but some people through no fault of their own just don’t work together). Another character of note during this first night in Oxford was Linus, a grad student from Germany doing Medieval Studies (I think this is the right title but if not I’ll correct it!). He added a very calm yet enthusiastic atmosphere to the group which was most welcome.

Afterwards (2 Mojitos later for me), we decided to walk back to our flat. On the way, we (mainly me, Lidiya, and another boy who’s name I cannot remember right now which is terrible but I’ll get it I promise), decided to break out in an impromptu street karaoke performance of “Paradise” by Coldplay and “Hallelujah” by JJ Cale (Shrek version).

IDK why but it just seemed like the right thing to do. Our singing must have been pretty bad because we did manage to chase away one or two members of the group walking home haha.

All in all, this was an altogether EPIC first night in the UK. Great people, great conversation, a lil street performing, what else is there to life?!?!?

*Note: If I have used anyone’s name here, I have acquired permission to do so prior to posting. For future posts, I may end up using pseudonyms for others or just not mention their names altogether. Bottom line: I will not mention someone without first asking if they are comfortable with it. This blog is meant to be honest but respectful at all times.

First UK selfie, take it or leave it :-P
First UK selfie, take it or leave it :-P


Hello! My name is Carlie, and as the domain name might have suggested, I am currently an American living in Oxford. More specifically, I am a first-year (or fresher) graduate student doing my M.Phil in Modern British and European History.

And if the above sentence hasn’t clued you in already, yes, I am a complete and total nerd. Don’t get me wrong, I say that with absolute pride. Our time is coming, and we shall inherit the earth!

But I digress (which will probably happen a lot if I keep this blog up.) Let me start off by saying that this is my first blog-Yes, virgin-blogger right here so be forewarned! What I’m hoping is that over time, the blog will kind of settle into a standard format. I’ll try to be consistent and thematic in my posts, but as I don’t know what’s coming my way each day, anything could happen (suspense!).

Here’s a little more background on me: I am originally from Virginia and did my undergrad work at a beautiful little college called Randolph-Macon (please, please, please do not refer to it as Randy-Mac as it sounds like a bad McDonald’s order). I graduated with a BA in, you guessed it, history in 2013. I am 25 years old, and as of today (9/30), I am on my second day of living in Oxford.

Now some of you may be asking “Why are you, by American standards, 3-4 years older than the average first-year grad student?” Excellent question!

Well, as with my most of my stories, it’s kind of long, but I can give you the highlights. I graduated high school in 2007, and like the rest of my friends, was planning on going to college that Fall. My choice was a school in Pennsylvania, which out of courtesy and respect, I will not name, but I ended up hating it and decided to leave. It was nothing against the college, but it just WAS NOT a good fit for me.

However, this turned out to be a moot point because in November 2007 my mother ended up having a massive stroke, and as a result, I spent almost the next 2 years taking care of her. Now if any of you are thinking about feeling sorry for me, don’t. My mom was my best friend and literally the coolest, funniest, most outrageous person ever.

Her condition improved gradually, and I was able to reapply to colleges, getting accepted to R-MC in 2009.

Now for you math people out there (I both envy and despise you :-P), you may have figured out this still leaves one year unaccounted for. Well, you’re right. Even though I graduated from R-MC in 2013, I did not come to Oxford until Fall 2014. This is because during my first round of applications to grad schools (Oxford was not a part of it), I did not get accepted ANYWHERE! Yes this was a huge blow to me and my enormous ego, but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when life slaps you in the face, you figure out a way to come back and kick it in the balls.

So, as my mom’s health had started declining again, I decided a gap year would be good so I could focus on her and try reapplying the next year. Well that’s just what I did, and while I had a similar experience with most of my grad schools as before, Oxford came through, and it was an absolutely surreal, dream-come-true moment. It wasn’t just my ego (which as I said is inherently enormous) that made this so exciting, but since my area of history is Reformation England, there is literally no better place to be.

Unfortunately, with the good always comes the shitty, and in this case it was the death of my mom less than 2 months before I came here. It was devastating and horrible, but she had been so sick and in so much pain for so long that dying in her sleep was all I could ask for. I couldn’t do much to relieve her pain in life, so I am thankful that now she does not have to suffer anymore. That being said, I am not particularly religious, despite my fascination with religious history. I am totally fine with anything and everything people want to believe or not believe, whether you are of a devout faith or an atheist does not matter to me. As Ricky Gervais so adoringly says on one of my favorite shows, Derek: “I’ve met people who believe in God that are good and that are bad. And I’ve met people who don’t believe in God that are good and that are bad. So, just be good.”

That’s my basic philosophy: just treat people with kindness and do the best you can with what you’ve got. Beyond that, I don’t sweat the details.

Now coming back to the main reason for this blog: Oxford. If there’s one thing I learned as an undergrad is that in writing, you must first define your terms. So I figured I should tell you, to the best of my ability, what this blog will and won’t be about.

To put it quite simply, this blog will be about me and my experiences, daily successes and fumbles, and general navigation as an American student studying in the UK. Now that being said, I want to clearly establish that I am not trying to sum up the typical experience of an Oxford student, because frankly there isn’t one (about 1/3 of students at Oxford are international). We come from all different backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, and we all experience the city and culture of Oxford in our own way. We all have our own stories and me blogging about mine does mean I hold it to be better or more interesting than anyone else’s. It is just mine.

All I am trying to accomplish with putting out this blog is to not only give people something interesting or fun to read (hopefully!) but also to help me make sense of the crazy roller-coaster ride that I am currently on. It won’t be perfect or without pain, but with any luck, it will change me for the better.

Now if you have found any of this intriguing, please feel free to read on and immerse yourself in my journey. I will try to update as regularly as possible. I am hesitant at this point to suggest a time frame due to the fact that I am in the midst of two weeks of orientation, after which my tutorial starts. And once that happens, I have no idea how much time I’ll have each week or each day to devote to this, but I promise you I will do my best.

Best wishes, luck, and love to all of you, whoever and wherever you may be and in whatever you are doing. I appreciate beyond words you taking the time to read anything I’ve written.


“I expect to pass through this world but once,

Any good I can do,

Let me do it now,

For I shall not pass this way again.”

-19th century Quaker quote

Life's Motto
Life’s Motto