Attending an Oxford University Ball

I attended my first official Oxbridge ball at Keble College, Oxford last weekend. This massive college transformed itself to Gaia Machina – a rebirth of the earth through a machine that rebuilds the ecosystems after humans destroyed it. A very new-age, green theme to fit the growth of the sustainability movement. It was very edgy and different. Overall, I had a blast with Conor, but it some areas it was underwhelming. As a ball planner myself, it was hard to turn off the critical part of my brain and just enjoy the event. Below I will give an overview of everything Keble had to offer, what I partook in, and some final thoughts.

Typical ball pictures in front of the Rad Cam

All of this information could be found on their app. The app was available for download a few days in advance but none of the information was released until around 5pm on Saturday evening. Their app was informational and easy to use. There were different tabs, such as Ents, Music, Food and Drinks, that could be sorted by location or time. There was an overall map, though it wasn’t very functional or interactive, but worked. I was able to favorite certain things, which then showed up in the My Ball tab which I liked. There were also push notifications which were helpful throughout the night. There was a menu that had additional tabs for How to Use the App, About the Ball, Committee, Sponsors, Charities, and Settings.

Food:

  • Yubba Yubba Doughnuts
    • These doughnuts were to die for! They were freshly made in front of me, with a choice of chocolate sauce or cinnamon. I chose the chocolate sauce and Conor chose the cinnamon – there was not a wrong choice, both were an incredible, delectable treat.
  • Bittenclub Gyoza
    • These gyoza were absolutley worth the hassle of a line. People streamlined for these when they first arrived, pushing and rubbing up against one another. It was basically a gyoza moshpit. But it was so so worth it! These were delicious bite sized portions, which I went back for later during the main headliner when there was no line! (pro-tip here from a beginner)
  • Alfonso Gelato
  • Dough and Deer Wood-Fired Pizza
    • This line was one-hundred people long the entire night. Waiting thirty minutes to an hour in line for one slice of pizza was not a priority for me, so I skipped this stall, but it smelled delicious. It did have an awkward placement, right next to the toilets.
  • The Missing Bean
    • This cute little stand was placed at the front of the college where the champagne reception was. It was run by the kindest humans! I ordered two Earl Grey’s, which were delicious and the wait was about five minutes!
  • Piadina Project
  • Taste Tibet
  • Mac to the Future
  • Los Churros Amigos
  • Kelly’s Occasions Fondue
    • I was so excited for fondue! But by 10pm it was ravished and turned off. Unfortunate for people who wanted to miss the crazy rush in the beginning of the ball to avoid any chocolate spills on dresses and suits.
  • Breakfast

Drinks:

  • Sipsmith Gin Bar
    • This was my favorite bar! It had really nice gin (according to Conor because I am still learning) and Fever Tree tonic! The drinks were delicious and pretty! Waited less than five minutes every time.
  • Cocktails in Tunnel of Light
  • Cocktails in Mechanical Meadow
  • Tap Social Movement
  • Gaia Bar
    • This bar had the typical mixer drinks- rum and coke, vodka and lemonade. It had a bunch of seating with music. A nice bar to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Nectar Valley
    • This was the main stage bar with really nice cocktails. I had a Sex on the Beach, which was incredible! They also offered Uptown Spritz, Black Russian, Passionfruit Mojito, Virgin Moscow, and Virgin Sex on the Beach. As well, there were shooters- Baby Guiness, Skittles Bomb, and Jager and Apple. The staff kept the drinks flowing throughout the night so there was never a wait!
  • Wine Bar
    • The wine bar was next to the Shisha which had a bunch a space heaters around. It was a chilly night, so Conor and I spent a lot of time at the wine bar, soaking up the heat waves, and watching the light show projected onto one of the buildings.
  • Alc-au-Lait Milkshakes
    • These were my favorite drinks of the whole night! I had a Bailey’s chocolate milkshake and it was so good! There were four different kinds of alcoholic milkshakes – the bottles were out next to each section so you knew what you were grabbing. I thought the presentation of the milkshakes was great and they came in small cups, which was the perfect portion for a dessert drink.

Music Entertainment:

  • Kate Lomas
  • Isobel Hambleton
  • Green Bean Machine
  • LVRA
  • Sigma
    • Sigma was the headliner for the ball and did not disappoint! I wasn’t sure if I would recognize any of the songs, and I didn’t, but the beats were pretty standard for that EDM/pop vibe so it was super fun to dance along too! Conor and I got pretty far into the center of the moshpit, which was fun for a little bit, but then people actually started moshing and I am not a fan of that (my friend tore her ACL in a moshpit once).
  • Stir Fry Dons
  • Deep Cover
  • Early Hours
  • Goodness
  • Silent Noize
  • ABBA Gold Tribute Band
    • Everyone loves an ABBA tribute band! People came rushing back to the main stage to sing and dance along with ABBA! It was definitely a highlight of the night!

Entertainment (non-music):

  • Tunnel of Light
    • This was a hallway connecting two bars that was covered in light bulbs that changed colors! It was a cool feature wall where a lot of people stopped to take pictures.
  • Caricature Artist
    • I was really excited for this until I actually got to it. There was always a long line because the artist was spending about twenty minutes on each drawing. Her mistake was using colors to paint the drawing. It was a drag because obviously it was really popular but the wait was up to an hour or more, which was ridiculous for something that could’ve been 3-5 minutes per drawing.
  • Planetarium – Nature Dome
    • This was also underwhelming. The wait was about 15-20 minutes to enter a blow up dome with a planetarium show inside. The show lasted about 5 minutes and wasn’t that memorable. Apparently in the past, the dome was twice the size so wait times were shorter, but this year they went with a smaller dome.
  • Light Show
    • Double Take Projections put on an amazing light show on one of the main faces of the college. It was a story about the theme of the ball- Gaia Machina, lasting about eight minutes. Then there were cool projections that played off the architecture of the building, staggered at various intervals for the rest of the night.
  • Shisha
    • While I didn’t partake in the Shisha, this was the only area of the ball with outdoor heaters, so I spent time here, eating the doughnuts and gyoza and drinking wine and tea. This was also the area from which I viewed the light show.
  • Stilt Walkers
    • The stilt walkers were dressed as giant tree people – it was like having a bunch of Groots walking around. They were another fun photo opportunity.
  • Jingo Glitter
Drinking my alcoholic milkshake in the Tunnel of Light

From above, its clear that my priorities at the event were more non-music entertainments focused, food/drinks, and then music focused. I was underwhelmed by the offering of non-music entertainments. There really wasn’t much to do besides music and queuing. I think Keble spent a lot of their budget on music acts, without accounting for what the guests would want to be doing besides listening to music. Additionally, it was quite cold so most guests wanted to be inside or doing things that didn’t involve standing in the cold. By 2am, the only offerings were the Silent Disco and the food and drinks that were left. The ball ended at 4:00am. So for 2 hours, they only had one entertainment option for a limited number of people. Granted by 2am, a significant portion of the guests had left. Conor and I left around 2:30am because of the lack of things to do. By that time, we were had been drinking for awhile and were also full, so I would’ve liked a chill non-music offering.

For my black tie outfit, I bought the black jumpsuit at New Look for about 25 pounds and my black booties are from Francesca’s (I’ve had them for a few years). I did see some girls wearing sneakers, which by 2am I was quite jealous of. Most of the men wore typical black tie, while being a little playful with ties and pocket squares.

Overall, I really enjoyed my night. Conor ended up running into a lot of people he knew from his undergrad in Oxford, so I met a lot of people and had a good social time. The food and drink offerings were great! More non-music ents would’ve made the ball incredible. But definitely would give it a solid 7/10.

Tackling the Difficulties of Finding a Job Abroad

Job searching, my sadistic lover.

When I first began the job hunt, about two months ago, I was wide-eyed, gleaming with excitement, clicking “Save” on every job posting that remotely interested me on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was so excited to begin the journey to my dream job. Two months later and I have bags under my eyes and a love-hate relationship with LinkedIn’s “Jobs” function, but, surprisingly, I haven’t lost hope that I will find and land a job I am actually excited about.

Being 23, I read a mix of Facebook statuses that range from university acceptance letters to pregnancy announcements to the cynical friend who has been job searching for a year and still can’t land a position in their field. Encouraging.

Alas, do not fear, my worried friends, for I am no cynic. In fact, in some cases, like the decision of what to do with the rest of my life, I am entirely optimistic. As I am new the realm of job hunting, I may not be able to offer seasoned advice, but I still think my journey thus far can be helpful to others who maybe haven’t started looking yet, or maybe (like my poor anonymous Facebook friend) are feeling really lost and hopeless in their own search.

When I first started thinking about careers, all I could focus on was working in the education department of museums, so I only looked at jobs in the education department of museums, select museums at that. However, after a conversation with my loving father, I realized that pigeon-holing myself so early was probably not the best idea. In addition, I realized that there were actually other areas in museums I found fascinating, like exhibits and program management. Furthermore, I asked myself what about these jobs do I like and can other jobs, outside museums, offer the same excitement and fascination? Yes! In fact, that loving father I previously mentioned, he went down a rabbit-hole of museum and cultural sector related jobs and industries, and came back up with one of the coolest jobs that I had no idea even existed. Museum and heritage consulting. I could work on a new project every other month in a new museum in a different department or sector! It’s like having your cake and eating it too! And BOY are there a ton of these consulting firms out there, it’s incredible!

Basically, what I am saying, is that I expanded my view of careers I am interested in because I figured out it’s not the career that matters, but what I find interesting, exciting, and engaging that matters. If a career can give me those feelings, I will apply to any job in any industry.

My job hunt is in its infancy, I know that. Most people apply to a hundred jobs, some people apply to five. It depends on a variety of factors and your job search is probably very different than mine. But I am not getting discouraged. Actually, I think the more I job hunt the more encouraged I get- I just keep finding more and more jobs I would want, and that is really exciting. It also offers me the opportunity to see my first job as a temporary job, one that can help me grow and expand into another position or industry down the line. I have so many years in the workforce ahead of me that my first job won’t be my last job. With this knowledge, I am sitting back, relaxing, and taking it one job application at a time.

To be transparent, I have applied to fifteen jobs in the past two months and heard back from a resounding zero. Am I disappointed and discouraged? Not at all. My name is out there, they have my resume and cover letter for the future, and there’s another job application waiting on my desktop. I can apply to five or five hundred, all I need is one to say yes. My odds look pretty good.

Grad School Abroad- What I Didn’t Expect

I moved to England 38 days ago. It feels like years ago. I have nestled in to my one bedroom apartment above the famous Fitzbillies across the street from Pembroke College, my new home. Pictures hanging from string lights adorn my walls and the softest velour throw pillow lays haphazardly on my bed. My planner is filled with notes from each day, quickly scribbled as not to forget the memories as time flies by here.

There were so many images that filled my head when I thought about grad life before moving here. I pictured lonely nights in my room because friends would be hard to make in the graduate program. I pictured endless hours in the library with no reprieve because graduate school is incredibly difficult. I pictured a previously very involved student becoming solely focused on her program because there would be no time for anything besides books. I had built up these expectations of grad school being scary and hard and nothing like my undergrad because that’s all I had been told by mentors and friends.

Well, they were wrong. All of it was wrong…sort of.

I am at home here. In my month of being here, I have forged some of the strongest friendships I have ever known. I joined the university women’s football team and my college’s May Ball committee. I don’t spend countless hours in the library. Not because my program isn’t hard and doesn’t require work, but because I only have one class a day and a lot of time to prioritize. I’ve had many sleepless nights, due mostly to friends and club nights, rather than studying and stress-induced insomnia. In fact, I’ve only cried twice since being here, and one of those times was listening to the cast of Wicked sing “For Good”. Don’t get me wrong, I do get homesick quite often. The amount of times I have looked at my phone screen and quietly whispered to myself “I miss my dog” is too many to count. But I also have created this incredible support system here, fostered through shared experiences and the art of listening. And this is just the beginning.

As a graduate fresher I am constantly asked how I like it here so far. Sometimes it feels a little arrogant to say that I absolutely love it here and there isn’t anything I don’t like because I know that is not the case for everyone. Maybe I am still in the honeymoon phase and the homesickness hasn’t fully hit me. But I would like to think that these feelings are real and they are here to stay.

I truly love grad school, and that was not a sentence I ever thought I would utter.

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7 Tips for the GRE

The GRE is a standardized test that wrecked my summer in DC. Kidding, sort of.

When applying for grad school, the GRE is something you have to take if you want to attend a U.S. university. Sucks, but that’s the chops, so to make it suck less here is my guide to SLAYING the GRE!

IMG_26241. Start studying early.

This one might seem obvious, but how early should you start studying? I suggest about 3-4 months before your test date. This will give you ample time to make it through all the study material and subject matter and still have time for multiple reviews and practice tests leading up to the test. This timeline also allows you to only needing to devote about an hour or two each night to studying. This means you can study and have a full time job, or be a full time student. For me, it meant I could have a full time internship the summer before senior and still take the GRE before the first day of classes in the fall.

2. Your study materials don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

There are so many free online resources you can use! Personally, I bought two study books, one from the Princeton Review and one from Kaplan after I accidentally mailed the Princeton Review one to my home address instead of my D.C. address, as well as the Kaplan GRE vocabulary flashcards, which come with an app for your phone. In all it cost me under $50. Other than that, I used the free resources I found online. With just a quick Google search, you can find study schedules, flash cards, practice tests, and prep advice. I suggest trying a few different things and see what works for you. I was able to study my vocabulary on the Metro to and from work, so when I was at home I devoted my study time to the study books.

3. Track your progress

It is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses early, so you can prioritize your studying. Take a practice test before you start studying. Take it like you would the real exam, no notes, no phone, no computer, no calculator. This is your baseline. The GRE scoring guidelines should be in your practice book or you can find them online. After each section in my book, there was a mini practice test, which I scored. At the end of the Math part, there was another practice test, which I scored as well. I looked back to see if the questions I got wrong at the end of the Math section were part of the smaller sections I struggled with. I used these to note which sections needed more help than others and found other resources online to help me. I did this with the Reading and Writing portions too.

4. Take lots of practice tests.

The more you practice like it is the real test, the better you will do and the better you will understand what you need to work on. The practice tests are long, so make sure you block enough time out of your day to do the whole thing at once.

5. Understand what the essays want.

The two essays on the GRE are different than previous standardized tests. They are looking for more than a cookie cutter five paragraph essay, but they are not overly complex. The two different types require different writing skills. There are many free online resources that can help you and your study book should have practice essay questions and reviews.

6. Prepare for the week leading up to the test.

At this point, you should mostly be completing practice tests, reviewing vocab, and checking on a few key areas for review. Two days prior to your test should be your last study day. I do not suggest studying the day before or the day of the test. Give your brain and mind some rest. Eat well, load up on carbs like an athlete would and protein. Your brain needs fuel so it can remember all that you have learned and make it through the long test. The day before your test, try to relax, maybe have a movie night, or do yoga, something that calms you.

IMG_1668For the day of the test, you should have picked a time that will allow you ample time to get to your testing center and a time of day during which you work well. For me, it was late afternoon. This allowed me the morning and early afternoon to make sure I was well rested, well fed, and at the testing center with enough time before my test. In addition, I packed snacks and water.

7. Finally, make sure you are prepared for the test day of.

The testing center is required to take certain security measures, so make it easy on yourself. Dress accordingly, it can get cold in testing centers. Don’t bring too much extra stuff, just your snacks and water (left outside the testing room), and any materials you need in the testing room.

Now, breathe, relax. You know more than you could possibly regurgitate in a three hour test. You got this! Go kick the GRE’s butt.

The Road to Grad School

I took the path less traveled.

Actually, I am not sure about the statistics on that so maybe I didn’t. But, the path I did take led me to Cambridge University, and here’s how I did it.

I majored in Anthropology at the Ohio State University. Very exciting, great school, super awesome memories. But what was I going to do with my degree? Most people I talk to have absolutely no idea what Anthropology is. The closest most people come is, “Like Ross from friends!!”…no, nothing like Ross from friends. He is a Paleontologist who studies dinosaurs. Anthropologists study people, humankind, its history and its future. For me, I have always been fascinated by museums, especially natural history ones. So, I decided to pursue a career in the museum field, which means I have to go to grad school.

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The Road to Grad School:

1. Research Programs

In order to know which schools to apply to, you need to know what program you want to pursue. That’s the first step. Sit down and think about the career you want and then do some research on people in that career. Do they have higher degrees? What are their degrees in? Does that interest you?

2. Research Schools

Now that you know which program you want to pursue, you can begin looking for schools that have that program. There are different search engines you can use for this, but I started with a quick Google search. This led me down a rabbit hole of how many different schools offer anthropology grad degrees. I narrowed my search because there were specific schools I had in mind. I made a list of reach schools and safety schools, both domestic and abroad. For each school, I marked down deadlines, unique qualities, faculty I could work with, cost, and duration. I narrowed my list down to twelve schools. There is no right or wrong number of schools to apply to, it depends entirely upon you.

3. Take the GRE

For US schools, almost all will require GRE scores. For universities abroad, in my experience, none required GRE scores. This is something to take into account when researching schools and applying to schools, since the GRE is expensive. However, your GRE test scores are good for ten years, so if you think you will be doing a PhD or another master’s program after this one, it might be useful to take the GRE when you still have most of that information in your head. I have another post of prepping for and taking the GRE, check that out for more information.

4. Apply to Schools

Applying to grad school is b*tch.

First you will need recommendation letters from people who can speak to your ability to complete the coursework, such as a professor or research advisor. You will want to ask for these letters with ample time before the deadline, at least three weeks. Also, it is helpful to provide the referee with a word document outlining the list of the schools, their programs, the deadline, and where to send the letter.

Next, the actual application. There will be essays. Sometimes multiple for one application. For example, the Cambridge application has six short essays I had to provide. Definitely get a head start on the applications, like two to three months before they are due. You will have time to write, and rewrite, your essays, have them revised by a professor, and finalized well before the due date. You may also need samples of work. I used past class assignments and also wrote new samples for applications, it just depends on whether you think you already have something worthy or need something new. I would seek advice from a professor on your sample of work.

The applications can seem daunting, time-consuming, stressful, and, well, a lot. That’s because they are. But, with preparation and planning, you can nail them and be accepted to the school of your dreams! The final downside to applications, money. Each application will cost you at least an arm, if not also a leg. This is why I narrowed down my school list and applied to my top schools first. While I started with a list of twelve, I only ended up applying to four because one of my top choices got back to me in the beginning of November, so I didn’t need to apply to other school that I wasn’t in love with. If your applications have a rolling deadline, apply early for the schools that you LOVE and dream about going to. That way, if you hear back soon, you won’t need to submit other applications, most of which are due early January up to May.

5. Apply for Funding

This one is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough, research as many funding opportunities as you possibly can, and apply to ALL of them. I researched funding from every single organization and club I have ever been a part of. I researched local scholarships in my hometown. National scholarships from large corporations and charities. National and International fellowships, like the Fulbright and Rhodes. The funding process is stressful and long and daunting, but in the end it will pay off! Imagine having your entire course funded! That would be the dream. For me, I applied to everything under the sun, won a couple, and am still taking out big loans (not fun). Master’s funding is more limited than undergraduate and PhD funding, so apply for anything you can, even if you think its too competitive or you don’t quite fit the qualifications. The worst that can happen is you get rejected, but you don’t even have the opportunity to win anything if you don’t apply. So apply!

6. Making the Decision

By now, you have submitted your applications and have heard back from some or all of your schools. Make sure you note the deadline for accepting an offer so you don’t miss it. But also take your time in making your decision. By the end of my process, I had been accepted to Cambridge University, Oxford, Columbia, and the University of Sydney. Each of them had their pros and cons, and it took me months to finally choose (some of this time due to waiting to hear on funding). This decision is your’s. Not your parents’, not your professors’ decision. Your’s. You are the one who has to live in the town/city, read the material, work in that field. So do yourself a favor, and take your time.

I had always dreamed of going abroad for school, which knocked Columbia out (they also don’t offer postgraduate financial aid). The University of Sydney is where I applied for the Fulbright, which I didn’t win, so that was out. It came down to Oxford and Cambridge, how does one choose between the two? It took me four months to decide and be firm in my decision. I looked at the universities and what they offer, which, unhelpfully, are basically the same. So for me, it came down to the program, which one I wanted to be in more. The one at Oxford was tailored specifically to museums, whereas the one at Cambridge is a broad anthropology degree. I chose Cambridge for the flexibility the degree gives me in future decisions. And now, I am one month away from flying across the pond on a one way ticket to the rest of my life 🙂

This is my path, I hope you find, and follow, your’s.