Year One All Done

Oh hi there, blog! Yes, I remember you. I knew I’d be terrible at this. Much has happened since I last wrote here, whenever the hell that was. Well, maybe not that much, but a few things! Most importantly, probably, is the fact that the first year of my MA is done. That feels a bit weird. We went to the symposium for the second year students, where they all presented their final projects, and I got a little sad about how quick everything’s going and about having to leave. But I still have a lot of time! So I need to stop freaking out and just enjoy it.

Here is a picture I shamelessly stole from my friend Kim, of our MA group. They’re pretty great.

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I had a pretty terrible end of year tutorial wherein my course leader basically thought I was grumpy, sad, and lonely. Yet somehow still enjoying London? I am occasionally grumpy, for sure, but I am not sad or lonely, and I have many of these people to thank for that. I had a lot of warm mushy feelings for everyone recently! I recall being sort of miserable back in October, not really sure what I’d gotten myself into. Sort of struggling to find my footing in London while still trying to make the most of my time here. But things have gotten much better! And I’ve met a lot of really great people–the ones above and others!–and had a lot of fun. This has included many hours spent drinking, pub quizzes, parties, museuming, etc. I feel pretty good about things. So I was a bit sad to leave London. Leave London? Why yes, I am now up in Scotland, in Aberdeen, for the month of July. I’m here for my work placement, but there’ll be more on that later, promise.

One thing that probably needs mentioning is my latest hobby, velodrome cycling. I say it is a hobby, but really it is a thing I for some reason agreed to do and am still sort of petrified of, but is fun? I have a friend here who is really into cycling. Well, I know a few people here who are really into cycling, but this one guy is REALLYYYY into it. So he races and things. And goes to the velodrome. You know, that bicycle track you saw on the Olympics where they’re riding up steep banking? And the bikes have no brakes and your feet are strapped into the pedals? Yeah, that. There’s a velodrome in Herne Hill, which is not too far from where I live, from the 1948 Olympics. It is now open to the public, and they have induction sessions on the weekend. Sunday evenings, there is a women’s-only session, which is much less crowded and stressful than their Saturday open to all session. I went one week with Kim, and while I did manage to topple over and scrape myself up pretty good, I still had fun with it, so agreed to go again a couple weeks later with two more of our friends in tow. I don’t think this is something I’ll ever be good at, and I definitely won’t be competitive in it, but…there’s something fun about it for sure. I think I like cycling, but am too scared to really ride on the streets, so having an open track to just ride along on is nice. And hey, it’s got a fun twist. As long as you don’t panic and topple over. I don’t recommend that.

Another thing I’ll mention for funsies is that I went on a boat in Hyde Park! I’ve seen people paddling around in the Serpentine, and for years had seen people in Central Park doing the same, but I never did it myself. Just before I left London, I spent part of a Saturday at the V&A with my friend Maddy. After we looked at what we wanted to see, we went for a bit of a wander, and ended up at the map shop where our friend Charlie works. She showed us around the place a bit, and then it was time for her to leave, so we ended up wandering with her and her boyfriend (also Charlie) over to Hyde Park. Someone decided we should go on a boat, and it was GREAT. I did no rowing, because I am lazy/wimpy, but it was still nice just being out on the water, especially when we got far enough away from the other amateur boaters. I feel like I can make fun of other people’s boating abilities because Charlie used to row and was very good at instructing.

So anyway, now I’m up in Scotland and it’s a bit chilly. Which is fine, I hate summer heat, but I just wish I knew quite how chilly it was going to be. Never trust a Scottish person about the weather, folks. I’m trying to avoid spending money I don’t have to buy warmer things, but we’ll see how that goes. I’ve made it one week and not been tooooo too cold. I just wish I brought a warmer jacket. All I’ve got is my rain jacket–which was a good packing choice, for sure. I feel like my suitcase was so heavy but there was nothing in it. Packing for 4 weeks is rough…

Until next time, blog! Which I swear won’t be as long as last time.

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Catching up (…again)

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Oh hi there loyal blog readers (mom, Bethany, various people with names that start with E). Sorry I am so terrible! It’s just, well, I’ve been busy and London’s been so stupid beautiful that I haven’t really had the time. Look at how pretty it’s been! While everyone back home has been freezing and wandering snow drifts, it’s been downright pleasant over here. I didn’t want to rub it in, you know? Of course, if I lived in the southwest of this here country, I’d be a bit more waterlogged and grumpy. But here in London it’s been a very mild winter (honestly, I don’t think it ever even dipped below freezing? Maybe overnight?). I whine about being cold sometimes, but always have to check myself on that. It’s not cold here. I’d go on and tell you about how my nose is slightly sunburnt from spending too much time outside this weekend, but…oh, sorry.

That said, I admire how committed the British are to doing things outside, even when it’s not really appropriate. I remember a slightly warmer than usual day in November, and how people were sitting at tables outside cafes because it was ever so slightly warmer, but not actually warm enough to eat outside. I’ve twice had drinks outside recently, and while it was mostly fine, after about an hour or so, everyone started shivering, sort of waiting around for one person to boldly suggest we move indoors. Today was properly warm enough to not even need a jacket, though, so.

But yes, things have been busy. Had a dreaded science test, on which, I would like to excitedly proclaim, I got a 74%. That may not seem very good, but considering how I feel about science, I think it’s pretty great. We also had a preservation management test, which I could not actually bring myself to study for, and was only difficult because it consisted of 15 long-answer, hand-written questions. Took a while to get feeling back. And we had a big deadline for our technical logs of all our work and class notes from the first unit. This would not have been such a terrible thing, had we all kept on top of everything from the start, like we were told to. But…yeah, we didn’t. So that was FUN. I said I’d be more on top of things for next time, but we’ve had like 2 weeks of classes since the submission and I’m already behind again. Oops.

Have started a fancy work placement at a fancy museum here, which is exciting. And, if you didn’t catch it, fancy. It’s only been a few weeks but we’ve already learned a bunch, and it’s just nice to actually be in a lab somewhere, seeing what kind of work is being done, how a lab functions, etc. Plus there’s a nifty (and cheap) staff canteen and it’s possible our badges will get us into exhibits at other museums for free. We went to a wildlife photography exhibition at the museum across the street and just had to flash our badges to get waved through the line like super important fancy people. These are the kinds of perks I get most excited about, so I am probably in the right field. Still doing my other placement at UCL too, which means I now have no free weekdays. I am very happy about that. I am busy! I like being busy. Too much free time weirds me out. I feel like a real person when I have things to do.

I’ve also been watching a lot of rugby. It’s Six Nations time. Six Nations is a big rugby championship tournament between England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Italy. After my trip to Cardiff, and my purchase of a Welsh rugby scarf, I guess I’m supporting Wales. Scotland is my pity team, since they seem to be pretty terrible. I mostly understand the rules, I think? It’s fun to watch but I missed everything this weekend because IT WAS SO PRETTY OUT.

Anyway, just checking in. Things are good. Heading home for a brief spell in about two weeks. Worried about how cold it’ll be. Had some grumpy weeks a short while back (which resulted in going to Stratford-upon-Avon and hanging out with fun people to cheer me, which I was going to write about eons ago, but I never did soooorrrryyyy. Basically: went to Strats, had a grand time, you kids are the best), and I was all pumped up to go home and was listening to Simon and Garfunkel sing about America. I’m still excited to go visit and see lots of people, but I’d also really love to stay here. I’m having a lot of fun lately–exploring places, hanging out with people, being incredibly geeky about books with other people who are happy to be incredibly geeky about books (and art on paper!). I’m going into the studio early tomorrow to play with paste. That’s the level we’re talking about here. And it’s fantastic. I got to see some beautiful old Hebrew books from the 14th-16th century last week and tried to stay cool about how exciting it was–but then I realized I didn’t have to stay cool about it because everyone I was around would understand–maybe not for the Hebrew books, but we all have our things.

Here’s another picture of pretty London to make up for my absence. I took a wander through Russell Square on Friday on my way to meet some friends (at a delicious Polish bar with lots and lots of vodkas and pierogi) and people were everywhere and everyone was happy. I forget how much the weather can affect my mood. Hope you’re all staying warm! I must go attend to my sunburn.

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End of Term

The end of my first term here has come and gone, and I’ve barely written here about what it is I’m actually doing.

So! Conservation. Being back in school has been strange, especially since my first master’s degree was such a joke and required almost no work at all. The course here requires a fair bit of self-guidance. We’re told to read, but not what to read, so it’s in some ways a choose your own adventure course. But I feel like I’ve learned a lot so far! Towards the beginning of the term, we all picked a few items out of a big collection the school has hanging around. We didn’t quite realize it at that point, but I guess the items we picked up then will be with us for a while yet. Anytime we learn a new treatment, technique, etc., we try it out on these items. We’ve worked with various other scraps of text blocks too, things we’re completely free to mess up and destroy. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve all got pieces from an activist’s archive. They wanted some stuff worked on, so we’re helping out with that. A little nerve-wracking to work with actual things, but we can take a long time to do it, and some of the stuff might not require a whole lot of scary work.

We’ve mostly learned about cleaning, humidifying, and washing so far. We’ve also done a lot of examination/identification/documentation. Instead of going into any kind of detail that will make no sense, here are some pictures of things!

First up, a bit of examination type things and some mechanical surface cleaning…

Then we moved on to humidification and washing…

And here is a bit of a print I was working on. It had a gross backing on it, and after a bit of washing, the adhesive loosened enough for me to get it off. But then, because adhesive had been entirely covering the back (the verso) of the print, there was still all kinds of gross residue. So I had to spend some time scraping away at that, and when that didn’t completely work, I had to apply a poultice to the adhesive areas, which sort of activated the adhesive again and allowed me to scrape it off a bit more. A little gross looking, and sort of tedious, but pretty satisfying once it was done.

We have class Monday-Wednesday, and towards the end of the term, we were given work placements. Along with five others (spread over two days), I go over to University College London one day a week to work in their conservation space. We do pretty much whatever they need us to do. Surface cleaning, small repairs, making some boxes, whatever they have. It’s been really nice going there and just being sort of thrown in the mix, working on various things. If it’s something we haven’t covered in class, someone will give us a quick lesson on what we need to do and then let us loose. Which can be a little bit scary! These are real things we’re working on! Not just some random objects from a dusty old collection. We were allowed to take pictures of things for our technical logs for class, but we can’t go around showing the fancy things we’re working on over the internet. But I made this box, and I see no reason why I can’t show you that.

There is also science, which is sad for me, but it’s only once a week so it’s not terrible. I was doing well for a little while! I understood things. Then somewhere things took a turn and I got lost and I really need to spend some time over the break doing a bit of revision, as they say here. We also have preservation management classes, which is a bit of a snooze at times, but still important. Learning about regulations and such. But part of that class is going on visits to museums and archives, which has been great. We’ve been to three so far, and it’s fun to see different conservation labs and learn about how different institutions deal with problems. Also, London Metropolitan Archive has a fancy box making machine like they do at LOC, and the guy there gave us nifty souvenir boxes to keep. That may not sound exciting, but IT IS.

So, that’s school. Otherwise, I’ve been working at the fancy new JCC in north London. It’s ok. I don’t work very much, just usher for cinema and arts events whenever they have shifts open. It’s pretty disorganized? Sometimes it’s fun, but sometimes the events are boring, and other times they mess things up and people (customers) yell at you. It’d be nice to find some other place to work? That is maybe more regular? The other ushers I generally work with are nice, though! And the pay is pretty good for what it is. Not much to tell you on that front, really. It’s work. I dunno, still looking around.

I spent today at the library trying to wrap my mind around some science and figure out what I’m going to write about for an essay we have due in January. Was mildly successful on both points, but I’ve still got a ways to go. I’ve been spending time doing some touristy things, and my sister gets in on Sunday for a week and a bit of fun. Back to class before you know it! Oh noooo….

Crankypants Holding Pattern

It’s hot, I hate summer, and I am cranky. British people are complaining about how hot it is. I looked at a weather website. It says it’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit in London, feels like 81, with 29% humidity. EVERYONE SHUT UP. Here in New York, it’s currently 85, feels like 91, and there’s 65% humidity. And it’s still morning. I would look up what it’s like in DC, but I don’t want to cry.

British people, you are stressing me out. I AM SO STRESSED. Do you see all my gray hairs?! If it wasn’t so hot out, I would drink all the drinks and maybe at least try to be less stressed out, but I can’t because I am so warm. Well, right now I am frozen because I am at work where we freeze people to save books, but I don’t think anyone would appreciate me being drunk at my desk. Actually probably no one would notice so MAYBE TOMORROW.

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Financial Freak Out (part 1 of approximately 4839753)

Probably the most daunting thing about this whole London adventure lies in the financial aspect. It’s scary moving to a new place and trying new things, but I’ve done that before (to varying degrees of success), and I know (parts of) London and some lovely people in the area, so that makes it easier. Visas and paperwork are stressful, but I’m sure if I actually sit and look everything over–instead of reading a few paragraphs, hyperventilating, and deciding to deal with it later–it’ll make some kind of sense.

But oh, the financial side. It has led me to some pretty fantastic rants, mostly heard by my sister. These rants take many turns and somehow always end up with me worried that I’ll fall down some stairs, go to the hospital, and be in medical debt forever. A nonsensical twist!

I am…careful with money. I won’t say I am good with it, because that isn’t necessarily the case. Just careful. I can’t budget to save my life, I don’t really understand what that means. But I’ve never been in a horrible oh no I have no money!!! kind of situation, I’ve never lived outside my means (aside from college, I guess?). I’ve always paid my undergrad student loans on time and have often paid extra. Though I have credit cards, I am terrified of carrying a balance on them and will not actually buy something using one unless I am positive I can pay it off immediately. Which I guess defeats the purpose of having a credit card? Whatever, my parents had me sign up for one before college so I could build my credit. But I admit I am crap at saving and understanding money.

Now it’s time for me to figure out my loan situation. My school can start certifying things, whatever that means, July 1. So I have to get everything ready. I know how much I need for tuition and my room, but I don’t know anything else. How do you figure out how much money you need?! The school puts out a table of estimated expenses, but how realistic is that, really? It seems like a lot. I don’t think I need that much money. But what if I get too little? I’m hoping I can find some kind of job to supplement, but what if that doesn’t happen? I realize, too, that I can go a little overboard this first year and take out less next year if it’s too much, but that involves planning and thinking about the future and not spending the excess money, not my strongest points.

But I think what bothers me more than any of this stressful thinking is the fact that there are so few funding options. It’s basically loans, personal wealth, or bust. Granted, this degree is not like, a NEEEEEEEEED and I am studying internationally, but wow, there’s just nothing out there, that I can find. My school has a list of all sorts of postgraduate scholarships and funding sources but most are only for UK/EU students, and the ones that are open to international students have eligibility requirements I don’t meet (only for one year programs, for courses I am not on, etc.). There are some funding sources specifically for my subject area, but only for UK students. There are no American sources for conservation (again, that I can find–it’s possible I’m just not good at searching?). There’s a large American organization for conservation, but their grants are for conference attendance or short courses, or I guess grants for libraries to pay for conservation work? But nothing for actual master’s programs. Yet the UK seems to have multiple organizations that will help fund conservation students. I know I’m going into a small, specialized field, but…really? Good job, America.

The financial stress, combined with all the articles I’ve been reading this week about NYU subsidizing professors’ vacation homes while students are now paying $63,000 a year (tuition + room and board), have gotten me down on the state of higher education around here. Why does it have to be so hard to go to school? It’s sort of amazing, looking at the cost of education in another country. Even at the international/overseas rate, two years of tuition and room/board at a British university (at least mine) costs FAR less than just one at NYU (perhaps it’s unfair to compare to one of the most expensive schools, but it is, sadly, my alma mater and MAYBE I have some regrets about that). And this is ART SCHOOL. The UK/EU rates for my school are insanely low–at least it seems that way to an American used to the ridiculous costs here–and there seem to be so many funding sources and ways to bring your cost down. It’s so strange to me, to see/hear Brits complain about how expensive education is (I’ve done some twitter trolling on this). You guys don’t know how great you have it!

Anyway, I’ll stop there before I veer off into weird healthcare cost territory (seriously, I think getting really sick and incurring horrifying medical debt has overtaken mummies as my greatest fear in life). I was good at being frugal when I was a student. I’m pretty sure I survived my entire semester in London eating solely toast, Cadbury, and the occasional £5 beer and burger combo at the local pub chain (which–gasp–has gone up in price since then). But it’s been so long! I’ve grown used to my luxurious lifestyle of…slightly less toast and expensive New York City drinks and buying more dresses and shoes than I’ll ever really need. I’m sure I can get back to my old ways once I need to, it’s just going to be a weird adjustment backwards.

About London

I’m moving to London. That’s really why this blog began. In about four months, I’ll just be so darn exciting, clearly I’ll need a place to gloat to everyone about my adventures. I have to hope that’s the case, anyway. Otherwise, I’d be curled up somewhere, weeping, mumbling whatamidoing whatamidoing whatamidoing all the time.

As it stands, I’m only doing that like 23% of the time.

SO. London. London! Why? A number of reasons! Boredom, hating stasis, a sometimes overpowering dread that my life is incredibly dull and everything is passing me by forever and you only live once and oh crap I am getting old. Also the fact that I lived in London once and would love to do it again.

But actually: grad school. I know, I’ve done that already! I’ve got a nice, shiny Master’s degree (haha, actually the thing looks like it’s on a piece of standard copy paper and is actually very stupid and oh sorry, perhaps that rant is for another time), so why the hell do I need to go spend time and money getting another?

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