Horses, History, Itinerary

I apologize for the delay in completing my Skyfall premiere night post. Not that you’ve been waiting for its completion with great anticipation or anything. It’s just been one of those weeks full of the best and the worst, one of those weeks where you show up at every possible nearby coffee shop begging for a “black Americano” whilst cringing at the price (although on some nights I would cry “I don’t care how much it is I need coffee!!!!! D:”)

It’s been the work hard play hard routine ’round these parts. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity and experience possible while making sure I sit myself down in the library and GET MY STUFF DONE. Despite the intensity and volume of reading, I’m falling in love with the academic part of my LSE experience. Aside from that one stats lecture in the theater when I completely knocked out in plain view (c’mon it’s the auditorium seats), I sit through my lectures and classes wanting to do more for them. But before I go further, here’s the summary update:

WOO

  • Things being settled: my bank account, my monthly phone plan, my travel plans, my courses (finally finalized <3):
    HY311 Limited War in the Cold War Era: the Korean War & the Vietnam War
    HY206 International History of the Cold War
    HY235 Modernity and the State in East Asia (20th century)
    ST102 Elementary Statistical Theory
  • Horseback riding
  • Posters for my room (I plan to dedicate a separate update to this later on!)
  • Digestive system doing ok (even when I have gluten! Fancy that!)
  • My cousin and my California friend staying over

MOO

  • No sleep. Too much coffee. Need sleep.
  • The exchange rate.

HORSES

Ah yes. Horses. I came to the UK knowing I wanted to join the riding club to get back into riding and make some friends 🙂 I would never have guessed that I would be riding as reserve for the team and playing polo! Because team competition consists of both dressage and jumping, I debated for a long while whether to try out (because I haven’t jumped in YEARS and I’ve done very little of it) and eventually decided to play it safe and not do it (especially since jumping can get pretty dangerous). Long story short, after a few weeks of lessons some of the girls on the team invited me to practice with them as a reserve member, and my first lesson was… jumping! I was pretty nervous, but I began to settle into a good position by the end… I did take one slow-motion slide off the horse after one of the jumps early on, though :/ made me pretty sore and bruised for a few days in all sorts of weird places.

[thought]

One of the great things about riding through the riding club is that the lessons are subsidized through the LSE student union. I know horseback riding can have this public image of being an elite, upper class sport, and unfortunately the cost of having a horse and riding can be quite substantial. But this image is not completely true. On the one hand, yes, unless you are ultra rich, you have to make things work or make compromises to ride. Another girl on the team (she’s from Berlin) and I had a similar story–we (or in my case, my family) couldn’t both keep our horses and pay for school, so we chose school. Eventually we both realized we couldn’t live without horses, so we were both so thankful to ride through the LSE club where the cost is shared by the school. If you looked up the prices of competition horses (a la Ann Romney’s Rafalca) and the cost of taking care of them, you may probably be in disbelief. BUT not everyone needs an expensive competition horse to grow as a rider and enjoy riding. Personally, horseback riding has not been a rich people’s pastime to me–it has actually my most humbling experience to date. I rode at a barn where there were people and ponies of all shapes and sizes and seriousness and salaries. On some days I would drive there at sunrise (still some of my most beautiful memories) to unblanket my horse and ride a lesson. My favorite stress reliever in high school was shoveling horse poop and pee-soaked shavings. In the summer I was covered in dust, in the winter I was covered in mud. You go everyday because there’s an animal that depends on you to live… and through the frustrations of trying to ride an animal with a mind of its own, I learned patience, communication, and patience. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not all prim and proper fancifulness 🙂 But if you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and getting a little dirty sometimes it can be the most rewarding experience ever.

[/end thought]

Ok. so back to my horseback riding update. This past Wednesday was my first crack at polo!!! This was through the University of London Polo Club who organizes lessons at the Royal Berkshire County Polo Club. I met some really great and nice people from all over the world playing polo this week, and I’m excited to play some more! The riding style is definitely different–the ponies are trained to be bombproof and super sensitive to your aids as to be easily maneuverable. You also neck rein with double reins and let your hand go forward when asking for upward transitions. That said, the polo style of riding is actually a lot of fun because you don’t have to worry about much. The ponies are trained to respond to your every touch, and they won’t freak out and dump you even though you might swing the polo stick a little too close to their face (sorry, pony). One thing I still haven’t gotten the hang of is hitting the ball with the stick though… I keep getting air or taking a chunk of the ground (read: missing the ball). I’m supposed to use momentum and keep my arm straight, but I’m still trying to figure out how to judge the distance and how much to lean over the side of my pony? Yeah… I’ll keep you posted! And hopefully have some pictures next time!

HISTORY

Believe it or not, HY311 and HY206, my Cold War history courses, actually make my day. Once Professor Odd Arne Westad begins speaking about the Cold War, my mind suddenly wakes up and goes a million different directions, inspired by the subject at hand. Professor Westad does not use grand theatrics in his presentations, but somehow with quiet simplicity, he will draw out points that make me star *********** and bold my typed notes like crazy. I emerge from those lectures feeling like there’s so much left in the world to discover…. to the library!!

The LSE probably receives a lot of money from their rich business and finance alumni. The British Library of Economic and Political Science (LSE Library) is a really cool place–with beanbags on the lower ground floor and a spiral ramp connecting the floors that swirls around the high speed elevator. The only unfortunate thing is that because of the cool spiral ramp thing in the middle (which takes a giant circular hole out of each floor) there isn’t much study space supply for the demand (darn studious LSE kids). But when I can find a spot, I revel in the new challenges and different freedoms I’m given in this British education system. One thing I am trying to get used to is how they write their history essays. They definitely see international history as a social science and expect you not only to recognize the factors that led to a certain event but to really argue and establish a causal relationship. So, as one of my teachers explained it, there will be a set of factors (A, B, C, D, E…) that play a role in the outcome (Y), and in my essays I am expected to not only evaluate which element is the most essential for the outcome to occur, but to recognize the relationships between the factors as well (A actually leads to B which fed into C but D also fed into C, and so on). She looked at me and asked if I was feeling okay (on a side note, she’s the best teacher ever! She’s so generous with her time to make sure I’m really getting the best out of my year here at LSE, and she let me borrow her copy of Inside Job for the weekend!), and I answered that the nerdy side of me was so excited to explore this method but I’ll have to give it a shot to see if I can do it!

ITINERARY

Aaaaaaaaaaand finally, here’s my travel itinerary for the rest of term so if you actually have an interest in my travel blog, you can look forward to what I’ll blog about in the future!

Nov 9-11: stop by Manchester to go with my friend to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Nov 16-18: Bruges and Amsterdam on an LSE-organized trip.

Nov 23-24: Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, Peak District. (If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan, watch out for this one!)

Dec 8-10: à Paris to see my high school friend whom I miss so dearly.

Depending on how well I manage my time and essays (yikes!) I am contemplating a day trip to Brighton to see another friend.

But that’s a long enough update for now.

Goodnight (YES, SLEEP GLORIOUS SLEEP),

JJS

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