Saturday, December 7, 2013

Missouri London Program Commencement Speech

Here is the transcript of the speech I gave to explain the Missouri London program to the other 200 CAPA students, and to share with everyone my wonderful experience this semester. 

Here is a photo of Christina Harrod from Missouri Southern State University, Dr. Frangos, my UMKC professor who has been teaching me all semster in London, and myself from commencement night.

Fundamentally, the Missouri London Program differs drastically from all the other CAPA programs this semester and that is because we only have two students in the program: Christina and myself.

Because of this intimate class setting the school work has sent me through culture shock just as being in London has, however I think this set up is perfect for experiencing London through a well informed lens.

For myself, an English literature student, coming to London was an obvious dream. The first thing I noticed when walking in London were the names of authors, statesmen, monarchs and artist on the streets. Gloucester reminded me of Richard III, Marloes reminded me of Dr. Faustus and I soon learned about Hogarth while studying in my Novel before 1900 class.

The importance of being over here for me is to bring to life characters and places that were impossible to imagine in Kansas City. My first day of class in London brought me to a guided tour of Shakespeare’s Globe. This theatre more than contextualizes Shakespeare’s plays and the Elizabethan age, because it also expresses the determination of Sam Wannamaker to solidify Shakespeare’s influence for new generations. As many of us can attest, seeing a play at the Globe makes Shakespeare’s work a lot more interesting. Even if standing for three hours isn’t your thing, the experience of being a groundling, and the stage-to-audience interaction you get at the Globe makes it totally worth it.

Later during the first week our professor, Dr. Jenni Frangos took Christina and I to the Monument of the Great Fire. Climbing 311 steps to the top of the Monument gave me my first birds-eye, panoramic views of London. The event of the Great Fire forever changed the architecture and city structure of London and these differences were apparent in our class, “The Novel Before 1900”

Each of the novels Christina and I read take place partially or completely in London. Because of this we were able to visit the same places as many of the characters of some of England’s most famous novels. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Grey just to name a few. Each week we imagined the city during the 16, 17 and 1800’s and would also go out to see the changes several hundred years has had on the setting of early novels. These site visits are irreplaceable in my education and have made me really grateful for my experience in London.

Because of the small size of our program this semester, I was able to have one class all to myself. Each week, Dr. Frangos and I would spend hours discussing Shakespeare in depth, the legacy of his work, and his influence on British culture.

Outside of the classroom we’ve all made lasting friendships and traveled the world either solo or with our new friends. Christina and I are lucky to be each other’s only roommate, but also to actually like each other. We immediately connected for lots of reasons and because of this the past three months have been a breeze.

The first thing we realized it that we both liked quiet places. The gardens of Kensington Palace were an instant retreat for us. Then we started walking to Regent’s Park with our backpacks and blankets, and eventually went Hampstead Heath. Each new park or quiet place toped the one before in atmosphere and landscape. The first week we also bought our Royal Palace passes which we’ve since used to visit the five Royal Palaces of London.

After a month of being in London Christina and I left the city for Munich and Oktoberfest. I think a lot of us CAPA students experienced Oktoberfest so I don’t have to explain what happens there, but I think even better than this drinking festival was our day trip to Fussen and the Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle is situated in a valley between huge mountains, surrounded by lakes, forests, and beergardens. The entire day was a dream.

After this trip we returned home to London where we both began to make new CAPA friends from other programs and get to know our neighbors. Our CAPA classes gave us the opportunity to go on many field studies to places we wouldn’t have known to explore and were better experienced through the class setting such as: the Palace of Westminster, Greenwich, the National Portrait Gallery, the Thames river walk, the Museum of London and the Old Bailey. One aspect I really enjoyed about field studies in all of my classes was the freedom to explore the city from a new starting point after each class. Suddenly I’m not starting from Camden and the Northern Line, but instead we’re plopped in front of Westminster and want to find a place for dinner, or we’ve ended in St. Bartholomew’s Close and it’s time for a Fuller’s. The Site visits get us out of the classroom, we interact with the city and our readings, and we are forced to familiarize with new locations.  

Fall break was a huge highlight for Both Christina and myself. I spent the entire time in Ireland and fell completely in love with the green countryside, the hearty, warm food, and the friendly people. The entire trip was so much fun, from kissing the Blarney Stone, to pouring a Guinness. I think many other people were lucky enough to also visit Ireland and can attest to the light-hearted atmosphere and hospitable attitude in Dublin and the rest of the country.

Again, coming back to London after 9 days away felt like coming home, and we had to get back to work. The schoolwork this semester has been a heavy load, but because the city is an extension of the classroom, I feel as if my days spent exploring were also days spent learning. This semester, like never before in my literature studies, London brought a deeper relevancy to fictional stories. Suddenly a thief running from Leadenhall to the river meant something because we walked those narrow streets, and blowing up the Old Bailey like in the finale of V for Vendetta seemed like a terrible idea. Everyday I spent walking the streets of London I found further connections from streets to store, to boroughs and characters. London makes the fictional real.

Though our program was small, I am glad for the intimacy it allowed for in our learning style. We worked at a steady rate through the centuries as the city of London and all it’s boroughs were defined by: their classes, vocations, and peoples, and we related the early English novels to London’s attitudes today. The Missouri London Program, myself, Christina and Dr. Frangos are happy for this experience and the connections we’ve made through CAPA.

Friday, December 6, 2013

One Week Left in London!

Hey everyone, I'm sorry I haven't written a post lately, but school has been completely consuming me! Really fast I'd like to mention that I have been selected by the UMKC SEARCH department for a research grant! This means that beyond my normal amount of homework I also have research to complete at the British Library, museums, and Jane Austen related cities to visit that pertain to my research! I am so happy for the opportunity to represent the English department in a symposium next April to present my research findings. The other task that was weighing heavily on my shoulders lately was a speech for the entire CAPA faculty, staff and student body. I was representing UMKC and the Missouri-London program so I wanted this speech to really mean something. Luckily it went well and I am always happy for every chance I get to talk to people about my experience studying literature in London. Now, with only one week to go, I've got my bearings back and ready to tackle finals and visit all the last minute places in London. Today I'm going to write about the amazing places and things in the city that I'm going to miss so much!

These are images of the palces that I've been lucky enough to utilize for my research grant studying!
The city of Bath, home to the Jane Austen society and centre.

I'm going to miss simple and quick public transportation. After being abroad for four months driving my car is going to send me through reverse culture shock. Living in central London is a dream, and I'm definitely in a flat I would never be able to afford if it weren't already arranged through my school program! When local Londoners ask me where I'm living and I respond "Kentish Town rd, Camden" they get really jealous. CAPA has given their students beautiful apartments that are a one minute walk from the tube station and thirty seconds to a major bus stop. Public transportation also allows me to read everyday while I commute to Kensington. So I will definitely the London Underground

Our Camden Flats
The Underground
The most beautiful place on Earth, Harrods from the Brompton rd Underground exit.
King's Cross Station!

I'm going to miss the bookstores of London. There are hundreds of bookstores with hundreds of personalities. Some are kitschy, some are ritzy, some look like a hoarder runs the place while others are futuristic and immaculate. I love all of the bookstores and I wish there were more in Kansas City. Hatchard's, in particular is a store off of Picadilly and it is the official bookstore choice of Her Majesty the Queen. The inside of Hatchard's feels like the regal library of Downton Abbey. With it's mahogany shelves and gold painted labels, the old English feel is so prevalent in Hatchard's, it's no surprise that the store has been in business since 1797!

(These three photos are from google.)

I will also miss the markets of London. Markets are an interesting and integral part of the London culture. There are dozens of markets in this city and each is completely and distinctively difference from the next.  Our apartment is only steps away from one of London's most famous market, The Camden Markets. There are the Lock markets and the Stables. The stables have been transformed from obviously, old stables and the Lock markets are formed around canal locks and surrounded by weeping willows, street performers, punks, and musicians. The Camden markets are known for their punk persona and sell a lot of artistic crafts. My other favorite market is Coven Garden market. Some of the London markets have been functioning since the 13th century! Leadenhall market, which has been a trading and commerce space for hundreds of years underwent a beautiful facelift during the reign of Victoria and is still one of London's most beautiful examples of Victorian architecture and design.

Leadenhall Market

I am also going to miss the relationship that I have been able to form with my roommate Christina, and with my professor teaching over here from UMKC. Dr. Jenni Frangos was a professor of mine back at UMKC, she was my internship advisor and also my general English-major advisor. While in London we spent 6 hours a week together in school and many hours outside of the classroom exploring the city together. Because of the small class size (one-on-one, and two-on-one) in the Missouri London program the three of us, Christina, Dr. Frangos and myself were able to adjust class to meet the needs and whims of our weekly readings. We were able to actually walk to streets together and follow the pages of famous English novels. Dr. Frangos will forever be my mentor, my editor, and the woman I most dearly admire as an English scholar, and I am immensely lucky to have been able to study so closely with her this semester. Her knowledge of English literature is vast and her insistence to teach a "study abroad" class rather than a standard "UMKC" class was perfect for our learning style in London. Dr. Frangos always took full advantage of the city by informing Christina and myself of the cultural events pertaining to our studies, to the museums we can tour to enhance our learning, and the authors homes that are open for visits. Because of Dr. Frangos, two girls from Missouri were able to really delve into all the literature possibilities that London has to offer.

The following two photos are me after leading a tour of London according to Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders. My favorite element of my Missouri London classe is that Christina and myself lead the class on four different "site visitis" following the steps of famous fictional characters.

(Shamless Harry Potter plug)
Of all the things I will miss in London, they can't compare to how much I currently miss my family and because of that, I can't wait to get home to Kansas City and hug my little nephew, my mom, dad, mimi, and sisters! One week from yesterday I will be sleeping in my own bed and making future travel plans to keep on exploring!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I am worth the investment!

Sitting at the train station in Fez, after a long flight back to Morocco from France, I received a Facebook message from my friend. I was exhausted, it was two in the morning, and I still had to wait to catch the train from Fez back to Meknes. Sitting in the café, I starting getting knots in my stomach. I was thinking, everyone was probably already notified. I slowly made my way to my email, as my phone was dying. There it was four emails, one with that really scary red exclamation point, which means high urgency! I went directly to the email, only to read:

 "Congratulations Ida, you have been awarded the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship"

I started jumping up and down in the café, the people who were around me were looking at me like I was crazy. After reading the entire email I realized  the email did not reveal how much money I had won. My friend told me she was awarded $1,000.  At this point I was thinking I probably was awarded around the same since I waited until the very last minute to submit all my work because I did everything in my power to perfect my papers.

After I signed into my applicant award recipient, Gilman had notified me I was awarded $5,000. When I read this all I could do was smile and think about all the people who had helped me achieve this scholarship. I did not win this scholarship because of luck of the draw, I told the scholarship committee why I am worth the investment!

The Gilman application was due on October 2, 2013. I started working on this scholarship essay in the summer, two months before I left for Morocco because I knew once I arrived in Morocco it would be a little more difficult to quickly get in contact with my advisors. Who gave me the best directions and outline to think like a winning applicant. I restructured my outline so many times with Emma Sponge, I owe her and Phillip the biggest thanks for helping me think like a committee member.

When writing my essay's I was telling my personal story. I spoke about my identity as a diaspora of the Ethiopia. This is such a large shaping factor of my life, personality, and aspect on life. This is my identity, who I, Ida Ethiopia Ayalew am. I had to prove myself to be worthy of this investment of time and money. I spoke about my desires, dreams, struggles, and achievements. Making it evidently clear that nothing can deter me from the success I desire.

People want to invest in student's futures when they show progress. I polished my resume and made sure to make it clear that my future was in my control. I have to ability to change what my parent's could not change for me, but what I can change for myself. The financial need was also evidently there, being financially independent from my parents, I needed some help trying to keep the cost of student loans very low, if possible none. Regardless if I received the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship or not, I would still have studied abroad for a year, but I would have without as comfortable means the Gilman has provided for me.

After I have completed the rigorous hours of putting thought into my essays, I had to start developing a plan for my on-site project for my school, once I returned from my journey abroad. My project was actually spun out of an initial idea my advisor Kate Wozniak told me about. She explained how not many minority students are afforded the opportunity to study abroad. That's where my idea came steamed from, to start a personal informational setting to work with the Multi-Cultural Affairs Office. I wanted to speak to people about personal experience as a minority abroad, what kind of impact it made on my life and an educational opportunity to help others achieve what I have, loan free.

Without the help of my advisors, I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I have. This year, I am loan free, $21,000 in scholarships to cover the entire year, living comfortably abroad. A HUGE TIP for my fellow students, START EARLY! The early bird really does get the worm. Get help from your advisors, these are the people who are on scholarship committees and understand what people are looking for in an applicant. Studying abroad loan free is possible! You just have to prioritize and put in some hard work.

A HUGE thank you to the International Academic Program Office at UMKC, for all the support, emails, and encouragement.

Ida Ayalew

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seoul, South Korea III

Annyeonghaseyo! It's been a long month. My classes ramped up and there has been something to do every weekend. We went to the historical city of Gyeongju, volunteered at an animal shelter, and took a three day trip to Osaka, Japan. I've also found myself reflecting a lot on Korean culture and the differences between Korea and the United States.

When I first arrived in Seoul, I saw more similarities than differences. After spending the summer in Washington DC, I discovered most of us born and raised in Missouri are generally more friendly than our eastern counterparts. It's no surprise then that the genuinely friendly people and abundance of liquor in Korea reminded me of home. However, the longer I'm here the more apparent the differences between Korean and Midwestern hospitality become.

South Korea is still a nation at war. A visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the border with North Korea confirmed this in my mind. Less than hour from Seoul, passed several anti-tank walls, live mines, and barbed-wire fences is a completely different world. As I looked out over the "Bridge of No-Return," passed the gate containing hundreds of hand-written messages with well-wishes from South Koreans to their brethren in the North, I could see how real the tension was. The visit provided some context for Korean society.

I thought about the sense of community fostered in the United States during World War II or after the 9/11 attacks. The threat of war causes us to rethink our priorities and consider what is really important. The threat of war is perhaps one source of Korean hospitality. In an environment where the threat of attack is a real possibility, friends and family become very important.

A sense of community is also built into the Korean language. It is not uncommon to use familial terms to refer to your friends or elders. The equivalent of "uncle," "aunt," "big brother," or "big sister" are often used interchangeably with the equivalent of "sir" or "madame." It is as if all of Korean society is one big family. Despite being a foreigner, the longer I'm here the more I feel like I'm becoming part of that family.

It will be difficult to return to life without kimchi and soju.

Annyeonghi Gyeseyo!

Below is a link to an album with pictures of my university.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the face of death...I shall stand stronger

Praise to the God Almighty,

   The end of the semester is upon us and I have just began living life. Soon after I wrote my last blog post about the conscience recognition of my everyday lifestyle, I choice to live up to the words I wrote to my readers, and to myself. One week later, I took a spontaneous trip to the tallest mountain in North Africa--Mount Toubkel. The summit reaches about 14,000 feet, my first hiking adventure and a challenge of my living worth.
  The journey was a long and unprepared. My friends and I expected little to what was to come. We were silly in the fact that we THOUGHT* we could plan this trip in a few hours, not knowing we did not have the proper means of supplies and navigation. The next morning we set out after class, young naive Americans ready to conquer the Mountain with our American Flag blazing in the wind, we jumped on the train and started heading to the South of Morocco--Marrakesh. Riding economy class, we enjoyed ourselves and stranger's companies. Learning more about the small cities we passed, admiring the beauty of the desolate desert, staring at the world we assume to know.
  Finally, soon after arriving to Marrakesh, we made our way to a cheap hostel, Waka Waka. When we arrived we simply wanted a large replenishing meal and a goodnight's sleep, but like the young soul's we have--YOLO screams when an opportunity arises. Two *cute* young men, one British, one French, ask us out to dinner, as three young women we were weary at first, but we accept the invitation. A few hours later we invite our British friend, Alex to join us on our pilgrimage.
 The next morning, we grab our hiking backpacks, boots, and determination (after a big, filling breakfast) and head out the door. We walk to the Marrakesh taxi stand and barter our way to a thirty dollar ride to Imlil, the small village outside the mountain. One hour later, we arrive to our destination, thrilled with excitement, we ate our lunch and hydrated ourselves before the days that lay ahead. Making our way through people's backyards and finally up on the paved road, we crossed the riverbank, there is were I realized there was no turning back.
  I bought two water bottles, thinking that we would find the smaller Berber villages on our way up to the top. I immediately realized, I am not in the best physical shape. My fellow friends, are all in great physical shape. I was struggling to make it up the mountain the moment we starting trekking upwards. Struggling to catch my breathe most of the way, I was lagging behind the group, struggling to put one foot in front of the other. These next few days were going to be extremely challenging, both physically and mentally.
    The excitement of hiking up the mountain soon wore as I was struggling to keep my heart rate under control. With an old map, we had printed off of Wikipedia, we began to make way past the other hikers onto a more desolate path. We kept hiking up the mountain, beginning to see less local people, then running lower on water and food, we assumed up were still traveling the correct way. We kept faith in our navigational skills and trekked forward, thinking we would make the camping ground (which was marked) way before sunset. The camp ground was a three hour hike from the bottom of Imlil, based on time we should have already made the destination, but because I slowed the group down, we assumed it was just our timing.
   After seven hours of hiking, we soon realized there was something missing. We were all exhausted, without food or water. We kept false peaking, thinking right around the corner would be refugee. Taking a small break, Remy and Alex ran to see if the refugee was anywhere in sight--there were just miles and miles mountains all around us, that is when we realized...WE CLIMBED THE WRONG MOUNTAIN. Not only did we climb the wrong mountain, but of COURSE to make the situation worse on top of the fact that we didn't have but an inch of Remy's water and no food, there was no safe place to camp out and the sun was setting. Hiking at night is the dangerous, so we tried looking on the map to see if there was a number we could call, there was not. Then we tried to call our director, no phone service. We had no choice, but to try to quickly climb back down the mountain.
  Fear quickly set in, we were all being tested. It was so hard not to just sit down and cry, but it the fire inside me to keep me moving. As we were running (literally) down the mountain, Remy, was encouraging me because I was scared for our lives. The mountain was so steep, that one misstep would take you down to your grave. At one point I was sliding on my butt because I had fallen on my back so many times. We made it half way down the mountain before the sun finally set.
  Darkness was upon us, we rummaged through our backpacks for our flashlights, and slowly made our way down the mountain. Feeling defeated and betrayed by the sun, we slowly made our way down the path. Soon enough we broke the silence of fear with laughter and faith that a warm meal and bed were waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. There were moments were all I could do was tremble; tremble with fear, lack of food and water. Was this the end? Was I going to die on this mountain, without saying good-bye to my family and friends? NO, I would never let this be the end.
  The human mind is so powerful, all it takes it courage. Soon we were closing in on a village about five miles away, seeing our  flash lights they signaled us SOS and we soon signaled back. Within twenty minutes, the villagers had ran up the mountain and found us. Helping us walk down the mountain, we soon realized where we had branched off and headed in the wrong direction, we were supposed to cross a bridge and instead we went up the wrong path.
   The Berber village does NOT under any circumstance let any foreigners stay in their village, but they fed us and let us sleep in a spare room they had. GIVING me hope in humanity, the fact that people are inherently good was something that did not cross my mind when I was up on the mountain shouting HOW GREAT MY GOD IS, but I realized that humans deserve recognition. Laying in bed, on this thin mattress, my belly full, my thirst vanished, the cold mountain air stinging my cheeks, I thought about how grateful I am. How lucky, I am to be alive. That nothing in this would could stop me and what I have in store for the future, that tomorrow morning, I was going to climb the *correct mountain and summit the peak.
  The next morning, after a long, cold night, we started climbing the mountain, again I began to struggle to catch my breathe. Watching my friends effortlessly run up the mountain. Hours later we finally reached the refuge, we where still so exhausted from the ten hour hike the day before and the five hour hike that day we decided we take an easy day and sleep.
  The next morning we got up around six, before the sunrise and began hiking the mountain. This was the most exhausting day yet, we at one point were literally rock climbing. While struggling up this mountain, sixty year old men were passing us, that's when I came to realize things to change in my life. At one point Remy was physically pushing me up the mountain (she is a great motivator).
  FINALLY, we reached the summit point! THANK GOD! Such a relief and worth the beautiful sight. I understood even though I really struggled up there, I reach the top! Sitting there basking in the warm sun, and breathing the freshest air in the world, I had a revelation! Life is much more than what is expected of me, it is what I expect for myself.
  Coming down the mountain was very fast! We tried to go quickly,because we were running out of money and we needed to get to Marrakesh. Slowly, but surely we made it down the scary path. At some points after the refugee it felt like I was running, so we could grab a cab in time to get to Marrakesh.
   Climbing Mount Toubkel was the most emotion hike I have ever taken, but it has motivated me to get in shape. I want to be healthier to set an example for myself, to live by my words. Life is too short to live by an outline. I am ready to take the world by my hands and craft my own future.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mid term wrap up!

What's the craic UMKC?

So I'm sitting on my couch in Camden attempting to write a Shakespeare paper after have ten days off. This isn't easy! So I decided I'd be a lot happier if I were to revisit some of the incredible moments I've enjoyed since being abroad. Lets go!

Working my way immediately backwards, yesterday morning I was in Dublin, Ireland. I spent nine days in Ireland, three of which were spent in the capital while the rest were spent bussing about the beautiful country side and staying in smaller cities, or tiny towns. Ireland has always been a county I thought I would enjoy but I had no way of preparing myself for the awesomeness of the place as a whole. The people really are as happy, outgoing, helpful, and kind as you'd expect. I took a three day Shamrocker Adventures tour guided by a cute young lady named Kim. She was a local Dublin girl and exuded happiness to be able to show off her country to tourist from all over the world. With the tour I was able to see castles, national parks, kiss the Blarney stone, get blown away by the Atlantic winds of the Cliffs of Moher and many other breath taking views in just three days! I will definitely be a repeat customer with this company and urge any friend to go through them if you're looking to see Ireland without renting a car.

Before I was exposed to the awesomeness that is Ireland I had been studying in London the past six weeks. I should emphasize studying. This has been the hardest semester of my career, but also one of the most enjoyable. I only have classes Monday through Wednesday. When classes are over I have ample time to explore London, which I have been taking full advantage of, but during the school week there is a lot to be done. I wont bore you with my class schedule, but just know that if you are coming to study, you should remember that you might be doing a lot of work though all you really want to do is go out, see plays, try new restaurants, visit museums, and shop. I think there is plenty of time for both with a well managed schedule.

I did find time to go to Munich for a second time this trip for Oktoberfest. This IS everything you hope it to be. The bavarian clothes are so fun to see, the locals are laid back the women wear their hair in braids, and the mass (1 Liter ) of beer is flowing. The day before Oktoberfest my roommate and I were lucky to visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen. I recommend this stop to anyone traveling in southern Germany. Absolutely gorgeous castle surrounded by even more inspiring natural beauty: waterfalls, mountains, reflective lakes, evergreen forrest and a biergarten. This castle is a must visit.

With six weeks finished and six more to go, I'll be back to post photos and discuss the great places I'm lucky to explore. I'll be returning to Kansas City on December 12th around midnight...just in time to walk for graduation the next day! Getting excited about finishing my undergrad and making more travel plans for the future!

Bye for now,