My brain is mushy peas.

I can’t wait to go home and eat mushy peas

The time has come. It seemed unrealistic, faraway, impossible perhaps. But it has happened. That time of year has arrived and I want to scream about it from the top of a parking lot (note the unfortunate integration of American words into my vocabulary, y’all).

But I did it. I survived my first year in an American grad school.

Okay, 10 months. But still, I did it. And I really didn’t think I was going to. I’ve had my ups, downs, lefts, rights, and all of those dichotomies, etc. etc. And now, I’m ready to go home. And specifically, eat mushy peas.

First of all, before I reveal my ultimate secret for surviving in America—specifically in grad school—I just have to mention a little thing that’s bugged me while I’ve been here. Why does literally everybody use the word “dichotomy” all the time, in all my classes, in all contexts?! I had no idea what it meant for about 8 months, and then finally, I pushed my ego aside and googled it.

WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST SAY ‘CONTRAST’?!

Seriously, though. I had never heard that word used before outside of an academic context. And suddenly, there I was, sat in Falafel King, and a barely pubescent guy starts talking about the dichotomy between his ex-girlfriend and his current “fwb.”*

*A theoretical concept that I had previously considered a mysterious phenomenon confined to the minds of guys, who wanted the ‘physical’ benefits of a girlfriend, but who had solemnly swore themselves to stay in a loving, exclusive ‘emotional’ relationship with CoD. At the risk of sounding sexist, you can change ‘girlfriend’ to ‘boyfriend,’ and ‘CoD’ with any one—or all—of the guys from One Direction. Are they even still a band? Does CoD even exist anymore?? God, I think I’ve become so much of a hermit that I have no idea what the current trends or ‘hip’ things young people do, or listen to, these days… But, I digress.

This young boy was using the word “dichotomy” so casually in reference to his conquests, and I had no frigging idea what it meant. So yeah, dichotomy. It bothers me. Anyway, I didn’t resurface onto the interwebs to talk about the definition and appropriate contextual (in my mind) application of “dichotomy.”

I’m back because, after the toughest, roughest, and meanest however long it’s been since my last post, I finally have time. That’s right. I have time. More specifically, free time. And I have no idea what to do with it. So I’m watching Netflix and reaffirming to those who are painstakingly reading this that I am, indeed, still alive. In case you were wondering/concerned.

OMG SO MUCH FREE TIME (I have currently had four hours of it!!)

In fact, during this newly bestowed free time, I have:

  1. watched one season, out of seven, of an unbelievably horrific TV series on Netflix (for those who are wondering, it’s called ‘Psych’ and I don’t recommend it. However I’m going to work my way through all seven seasons, just to make sure. And also because, hey, I have free time y’all);
  2. firmly decided that I’m going to be a novelist/painter/pottery master after graduating because hippie life is my true calling;
  3. eaten half a bag of shredded (low-fat) mozzarella cheese;
  4. not reached the coveted 2048 square on the most annoying app in the world; 
  5. trawled through painfully pointless articles on Buzzfeed (however, I can’t judge right now, because I’m writing this).

As you can see. I have been using my free time wisely, and productively. Seriously, don’t all get jealous at once. My life is unbearably riveting.

How I did it. That is, how I survived grad school.

Back to the point I’m trying to make: I survived my first year of grad school. And I’m going to tell you how right now. The big reveal. It’s here.

Don’t go.
Don’t do it. 

And there you go. The secret of how I survived: I wished, every second of every day, that I hadn’t made that stupid decision to come to grad school.

As a consequence of thinking this thought, during every waking moment, of every single day, I didn’t pay attention to the time that was in fact passing by. And suddenly, now I’m here. Out of the “I hate grad school” haze. Alive. Surviving. I focussed so much on what I wanted to do in the future; what I wanted to be doing instead of writing that f*#%$!g paper; and what I would have been doing if I hadn’t come here, that by the time I’d finished cursing my life, and every single article written by every single biblical scholar, it was suddenly May 7th. And the time had arrived. My first year was over.

Bring on second year. I have the key to survival.

Okay, so I’m being a teeny bit over-dramatic.

I can’t help it. Grad school will, I repeat will make you crazy. I think by the end of this semester, I’m certainly questioning that decision I made to dedicate two years of my life to this tormenting, never-ending nightmare.

However, pause.

Breathe. Relax. Think. Remember —

 It wasn’t so bad.

I’ve drank out of one of those red solo cups. And then been sick in it. I’ve seen (albeit missed most of it) a baseball game. I’ve rowed in a disgusting river in Tennessee, and we came last. I’ve ticked a whole bunch of movies off my Netflix List. I turned 23. I wrote a term paper longer than my undergraduate dissertation. I learned how to speak elementary German. And forgot how to speak proper British English. I went to my first, real, American thanksgiving. I ate a waffle, with chicken tenders and hot sauce. I got addicted to Southern sweetened iced tea. I’ve done so much, and I wish I could list it all. But most importantly, and I’m not been sarcastic, I’m actually being deadly serious, no joke…

I have made some fantastic, supportive, beautiful, persevering, ridiculously hilarious, open-minded, intelligent, no boundaries allowed, life-long friends.

Grad School: A dichotomous relationship

Sure, I may have been consumed (and almost defeated) by grad school this year. But listen, I’m a biblical studies student. That stuff isn’t meant to be easy. So, just like Jonah and that whale, I’ve been spat back out; I’m a little bit worse for wear, but I’m also a little bit stronger, a little bit smarter, and a little bit wiser. I’ve resurfaced and surprisingly, I’m still a whole (partially sane) person. But as a result, I’ve re-emerged fully appreciative of the opportunities that life has thrown at me (even if they did hurt at first). And I’m actually looking forward to doing this all again in a couple of months. I repeat, a couple of months. I need a rest first, to recover, to rejuvenate and let all of this sink in, and finally, to strategize for success when I come back in August.

I crossed a boundary when I came here. I took a chance, and I came to a country I’d never been to before. I took a chance, and I decided to study and make a life here. I crossed territories, boundaries, limitations, and ultimately, I got an experience.

In the end, that’s all I asked for. An experience. And this year, I got just that. I can’t complain.

But hey, I’m British. Give me a break. I was born to complain. That’s why God gave us these accents. Because they’re so goddamn beautiful to listen to, and consequently you don’t have to listen to what we’re actually complaining about. I know this is a blog post, you’re reading this (maybe), and you can’t hear my beautiful British accent. So here, forgive me, have a picture of a cat.

Image

 current mood.

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Alien in a Foreign Land

Did you know that culture shock is a real thing? I didn’t. For me, so-called “culture shock” was an excuse that naive people gave to justify sitting alone in their room and write predictable blogs about missing home.

Hello World. I’m Kate and I’m suffering from culture shock.

I’m not joking.

It is a real thing. I read about it on Wikipedia so now I consider myself a world-class expert on the topic. Sarcasm aside, I was certainly very naive to think that moving to a new country was going to be an easy transition. Indeed I’ve never been to America before, but seriously, how different could it be? It’s only across the pond. We (almost) speak the same language. We (almost) eat the same foods. And we all love the British monarchy (minus miserable republicans who don’t appreciate true love. Long Live Will & Kate). Surely that would be enough to guarantee my flawless transition into American culture? Apparently not. Today I had to face reality: I’m an alien in a very foreign land.

Drawing upon very reliable facts extracted from Wikipedia (give me a break, they had references to legitimate research), I discovered that culture shock consists of four stages: (1) Honeymoon; (2) Negotiation; (3) Adjustment; and (4) Mastery. I recently entered the second phase.

Negotiation

After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety.

– Wikipedia, “Culture Shock”

Coincidently I’ve been in America for three months now. HOW PREDICTABLE. I’m a textbook Wikipedia entry.

Prior to this, everything was perfect. A “honeymoon” one might say. America was a novelty; everything was just like the movies. But it was even better because it was all REAL. The fraternities were real. Pop-Tarts were real. Diners were real. All of it. And it was amazing.

But it didn’t last. The Frat boys were obnoxious. My Pop-Tart broke in half inside the toaster. And I realised that I had to choose between a S’mores milkshake or a double stacked bacon ‘n’ cheese steakburger because there’s no way in hell I can finish both. My “American dream” fizzled out, slowly, but surely. And now I’m here – facing reality – in a country where people keep asking me (a) if my accent is real, (b) if I was in Game of Thrones and, (c) if I was invited to Prince George’s christening. It’s terrifying.

So where do I go from here?

I’m still figuring that out. All I know is that this “negotiation” phase requires me to start re-evaluating some of my unfounded and romanticised assumptions. Of course, before I embarked on this journey I should have done some quite crucial transition preparation. But “should’ve’s” are no use to anyone. Especially someone who is freaking out about the very real situation of being so far away from home, while simultaneously trying to fish a Pop-Tart out of the toaster without starting a fire.

Eventually I’ll ask myself the fundamental questions: Where am I? Why am I here? And how am I going to adjust? But for now, I am quite content/overwhelmed with the realisation I made today. That is, I identified that I was in denial. Culture shock exists. The “pond” which separates Britain and America is not a pond at all. And whoever said American culture was not that different from British culture is a liar. Oh, yes, that was me.

I’m Kate and I’m an alien in a foreign land. It took me three months, but I’ve finally admitted it. First step towards “adjustment” – done.

20131120-021121.jpg

This photo was taken pre-culture shock (I’d only been in America for a week). First of all I’m in a diner. Second of all, I was exposed to American Dining 101: Chips are not chips. Needless to say, I had a pitiful meal. Luckily I ordered a milkshake too, which satisfied my diner experience, and my appetite.

Who am I?

Hi, I’m Kate.

In case the title of this blog was ambiguous, I’m British. This is me.

I like coffee and hot places.
“British?!” I hear you interject. “Aren’t the Brits known for drinking tea and surviving cold, wet weather?” Indeed, you’d be right. That’s why I’m going to stop you right there and clarify that my “Britishness” ends at my accent, and my passport. Coffee in hot places = happy Kate.
It also makes for a much better photo.
This photo, on the other hand, was taken in London during the summer.
If the disgruntled look of distress isn’t clear, I can confirm that this isn’t my happy face. No amount of tea makes up for how I felt at this moment. So if I have to sacrifice good ol’ British tea for hot foreign weather, then get me on the first flight out of here. And that’s where my story begins actually. Albeit, not quite so dramatically. Though, ironically, this photo was taken just before I got my Visa at the American Embassy. It was like Britain’s middle finger response to me leaving the country. But I digress.

So, who am i?

When I named this post, I thought I’d just put together a no-nonsense, impersonal blurb about myself:
i.e. 22 y/o British/Filipolo* female; studying at Grad School in the US; currently coming to terms with the ridiculously huge gaps in bathroom stalls and the size of burritos at Chipotle. 
 
* The distinctive fusion of Filipino and Polish ethnicities
However, while pondering about how I could introduce myself (without sounding like a lonely, miserable alien who had made a rash decision to move to America, and subsequently document her painfully normal life on the internet), I realized that the question I had given myself wasn’t actually that simple. In fact, “Who am I?” suddenly became the most difficult question in the world. Well, after “Why is that person watching me through the gap in my toilet cubicle?” and “What is cilantro and why won’t you accept that I don’t want it on my burrito?” Once again, I digress.

“WHO ARE YOU?! ANSWER THE GODDAMN QUESTION!”

Sorry, but I can’t.
A new country, new surroundings, new cultures, and new communities have thrown that question up in the air and now I find myself embarking on a journey where I’m asking myself that very question.
I’ve been here for three months now, and so it’s time to take a good look at my new environment and document some of my new experiences. And eventually, maybe I’ll start to figure out the question: who am I?
But for now I still want to know why there is so much goddamn cilantro in my burrito.
This whole “find myself” journey thing might take a while.