Fulbright Fun!

As a Global Engagement Fellow I am required to apply for a Fulbright my senior year. As a (mostly) normal person I really want to be accepted. So I’ve already begun planning my application, scoping out potential people to request recommendations from, and hanging on Jaci’s every word as the OU Fulbright Coordinator.

Of course the first step in the Fulbright Direction is to pick a type of program: Research, Graduate School, or English Teaching. Then you pick one specific program to apply for – which I’ve done! But that will all be in a different post. So far I’ve just been gathering as much information as possible about Fulbright until my application opens on March 31st. The Fulbright application includes:

  1. Biographical Data
    • Name, place of birth, age, etc. This is the boring stuff really.
    • Brief explanation of your future plans on returning to the US
  2. Statement of Grant Purpose
    • The who-what-when-where-why of why you want to participate in your specified program at your specified location.
    • Must demonstrate clear reasoning on why you need to go to this location and cannot complete a similar program in the US
    • 2 pages, single spaced, 12pt Times New Roman
  3. Affiliation Letter
    • Letter from the institution or program on official letterhead, and in English,  signed by the author stating that they are willing and excited to work with you
  4. Personal Letter
    • Gives the reviewer a picture of you as an individual
    • Concentrates on how your background has influenced your development and how that relates to your program
    • 1 page, single spaced, 12pt Times New Roman
  5. Foreign Language Forms
    • Includes a Language Self-Evaluation Form and a Foreign Language Evaluation Form
    • Not always required (depends on the language requirements of your country/program) but highly encouraged
  6. References
    • 3 Reference letters attesting that you can carry out the project you proposed, not character references
    • They are confidential. You do not get to read them
  7. Transcripts
    • Complete record of higher education. They must be received from every institution where you received credit for coursework

I can’t count the hours I’ve spent planning for this and talking to Jaci, trying to gather her insight and tips. The most important thing I’ve gathered from her is that the Fulbright committee wants to get to know you. Your goals, your reasons for applying, your personality. Not what you think they want to hear. And they seem to have an amazing ability to detect bullsh*t.

I just hope I remember that when I start pulling together my own application!

India Appreciation

I want to go to India soooo bad!

I have for years! Originally I thought I would study abroad in India (but that obviously didn’t happen). I just find their culture and traditions fascinating. The meaning behind everything their jewelry and dances and clothing is absolutely beautiful and I want to go loose myself in it! I’m hoping if I get the Fulbright that I’m applying for (application opens in 4 months! EEK!) I’ll get to take a vacation in India, since I’ll be so much closer than I am now.

So naturally, when India Week rolled around on campus I got very excited. I only had time to go to one event for the week (curse my jobs!) but luckily it was the one I wanted to go to the most! The Indian Student Association had their philanthropy last Wednesday night and it was a Henna night! All proceeds from the Henna went to their charity – providing housing for homeless children in India – so I didn’t feel bad at all about going all out!

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The girl that did this beautiful design on my hand is part of the Indian Student Association and we spent the whole time talking about India! She gave me tips on when to visit and where to go, she even suggested some new Bollywood movies for me to watch (after we talked about how awesome Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is). She’s pretty awesome and I’m happy to say that we are now friends! I’m super excited to watch some new movies over Christmas Break!

Pay it Forward

One of the requirements of the Global Engagement program is joining an International group every year. For the past two years I have gotten involved with OU Cousins, but I decided to take a different approach this time around. This year the GEF program formed several different advisory boards, such as Mentoring, Recruitment, and Social Media. If you’re on an advisory board that counts as your international group for the semester/ year!

I’m actually on the Recruiting Board and the Mentoring Board, but it’s fall semester so we haven’t done much recruiting. What we have done is welcome a new class of Global Engagement Fellows to our OU family, some of whom wanted a mentor. That’s how I met five of the most amazing freshmen. I’ve been (trying) to help them with pretty much anything they need help with, as much as I can.

Honestly, when I signed up to be a mentor, I didn’t know what to expect. I still don’t. It’s kind of weird to be helping someone “get their life together” when I definitely don’t have mine together yet. But as these girls ask me questions, I’m constantly surprised by how much insight I can normally offer them. I hope my mentees are getting as much out of this program as I am. I don’t know if I’ll do it again next year, but I know if I do I’ll learn even more cool things about myself and I’ll me another group of awesome people!

 

Study Abroad Fair

So I recently volunteered to help at the study abroad fair, which was very interesting. I may or may not have decided to help to fulfill my PITF service requirement, but that’s beside the point.

I actually enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would, despite the fact that it was about 100 degrees  outside, because I got to do my two favorite things: talk to people and shamelessly plug Study Abroad. For about half the time I talked to people who came to the Europe tent, since I went to Italy and the UK. I spent the rest of the time at the question booth, giving out prizes to the people who could answer random questions about different parts of the world. I also ran into the professor who taught my Organic Chemistry class in Arezzo, and he remembered me! Which is good since I plan to ask him for a reference for my Fulbright application.

All in all it was a fun event. I just hope some of those people I talked to will actually take the plunge and go.

I’m Back!

Well I’m finally back at OU! I just finished up my second week of junior year, and I can tell it’s going to be an interesting 12 months.

While I was sad to leave Hatfield and I am definitely still missing my international friends, I am beyond ecstatic to be back! I missed my beautiful campus, my crazy friends and wonderful sorority sisters. I missed the library and all of the awesome tech we take for granted in there. I missed my fellow ChemE students and all of the crazy classes we have together. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I was missing OU until I got back. But I’m here now and that’s what matters.

OUFall

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of all my friends. One of the problems with being friends with international or study abroad students is there’s always a little bit of uncertainty about when or where you’ll see each other again, even if you’re from the same university. For example, my friend Alexis studied abroad for fall 2015 and I left as she came back. Over the course of about nine months we saw each other once for lunch to exchange Christmas presents. Another example is my friend Patrick; he is going to Germany for the 2016-2017 academic year. With the exception of about two weeks during summer, by the time he comes back to OU it will have been about 21 months since we last saw each other. I know another girl who is spending the year in Ecuador who I haven’t seen in ages. Studying abroad is great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it can create some absentee friendships. On the other hand, sometimes it works out! I know several people who studied abroad the same semester that I did, so we didn’t really miss each other.

I’m not trying to be a debbie-downer. I love traveling, meeting new people, seeing new places, and learning new things. I am so happy that I decided to study abroad and, now that I’m back, I’m happy to be here too! However much I miss my friends, in the end it’s worth it, but until everyone is back together, it’s just not quite the same.

The view from your window

I’ve been home for about two weeks now, and settling back in with my family and my old routines has been a very interesting experience. I find myself thinking back to the places I’ve been and looking at my pictures pretty constantly. I’ve missed England from the moment I left, and experience has shown me that that feeling isn’t going away any time soon. I miss England in the same way I miss Italy.

I’m always looking through my pictures, real or in my memory, because I’m amazed at how beautiful places can be. I have never thought of my hometown as beautiful, but every place I’ve traveled has been absolutely breathtaking. Even the view out of my flat’s window in Hertfordshire was spectacular at times.

windowH

When people travel, they always talk about how much more beautiful the places they travel are than their homes. But I have realized that isn’t necessarily true. Since coming back from my study abroad I’ve notices how amazing my home town can be. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been gone for five months, but I’m appreciating my surroundings in a way I didn’t before.

I’ve realized that the view from my window in Oklahoma can be pretty great too. :)

windowO

Glass half empty

Sometimes you can make the best of a situation. And sometimes, unfortunately, you can’t.

On Monday evening I said goodbye to some great friends. Except that, since I didn’t want to say goodbye or leave at all, I ended up pushing back my exit until 3:30 am (that was my second mistake. My first was not already being packed.) We said “see you soon” instead of goodbye. I hope that I will see them soon, because I started missing them the second I left.

So at three thirty in the morning I walk back to my flat, finish packing, and take a shower. This brings us to 6:30am, where I check out of my flat and walk to the bus stop. No I did not get any sleep. At 7:40 am I board my bus to the airport (which was 10 minutes late) and spend the next two and a half hours in very cramped conditions, worrying about the state of my souvenir shot glasses. I got to the airport, checked in and got myself lunch while I waited for my flight to board.

The flight boards and takes off half an hour late. I get to my layover and spend the next hour waiting at my gate, but that flight is also delayed an hour. We finally get in the air, heading toward Denver, but there is a lot of bad weather in the area and a ton of turbulence on the plane. We land (safely) in Denver an hour and a half later than we were supposed to. That, combined with customs and security, meant that I missed my connection to OKC. So I was put on the next flight out. At 11:20 am the next day. It was 8:30 pm at that point. The icing on the cake? Since the delay was weather related and not because of the airline, they didn’t put me up in a hotel.

On the bright side I now have the “Slept in an Airport Terminal” life achievement.

Fifteen hours later, I boarded my flight to OKC and an hour after that I finally made it home. In total, it was about 38 hours from the time I left my flat in Hatfield to when I got to my house in Oklahoma City.

Even with all my delays and lengthy layovers, the worst part was definitely saying goodbye to the friends I made at the University of Hertfordshire. Hopefully we will see each other soon, like we all said.

But I guess it just depends on your definition of “soon.”

Family

When I first decided to study abroad, I was ridiculously excited. I couldn’t wait to visit new places, experience new cultures, and meet new people. But I didn’t realize at the time how these new people, places, and cultures would all claim a part of me. I am going back to Oklahoma soon and I’m faced with the prospect of saying goodbye to Hatfield and all the friends I’ve made here.

FRIENDS2

Some of these people I met in the airport the first day I landed. Others I’ve known for less time, maybe only a couple months. But I think it’s amazing that I could feel so attached to them, regardless of how long we’ve been friends. When I first got here, I tried to make as many friends as possible; we all did. It’s almost like making a safety net. You want friends in your flat, in your classes, to go grocery shopping with, to watch movies with. You feel out of place and you make fast friends with as many people as possible so you don’t feel alone. But then if you hold on to those people, you get to know them so much better and faster than you would normally, because you both are out of your element. The result? I’m going home soon, and I feel like I’m leaving part of myself with these wonderful people who have been with me for one of the most amazing parts of my life. Its sad, but knowing them is most definitely worth it.

Here’s to the nights that turned into mornings with the friends who turned into family. I’ll miss you guys.FRIENDS

Chasing Magic

This is the piece that I submitted for my Genre Writing final. The italics at the beginning and end of the story are for context, because this story isn’t complete. But I hope that I can continue working on it!

———

Chasing Magic

Charlotte (Charlie) is a wizard who is approached by a prince who wants magic to change his father’s mind about an arranged marriage. Charlie refuses him, explaining that wild magic will just force people into fairy tale roles. She collects magic in her locket.

 

Charlie could tell something was wrong before she opened her eyes. Her bed had become oddly hard, and her forehead felt rubbed raw. The back of her head was one huge ache as well. Am I sick? She moaned and forced open her eyes to see Theo’s side.

Finally. I thought you were going to sleep all day. Theo languidly stood and stretched, walking away from where Charlie was lying on the floor.

The floor. Charlie staggered to her feet clutching her aching head. “What happened? Why does my head hurt? Were you licking my forehead?”

I was trying to wake you up. And unless you hit yourself on the head with that frying pan behind you, I’d say that someone attacked you. Theo’s tail trashed in anger. Fortunately for them, I was still following that fool prince from yesterday.

Charlie snorted. The kingdom was in for a world of hurt when that boy inherited. Wanting to unleash wild magic just to get out of a marriage that he would have to go through with anyway. She shook her head again and reached for her locket. Her fingers brushed her skin instead. Her locket was gone. “Theo you have to go in to town now! The locket’s gone and it could be leaking magic by now!”

Charlie didn’t waste time watching Theo scamper down the tower steps. He could handle himself around enchantments. Instead she dug her magic mirror out of the closet, dusted it off, and propped it up on the table.

Charlie hadn’t used the mirror in so long she couldn’t remember the actual spell to call another person. She hoped the mirror was in an especially good mood today. “Good morning mirror, could you please ring my foster-father?”

After a small argument about why she didn’t use the proper wording and whether or not a magic mirror cared about emergencies (apparently they don’t), she found herself looking through the mirror into her foster-father’s study.

“Dad?” Charlie called hesitantly. She could hear him, but couldn’t see him. There he was, suddenly, his round face and receding hairline filling up the mirror. He looked as if he’d been under quite a bit of stress. His hair had more grey in it than it used to, and his ever-present smile was missing.

“Charlotte, dear, lovely to see you! But there’s been a bit of an emergency near the southern mountains, so I’ll have to ring you back later.” He shifted his weight and fidgeted, torn between wanting to talk to his daughter and needing to get back to his work.

“Dad, there’s a problem here too. Someone stole my locket. I don’t know how long it’s been gone, but it’s bound to be leaking wild magic all over the place now! I sent Theo to the town to see if anyone’s been affected, but I’ll probably need help cleaning this mess up.”

“Oh no.” Charlie’s father’s face looked haggard. “Charlotte there was a dragon attack on three cities near the southern mountains. Every wizard that could be spared has gone to help. I’m afraid you’ll have to deal with it on your own.”

Charlie sat at her kitchen table making a new magic container, when Theo padded back into the tower room. He jumped onto the table and spat a silver object at Charlie before moving to the armchair. The silver something was Charlie’s locket.

“I don’t understand,” she said, examining it. “It’s completely empty. Even if it had been away from me for a week, it shouldn’t have leaked magic that fast.”

Someone knew what they were doing. They managed to release all the magic in the centre of town. There are Fairy Tales popping up everywhere. Having delivered his news, curl up and pretended to sleep.

Charlie sat at the table thinking about the implications of Theo’s idea. With a start, she remembered what else he had said. Charlie grabbed her locket and rushed to the town as fast as she could.

Charlie sat on the edge of a fountain in the town, exhausted. It had been seven hours since she had left her tower this morning, and she had finally finished surveying the chaos the magic had caused. There was little she could do to fix it at the moment. When the locket was opened, the magic it contained exploded over the town. It wasn’t organized and it didn’t focus on anyone, so some of the fairy tales were incomplete. Charlie had no idea how to fix them. Her focus as a wizard was more on collecting magic and creating small enchantments to support herself. She just didn’t know enough. She needed a lot of help.

On the bright side, some of the stories were easy, even for Charlie to clean up. She had discovered eleven young boys and girls who were caught up in The Little Match Girl tale, and two sets of siblings suffering as Hansel and Gretel, but all Charlie had to do was siphon the enchantment back into her locket.

There was a Cinderella girl and her family, but no fairy godmother. Charlie thought she could deal with that on her own, with a little research. A newly married couple on the outskirts of town seemed to be suffering from the Bluebeard tale. At least Charlie hoped that’s what it was; she didn’t know of any other fairy tales that involved husbands forbidding their wives from parts of the home. She advised the young wife to go visit relatives until she came up with a solution.

But Charlie knew she couldn’t handle it all by herself. She would need help, especially with the Sleeping Beauty household and the Beast that had been roaming the town. Charlie levered herself to her feet and started trudging home. A little girl, one of the little match girls, ran into the street to give Charlie a flower. It was the thing that had entranced her to the point where she disregarded her life, during the enchantment. Charlie smiled at the little girl and took the flower.

Charlie examined the flower all the way home, as if it held the answers she needed. Her foster father had already told her that no wizards could be spared. But who said she needed a wizard? Wizards tended to be very powerful because they could both control and contain magic, but Charlie didn’t need any help with containing. Witches were far better than wizards at manipulating and controlling magic, and Charlie knew one nearby who might be willing to help. She finally reached her tower and began climbing the stairs, twirling the flower as she went. She laughed when she noticed that it looked like the letter O. Maybe the flower had been hiding the solution she was looking for.

­­­—

Charlie made it to her living room and wondered – for perhaps the hundredth time – why she thought living in a tower would be a good idea. She sat in her armchair to catch her breath. Theo emerged from wherever he had been hiding to curl up on her lap, a rare display of affection.

“I’ve got an idea Theo,” Charlie mumbled, still slightly out of breath. “But I can’t do it on my own. I think I have to ask Oliver for help.”

Theo hissed in response.

“Oh come on Theo. Don’t hate Oliver just because of Asphodel! She was just a puppy when that happened. I’m sure she won’t chase you up a tree this time.”

It’s not proper. Witches should have cats. We are much more respectable that puppies.

“Don’t be so traditional!” Charlie stood and put Theo back in the vacant armchair. She went to the table where she left the magic mirror that morning. During their argument that morning they had come to an arrangement: the mirror would let Charlie place calls without using the proper spell, and Charlie wouldn’t alter its basic functionality so that it couldn’t talk. Charlie felt ever so slightly bad that she had been so mean, but she couldn’t argue with results.

“Mirror? I would like to talk to the witch, Oliver, please.” She asked, trying to be polite. There was no point in aggravating the mirror more.

“Of course you would.” The mirror sneered in its odd, gravelly voice. It was obviously still miffed about that morning. But it didn’t argue, and Charlie soon found herself looking at a wall.

“Oliver?” No one answered, but Charlie heard something in the background.

“… better be very important. I was monitoring the effects of long term versus short term weather spells. If that was ruined for nothing I’ll be very vexed!” The voice grew louder as it went on, complaining about how difficult the experiment had been to set up, and how much work it would be to replicate, until the person it belonged to opened the door.

“Hello Oliver!” Charlie said brightly. A positive attitude was key when dealing with Oliver.

“What do you want Charlotte? You interrupted an important experiment on-“

“Yes, I already heard. I am sorry about that, but something rather more important has come up here.”

“What could be more important than my experiment?” Oliver asked.

Unfortunately, Charlie knew from experience that he was absolutely serious. She thought quickly; the only way to make sure Oliver helped in a timely fashion would be to interest him in an experiment. “Well… have you ever had the opportunity to study a partial fairy tale?”

Oliver scoffed. “There’s no such thing. It would go against the basic principles of magic.”

“I have more than one incomplete fairy tale here, waiting for you to come examine them.” Charlie explained the full situation to him, and she could tell that her plan had worked.

“Fine!” Oliver snapped. “I suppose I can come help you clean up your little mess. But your dratted cat had better leave Asphodel alone!”

Charlie smiled. “Don’t worry, Theo will be on his best behaviour.”

Oliver ended the conversation without a farewell; Charlie didn’t care. He would arrive in three days, and she was determined to have the situation in hand as much as possible before then. She made herself and Theo a cold dinner before retreating into her library. She had a lot of research to do.

The next morning Charlie woke to sunlight pouring in the library window. She had fallen asleep leaning against the table, with a book of classic fairy tales on her left and a book on magical behaviours in front of her. She blinked groggily and tried to remember where she had left off before falling asleep. It was something about the secondary characters, but she couldn’t remember exactly. Charlie got to her feet and instintivly headed toward the kitchen, hoping a cup of tea would help her memory.

As Charlie woke up, she remembered what she had read the night before. The collection of fairy tales was an old one that included Bluebeard. It had mentioned, as a side note, that most occasions saw magic affecting not only the husband, but the forbidden room as well. Charlie smiled; this fairy tale, she could handle on her own. She stuffed the fairy tale book into her satchel. It was joined by the spare magic container she had made the day before, some paper and graphite, and a bit of rope, just in case. After a moment’s thought, Charlie also added the magical behaviours book to the bag. She double checked that her locket was around her neck as she watched Theo pretend disinterest in her actions.

“Come on Theo,” Charlie called over her shoulder as she walked toward the door. “You know you want to.”

Charlie sat in the road in front of the Bluebeard manor explaining her plan to Theo, who was pretending not to care.

“Okay so, after I put him to sleep, you make sure he stays that way while I go take care of the forbidden room. If he starts to wake up, come and tell me quickly. When I’m done fixing the room, I’ll take care of him.” Charlie knew it probably wasn’t the best plan, but it would do. Hopefully it wouldn’t take her that long to find the room.

Why can’t you take care of him first? Theo asked with a yawn.

Because this dratted book seems to think that won’t work. I don’t want to waste time finding out if it’s right,”

What if that little potion of yours doesn’t work? Charlie had made a sleeping potion with herbs from her garden as they walked toward the manor.

“Well, if that doesn’t work, there’s always plan B,” Charlie showed Theo the rock in her other hand. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that; Charlie had never tried to knock someone out, and wasn’t entirely sure if she could. “Alright, let’s go.”

Charlie marched up to the door of the manor and knocked sharply. The door was opened by a man she could tell was Bluebeard. It was like a mental itch, telling her there was loose magic around.

“Hello sir, my name is Charlotte, I’m the wizard that lives in the tower outside of town.” Charlie smiled, hoping to come across friendly.

“My name is Henry. You told my wife to go visit her mother, because some of your magic got loose. I don’t understand why she had to leave.” he said rather huffily. Charlie was interested in the fact that he didn’t know magic was affecting him. Most people could tell, even if they couldn’t do anything about it. But it was something she’d have to think about later.

“Henry, I have a strange request, but it involves cleaning up the magic that was released yesterday. I know it’s odd, but would you please drink this? I promise it won’t cause any harm.”

Hesitantly the man took the potion and drank it. He blinked a few times at Charlie, waiting to see what would happen, before collapsing in a heap on his front steps.

Theo sat down by the unconscious man’s head. Aren’t you going to tie him up?

“I don’t want to waste time.” Charlie kept a hold of the rock and ran in to the house. As an afterthought, she locked the front door, before concentrating on the magic around her. The bit behind her was Henry, she needed to ignore that for now. Everything else came from… Down.

Charlie ran around, looking for stairs to the basement. She wasn’t sure how long the sleeping potion would last since it was fighting other magic. She found stairs in the kitchen and followed them down. Charlie felt again for the magic. This time it was off to her right, close by. She created a light that would hover a few feet ahead of her so she wouldn’t trip. Looking around, Charlie saw a small door set into the wall. As she approached it, her mental itch grew steadily worse. This was what she was looking for. She opened the door and found herself in a completely ordinary broom closet.

Charlie had just pulled her locket over her head and flicked it open when she heard loud banging from above her head. She hesitated for just a moment – maybe I should have tied him up – before closing her eyes and willing the magic to leave the room and enter her locket. It was exhausting and took a good amount of focus; the enchantment didn’t want to let go. But as the banging from above her head became louder, Charlie became more insistent. Slowly, the magic gave in.

When about half of the magic was gone, Theo came bursting into the basement. He stumbled down the stairs in his haste and rolled to a stop in front of Charlie. Her concentration wavered as she focused on her cat. Theo was never that clumsy. But as the spell began to slip out of her control, Charlie refocused on her locket.

He’s coming. Luckily for you, he isn’t interested in finding a different way into the house. But I don’t know how long that door will hold him.

“What happened?”

Charlie redoubled her efforts on containing the spell as Theo explained that Henry woke up soon after she entered the house and began attacking the door. What are you planning to do now?

Charlie smiled as the last bit of magic slammed into her locket. She shut it and put it back around her neck. “Now we try plan B.” She closed the door to the broom closet and hid in the shadow behind the stairs. She put out her floating light as she listened to the sounds of the front door splintering. “How did you get in if he’s having such a hard time with it?”

The windows are open all around the ground floor. If he was really trying, he’d have been down here ages ago. Theo sniffed disdainfully.

The attack of the front door abruptly ceased. There were sounds of debris being kicked out of the way, followed by deliberate steps toward the stairs. Henry paused for a moment in the kitchen and the sound of metal on wood made its way to Charlie and Theo.

Charlie focused on the shadowy figure stomping down the stairs. She saw the sharp gleam of metal in his right hand as he stepped past her toward the broom closet. When he opened the door Charlie crept up behind him and slammed her rock into his head with all her might. He stumbled forward, but didn’t stop moving as he turned to slash at her torso with a kitchen knife.

Theo darted forward and clawed his way up Henry’s leg.

Charlie hit Henry with the rock three time while he was distracted by Theo. The third proved to be enough to knock him unconscious, and Charlie immediately set about collecting the magic off of him. It was much easier than it had been with the room, because there was so much less magic to deal with. Finished, Charlie moved to sit on the steps, her breath still coming in gasps.

Hopefully the rest of the fairy tales would be easier to deal with.

 

Together, Charlie and Oliver fix the remaining three fairy tales, and discover that the prince’s older sister was behind stealing the locket and releasing the magic. She was a witch and wanted enough magic around so she could cast a spell making herself inherit the throne instead of her brother. Charlie manages to stop her.

Catalyst

This is the piece that I turned in as my final for Becoming a Writer

———-

Catalyst

“Hey Isa! Do you want to grab some drinks later?”

Isabelle looked up from pipetting buffer into the test tubes. “Jeremy! Is it time to go already?”

Jeremy nodded. “You’re the last one working. Again. Anyway I was thinking we could all go for some drinks, at that bar on 23rd and 3rd?” He gestured to the group of graduate students lingering by the door.

“I don’t know if that’d be such a good idea…”

“Come on Isa, we all just got paid yesterday!”

“It’s not that, genius.” Isabelle said, moving around him as she packed up her things. “I don’t think that Chris would be very happy about it. Besides, it’s a Wednesday!”

“But you only live once! And just because he’s your boyfriend doesn’t mean he’s in charge of you.”

Isabelle sighed. Chris had changed a bit lately; his job had become stressful, and he started using alcohol to take the edge off. She hated being around him when he was drunk. Isabelle smiled, maybe she could avoid that tonight. “Yeah, I’ll come.”

“Yes! We’re all going to meet there around 8. See you then!”

Isabelle smiled as she watched Jeremy leave the lab. They had become good friends when Isabelle started working in the lab the previous year, and they remained close, even though he was awarded her fellowship, when it was renewed.

She packed up her things and got on the subway towards her apartment. She had time to change out of her lab clothes and grab a quick dinner before heading over to the bar, and maybe leave Chris a message. Hopefully he wouldn’t be too annoyed that she was going out with her co-workers.

                                                                                                —

Isabelle checked her watch with the light from the neon sign over the bar. 10:07. She should probably head home soon, Chris would probably be less angry if she didn’t stay out too late. She looked back the tables her group had commandeered. Isabelle rarely got to see any of her co-workers outside of the lab, and the change was interesting. At work they were all serious students, working on Master’s Degrees or PhD’s, but here they were just young adults who didn’t care that they had to get up and go to work the next day.

Isabelle smiled and turned back to the bar to grab her refilled glass. On her way back to her friends, she noticed she had a few texts and a voicemail. They were all from Chris. Her heart sunk as she skimmed the messages.

“Where are you?”

“Who are you with?”

“Why are you ignoring me?”

Isabelle deleted the voicemail without listening to it. She didn’t want to listen to him yell at her, and she couldn’t defend herself to a recording. She went back to her table, half-heartedly joking around with her friends as they all told stories about each other, and savoured her drink, trying to make it last. Then she said goodbye to everyone and headed home.

Chris was waiting for Isabelle, watching TV, when she got home. “Did you get my messages?”

Isabelle looked at him as she took off her coat, wondering how angry he was going to get. “I didn’t check my phone until I left the bar.”

Chris nodded, his eyes returning to the television, and Isabelle sighed in relief; maybe he didn’t mind much.

Still watching the show, Chris asked “Was Jeremy there?”

“Yes” Isabelle replied, careful to keep her voice even.

“You know I don’t like it when you go out with him. I really wish you would respect that more.”

“Chris, Jeremy is just a friend. Besides he wasn’t the only one there. A bunch of the guys came.”

Chris ignored her and continued, “Also, it was kind of inconsiderate to just leave me a note instead of calling me. Or inviting me. What if I wanted to go? Not that you care.”

“Chris that’s not true!” Isabelle tried to think of a way to get him to listen to her. But he just kept going, complaining and blaming her for things until she was in tears. “I’m sorry Chris. I won’t do it again.”

Chris smiled, carefree again. “It’s okay Isabelle. I have to get home, but I hope you don’t have any plans for tomorrow night. I want to take you somewhere really nice!”

Isabelle smiled weakly, still upset, as he kissed her on the way out.

“I love you, babe.” Chris called over his shoulder as the front door shut between them.

“I love you too,” Isabelle whispered to the empty room.

The next day Isabelle went to a thrift shop to treat herself to some new clothes. All of Isabelle’s clothes were second-hand, except for the suit she had for business meetings and interviews. She used coupons to buy food, rarely ate out, lived in an economy apartment, and tried to maintain some kind of savings, all on a tiny budget. She was, unfortunately, getting desperate. Isabelle was a scientist, who was overstaying her welcome at her post-doctoral fellowship; she was paid practically nothing to mutate the same strand of DNA in different ways to see what would happen. Her supervisor, Dr. Johnson, was very kind to keep paying her once the fellowship ran out, but she was having trouble finding a job. Isabelle had sent a resume out to every major medical and pharmaceutical company she could think of, but hadn’t had any luck. She knew what job she wanted, and had even made it to the final round of interviews, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up. What was the likelihood that the World Health Organization would hire her anyway? Besides, if she stayed local, she could stay close to her sister.

Isabelle’s phone rang. She checked the name before she answered. “Sara! I was just thinking about you!”

“Weird!” Sara’s brassy rang out of the phone. “What’s up little sister?”

Isabelle adjusted her grip on her bag. “Nothing, I just treated myself with some shopping on my lunch break.”

“Oh, feeling fancy, are we?”

Isabelle laughed. “I wish! Honestly Sara, I really need to find a job.”

“Still haven’t heard from the WHO?”

“No”

“I’m sorry kiddo.” Sara’s voice filled with sympathy. “Why don’t you come out with me tonight to take your mind off it? My treat.”

Isabelle grimaced. “I’d love to Sara, but I can’t. Chris was really upset last night because I went out with some guys from work, and we got into a fight. He wants to spend some time with me tonight.”

“Isabelle I…” Sara hesitated. “You know I don’t want you to make my mistakes right? I’m here for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? I’m talking about your relationship! It isn’t healthy Isabelle. I don’t want you to turn out like me.”

Sara had graduated college and moved straight in with her boyfriend. She found a job fast enough, but it didn’t pay well and she didn’t fit in with her co-workers. As the atmosphere at her office became more toxic, her boyfriend became abusive. It started with him wanting to know where she was; then he didn’t want her to go out, except work, without him. He started calling her names, but it progressed so slowly that Sara didn’t realize what was happening until he actually hit her. She couldn’t afford to pay for her own apartment so tried to fix the relationship. But it just got worse until she moved back in with her parents to get away from him.

“It’s not like that Sara! Chris has just been stressed from work recently. Everything will go back to normal soon, but I need to be there for him.” Isabelle protested weakly.

Sara sighed. “Isabelle you’ve been saying Chris ‘has been stressed lately’ for, like, six months!”

“It’s not what you think.” Isabelle checked her watch. “Look, I’ve got to get back to work.” The phone was silent. “I love you Sara.”

“I love you too little sister. I’m here if you need me.” Sara could hear the worry in her sister’s voice. She headed back to the lab, shaking off a feeling that Sara might have a point. She was just overreacting.

Walking in to her apartment after work that day, Isabelle started water for her shower and laid out her dress for the evening. Chris hadn’t told her where he was taking her, but he messaged her during the day, telling her to dress fancy and that he would pick her up at 8. She quickly checked the mail she had grabbed from the lobby before getting into the shower. Between a bill and a takeout menu for a new Chinese restaurant was a manila envelope with a return address in Geneva, Switzerland. Isabelle felt the envelope, trying to guess if it was good news or bad. Either way she should have gotten an email…

Isabelle dashed to her computer and opened up her email, clicking through every folder. After a few minutes frantic search she found an email from the World Health Organization Human Resources that had, for some reason, been sorted into her spam mail. She skimmed the email as fast as she could. They were pleased with her application, she had made a wonderful impression during her skype interview, she could be expecting an offer letter via post within the next five to ten business days. Isabelle ripped open the manila envelope, impatient to see what she was offered. It was almost perfect: slightly less pay that she had asked for, but still very reasonable, in Swiss Francs, and assistance with getting a work visa. Isabelle wanted to jump up and down and dance around her apartment, but she jumped in the shower instead, realizing that she only had 45 minutes before Chris showed up.

Halfway through her shower, Isabelle’s euphoria began to wear off a little. She realized she would have to pay the moving costs herself, and find a place to live. She would be leaving all her friends, her sister, and Chris behind. She needed a real job and working at the WHO would be a dream come true. That’s why she applied with them, even though she didn’t think she would actually get the job. But then she got an interview. Isabelle just put on her suit and her most dazzling smile, and decided to think about everything else later. She knew how competitive the position was and never expected to get an offer. But she had, and now she needed to make a decision. Isabelle weighed the pros and cons of accepting the job all evening, barely noticing when Chris picked her up, where they went, or what she ate.

Try as he might, Chris couldn’t capture her full attention. He got more and more frustrated until, when he had walked her back up to her apartment, he suddenly asked her how Jeremy was.

She was pulled from contemplating how much it would cost to move by his question. “What?”

He snorted and ran his hands through his hair, looking agitated. “You’ve been thinking about him all night, haven’t you? Jeremy?”

Worried, Isabelle tried to count how many drinks he had with dinner. She couldn’t remember. She quickly denied that she had been thinking of Jeremy at all and reiterated that they were just friends, all of which was true. She almost told him about the job offer, but decided to wait until he was more calm and less drunk. Instead, she told him that she had been thinking about her apartment.

“It’s a piece of shit. You should just move in with me. You’d be stupid not to realise that.” Chris’ speech was starting to slur. He kicked the coffee table as he stumbled toward the bedroom, and Isabelle winced as the table collapsed. She would tell him soon. She would have to.

Chris gently shook Isabelle awake the next morning, to tell her goodbye and apologize about the table. He told her there was breakfast in the kitchen. She stumbled groggily toward the kitchen. Next to the plate of bacon and eggs that he left for her, there was a note. Chris wrote that he was serious about her moving in with him. It would save her money, and make finding a new job less important. He was sure they could work something out with her landlord.

Isabelle suddenly felt nauseous. Chris had been getting more and more controlling lately, but this was going a little too far. She knew this was what he wanted, but they had talked about it before, and it had never felt quite right. Now, with the opportunity she was considering, it felt completely wrong.

Isabelle jerked herself out of her reverie to check the time. Oh no… No no no! She was already late for work. She rushed to her closet, tripping over the broken table. She threw on a pair of jeans and an old shirt; a plus of working at a University was that no one cared about what she wore. Isabelle glanced in the mirror long enough to see that her hair was a lost cause, and she threw it up into a ponytail before tripping over the table one last time as she ran out the door. When she finally did get to work, she went straight to the cold room. She wanted to thaw one of the DNA samples from her last round of mutations. One of them had looked like it was actually expressing different characteristics. But one of the graduate students took over for her, saying that Dr. Johnson wanted to speak with her. Isabelle went to his office and immediately began apologizing for her tardiness.

“That’s not it, Isabelle. I mean, you shouldn’t be late, but…” He looked at his desk, as if embarrassed to be the bearer of bad news. “Jeremy’s fellowship is officially starting. I can’t afford to pay you anymore.”

Isabelle froze. She knew this was coming, but she thought she’d have more time.

“I’m sorry Isabelle.”

Isabelle could tell that Dr. Johnson meant it. “I understand. I’ll just… go home then.” She didn’t want to make him feel worse, but she just wanted to get out of the building.

Isabelle left as fast as she could, but Jeremy caught up to her.

“I’m sorry Isa.”

“Don’t worry about it Jeremy. It was only a matter of time until I had to leave. Besides, you should be happy that you got the fellowship. It’s a great opportunity.”

“I know.” Jeremy sighed. “I just wish that I hadn’t gotten it at the expense of your job.”

Isabelle surprised herself by laughing. “Don’t worry, I’ve got some golden opportunities in my future. I’ll see you around, Jeremy.” She shook her head as he walked back to his lab bench. She would definitely miss working there.

Isabelle thought about calling Chris, but she knew he would just use her lack of employment as ammunition for his ‘you should move in with me’ argument. She didn’t want to hear that at the moment.

She tried to call her sister instead, for some perspective, but there was no answer. Isabelle went to the nearest park and walked around, trying to make a decision. She wanted to take the job with the WHO. She was officially unemployed, and her relationship with Chris wouldn’t survive much longer if he kept trying to make decisions for her. But she didn’t want to leave her sister.

Isabelle’s phone rang; it was her sister, calling her back. “What would you say if I moved to Geneva?”

Her sister laughed a little, startled. “What, are you serious? You got the job?” Isabelle’s silence answered the question for her. “Well I would miss you, little sister. But maybe it would be a good thing for you. What about Chris?”

“I haven’t told him yet. But he won’t want me to go. I think you might be right about him Sara.”

“Oh.” Sara didn’t seem to know what to say to that.

Isabelle let out the breath she had been holding. She thanked her sister and hung up with the promise of another call soon. She sat down on the nearest bench and made her choice. She would take the job with the World Health Organization. She would break up with Chris and move to Geneva. She would figure out how to pay the moving costs. Isabelle knew she could do this.