Thoughts from Paris

This past week in Paris, I decided to venture on my own for a little bit. After leaving the Lourve, where I stayed for four hours with my parents, I decided to head to the Museum of Modern Art. It was about a 49 minute walk, or a 7 minute taxi ride. Being the fit & fun & frugal gal that I am (haha), I decided to walk it. The walk was long, but enjoyable. It went very quickly and I enjoyed having some time to myself. I walked along the Seine river and saw some amazing views of the city.

As I walked, I thought about how I would be the only one to ever have this memory. I would be the only one to remember both the disappointment of realizing that the MoMA was closed and the excitement when I stumbled along a cute bookstore. This, to me, is very special. I really like the idea of traveling alone. At some point in my life, I plan to travel alone. Where I’ll go? Who knows. Wherever I want!

New Year Resolutions Update

Guess who hardly held any of her New Years Resolutions??? THIS GIRL!!

I have been going to bed earlier…. as for the rest of them, however, it’s a little iffy. This semester was academically and personally challenging. Despite the fact that I did not uphold my resolutions, I am happy and feel that 2017 has been a great year. Throughout the rest of this year, I am going to try to “live out” the resolutions.

Better late than never, right?

Small

“List three words that you would use to describe yourself.”

This is a question that I have been asked hundreds of times between leadership camps and interviews. Despite all of this practice, I have always struggled to answer this question. Three words to describe me?

I am organized — no question about it. I’m funny — despite the fact that I laugh at my own jokes AND I’m probably the only person that would describe myself this way. I am decisive — unless it comes to ordering at restaurants.

However, right now, I have never been more sure of a word to describe myself: small.

Over the past 3 weeks, I have traveled through Italy with some of my closest friends. I have been to Rome, Vatican City (does that count???), Florence, Sienna, Arezzo, Pisa, Viareggio, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, and Positano.

These places have all contributed to making me feel small. Now, I don’t mean to say that I feel insignificant or weak. I simply feel that there is so much of this world that I haven’t explored. Sure, the world is big. But this is the first time in my life where I have truly acknowledged this.

I have just arrived in Paris, France. I’m going to spend about a week here before heading back to the states. Upon my arrival home, I’ll share some of my pictures and experiences.

Goodbye for now!

January 2017

BAM! Just like that and January is over! January threw a series of curveballs my way, yet somehow I came out happier and better than ever. As for my New Year’s (Month’s) Resolution? NAILED IT!

Have I gone to bed early for the past consecutive 31 nights? NOPE! Have I consistently tried to go to bed early, wake up with plenty of time to spare, and pay careful attention to the way my body and mind feel? YES! Do I consider this month’s resolution a success?? ABSOLUTELY!

I can’t wait to see what February holds. This month has been challenging, but I think that it was an encouraging and hopeful start to 2017.

I am beyond thankful for everything. The people in my life, the organizations in my life, the mere fact that I get the chance to be ALIVE. That’s incredible.

This is all.

Happy NYE!!

Me turning my head @ 2016. Bring it, 2017!!!

I think that I will start trying to write on this blog more. It seems like a good way to document my life and experiences and such.

This year, I decided to break up my resolutions and give myself one per month. This way, I’ll be able to focus on only one resolution, while continuously trying to achieve all of them. So in January, I will try to do all six of these resolutions, but I will only hold myself fully accountable for the one that I plan to focus on (to get more sleep). I have only created resolutions through May, so that I can adjust them in case this system does not work. I also want to choose words each month that will be my “motto” for the month. I’ll post updates about those words on here as well!

Wish me luck, here we go!! Also, if you know me personally, hold me accountable for all of these resolutions, hehe!!

January: Get more sleep and form healthy sleeping habits. This will help you stay alert in classes and have the energy to fully interact and experience all situations.

February: Work out 3 times a week, at least. You deserve to feel strong, healthy, and fabulous in your own body. So make it happen!!!!

March: Write in your journal or on your blog. You may want to reflect on these days later in the year or in life. Give yourself the opportunity to!

April: Find time to read for pleasure. This one may be tricky because it’s in such a busy time of the year. So perhaps the challenge for this month is to be gentle with yourself, and to not push yourself too unnecessarily hard. Find a good balance!

May: Take care of yourself. This month will hold finals and the beginning of your study abroad experiences. Make sure that you are fully experiencing all the opportunities that you are afforded, but do not run yourself down to the point that you are not able to enjoy them anymore. you can do this!!

Reflections on a Special Semester

This semester has been a whopper. I’ve learnt a lot – including the “proper” spellings of many words.

There’ve been quite a few listicles lately, so this will be more of a, let’s say… stream of consciousness post (throwback to our Faulkner unit, 11th grade English).

I came into this semester running away from some things – responsibility, a familiar (and therefore slightly less magical) place, my own fears. I thought a new place would bring a miraculous awakening of purpose, which was flawed logic. But surprisingly, this hope came true anyway.

Let me clarify – it had nothing to do with my move of house, university, country, and continent. It had nothing to do with buying a plane ticket and running away.

It had everything to do with surrounding myself with an entirely new environment made up of new people, new challenges, and new responsibilities. This could’ve happened anywhere. It could’ve happened back in Oklahoma. It was inevitable, this thing called “growing up.”

I learned how to pay rent, how to set up a recurring phone bill, how to grocery shop and feed myself (that could do with some revision, but I’m not dead yet), how to navigate airports alone, how to budget feeling comfortable in my new home for a year against wasting money on unnecessary home goods. Still, these are lessons everyone needs to learn, and lessons we all eventually do learn.

My first year in university was in many ways just a beta version of real life. I lived on campus in dorms with lots of slightly frightened kids far from home, eating from a pretty comprehensive meal plan. There was absolutely no need to leave our beautiful campus if I didn’t wish to, which was great – albeit slightly problematic.

In the end, all it meant was I learned these lesson a little late. That’s ok – what’s important was learning them eventually.

I’ve realized it feels great to finally feel like an adult. This has probably been my best semester yet. Along with growing up a bit, I’ve made new friends, come to really miss and appreciate the friends I have in Texas and Oklahoma, gotten to know a new place like the back of my hand, and, probably most importantly, figured out an academic path that makes me really, really happy and excited for the future. I might even be looking into enrolling in a master’s degree in computer science (keep that one hush-hush; we’ve seen my plans change pretty radically over the past 19.425 years). For once, I not only feel optimistic about my numeric results but also about the semester as a whole and all that I’ve actually learned about myself and the world around me.

The future is exciting, and what makes it so is that it’s still almost entirely unknown and flexible. Anything could happen, so long as I set my mind to the path ahead and charge forward with curiosity and excitement.

I can’t wait to jump into next semester ready and eager to learn even more! But for now, I see nothing wrong with spending winter break avoiding responsibilities, curled up in my pajamas drinking hot chocolate and watching movies with my family…

Until next time,

family

Ellie x

Finals Week(s) Revelations

The past month has been stressful to say the least.

Enduring weeks of equal parts study and procrastination, tearing my hair out over trying to pass (and do well on) my exams, forgetting how to cook food properly because sometimes peanut butter sandwiches are just easier, listening to The Smiths’ complete collection on repeat to drown my sorrows…

Today I realized something pretty massive: I was stressing myself out, giving myself headaches just by excessive worrying and not taking proper care of myself during these intense weeks.

See, these study weeks have been wholly unique, even though this isn’t my first time to the rodeo (taking finals in university, that is).

Firstly, I’m studying in a different country, which inevitably brings a different educational system.

Final exams are weighted much more heavily – all of my finals account for somewhere between 70-80% of my final marking for the semester. Along with this extra pressure, though, comes the knowledge that to pass, I only need to score over 40% overall. Perfectionist me still aims for that golden 90% or higher, but there’s a reason for the lower threshold – exams are comprehensive and one 90-minute period could make or break your final grade.

Secondly, however, I’m in a completely different position since this is the first time I’m taking all of my finals in courses pertaining to my new major – computer science.

It sounds strange to say that describing the structure of a balanced binary tree, proving logical statements are tautologies, forming queries in SQL, and deriving circuits from truth tables are all tasks I thoroughly enjoy. I think I’ve finally found my niche, a subject that infinitely fascinates and constantly invigorates me. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and that totally changes my perspective on finals.

Here, I have just a few hours to sum up all the interesting bits and pieces I’ve learned over the past few months and weave them together to prove my knowledge to the very people who have passed the knowledge onto me. I prefer to think of finals as some sort of epic quest to prove my worth and myself – it sounds medieval, but more magical than torturous.

Yes, it’s unbelievably stressful, tiring, worrying. But the holidays are mere days away and I can get through it.

It just helps – a whole lot – to really love what you’re doing. Find that thing – find your nice. Explore until you’re nearly satisfied, so that every day you look forward to learning more about that thing. Never settle for less than a subject or a living that constantly pushes you to want more, to learn more, to do more with yourself.

I’m still on the way to finding that thing, but when I chose computer science in that fork in the road, the path ahead got a little less hazy. And that little bit of clarity is a truly great thing.

Wishing the best of luck with finals to all of my student readers.

And remember –

“Love what you do and do what you love.” — Ray Bradbury

Ellie x

A False Reality

Today seemed to fill itself with unexpected emotional turmoil. What should have been an exciting and invigorating experience only created stress and anxiety. But more on this later.

For the majority of my blogging “career” (I haven’t ever been paid, but I’m not sure there’s a better word for it), I have only told half-truths. I cherry-picked the best stories and wrote them in amusing tones with included gifs to liven up my silly rambling thoughts. I don’t regret these previous posts – this type of writing makes me happy and seems to make my readers happy too. Sometimes, though, I feel I’m lying by omission.

Essena O’Neill, an Australian blogger – actually, let’s call her a social media entrepreneur – recently uploaded a brutally honest video that I found pretty inspiring. She called out my generation – herself included – for being overly self-obsessed and narcissistic, for basing all measures of self-worth and popularity on the number of ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram posts. Since the video went viral, Essena seems to have deleted all traces of herself from social media, so it appears she has followed through on her promise to quit it altogether.

She is braver than I.

In a way, social media is core to my life. It brings with it so much good – I have met new friends through Facebook and Twitter (later to become friends with them in ‘real life’), and these sites make me feel quite a bit closer to the rest of the world, big as it is.

But I have promised to be honest now.

I’m obsessed! I find myself checking my phone constantly for new updates. I do draw a large sense of self-worth (or a lack thereof) from how well my postings perform on different apps.

And, most importantly to this blog and what it discusses, I reveal only the best moments of my life to the world.

Don’t get me wrong – I am so lucky. Somehow I’ve managed to get myself across an ocean and do a bit of traveling on the way, thanks to some amazing scholarships I earned (shoutout to the OU Global Engagement Fellows and National Merit programs). I want to give back in some way, to give people a little peek into new cultures or advice about how they can get involved in programs to help them achieve their own dreams of travel and global learning.

For this reason, I feel so grateful to be a Global Engagement Fellow for my home university, an International Student Ambassador for the university I’m visiting, and a new member of Education in Ireland’s 2015 Student Ambassador Program. I hope I can fulfill my duties in each of these roles and encourage my fellow students and learners everywhere to aim high and shoot even higher.

I have to include some perspective, though.

Today, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Google’s European headquarters in Dublin for a university student open house. It was eye-opening and inspiring and I had a truly enriching four hours in those offices. I tweeted some thanks to the organizers and Snapchatted a photo before I left.

But, not an hour later, I spent a good forty minutes bawling my eyes out on Skype to my mom. Hearing such impressive people speak about their astounding work at such a colossal company summoned up all of the insecurities I have about what path I’m headed on. I was stressed about school, stressed about life, stressed about the future, stressed about the year I felt I’d wasted not studying the thing I loved all along, stressed about how much of a beginner I am in the field I love, stressed about the pressure to do well in such a competitive and seemingly bleak world. (More on these topics in a future blog, I hope.)

I didn’t post a photo of my red eyes and smeared mascara to Instagram. And if I hadn’t decided to write this blog, I would’ve continued on with life, no bother. Now the truth is out there, and that’s more useful.

A full picture: studying abroad is stressful. Hell, studying is stressful enough as it is. Throw in strange accents (or, for many, a foreign language), a new university culture where students go home every weekend while you stay alone in the city, a school system in which you might have two assignments all semester with most of your grade relying on one test, new pressures to do with different age limits on certain social activities… It all gets a bit much. I get a bit lonely. I get quite a bit homesick. The stress has heightened my nervous ticks, slight stutter, germophobia, and dermatillomania. None of this is documented on social media, but it is certainly true.

This post may seem a tad depressing, but I don’t mean it to be. I’m just sick of parading around an airbrushed version of my life on the Internet. I want to be more open and honest about the realities of day-to-day life. This is not to discourage anyone from studying abroad or launching into new adventures – quite the opposite, in fact. Going through the struggles – large and small – of culture shock has made me feel more equipped to help those who will experience it after me.

Social media distracts us from the struggles until it becomes one of them. It’s ok to feel a little lost. Nobody has it all figured out, even if some Instagram profiles say otherwise. Take a breath and a step back. Live the adventure for yourself, not for the camera.


Interestingly enough, this complex topic is one I explored in my honors New Literacies course with Dr. Brian Johnson last fall. One book we read in class that I’d recommend is It’s Complicated, written by media researcher danah boyd. A free PDF copy is available on her website.

My OU Cousin: A Story of Fate

“Matching” services have never appealed much to me. Despite my non religious outlook on life, I’ve always admitted to myself that I hoped something like fate or destiny might lead me to the right people to befriend.

But, as it turns out, finding the right people seems to be increasingly difficult in this age. Dropping by coffee shops no longer results in unexpectedly wonderful conversation with strangers, since each is focused on their laptop or coworkers (Starbucks is the new hotspot for staff meetings and study hours). Plugged into music, every two-seater table is its own universe, separate from and ignorant of the rest of humanity.

Enter the OU Cousins program. Just as my adventurous side began to yearn for people of different backgrounds to become my friends, this program sent me an email asking if I wanted to meet an international student.

The matching party was, to put it bluntly, hell. I arrived late to a chaos of swarms of girls chatting (quite loudly), attempting to get to know one another by asking questions and struggling to hear the answers over the ruckus and noise. I was confused. Everyone seemed to have a match already, and as soon as I struck up a conversation, the announcer would ask us to “rotate” (in more of a crowd than concentric circles) and find someone new to chat to.

Then, I met Olivia. Amongst the confused, she had just as lost a look as I’m sure I did, and we found each other. After a short enough conversation to determine we were both sane and apparently compatible, we agreed to be each other’s cousins, if only just to escape the craziness. I immediately felt a sense of connection; when one slightly aggressive girl interrupted our conversation, I politely told her we had already decided to match up. And she got the hint and went on her way.

Since that fateful evening in September, Olivia has introduced me to her friends, with whom I hang out nearly every weekend. We’ve watched movies together, laughed together, cooked and baked together, cuddled like sisters… I have truly made a friend for life. Neither of us saw our “cousin-ship” as an obligation or weekly task. It felt like we were immediately true friends who hung out by choice, not because of some match in a computer system.

Next Wednesday, I will simultaneously celebrate Olivia’s birthday and say goodbye to her for the foreseeable future. And it’s pretty scary. I have learned so much about this new friend and about myself. I’m bidding farewell as I go on an adventure similar to the one she’s living right now. At the least, I know we’ll meet again soon enough somewhere, perhaps on either side of the pond. I’ve made some amazing memories with this girl and it’s not the end of making new ones.

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