Highlights from 2018: A Year of Personal Growth and Exploration!

I know this post is a little late, but this is my blog so I get to post whatever I want whenever I want [insert emoji with tongue sticking out]. Plus, let's be honest, I just finally posted photos from my trip to Paris that took place six months ago, so this is relatively on time! Yikes. Anyways, I wanted to take a moment and put out into the interwebs my highlights of 2018.

2018 HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Presenting at Conferences

 
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I got accepted to two literary conferences in 2018. The first conference took place at the University of Portland. I had never before visited the quirky city of Portland, but it was a great way to experience it for the first time. I got donuts from Voodoo Donuts and hauled up in my AirBnB while I practiced and practiced and fine-tuned and practiced my presentation. When it came time to present, I was still so nervous that even thirty minutes after I finished I was still shaking. But it was honestly such an exhilirating experience. To celebrate finishing the conference, I made dinner plans with two old friends from high school. My friend Noelle lives in Portland and our friend Johannes was visiting her from Germany, so it was a perfect time to be there and get to see them both. I also visited Powell's City of Books twice in four days. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

The second conference was at UC Berkeley in the Comparative Literature department. If I was nervous before, those nerves only doubled when I learned that the other students presenting were top students at top universities. The presenters came from Princeton, Columbia, NYU, University of Chicago, and Reed. I also made the big mistake of googling everyone before the conference, so I found out that the presenters had won various awards, were the Editors of their undergraduate academic journals, etc. I was so nervous! But then Aashish reminded me that I also went to a good university, that I was an editor for my academic journal, and that I deserved to be there as much as the other presenters.

Overall, these conferences were major highlights in 2018. Being accepted gave me a huge boost in confidence. I had the chance to present my academic research with other academics and was able to hold my own. Going forward, my fears of academic inadequacy have been somewhat quelled.

2. Graduating!

 
 

Finally graduating from university was truly the number one highlight of my 2018. I had been in community college for so long before applying to transfer that it made the two years at Berkeley just fly by. The whole experience was a crazy rollercoaster of ups and downs. There were a lot of really difficult times over those two years, including a pretty bad dive into depression that forced me to seek counseling. There were a lot of feelings of inadequacy, fears of failure, and terrors of being exposed as an impostor (see: impostor syndrome). But there were a lot of positives too. I really think I came out on the other side a completely different and better person. My thought process is much more complex than before starting at Berkeley. I look at everything through a literary lens now, which I think has made me understand the world a lot better. Most importantly, I became so much more confident in my abilities and learned to truly believe in myself.

3. Bon Voyage!

 
 

The final thing I want to highlight from 2018 (though these were certainly not the only highlights) was my very belated honeymoon trip with Aashish to Paris and Rome! Even though we had been together for nearly four years, Aashish and I had never been on a plane together until our flight to Paris! Isn't that crazy? We had been on many road trips and knew we traveled well together, but we had never been on a real vacation. It turned out to be the best trip of my life, even though I spent a good majority of it suffering from horrible allergies or being sick.

We both fell absolutely in love with Paris. It would be hard not to. With stunning architecture, delicious food, and amazing museums everywhere you turn, it is impossible not to immediately understand why it is the most iconic city in the world. And Rome was a delight too, though to be honest Paris was much better of a city. But what I most enjoyed about the trip was just simply being with Aashish. When we were talking about our favorite parts of the trip, we both agreed that while x museum or y site was beautiful, our favorite part was just walking around the city together. We have the same sense of humor and we just laughed and laughed the whole trip! We explored the streets, took naps in beautiful parks, kissed under the Eiffel Tower, and just enjoyed being around each other. I can't wait to explore the rest of the world with my best friend by my side.

Well, that is all from 2018 for now. (But stay tuned for more about the Rome leg of our trip coming soon.)

Until next time!
Shayna

Mon Amour, Paris

They say that Paris is for lovers, and boy, isn't that true! Aashish and I, after two years of being married, finally got to take our honeymoon earlier this year. We each chose a city. I picked Paris, Aashish picked Rome. We ended up spending nine days in this glorious city and we didn't waste a second of it. Every morning we got up at 8:30 and were out the door by 9:00. We would spend all day exploring the city, and wouldn't return to our AirBnB until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. It still wasn't enought time.

We saw so much while we were in Paris! We hit all the major attractions, such as the Louvre and Versailles, as well as the littler, lesser known attractions, such as Victor Hugo's appartment and the Marie Curie Museum. Because we saw so, so much and took way too many photos, I just wanted to share a few highlights of the trip.

The Musée d'Orsay

 
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While the Louvre is by far the most famous museum in Paris, perhaps even in the world, it was not our favorite museum that we visited while in the City of Lights. The award for the best museum would definitely have to go to the Musée d'Orsay. We have a few Parisian friends and they all indicated that the Musée d'Orsay was their favorite Parisian Museum too. It was certainly stunning, from the incredible architechture, to the beautiful collection of sculptures and paintings, to the breathtaking views. My favorite things to see in the museum were striking (no pun intended) clock fixtures throughout the top floor. Pro tip: rather than wait in the super crowded line in the Impressionist exhibit to take a photo in front of the clock, grab a bite to eat at the cafe. The food is delicious, not as expensive as you'd expect, and there is no line for the clock!

Sainte-Chapelle

 
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Sainte-Chapelle is one of the few sights I have seen that literally took my breath away. The photos simply don't do it justice. The entire chapel is comprised of floor-to-ceiling stained glass panels. The guidebook estimates that over three-quarters of the building is made of glass. I felt like someone had shrunk me down and put me into the most ornate Turkish lantern I had ever seen. We went on a gloomy day when the skies were overcast, but this building was still filled with the most dazzling light I had ever seen. We were bathed in beams of blue and gold and purple. We got the combined ticket that also gave us access to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie was one of my favorite museums simply because of the way the museum provides a compelling narrative of history of the French Revolution. I usually prefer museums that are more visual, with art and architecture that keep me interested. But the Conciergerie, while significantly more informational than visual, kept me intruigued throughout, hanging on every word the curators had to say.

Shakespeare & Company

 
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The Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore located in the Latin District was of course a must-see for me. This bookstore is tiny but filled to the brim with books, music, and laughter. The store is everything I could ever dream of. Walls covered in books, books piled in the corner, a quaint little staircase that leads up to the second floor that is filled with more books, plants, a piano, and windows that look out onto the Seine and the busy Parisian streets. Can I just live there forever? *Sigh*

Ballon Generali de Paris

 
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How the Ballon Generali does not even feature on most Paris travel guides beats me. This was one of the most spectacular things Aashish and I did while in Paris. You have to call ahead and make sure the balloon is not down due to weather conditions, and I suggest getting there early to beat the heat. It is about a 40 minute trip from city-center. It is only a 15 minute ride up into the air, but it costs about 10 euros per person, so it is pretty afforable. It was worth every bit of effort and every penny it cost. The balloon is out of the center of Paris, is very peaceful and quiet, and goes up high enough that you get spectacular bird's eye views of the city. It is a truly unique experience a little off the beaten path and provides a great photo-op.

The Parisian Streets Themselves

 
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Honestly, the best part of Paris, though, was just the Parisian streets themselves. We would literally hit the ground running each morning and just walk and walk until our feet were going to fall off, stop for a picnic and rest, then walk and walk some more. Every little corner of Paris is just so beautiful, and there is so much to see by just meandering and getting lost. Beautiful buildings, quaint allies with fire escpapes covered in plants, hidden parks blooming with roses and peonies, murals and street art, and just simply the people too!

I have so many photos from this trip, but I won't bore you with them all. I still have photos from Rome to share too, so stay posted for those.

Until next time!
Shayna

I'm a College Grad!

Wow! It feels like just last week that I applied to UC Berkeley. It has been a wild, wild ride, and I am so proud of all I have accomplished in this time. In commemoration of my graduation yesterday, I wanted to take some time to reflect on everything I have learned and how much I have grown.

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My love for Shakespeare. When I started at Cal, I was convinced that I hated Shakespeare. I had only read maybe two plays in high school and the experience was not good. "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo," was pretty much the only line of Shakespeare's oeuvre that I knew. When I was told that all Berkeley English majors were required to take a Shakespeare class, I signed up for one the first semester so that I could get it out of the way and spend the rest of my time at Berkeley reading "better" things. Well, I fell in love and ended up taking five Shakespeare courses in four semesters. I thought I hated Shakespeare, but it turns out I love him. I guess it is true that the course of true love never did run smooth!

Strong women can be feminine too. I don't know why so many people seem to think that smart women have to squelch their femininity. I grew up in a time when it was widely accepted that feminine = stupid. Intelligent girls don't wear skirts, brainy girls never wear lipstick, smart girls absolutely do not like pink or glitter or flowers. In order for a woman to be strong woman, she must shirk any semblance of stereotypical femininity and exhibit only stereotypically masculine traits. This is certainly a sentiment in American society. And so, for a long time I too squelched my femininity for fear that people would think I wasn't smart. But since coming to Berkeley I have become more confident in my intelligence (see below). I no longer have to feel insecure when I wear a dress, or fear someone won't take me seriously because I am wearing lipstick. Of course, this still happens, but I have learned that that is more the other person's problem than my own. I have had to face this at Berkeley too, hearing other women make snide remarks about girls who wear makeup to school, and that school is not a fashion show. But now I am wise enough to brush off those comments and stand as a symbol of someone who embraces femininity while also being sharp as a tack. Women should not have to conform to any standard - be it wearing skirts or pants, shaving their legs or not, wearing makeup or going natural. All women, feminine or masculine, girly or tomboyish, and everyone in between should be respected.

Believing in myself. I know I have shared this many times, but I honestly did not apply to Berkeley of my own volition. I thought it was a waste of the $80 application fee to apply to a school I knew I wasn't going to get into. Aashish handed me his credit card, forced me to apply, and the rest is history. But when I got accepted, I still didn't believe in myself enough to want to accept the offer. Why go to a school that I will just fail out of? Again, Super Aashish to the rescue! He all but twisted my arm, promising me that I would do great, but that if I truly hated it I could transfer to UCSD. Now I am graduating with UC Berkeley with honors. I finally have started to believe in myself, to see all that I am capable of achieving.

Anyways, sorry it has been so long since I have posted! Now that I am not constantly trying to keep up with readings, hopefully I will be able to contribute more frequently!

Until next time!
Shayna

Yale University Art Gallery

Ah Yale, the alma matter of Rory Gilmore. As one of the top universities in my field, I decided to make this one of my first stops on the East Coast trip that I took last November. The campus was absolutely gorgeous, everything you would expect from an Ivy. While walking around, I mentioned to Claudia and Laura that it would be cool to go into a museum if we could find one. Well, it must have been fate becuase the second I said that I turned around and saw the Yale University Art Gallery. Get ready for a major photo dump...

Exploring the halls. It was too cold to properly channel Rory.

Exploring the halls. It was too cold to properly channel Rory.

Caught texting when I should be fawning over such beautiful pieces.

Caught texting when I should be fawning over such beautiful pieces.

El Anatsui!! Think I can make one of these from La Croix cans?

El Anatsui!! Think I can make one of these from La Croix cans?

Love Basquiat! Ignore my sassy face.

Love Basquiat! Ignore my sassy face.

Pieced back together from over 90 pieces and over 100 chips, this is like a jigsaw puzzle for art majors.

Pieced back together from over 90 pieces and over 100 chips, this is like a jigsaw puzzle for art majors.

Can I have this apartment please? Seriously.

Can I have this apartment please? Seriously.

Ideal gallery wall to go in above apartment.

Ideal gallery wall to go in above apartment.

Ancient sculptures and beautiful architecture.

Ancient sculptures and beautiful architecture.

One thing tha was so incredible about this museum was that it was completely free - to EVERYONE. Not just students. Not just New Haven residents. Everyone! I think it is so lovely that a private university of this caliber would provide access to the arts to the public.

Until next time!
Shayna