Category Archives: me

Writing Repository

Howdy! I’ve missed this place, but I think I might be back for real this time after a few failed attempts to get Twitter and Tumblr famous. ūüė¶ Also, now I’m directing potential employers to this site, so hi guys! Sometimes I write things.

Here are some of my latest CASE pieces going from most to least recent:

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Not Dead Yet

Dear all,

None of you read this anymore, but some of you will end up here, anyway, since these posts automatically share to my Twitter feed and it’s almost 1:00am and you’re still on the internet and what else have you got to do at this hour anyway? (Don’t answer that.) ¬†I have, to put it mildly, been remiss in my posting duties, and I’d like to say that ALL OF THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE, but let’s be honest, here. ¬†I’m just one person, and there are only 24 hours in a day, and now I have a subscription to Netflix. ¬†I also have a full-time job, and weekly editorial commitments to CASE Magazine (like, follow, subscribe… please!).

ON THE OTHER HAND, I miss writing, and I miss writing here, and while CASE is on summer vacation, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick this up again (and try to stick with it this time). ¬†I feel like, with all the more formal writing I’ve been doing lately, I’ve lost touch with my sassy 20somethingbloggergross internet voice. ¬†AND I DON’T LIKE IT.

Things will have to change, though. ¬†For one thing, I’m not going to commit to more than one post a month for the time being. ¬†I’d rather make a promise I can keep, and then maybe exceed it, than try to force myself to do something I know I won’t have time for. ¬†I’m also planning on writing more casually from now on (if you couldn’t tell). ¬†I don’t plan on turning this space into a diary exactly ‚Äď language will still be a general guiding theme/topic ‚Äď but I don’t want to get too worked up over structure (ha!). ¬†I do enough of that in other parts of my life, now.

I’ll write a little something for you. ¬†You can write a little something back. ¬†IT’LL BE AWESOME.

For more frequent, more random updates, you can check out the tumblr I created as a space for idea vomit, and sure, follow me on Twitter.

Get ready, cuz there’s a big rant coming your way. ¬†I’M BACK!

study abroad: what?

Dear faithful readers, and especially undergraduates,

Welcome to the second of what I hope will become a useful series of posts about studying abroad, which I think plays a vital role in our linguistic development, both as speakers of foreign languages and of our own. ¬†Last time I wrote to you, I gave you some (useful?) advice about setting goals, figuring out the why of your study abroad experience. ¬†Since this is my blog, and my fake epistolary correspondence, though, I’d like to shift the focus back to me and my experience in particular.

In the fall of 2009, I spent a semester in Nantes, the illustrious sixth largest city in all of France, with IES. ¬†Over the course of that semester, I experienced every stage of this annoyingly accurate phenomenon study abroad offices across the country refer to as “the W.” ¬†Retrospectively, I realize that I may have actually spent a huge chunk of time feeling miserable for various reasons, but I still seemed to think I was having the most incredible experience of my life… and that’s how I remember it. ¬†Likely, I was, indeed, having the most incredible experience of my life, and the misery is part and parcel.

The program I did was a perfect fit for me because it provided the exact amount of support I needed to survive my first time in a foreign country without (s)mothering me.  Instead, the whole experience gave me the courage to explore on my own and to take responsibility for my cultural and linguistic growth.  Below, I have isolated a few features of the program (the what, if you will) that were significant to my experience and personal growth.  Note: immersion was foremost among my priorities.

Why this experience was perfect for me:

  1. Program support:¬†Studying abroad with a program, as opposed to direct-enrolling at a university makes a huge difference! ¬†(Especially in France, where the bureaucracy can seriously prolong any of your problems or concerns.) ¬†You have an entire staff that exists just to support you and isn’t part of a larger organism. ¬†For me, this meant help understanding the University’s scheduling system (nonexistent), program-organized travel around France, a place to congregate with other Americans, and a Tuesday evening conversation group as a way to meet some honest-to-goodness Nantais.
  2. My host family: By some stroke of good luck, I ended up with the perfect host mom for me. ¬†She was the first to help me discover the city, unfamiliar French cuisine, and conceptual art. ¬†We are still in touch to this day, and I had the chance to reconnect with her when I was living in Angers this past year. ¬†I realize that a home-stay can seem unappealing ‚Äď what if you don’t get along with your family? what if they are really strict? ‚Äď but living with a host family is the best way to have an immersive experience. ¬†Reputable programs screen and prime their host families. ¬†At worst, you decide you’d prefer to spend most of your time elsewhere (and by default end up doing lots of exploring!); at best, you get along famously and drastically improve your conversation skills.
  3. Living outside the capital city: Often, when I tell people I studied abroad in France they assume I was in Paris, and Paris will always be a temptation for us students of French.  Living in a less cosmopolitan city, though, can often provide a more authentic, immersive experience.  Fewer people were in the habit of speaking English, so even mundane activities tested my ability to communicate in French (and occasionally required a certain amount of daring).  The scale of the city also meant that, within a few months, I really felt like I knew my way around.
  4. ¬†The university:¬†I will be honest: although I took three out of five classes at the Universit√© de Nantes, I would not say that the largest benefit of having access to a university is academic. ¬†The program notified university professors of our presence in their classes, and they set their expectations accordingly low for us. ¬†Having access to a university, though, allowed me access into a pocket of life within the city. ¬†It was a way to discover a different education system and to have some of the important shared experiences that connect people: having an incomprehensible professor who turns his back to the microphone while he’s still talking, eating in the student cafeterias, attending concerts and conferences on campus. ¬†Through the university, I took Friday afternoon salsa lessons and joined a group for international students.
  5. French friends(!): Okay, so, this wasn’t exactly part of my program’s marketing campaign because no one can guarantee who you become friends with… but it was important for me that it be¬†possible to find friends outside of my American compatriots (is that redundant?). ¬†A lot of them wanted to travel all over Europe, and only a few of my friends were particularly keen to speak French all the time. ¬†I was more committed to getting to know the city (and country), culture, and language I had come to experience. ¬†Through my various activities at the university, I ended up making some incredible friends who showed me aspects of life in the city (and in France) that I never would have otherwise discovered. ¬†Also, notably, I dated a French guy: recommended for improving conversation skills.

It’s easy to take certain obvious program structures for granted ‚Äď location, housing, etc. ‚Äď but each feature has an impact on the shape your experience will take.

Happy decision-making!

Thea

study abroad: why?

Dear College Juniors (and anyone) thinking about studying abroad as an undergrad,

I think you are a bunch of attractive geniuses and I am about to tell you why.

Recently, I have found myself engaged in many a conversation with rising college juniors who are planning to study abroad, and who have looked to me, older and wiser as I am, for advice ‚Äď advice I would like to share with the Internet at large. ¬†People frequently ask me about my experiences studying and living abroad, I think, because I have shared them so publicly¬†and I evidently have a lot to say. ¬†My semester abroad turned out to be an incredibly formative experience for me both as a student of French and as an individual, and it has informed (continues to inform) my postgraduate trajectory. ¬†In fact, if I hadn’t studied abroad, I would probably have spent the past year languishing in my childhood bedroom and would¬†still have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Naturally, I have become a huge advocate of study abroad because of the profound effects it can have on your personal and intellectual development. ¬†Yes, of course, it’s a great addition to your r√©sum√©, and it has a positive effect on postgraduate job placement, but that isn’t why you should go abroad. ¬†In fact, you shouldn’t take anyone’s word (not even mine!) as your reason to study abroad.

Let me be clear: I don’t think you should ever ask yourself, “Should I study abroad?” ¬†Of course you should! ¬†You may, at some point, have to ask yourself, “Can I study abroad?” ¬†Certain majors can make it very difficult to study abroad (notably the sciences and psychology), so some of you will need to plan ahead. ¬†Although some of you may be reluctant to miss out on campus life and time with your friends, don’t deprive yourself of this opportunity; college is the best and easiest (and, often, most financially feasible) time to spend an extended period of time abroad.

So, now, you’ve decided to study abroad, you clever, clever person. ¬†Now you ask, “Why should I go abroad? What do I want to gain?” ¬†Perhaps you already have a country (or at least a continent) in mind, but setting a goal for yourself will help you choose the perfect program. ¬†Going to France with a program that teaches all its classes in English won’t do you any good if you want to improve your French. ¬†Try going through the following laundry list to figure out your study abroad priorities.

When I go abroad, I want…

  1. to travel.
  2. to learn a new language.
  3. to become fluent in a language I already speak.
  4. full cultural and linguistic immersion.
  5. to engage in service or social justice work of some kind.
  6. the opportunity to do an internship for credit.
  7. a home-stay with a host family.
  8. to live in my own apartment or in a dorm at a foreign university.
  9. to learn about foreign policy and/or government.
  10. to take classes at a university.
  11. to take classes in English in a non-anglophone country.
  12. a program that is more experience-based than class-based.
  13. to meet students from all over the world.
  14. to meet and travel with other [insert your nationality here]s.
  15. to fulfill requirements for my major/graduation.
  16. to live in a big, iconic city.
  17. to experience life in a smaller city or town.
  18. to feel uncomfortable (in the sense of being pushed beyond your comfort zone… except I think “comfort zone” is a clich√© that doesn’t mean anything).

As you narrow your priorities, you will find that choosing a program will become easier. ¬†No detail is too large or too small, and you may need to do some initial research before you figure out exactly what appeals to you, but I think it’s important to enter your study abroad experience with a sense of purpose. ¬†Perhaps that purpose will change over the course of your study abroad experience, but it will remain a source of motivation and stability.

In my next letter, I’ll break down my own study abroad experience to the essential elements that made it amazing as a guide for you to translate different programs’ features into the actual experiences they will create for you. ¬†I’ll also continue to post study abroad advice throughout the year, and I would¬†love your guidance: what do you want to know?

Until next time, I think you are all beautiful.

Bisous,

Thea

updates from the archives

Hey. ¬†Sorry I haven’t written in a while. ¬†Time’s been short (like me). ¬†Ok, I have a LOT to tell. ¬†On the Monday of two weeks ago my friend [Rita] came to visit.

[…]

Alrighty, I can’t really remember what happened throughout the rest of these two weeks. ¬†[Arthur] got braces.

This week [Harriet] was being all nice to me like we were best of friends. ¬†I have no problem being nice to her, but I don’t trust her as a friend. ¬†Anyway, I think she was being so nice because for drama we were gonna put on our play this Fri, & in the play Harriet & I play best friends.

[Henry] kinda ignored me this week & I embarrassed myself twice.

I was really sick on Wed. so I missed school. ¬†I had a science exam the next day I’m POSITIVE I flunked.

I’ve got a lot more to tell, but I’ve gotta go now. ¬†We have Monday off, so, don’t worry, you’ll hear all.

No, friends, what you just read is not, in fact, the first of the regular Monday updates I have vowed to write.  I have just shared with you an excerpt from my seventh grade journal.  You may note the brackets around the names; the sense of paranoia that comes with being a dork in middle school dies hard (actually, never dies).

I rediscovered all of the journals I used to keep when I was cleaning out my bookshelf in a bout of feng shui a month or so ago, and it was like meeting a completely different person. ¬†If only I could have done this the other way around and sent a journal entry from the future to my thirteen-year-old self ‚Äď a self who, by the way, kept “crush statistics” at the end of every entry.

A few days ago, my friend asked me if I ever kept journals as a kid, even though to look at me is to know the answer. ¬†By high school I had moved on from handwritten journaling and had made my first foray into the blogosphere via livejournal, and it’s taken me until now to reflect on how the transition from analog to digital has affected my writing style.

Of course, I have grown up, and my voice has changed (although probably not as much as I think it has), but my audience has also changed. ¬†In our conversation, I admitted to my friend that the Diary of Anne Frank had a profound effect on me; without knowing who she was writing for, Anne had written a memoir for a global audience. ¬†I, self-consciously, began to write to an ambiguous “you,” which may have been my journal, but might also have been the readers I anticipated long after my death. ¬†Blogging allowed me the instant gratification of a (mostly) sympathetic audience.

I am still trying to figure out to what extent the medium of blogging has affected my voice. ¬†It has certainly made me more guarded with information. ¬†In my seventh grade journal I tore classmates to shreds using their real names ‚Äď in 100 years, who would remember them, anyway? ¬†Now, even though none of us have kept in touch, I’m worried about posting their real names on the internet. ¬†On the other hand, I feel almost obligated to include as many of my incidental thoughts as I can.

Maybe the internet is just like seventh grade. ¬†I’m working, right now, on a balancing act of authenticity: on the one hand, sharing what I’m thinking, to the world, immediately; and on the other hand, wanting that world to find me, and read me, and like me.

what’s going on in my brain digest

Oh, guys. ¬†For once, my tardiness is due to an influx of ideas. ¬†I suppose that you don’t know exactly what I mean when I say “tardiness” because the timing of these blog posts seem to have to rhyme or reason, but I will tell you now: from this day forth I will aim to have a new post for you every Monday with additional, incidental posts during the week as I see fit. ¬†Public statement. ¬†Public shaming.

Now, against my better judgement, I will share with you the various topics that have been bouncing around in my head for the last week and some, and I will perhaps expand on one or none of them this coming Monday.

1. I realize that, at this point, the Pussy Riot verdict may already be old news, but it appears that there are many trials to come, so let’s not let it become ancient history just yet. ¬†Last weekend, I encountered this article on the Daily Beast, which succinctly brings to light the alarming reality of the judicial process, which may have itself have been pulled from the vaults of Russia’s long history. ¬†Ms. Gessen’s point about language and modernity stuck out to me most particularly:

I suddenly realized these texts sounded better in English than they do in Russian. It wasn‚Äôt that the translators had improved the quality of the writing: the originals, which I had read in Russian, had been clear and cogent and surprisingly erudite for three very young women‚ÄĒthey range in ages from 22 to 30‚ÄĒwho had been known for staging radical actions, not for writing political commentary. The problem with the writing in Russian was that the women were speaking the language of the modern world in a country that is rapidly traveling backward in time.

Go with me here: when I was studying abroad in France in 2009, I talked about ¬†music all the time. ¬†It’s an easy topic for small talk and doesn’t require an extensive vocabulary. ¬†Eventually I had to ask, though: why do so many French recording artists sing exclusively (or almost exclusively) in English? ¬†The tradition of Rock and Roll, my interlocutor explained, is American; the spirit of the music is rooted in the English language, and it doesn’t sound as good in other languages. ¬†I don’t want that to be true for Pussy Riot, though. ¬†English, really, can’t possibly be useful as a language of rebellion anymore. ¬†The bigger rebellion, I think, is finding the phrasing and the words to say what you aren’t allowed to say in your native tongue.

2. From the political to the mundane. ¬†Yes, I am talking about the transition from Pussy Riot to this image, but I guess I’m also talking about the image itself. ¬†Bathroom graffiti is still the best forum to editorialize anonymously. ¬†Sorry, internet. ¬†What I really love, though, is the lurking possibility for inappropriate juxtaposition. ¬†While I’m sure learning to read will make a difference in our lives for so many reasons, I am equally sure that Rachel ‚̧ Chad and that they will be together 4ever. ¬†There’s a heart within a heart.

3. Please consider the following.  First a real screen shot from an online job application I recently filled out:

And now this, which is funny because it’s true:

I have to confess: I am horrible at coming up with passwords. ¬†It is easier for me to memorize an arbitrary series of numbers assigned to me by a random website than it is for me to come up with a memorable password. ¬†Moving on. ¬†Having just seen the above video, I laughed ‚Äď actually laughed ‚Äď when the first company website told me to include numbers… and then to include a capital letter… and then to include a special character. ¬†Why couldn’t they just tell me all at once? ¬†At the top of the page?

I realize that these are the principles of creating a safe password: using as many different kinds of symbols as possible to create the largest possible pool of potential combinations. ¬†I took statistics, yo. ¬†I just can’t handle how weirdly analytical some of the guidelines can get. ¬†At this point, it really isn’t a passWORD anymore, anyway. ¬†It is just an arbitrary series of numbers and letters.

So, there you have it: my brain dump of the week in lieu of a cohesive (hah!) post. ¬†If you have an opinion on what you’d like to hear my opinion on, please feel free to leave me a comment. ¬†Clearly, I’ve got plenty of opinions to go around.

missed connections

Ignoring the fact that it has taken me over a week to post a new update: I had a beautiful day today! ¬†A Fitzgeraldian romp on Governors Island complete with hats, pie, and the charleston. ¬†There was literally a parade (of hats) and literally no rain. ¬†Anywhere. ¬†We find ourselves in a quandary, then, because I’m still a little sad. ¬†Mainly, sad for the English language.

What. Is. This. ¬†Actually, that’s a silly question, isn’t it? ¬†This is one of a series of PSAs the MTA has released to let New Yorkers know about all the good work they’re doing these days. ¬†As if we hadn’t noticed. ¬†(Really, you can’t miss it… you can hardly cross a street in this town anymore!) ¬†Cute, colloquial turns of phrase ‚Äď “That’s a lot of minutes.” ‚Äď pepper the campaign, and I’m all about language experimentation, but the buck always has to stop somewhere, and today, it is here.

Here, grammar loses yet another battle to brevity. ¬†Nevermind that the grammatically correct version ‚Äď “New switches. Fewer hitches.” ‚Äď includes a charming internal rhyme, WE HAVEN’T A SYLLABLE TO SPARE! ¬†Apparently. ¬†I realize that just about every medium we communicate in these days requires a terse, catchy approach to the English language (because if we can’t watch a YouTube clip for longer than 5 minutes, how can we possible be expected to read complete sentences!), and I also realize that widely-criticized advertising slogans (Apple’s “think different, for one) can sometimes innovate and/or celebrate American diction, but sometimes it’s just not worth it.

I once interned for someone who would correct, or more accurately, incorrect email blasts I wrote to have grammatical errors. ¬†“This is too formal,” she would say, practically patting me on the head. ¬†Since when does informality equate to incorrectness? ¬†Can we trace it back to George W. Bush’s “nukeyaler” or does it have even deeper roots in America’s dark past? ¬†I was beginning to understand why her TV series hadn’t aired on PBS for several years.

Because I am a genius and master of the English language, this entire train of thought flashed through my mind in less than a second, and I traversed the empty subway car to take a photo of the ad to post here (because this blog is really the only thing I think of constantly). ¬†The only other passenger in the car was sitting directly underneath. ¬†Really, it would have been weird if she¬†didn’t ask me what I was doing, so I explained: “less” is a word that refers to unquantifiable entities, “less water,” “less time,” “less pleasure,” while “fewer” implies countability, “fewer rain drops,” “fewer minutes,” “fewer… you get what I mean. ¬†The MTA, of all things, shouldn’t make simple mistakes like this.

“Wow,” she said, “that’s really irresponsible.”