Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | October 18, 2010

The life of a historian

I have been extremely busy lately; hence the delay in posts in the last couple weeks. I have been thrown more Latin to memorize in the last 3 weeks than I learned the whole of last year at Scholastica, so most of my time is spent memorizing declensions and conjugations of different nouns and verbs. My “Christian Society & Crusades” class is going fairly well, it’s very interesting so the reading does not seem as daunting as it would otherwise.  And my dissertation topic/idea is coming along quite well actually; I meet with my mentor tomorrow to go over specific dates/time periods on which I want to write. I still must narrow down my idea, but as of right now I am working on the rise of knighthood as a social class in society in the early Middle Ages, specifically in England. So as of right now I am feeling pretty good as to where I am with Latin and staying ahead for my dissertation.

During my free time I like to take day trips to places fairly close by. Last Wednesday I went with some friends to the Royal Armouries (English spelling) and saw some really cool warfare materials. It is very nice because the city of Leeds has one of the few Royal Armoury Museums in the country and its FREE! They had swords, armour and other various items starting from the early medieval period up until the present day, with information about recent wars, weaponry and military operations. We spent the whole day admiring the different exhibits and items they have on display.

Last weekend I took a weekend trip to Birmingham which is about two hours away by train to go see one of my friends, Aimee who is studying through UMD at the University of Birmingham. It was really nice to see a fimiliar face and explore a new city. Birmingham is the second largest city in England, although nowhere near as large as London. We did some shopping, museum touring and of course I had to walk around and find some old buildings to look at (my favorite past time in England). We went to the B’ham City Museum and Art Gallery which was amazing, it had the Staffordshire Hoard. As you may recall a guy took his metal detector out and found a Viking chest full of gold pieces of various items, yes that is the Staffordshire Hoard. It was sold for 3.28 million pounds, the British Museum is now working hard to clean and restore the pieces of gold so that more of them can be put on display. This exhibit was breath taking, especially for someone whose dream is to find something like this. An item so simple can tell so much about the culture and peoples it belong to in the past, its amazing.

Last Thursday I was able to celebrate a member of the Medieval Studies Department receiving his PhD which was very cool. I got to chat with him for a little bit and seek some advice and information about the next four years of my life. He was helpful, frightening and informative (yes, all at the same time). He is American and did his Master’s degree at York then PhD at Leeds (the reversal of what I want to do). It took him four years which is the maximum amount of time a full-time student is allotted. He told me it was the most difficult task his has ever and probably will ever undertake in his life. At this point he most likely saw the horrified look on my face because he said as long as you set goals for yourself and stick to achieving those goals that I will be fine. Although I am slightly more freaked out about writing my 300 page (100,000 word) thesis, I know that I will only truly be happy lecturing and writing on the Middle Ages and without my PhD that cannot happen. So I have come to think of it as just another step toward becoming what I am meant to do.

Then last Sunday (October 17) I took a short day trip to a little town called Knaresborough where I spent the day walking around and looking at all the sights. They have a castle which sadly is ruins, but it was so peaceful and beautiful I spent most of my day walking around the grounds or sitting on a bench people watching. It was exactly what I needed after a long and stressful week. Autumn has definitely popped up here in Yorkshire and it was a beautiful fall day; the leaves where all different colors and falling from the trees and the air was cool. Although the castle was nothing compared to what it once was, the presence of something that was so important in the 12th century gives me the goose bumps, I get the feelings I am in the presence of something almost sacred. I know that sounds silly, but for a medieval historian the simple things (a ruined castle) bring me peace.

Next weekend I have a lot to look forward to; I am heading to London with two girls I have met through caving. We are heading down on Friday and heading back up to Leeds on Sunday. It is going to be jam packed with touring the city (& we obviously will not come close to seeing everything) but it should be a blast nonetheless.

Cheers, Audrey 🙂

Just a snap shot looking at Leeds 🙂

Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | October 4, 2010

My first Spelunking Experience

So another week as past (actually a little over a week, sorry about that), but I have survived my first full week of classes and am in the full swing of postgraduate life. My “life” consists of reading, reading, Latin, reading Latin, writing Latin, translating Latin and more Latin. But honestly I would not have it any other way, it is the life of a medieval historian. 🙂 Thursday nights have become the medieval night at the local Fenton Pub which involves all the medieval postgraduate students to gather, drink beer, sing Journey on the Jukebox and rant about our non-existent social lives. Yes, yes I do live for Thursday nights!

I have joined the Caving club to let me escape the compound of my room or the library (where I spend most of my time). The caving club is definitely something I never would have imagined myself attempting, but it is actually tons of fun, a good workout and I have met loads of amazing people. We have been learning the ropes (pun intended), and training on the climbing wall for the past 2 weeks in preparation for last weekend’s day trip to Bull Pot Farms which is a gorgeous countryside full of farms and caves. So Saturday I went in my first cave which was probably the hardest, yet most exhilarating things I have done in my life. Inside of a cave is hard to describe, besides just breath taking, it is something a person needs to experience for themselves, although if you don’t like getting dirty, cold, wet and crawling around on your stomach I would suggest going on a guided tour! (At times I felt like I was swimming in Lake Superior the water was so cold). Another amazing aspect of this club is it focuses around socializing as well, we seem to go to more pubs than caves (not that I am complaining), I have been having so much fun with this group of cavers, it’s ridiculous! My legs and arms do not appreciate my new found sport since I bruise like a peach they seem to be permanently black and blue yet it gives me a good story to tell!

Yep, that is me scaling a cliff into a waterfall. Pretty amazing huh?

I have finally found time to rearrange my room and put my pictures and other various “homey” items up, so my room finally feels like my own, which I think has helped a lot with settling in. Although the lack of Kraft Mac and Cheese over here has made me frantic, thankfully my wonderful mother has sent me a whole box full of “college food” that I cannot find over here! Care packages are heaven sent (hint, hint) 🙂

I better get back to my Crusades reading for this week, but I thought I would write a quick update about my first caving experience and my first week of classes!

Cheers, Audrey

Again I will leave you with some pictures of my caving trip this Saturday! 🙂


Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | September 22, 2010

A Week’s Events

It has been a week since I arrived in Leeds, England and I have been busy every day. I got a prepaid phone, my student discount rail pass, my bank account, registered and got my student ID card along with talk to the U.S. loan guy. It has been frantic, chaotic and tiring, but I have managed to get everything I need set up before classes begin. Yesterday I had Induction into the History Department which was very interesting. I met/learned about all the professors in all areas of history as well as the History Librarian, Workshop Leader and a few PhD students. It was definitely an information overload for four hours, but I managed to retain the important details…I hope.

There are two on campus jobs available for M.A. students both of which I applied for and one I hope I end up getting. One is mentoring/tutoring undergraduate history students and the other is more administrative position in the department. I got emails from two of my professors earlier in the week informing me that there is homework due before the start of class. Luckily, four review units of Latin is not as bad as one would imagine. The other is a “brief” 700 page summary of the Crusades (I would not use the word brief for that, but my professor definitely did). So I have been slaving away trying to get that done before next week.

This last weekend my friend, Thomas, came down from the University of Edinburgh to visit which was a lot of help since he had learned the ropes beforehand and taught them to me. So he helped me get a lot of things in order as well as learn the train system which is huge over here. We took the train to York about 30 minutes away (it was about 8 pounds round trip). York is a beautiful medieval city with the medieval wall still up, but only surrounding the old part of the city. It was simply gorgeous with all the old churches and building which have been made into other things (offices, restaurants, flats, etc). The only downfall is it is not very student budget friendly, every museum and attraction cost money to enter (Not the older churches, but York Minister does). We also wandered around Leeds a bit and found a free museum (it even had a mummy!) as well as the City Market with all fresh foods and local vendors and a very cheap pub that has become my new hangout.

It has been a tough week for me, I have definitely been homesick, but I am continuously meeting new people so it helps a lot to have others to hang out with. I know I have a job to do here and it will get done to my best abilities and I am so lucky to have such an opportunity to research and experience what England has to offer. The thought of home brings mixed feelings, sadness as well as smiles from all the memories I have shared with amazing people back home.  Here are some pictures from Leeds and York last weekend! Enjoy

Cheers, Audrey 🙂

The full gallery of pictures is on my facebook page! 🙂

Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | September 16, 2010

My Arrival

It has been one whole day over here in the UK and I have been busy since the moment I set foot here. I have been unpacking, cleaning, shopping, wandering, getting lost and meeting tons of people. My arrival was met with confusion, chaos and anxiety. My flights were fine, very long, but no major problems, I got through the airports just fine (even though I thought I was going to get lost) and I met some really neat people as well. Yesterday was very hard to function, I was extremely tired, but needed to unpack my bedding, kitchen supplies and most of my luggage, I also went out on an adventure into the City Centre (that is how the English spell center) and went grocery/toiletry shopping. I also attended several International Student Events including a British Quiz, a pub quiz and salsa night at a club on campus. While at the pub I came to realize that I thought Americans drank a lot, oh no, the British could drink any American under the table (I was thoroughly impressed). I also enjoy that there is several pubs, clubs and liquor stores on campus, there is a little shop across the street from the main campus building called “News and Booze” (guess what they sell? Newspapers and alcohol) I find it hilarious every time I walk by. 🙂
My adventure has only just begun and already I feel as though I am slowly, but surely, finding my place here on campus/in England. I have had to step out of my comfort zone, which is very hard, but every time this happens I look around and realize how beautiful my surroundings are. Leeds is a beautiful city, compacted and full of students. Everywhere I turn there are more students, and the British “Freshers” all come next week (their term for Freshman). So there will be many more students arriving. I haven’t been able to travel anywhere that is not walking distance yet, but once I get my student rail pass (hopefully tomorrow) I will be able to explore more of the city. I have already walked through one beautiful church across from campus (very old and amazing).
I miss all my family and friends like it’s going out of style, but I know this needed to happen. Change is a scary thing, but if you embrace it and make the most out of every opportunity that presents itself than the grass will always be greener on the other side. 🙂
I few things I have learned over the course of one day here. The people of the UK walk VERY fast, everywhere. The cars do not stop for pedestrians. Everyone smokes. Everyone drinks beer. And you do not talk when a football (soccer) game is on at the pubs.
More updates and LOTS of pictures to come (hopefully this weekend)

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