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Over the last weekend, a few Hollins students including myself participated in the Southeast Regional Model Arab League in Spartanburg, SC! Despite this being all of our first time participating in Model Arab League, we were all very excited about the conference, especially because it was hosted at a fellow women’s college, Converse College.

Hollins students represented Libya on a variety of different councils: the Economic Affairs committee, the Heads of State council, the Joint Defense Council, and the Council for Palestinian Affairs. My friend Emily and I represented Libya on the Council for Palestinian Affairs.

On the Council, we discussed a variety of topics varying from ensuring the accessibility of goods to Palestine, rebuilding infrastructure in the region, addressing mental heath concerns for Palestinians, and evaluating the effectiveness of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

I had a great time at the conference discussing the various issues that the Palestine Authority faces, particularly from a Libyan perspective. Emily and I were honored to receive the award of Outstanding Delegation in our council!

Here are some photos from the weekend:

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The group of Hollins students with President Gray’s portrait at Converse College (she was formerly president of the college). Photo courtesy of Professor Lynch.

Emily and I in the Council on Palestinian Affairs

Emily and I in the Council on Palestinian Affairs. Photo courtesy of Professor Lynch.

Giving an extemporaneous speech during the session.  Photo courtesy of Professor Lynch.

Giving an extemporaneous speech during the session.
Photo courtesy of Professor Lynch.

Council on Palestinian Affairs selfie!

Council on Palestinian Affairs selfie!

-P

Where I Am

Upon reflecting on a difficult semester during the fall, I’ve begun spring semester with a very clear mantra in mind: if it is not useful, beautiful, or joyful, let it go.

Learning how to say “no” has been one of the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered at Hollins. There is always a  lot of opportunity to take on responsibilities if you look for it, and in my case, a sense of perceived expectation. This semester I have seriously downsized my list of responsibilities to only a few classes and positions that challenge and excite me.

This semester, I am taking:

SPAN 346, “20th Century Hispanic Literature” – an in-depth study of Spanish playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo’s dramaturgy

COMM 315, “Peace, Conflict, and Media” – a course on media’s role in the initiation of conflict and in the peacebuilding process

COMM 348, “Communication and Culture” – a theory-based course that examines the major communication theories used in analyzing culture

INTL 307, “International Tourism” – a course designed to investigate and critique tourism and tourist studies utilizing critical theory and poststructuralism

POLS 102, “Introduction to International Relations” – a course designed to introduce basic concepts of international politics

After the first two weeks of the semester, I definitely feel as though I have more fully embraced the notion of being present and mindful. I’m at a point where I’m experiencing the beginning of the end of my undergraduate career. Rather than dwell on that and the future, I’d rather enjoy where I am right now.

Part of being present and mindful means I’m generally having a lot more fun! From formals at VMI to sleepovers with Alex to ALWAYS making time for brunch (my favorite meal of the day!), I’m really enjoying life right now.

Here are some highlights:

Alex and I have our weekly Thursday night routine of watching “How to Get Away With Murder” on ABC and subsequently freaking out about the plot twist at the end of each episode. This is usually accompanied by snacks and lots of cozy blankets.

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In lieu of actual pictures of Alex and my super fun friendship sleepovers, here’s a dramatization by two kitties. Super cozy!

I attended VMI’s Midwinter formal on Valentine’s Day with Clark! As a self-expressed lover of dressing up, it was such a fun evening!

Flowers from Clark - sunflowers are my favorite!

Flowers from Clark – sunflowers are my favorite!

Midwinter Formal!

Midwinter Formal!

Brunch is a very important part of my life. I cannot express this enough. Here are some pictures of brunches I’ve had with people I love!

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Panera with Alex, Abby, and Meika

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Brunch at Sweet Treats in Lexington with Clark

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Candid of Abby at brunch in Moody!

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Candid of Clark at iHop for brunch :)

Clark and I visited the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA which was…odd to say the least. But we truly enjoyed the visit and intend on going back on a warmer day!

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I GOT A FISH! Meet Tofu!

Tofu being the best fish ever! I love him!

Tofu being the best fish ever! I love him!

As I write this, we’re in the second day of a very cold but blissful snowstorm. Such a calming reminder of how quickly things change – it was 65 degrees F last Sunday! Still, campus is gorgeous when blanketed with snow.

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Until next time

-P

Where I’ve Been

The five semesters I’ve been maintaining this blog (or perhaps, the five semesters I’ve been at Hollins) have never quite one as overwhelming as this one was. As I mentioned in a previous post, I overloaded my semester: I took 6 classes (maxing at out 22 credits); participated in Model UN; served as a Student Success Leader, a tour guide, a writing center tutor, a global ambassador. Generally, I pushed myself to the limit.

The thing is, this semester I finally learned that some limits aren’t meant to be pushed; in fact, some limits exist simply to keep you sane.

I don’t want to glamorize overworking myself or making it seem effortless. I found myself constantly exhausted and with little time to myself. In fact, I think there is something entirely insidious about the millennial tendency to act as though we can do everything. I received a glaring wake-up call this semester: no, I cannot.

And the thing is, that’s okay. If nothing else, I learned this semester that spreading myself thin makes it nearly impossible to be my authentic self – isn’t that the thing I loved most about Hollins when I first started attending college? Saying no is part of being true to yourself. I seem to have forgotten that this semester.

Despite the stress of this semester, I had some fantastic times. Here are the highlights of a very busy, never-to-be-repeated, but memorable semester semester:

Serving as a Student Success Leader
As I’ve mentioned countless times, serving as an SSL has been such a rewarding position for me. The class I served as an SSL for was the seminar I took as a first-year, which was incredibly exciting for me! I love seeing the transformation of students from apprehensive high-school graduates to engaged, articulate scholars. I am so proud of Professor Ridley’s “Passion for Power” class for all they have accomplished in the last semester and for all they will accomplish in semesters to come.

Sebastiaan Faber
A favorite book of mine this summer was Susana Fortes’ Waiting For Robert Capa, a novel about the love affair between Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, two photojournalists during the Spanish Civil War. This October, I had the privilege of spending a couple of days getting to know one of Hollins’ invited lecturers, Professor Faber. Faber is a scholar who studies Capa, Taro, and their colleague David “Chim” Seymour, as well as the themes of trauma and memory in the Spanish civil war and subsequent diaspora to Mexico. It was fascinating to hear a scholarly take on something as emotionally driven as cultural memory. This is definitely a new research interest of mine!

Since I didn't take pictures during the lecture, here's a shot of Professor Faber in the documentary "The Mexican Suitcase." It's on Netflix and I recommend it highly!

Since I didn’t take pictures during the lecture, here’s a shot of Professor Faber in the documentary “The Mexican Suitcase.” It’s on Netflix and I recommend it highly!

International Studies Potluck
Much to the chagrin (and honestly, probably to the entertainment) of some of the International Studies department professors, my friend Mikaela and I decided to have a little fun and proliferate the notion that the annual IS/Political Science potluck had the theme: “Canada: A Model for Multiculturalism.” We spent a few hours making tiny Canadian flag toothpicks and printing out the words to “O Canada” to hang in the Hollins Room. While initially some professors doubted our enthusiasm, by the end of the night, everyone was quite entertained and the annual potluck was once again a hit!

Tori and I at the potluck

Tori and I at the potluck

Clearly I was not kidding about the flags

Clearly I was not kidding about the flags

Ring Night

This semester, as a junior, I was able to participate in the wonderful tradition that is Ring Night! For those who don’t know, Ring Night is an annual tradition where Seniors pick Junior sisters and assign them with all kinds of fun tasks catered to the junior’s personality and interests. I was able to choreograph a dance to Taylor Swift [her new album was the soundtrack to this semester], dress up as a Jellicle Cat from the musical “Cats!” [refer to my blog post from last semester about my love of musical theater], and perform as a member of the boyband One Direction, amongst other antics. At the end of the night, each Senior sister is revealed and the Juniors receive a basket full of crafts and goodies. Moreover, instead of only one Senior sister, I ended up having THREE!

Pavithra, the Jellicle Cat

Pavithra, the Jellicle Cat

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Louis from One Direction

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My ring sisters (l to r): Tori, Brenna, and Alex

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My incredible ring night basket from my main sisters, half sisters, and honoraries! I was blown away by their generosity and thoughtfulness and cannot wait to spoil a Junior next year with this kind of love.

Model UN
This November, I participated in American Model United Nations conference in Chicago once again. Representing Tunisia, my friend Angie and I were on the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC). We discussed strengthening the coordination of humanitarian aid and increasing the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. Moreover, we made a ton of new friends with similar global interests. I can’t wait to go back next year and represent Bolivia.

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L to R: back row – Jaime (Italy), Angie (Tunisia – Hollins), Rebecca (Brazil) front row – Wasim (Brazil), Adrian (Brazil), me (Tunisia)

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L to R: Komal (El Salvador), Rebecca (Brazil), Patrick (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Angie (Tunisia), and me (Tunisia)

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Voguing during caucus session with Adrian from the Brazil delegation

Winter Ball
Finally, the last event of the semester was Winter Ball. My boyfriend Clark attended the ball with me and we had a fantastic time. There is nothing quite like dancing all night with your favorite people to put you in the holiday mood.

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Getting ready with Alex

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Alex and I before the dance

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Obligatory pre-dance picture

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Photobooth fun

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A candid of Clark and I at Winter Ball (thanks to my pal Taylor for the picture)

Some other fantastic moments…

Posing with Shaheera and Win on the train in Chicago

Posing with Shaheera and Win on the train in Chicago

Hanging out with Natalie and Alex

Hanging out with Natalie and Alex

Gingerbread house making with Grandma and my sister Preetha over Thanksgiving break

Gingerbread house making with Grandma and my sister Preetha over Thanksgiving break

Tori and I on front Quad

Tori and I on Front Quad

I finally learned how to reverse park (thanks Clark), adjust my tire pressure (thanks Clark), and change my car's oil (thanks Clark).

I finally learned how to reverse park (thanks Clark), adjust my tire pressure (thanks Clark), and change my car’s oil (thanks Clark).

Meika and I after Ring Night

Meika and I after Ring Night

A double-date 22nd birthday celebration for Clark and Brenna's boyfriend Iver at Wasena Taproom in Roanoke.

A double-date 22nd birthday celebration for Clark and Brenna’s boyfriend Iver at Wasena Taproom in Roanoke. Brenna and I decided birthday hats would be fun.

Late night iHop with Hailey and Taylor

For January term, I decided to take it easier than I have in past J-terms. This year, I am working on an independent study cataloging a literature review on critical pedagogy. The subject has interested me for a while and my advisor, Professor Bohland, encouraged me to spend the month investigating it more because “that’s what J-term is for.” I really appreciate that advice: I’m only 20 and have been taking life way too seriously. I think I have forgotten that Hollins allows me the space to explore my passions; I look forward to doing so in the year to come.

Stay tuned…
-P

September

It baffles me how quickly the month has gone by. I’ve enjoyed my classes so far, particularly my Geopolitics class and my Global Communication and Media class. As a international studies major, I spend a lot of time in the theoretical realm; the great thing about the classes I’ve been taking is that they have introduced me to a host of new perspectives from which to approach material. For my international studies thesis next year, I will have to choose a theory to approach the paper through. Sometimes, I have to stop and reflect on my trajectory at Hollins. Though a theory-based thesis seemed like a daunting challenge when I was a first-year, I am so excited now to get started on this undertaking!

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A favorite reading of mine this semester!

I have particularly enjoyed critical theory, a variation of post-structuralism based from the Frankfurt school and rooted upon many of Antonio Gramsci’s theories (Gramsci coined terms like “manufactured consent” and “cultural hegemony”). Critical theory is fun for me; it deals with breaking down preconceived concepts. In the international studies realm, this provides a very interesting point of view through which I will approach different policy decisions.

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I love living on Front Quad – it makes doing my Geopolitics reading that much more fun.

I have been having a lot of fun outside of the theoretical realm, too! This weekend, I was invited to go with a friend to Virginia Military Institute’s homecoming game and dance. Despite the fact that I am not in any capacity a “sports person,” it was really great to make new friends.

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VMI’s Homecoming!

Another AMAZING thing that happened this weekend was an event hosted by Hollins Activity Board; Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black” came to Hollins! Cox, who, besides being a talented actress, is a transgender activist, spoke about embracing authenticity and rejecting gender expectations. It was a fantastic event, and definitely left me with some salient points to ruminate on.

I think authenticity is something inherent to life at Hollins; it manifests itself in a variety of ways and expression, from feeling encouraged to chase your passions to emailing your Spanish professor a Taylor Swift song because it share a theme with a Bécquer poem (see photo).

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“I think Taylor Swift has a timeless element too…”

Authencity is something we embrace here, and something that you simply feel on campus.
-P

Welcome Home

After a summer on campus working Reunion 2014 and for Batten Leadership Institute, I was ecstatic to be able to welcome my friends back home.
I had a fairly relaxing summer – blissful stagnation compared to the typical helter-skelter of my schedule during school. Still, it is wonderful to get back into the swing of things.

This year, I am a junior (can you believe it? I frighteningly still cannot). I am also a Student Success Leader once again, this year for Prof. Ridley’s first-year seminar “Passion for Power and the Power of Passion.” The class is all about powerful Hispanic women throughout history, varying from La Malinche to Eva Perón, their plights to reach their goals, and the patriarchal societies that they defied. Besides being one of the best classes I’ve ever taken, I am blown away by how intelligent, eloquent, and profound the first years in the class are! The entire class of 2018 is very impressive – I am so excited that they are my sister class!

My best friend Hailey served as the Orientation team leader to Passion for Power :)

My best friend Hailey served as the Orientation team leader to Passion for Power :)

Some crafts I made for the seminar students :)

Some crafts I made for the seminar students :)

Our poster - we took some very serious inspiration from a very passionate and powerful woman in media...

Our poster – we took some very serious inspiration from a very passionate and powerful woman in media…

Introducing the seminar at Road to Commencement. Shout out to my friend Meg O'Brien for the image!

Introducing the seminar at Road to Commencement. Shout out to my friend Meg O’Brien for the image!

I’m going to be pretty busy this semester. I live in La Casa Hispanica (Spanish House). Once again, I am working at the Writing Center and tour guiding, but this semester I will also join the ranks as a Global Ambassador for International Programs. I am thrilled to have the position and hopefully share some of the wisdom I gleaned while in London with students hoping to study abroad.

My room in La Casa!

My room in La Casa!

Some inspiration from Roald Dahl on the chalkboard I made - us Hollins students are very crafty :)

Some inspiration from Roald Dahl on the chalkboard I made – we Hollins students are very crafty :)

As you may expect if you have been following my blog, I am most excited for classes! I am taking a handful: Latin American Politics; Principles of Microeconomics; Modern Hispanic Literature; Geopolitics; Global Communication and Media; Batten Leadership Experience Seminar; Model UN. I’m definitely sensing the convergence of my interests this semester – a beauty of liberal arts education. However, upon the realization that I am over half way finished with my bachelor’s degree, it’s challenging not to wish I could explore more of the classes that sound interesting to me: Novels We Should Have Read; Religion, Ethnicity, and Class; Symbolic Logic; The Beat Generation. A question I always get on tours is “what is the worst thing about being at Hollins?” and it is by far the fact that I cannot take every single class that looks interesting to me – there are too many! My list is always growing, but I suppose I always have next semester. :)
Still, I am so happy to be back with my peers and professors in this familiar, comforting environment. We recently celebrated Opening Convocation and First Step, so below are some pictures from that.

My friend and sophomore class president, Teagan!

My friend and sophomore class president, Teagan!

Morgan, my fellow SSL, and I during new student check-in.

Morgan, a fellow SSL, and I during new student check-in.

Mandy, me, Emily, and Hailey during SSL/Orientation Team training :)

Mandy, me, Emily, and Hailey during SSL/Orientation Team training :)

My friends Abby and Brenna (and their awesome decorated robes) at First Step!

My friends Abby and Brenna (and their awesome decorated robes) at First Step!

My friend Sam and I before Opening Convocation

My friend Sam and I before Opening Convocation

My friends Scout, Avery, and I.

My friends Scout, Avery, and I.

My lovely pal Alex

My lovely pal Alex

Profe. Ridley, my close friend (and Spanish House president) Katie, and I.

Prof. Ridley, my close friend (and Spanish House president) Katie, and I.

SGA president Georden, Katie, and I

SGA president Georden, Katie, and I

A candid from the traditional "bottle passing" right before Katie stepped on Front Quad for the first time! Thanks to Hailey for the image :)

A candid from the traditional “bottle passing” right before Katie stepped on Front Quad for the first time! Thanks to Hailey for the image :)

I am looking forward to a fantastic semester!
-P

Barcelona

In full disclosure, my desire to visit Barcelona was sparked when, as an 11-year-old, I saw The Cheetah Girls 2 TV movie on the Disney Channel. I was enthralled by the music, the art, and, of course, the fact that Raven-Symoné befriended mysterious Flamenco guitar players on the avenues of Las Ramblas. Since then, I believe my interests in Spain, Catalonia, and the city of Barcelona have become much more academic. Still, when I got off the plane at El Prat International Airport to spend part of my spring break in the city, a tiny piece of me couldn’t believe that I was actually in the rich, vibrant city that had imprinted itself in my impressionable mind via the glossy musicality of mid-2000s Disney.

With that being said, having studied the geopolitical and cultural features of Barcelona through my major and minor coursework, going to Barcelona was an incredible experience for me. I, along with my two friends Jenna and Priscila, spent five days in the city, attempting to soak in as much of it as possible.

L to R: Jenna, myself, and Priscila

L to R: Jenna, myself, and Priscila

As there is no feasible way for me to express five days worth of culture, gastronomy, language, art, architecture, and life, I figured I would share some highlights of the trip:

Gaudí: You can’t talk about Barcelona without talking about Gaudí. His architectural influence in the city is as ubiquitous as Catalonian pride – it is simply something that defines the city. In addition to visiting his incredible masterwork, La Sagrada Familia, we were able to see his pieces all over the city: Casa Mila & La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell.

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La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s incredible, greatest, unfinished work.

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Can you spot the Gaudí?

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Casa Batlló

What struck me the most about Gaudí and Modernism is how closely it mirrors the vibe of Barcelona, or possibly how Barcelona mirrors that of Modernism. The carefree flamboyance of the architecture is something you feel simply walking down Avinguda Diagonal or along Las Ramblas. It was a drastic contrast from the more reserved rationality of British architecture (and culture).

Parc Güell: I think most people fall under one of two categories – “nature” people and non-“nature” people. I am pretty definitively the latter. Though I would rather be inside a high-rise with a book than hiking a mountain, I am so glad I did not let my antiseptic approach to life impact my decision to hike up to Parc Güell. Jenna, Priscila, and I braved the VERY steep hill and roundabout path to discover the most incredible view.

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It was definitely worth it.

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El Museo de Xocolata (The Chocolate Museum): Though I may not be a “nature” person, I am absolutely a chocolate person. I was beyond excited to visit this museum. Apparently, Barcelona housed one of the major Iberian ports that imported cacao beans into Europe from Central and South America. Since then, Barcelona has become a hub for confectioners and chocolateers. The museum was particularly cool given the incredible displays of different buildings, religious iconography, even Pixar characters, all made out of chocolate!

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Our tickets to the museum – BARS OF CHOCOLATE

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La Sagrada Familia…IN CHOCOLATE

The Mediterranean Sea: It feels like we ended every day at the beach. The beaches of Barcelona were particularly lovely, always a deep blue reminiscent of a James Bond film. I think there is something incredibly humbling about the ocean – its vast openness, the fact that it connects every inch of the globe.

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The perfect end to a day

I feel beyond lucky to have spent my spring break in Barcelona, but I’m also finding myself thinking about the end of the semester and looking forward to going back to the States. I’ve actually never experienced homesickness before this, though I suspect it’s natural for me to experience it having spent such a long time away from my family, from Raleigh, from Hollins. Still, as bittersweet as the prospect of returning to the States and leaving London is, I have to remind myself how lucky I am to now call another city home, even if it has been just for the last four months. It’s been gradually dawning on me that I no longer feel quite like an expatriate in London; rather, my time abroad has helped me manifest a new incarnation of myself. Beyond simply feeling stronger, more confident, and more resourceful than I did when I landed in London in February, this experience has helped me refine my ability to reflect and hone my self-awareness. On a very basic level, I feel like I understand a tiny bit more about the world and an abundance more about myself.

-P

Theatricality

Confession time: I am obsessed with musical theater. I can probably attribute it to spending the majority of my middle and high school years singing alto in school chorus and watching Rent relentlessly, but I’ve harbored the obsession fairly quietly. However, being in London, the theater capital of the world, has provided me with the fantastic opportunity to see an array of musicals!

As I’ve mentioned before, I am taking a theater class through Hollins Abroad called “The London Stage.” The course explores theater in London and beyond, exploring different genres, playwrights, actors, and directors. Through the class, I’ve been able to see a variety of different shows. Recently, I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with the class, a musical based off of the movie with Steve Martin and David Niven.

While I have not yet perfected my routine to Rent‘s “Santa Fe” on the tube (although I’m not going to lie – I have relished in the opportunity to “practice” it whenever I’m in an empty carriage, much to the enjoyment of CCTV operators I’m sure), I took it upon myself to explore the musical entertainment that the West End had to offer. I mean, you’re only in London once, right?

First, I saw We Will Rock You! The show, which is a story created around the music of Queen (similar to the way that Mamma Mia! incorporated ABBA’s music or Movin’ Out featured tracks by Billy Joel). I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Queen is my absolute favorite band. The plot was a little silly and futuristic, but the music was incredible. I loved the theatricality of the show; in my opinion, the music of Queen is intended to be performed that way.

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We Will Rock You!, which has had an incredible 12 year run at the Dominion Theatre, is closing at the end of May. I read an article in the Guardian about how the executives don’t know what to do with the glorious golden Freddie Mercury statue. I personally think it would be an excellent addition to Beale Garden at Hollins. Am I right?

 

After that, I saw Monty Python’s Spamalot! Though I’ve quickly adopted certain “British” sensibilities, such as not laughing too loud in public, I sincerely could not control myself during the show – it was hilarious and very engaging, despite how steep the upper circle seating of the Playhouse Theatre was (there were a few moments when I thought I may in fact have to parachute down).

I also saw Once: The Musical, which is a new musical based off of the indie film Once. I was even more excited to see that it starred Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams on Doctor Who), who had an incredible voice! The lead female, Zrinka Cvitesic, ended up winning an Olivier award the night before I saw it, which was also very exciting.

One of the shows I was very much looking forward to was Billy Elliot, a show that originated on the West End. I loved the premise of the show: it’s set in a small town in County Durham during the 1984-5 coal miner’s strike. The main character, 12-year old Billy Elliot, falls in love with ballet. The show deals with issues of poverty, masculinity, and coming-of-age; it reminded me of a play I had seen about year ago called “Good People” (which is coincidentally now playing in London starring Imelda Staunton, of Harry Potter fame). The show, which featured a lot of child actors, was very dance-heavy. I was impressed by the lead, who was probably around 12 years old. His solo ballet performance before the intermission where he spun over the audience (on a harness of course) brought the middle-aged man next to me to tears.

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Thankfully, I’m not afraid of heights.

The show that I have enjoyed the most thus far was, without a doubt, Les Miserables. As a cult follower of the franchise, I was so excited to see the show on London’s West End. Somehow, despite my astronomically high expectations, I was completely and utterly blown away by the production. Everything, from the vocal performances to the technical aspects of the show, was even more remarkable than I could have imagined. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see Carrie Hope Fletcher, a musician who I have followed on YouTube for years, playing the role of Eponine!

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Something I just noticed while uploading this image – the shading of the clouds that surround Young Cosette’s face in this seminal image make up the French flag: blue, white, and red.

I’m excited to see The Bodyguard, an musical adaptation of the 1992 Whitney Houston film, in a few weeks. As I said before, I’m only here once! All in all, I am very much taking advantage of the theater scene in London and definitely satisfying the musical theater geek inside of me. I will keep saying it: more than anything, my time abroad has made me more certain of my interests and given my the confidence to embrace them, theatrically. :)

-P

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