Sometimes people think debate sounds like a boring, nerdy activity. But it’s not! Well, it is pretty nerdy. But boring it is not! To prove that point, last week my debate partner and I took a trip to Oxford University in Oxford, England to compete in an international competition! We debated schools from around the world, went sight-seeing in London, and got in our fair share of shopping. It was an incredible experience. Here are some of my favorite pictures from this incredible week!
Packing for the trip. Here are my essentials for an eight-hour flight: my Bible, headphones, my journal, and my passport!
Picking up the rental car at the airport provided our first challenge: remembering to drive on the left side of the road!
Let's just say this picture encapsulates most of our journey — yelling at the GPS and repeating over and over: "Drive on the left. Drive on the left. Drive on the left."
Our first real stop upon arrival in Oxford was to eat dinner at this little pub: The Eagle and Child.
This place is a treasure: it was the hangout of "The Inklings," a group of writers that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis!
It also had incredible food!
The next day we drove from Oxford into London and spent the day sightseeing and shopping! This is the London Tower Bridge.
This picture of the London Tower Bridge was taken from inside the London Tower. It was a beautiful day — none of the usual rain and beautiful fall leaves!
The London Tower has a lot of historical significance, and the grounds are filled with artifacts and recreations. These metal soldiers dotted the Tower to show how well guarded it once was.
And of course we had to go to the heart of the city and check out the classics — Big Ben, the ferris wheel, and Westminster Abbey.
The next day we took a tour of Oxford before starting our debates that afternoon. The university has incredible buildings housing their different schools; and each of them has a long and interesting history. We got to explore a little bit and then did some shopping!
This is another university building. We also got to ride some double decker busses around the city while we were there.
And of course we had to get a cheesy tourist picture with a red phone booth! This is me and my debate partner, Leonora, during the tour of Oxford. We lost the group for just a minute to get this picture!
We had an incredible trip. We got to experience so much: the history of London and Oxford, a new style of debating with people from across the world, and the history of Oxford University and political debate in England.
Sometimes, He just shows up out of nowhere. Sometimes, you’re lost in a dark cloud of your own insecurity and doubt; and He intervenes in the middle of your path and reminds you who He is (and consequently, who you are).
That happened to me the other day.
I was walking back to my dorm, totally absorbed in my own hectic day and consumed with my long to-do list. As I turned a corner, this little rain-soaked index card was laying right in the middle of my path.
I stopped in my tracks.
I was so caught up in my worries and stresses that I was forgetting to give them all to Him. I was forgetting to surrender.
Surrender isn’t just a Christian-y buzzword we emblazon on everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs. It’s a way of living your life. I can choose to hold on to everything from my successes to my failures. I can clutch tightly to my control over my life and pretend that I can create my own circumstances and engineer my own perfect life. Or I can admit that I am totally incapable and insufficient, and I can surrender everything I have and everything I am to Him.
There are days when making that choice is harder than others.
Lately, it’s been a daily struggle.
A struggle to remind myself that He is in control.
A struggle to give up my best for His best.
A struggle to surrender.
But I’m learning a little more every day, and sometimes it takes Him intervening in my path (literally) to remind me to surrender.
Thankfully, I serve a God gracious enough to remind me what I have forgotten and persistent enough to continue teaching me what I’ve been too stubborn to learn.
As I near the end of my last year at Liberty, it seems that my academic career has come full circle: I’m applying to schools again!
Like many students, I’m applying to grad schools, and it’s kind of weird going through this whole process all over again! Since I’m on my second round of forms, recommendation letters, and anxiously awaiting a response, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for surviving the application process.
1. Start early!
Start the process as early as you can. Most schools have limits on how early you can apply, but there are so many other things you have to do before you actually submit an application!
2. Do some research!
Before you start filling out application forms, do your research! Make a list of what you’re looking for in a school, and prioritize those things by how necessary or important they are to you. When I was applying to colleges in high school, my family and I made a chart for each school that listed a set of characteristics important to me. We then scored each school for each of the categories. We scored based on the information we got from the school’s websites, the information they sent us in the mail, and the questions we asked the admissions offices. Most schools have a ton of information available on their websites, but entering your contact information on the website and getting information mailed to you can also be helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The admissions office at most schools is there to help you make an informed decision, and they can answer any questions you can’t easily find the answer to.
Once I had narrowed down my list to a handful of schools, we visited them and used those charts to re-score the schools and figure out which one was the right one for me. While some of the schools basically kept their same scores, others had big differences. There was one school I was sure I was going to end up choosing that fit most of my criteria and was a really excellent school, but once I got on campus, I knew it wasn’t for me. There was a general atmosphere that just didn’t fit me, and I never would have known that if I hadn’t visited. On the other hand, I was not sold on Liberty before I came to visit. My parents pushed me to give it a chance, and once I came on campus, I knew it was where I was supposed to go to school.
4. Make a calendar!
There’s a lot of information to keep track of! Between application deadlines, financial aid cutoffs, and registration, there’s a lot to remember – especially if you’re applying to a lot of schools! Keep a calendar that is just for your applications, and use different colors to differentiate between categories. I used a different color for each school, but you could use a different color for different types of deadlines or information.
4. Get good recommendation letters!
This is more of an art than a science. Asking people to write recommendation letters for you requires evaluating a range of factors – how well you know the person, what type of relationship you have, and how much you trust them to write a letter that reflects you well and actually gets sent. One of my recent applications asked for a professional or professorial recommendation. I could have asked any of my history professors, but none of them knew me very well or were very much related to the type of schools I’m applying to. So instead, I had my debate coach write a letter for that requirement – she knows me well, knows my work ethic, and has seen my spiritual growth over my time at Liberty. Think about who you want an admissions committee to hear from and what they might say about you!
5. Don’t stress!
This is a difficult process. You have to keep up with all your normal responsibilities while balancing a whole set of new ones. Not to mention, you have to deal with the stress of waiting to hear what feels like a judgment on your whole life! Relax. Not only is all of this so much easier than you’ve probably been told, but God has got it. You’re going to end up at the school He wants you at, and nothing can change that. If you get rejected, it’s already a part of His plan. His plans are always better.
If there’s anything college students love (and love talking about how much they love it), its coffee.
Luckily enough for Liberty students, there are plenty of spots on campus to get your daily dose of caffeine. But for those interested in finding another option – for studying, quick refills, or a relaxing atmosphere – I’m doing a thorough investigation into the best coffee shops in Lynchburg. I’m going to check out a new coffee shop each week and grade it for a series of important characteristics – atmosphere, location, and deliciousness. (These are all entirely subjective, but between my roommate and I, we’re pretty good judges of coffee shop character!)
This week, I’m starting it off with a Liberty favorite: The White Hart.
The White Hart is located at 1208 Main Street, about 10 minutes from campus. (Drive over there NOW and the ride will be half the fun – downtown Lynchburg is beautiful all the time, but right now, the leaves are making it even more gorgeous!) You can check out their hours and other information on their website .
Here’s how The White Hart scored in the (totally subjective) categories, out of 10 possible points:
This place is lovely. The music is excellently chosen and plays at just the right volume to allow conversation and work, while still cultivating a pleasant ambiance. The White Hart hosts poetry readings and live music, but it’s also a great place to study, catch up with a friend, or read a book. Personally, I think it’s a great spot for people-watching and writing.
The White Hart’s not too far from campus, and is situated in a great spot in Lynchburg. It’s across the street from the Lynchburg Community Market, and surrounded by other local shops and businesses.
I got the White Hart Snow (because it was recommended by the barista and because it’s named after the café itself) and a chocolate chip pumpkin muffin. My roommate Claire got a White Chocolate latte and a snickerdoodle. I loved my drink so much I took another friend back to the White Hart a few days later to get it again. It was sweet, and had layered flavors that complemented each other. The bakery goods all looked great, and there’s a variety of coffee and other drinks that fit any taste.
Extra Awesomeness Points: 5
The White Hart is a local business that supports other local businesses and non-profits. It fosters little communities, while impacting the larger one.
Total Score: 34/30
Wow. We’re starting out strong with this score. Overall, we knew we loved the White Hart, but when you put numbers to it, you can really tell how great it is!
Check back for reviews of other coffee spots in Lynchburg!
This week, I started my Halloween celebration early!
I have a debate tournament this weekend, so the team held our annual Halloween party early this year. Every year, there’s one tradition that stands.
The costume contest!
Every year, we hold a contest for the best costume, and the winner receives one of three topic-themed prizes. Basically, we pick silly representations of whatever the debate topic is for the year. This year, the topic is foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf, Northeast Asia, and the Greater Horn of Africa. So third place received Japanese candy, second place got some little plastic African animals, and first place got a set of army men and helicopters.
Here were some of our contestants:
Abby as an adorable gumball machine!
Rachael and Amanda as the dysfunctional siblings they already are!
Brianna showing solidarity as Katniss!
Odessa as a cute Waldo!
Caleb as...a patriotic redneck.
Here we have Katniss, a ninja, a minion, and Rosie the Riveter.
And the judges of the contest: Taylor Swift circa 2009 and Taylor Swift circa 2015. (Also known as my debate partner Nora and I.)
This year, we also did some CSER at the party. During the party, we held a canned food drive. Afterwards, we wrote encouraging notes and handed them out with some candy at the library.
Ryan handing out candy and notes at the library.
We got to celebrate Halloween while encouraging a bunch of busy, stressed out students!
I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!