Friday, January 30


Friday, January 30
London is an amazing adventure! We went crazy touring the town and learning to get around on our own. I suspect that when this semester is over I will be an expert navigator. The tube is quite efficient and convenient. Our hotel is in a great location, right near everything.

I'm at an internet cafe- so there will be more to come (and pictures!) about the following:

Trafalgar Square
Piccadilly Circus
Big Ben
The Underground
Westminister Abbey
The Globe Theatre
London Bridge
Double decker buses
Abbey Road
Les Mis
National Portrait Gallery
Sherlock Holmes Museum

So get excited!!!

Wednesday, January 28

maastricht- above and below

Wednesday, January 28
Hi there! Let's catch up on what's been going on. Tuesday was a blast!

We finally got to walk around and see our new home in the daylight. A walk to the Center for European Studies, which houses half of everyone's classes, is about 20 minutes away from the guesthouse (our dorm). It was so nice to see everything up close.

Maastricht is a really interesting city in that it is the oldest in the Netherlands (2000 years old!) but also has many modern buildings and amenities, while retaining components of its earlier days. As we walked, we all took a ton of pictures, and probably looked ridiculously touristy...but then again it is pretty obvious that we are not Dutch.

Pana and I

Everyone's getting ready for Carnaval, which isn't until the end of February. I've seen crazy clown signs and costume sales all over the place.

We divided up into teams and explored the ancient bunkers/tunnels of Maastricht for a few hours, which was both terrifying and exciting!

We had to follow clues and instructions in the dark with only a few flashlights-- and the ceilings were just a few inches above my head. For one of the challenges, we had to travel about 100 yards without flashlights. So we held on to each other and shuffled our way through...probably ridiculously slowly. After we got to the end we found that one of the tour guides had been following us in the dark! Haha. Needless to say, our group bonded.

Team 4! Amanda, Kaitlyn, Rachel, Kathy, Chris, Me

We recreated the pictures in our guidebook while we waited for our turn--they're pretty amazing. As always, you can see the rest of my pictures here:

Later, we went to a dinner/party with some of the Dutch students who help welcome the international students. We made some new friends, including Jules, below. Oh yeah, and they put stickers on our faces, which is why Kathy has one on her forehead. :)

Tuesday, January 27

day 1

Tuesday, January 27

Good morning! (Well, it's morning here.) Just wanted to tell you about the trip here. Plane ride was fine, though we were delayed for an hour because there was something wrong with the equipment. They said it was the lights, but we were suspicious as there were about 5 men staring at a door for a while. Once we landed in Amsterdam, our bus driver Otto took us to Maastricht- about a 2 1/2 hour drive. Here are some new and (old friends) on the journey!

Me and my roommate Caroline

Chris and Rachel, my DFW--> Houston plane buddies

Brittany and Kathy!

Taylor and Amber on the bus to Maastricht

Monday, January 26

well, we made it here!

Monday, January 26
More to come! Next up: orientation, exploring caves, and a trip to London. :)

Saturday, January 24

an open note

Saturday, January 24
The past few days have been glorious! Thank you, Texas, for the goodbye gift of warm weather. But judging by the increasingly toasty showers I have been enjoying, maybe it wasn't a gift. Perhaps it's a jealous taunt.

"Guess you won't see any of this perfect weather for a while, Joanna. Since you're always cold anyway, you'll just love the colder climate of Europe. Can't wait to see you shipped back as a human ice cube. Then you'll admit you missed me and my bounteous warmth.

The Steaming Sauna of Texas.

P.S. I'm taking Gracie while you're gone."

It's just as well. Texas, you know I love you. I leave much to do before then! Ok well actually you probably won't be surprised to know that I packed a week ago. Buuuut, we keep adding things...and the suitcase, unfortunately, isn't getting any bigger. Someday, maybe when I come back, I will be an effective packer. However, I'm pretty sure that day is not today.

Thursday, January 22


Thursday, January 22
So I realized that a lot is riding on this trip. Don't get me wrong, I have heard many people tell me that study abroad will "change your life" and "you will never be the same." And I'm totally okay with that. (In fact, I can't wait) But lately, as we are about to leave, I've been sorting out my expectations...which are realistic and which are ridiculous? Sometimes you make a decision and later, when you're asked why, you really can't articulate it. This is my attempt.

I can't wait to leave so many worries behind this semester. 2008 was insane. It started out crazy, and continued to confuse me. At the same time, on its soil friendships blossomed like we were in a perennial spring. It was the most up-and-down year I have ever experienced. Worrying about grad school has been part of that. While I'm not planning on going to Europe for grad studies, maybe living far away, and in the cold, will help me assess the feasible distances.

I'm leaving a lot of things behind right now: studying for the GRE, working, sing, tutoring, thesis work, checking my email constantly, the go-go-go nonstop can't sit down mentality that's consumed my habits...It's not that this is going to be an irresponsible time for me, but I can't wait to stop thinking about what is so specific and immediate to my own little world, and to instead pause and consider what is lasting and meaningful: other people, other cultures, a global perspective, history sustained in ancient structures and philosophies and customs. I can't wait to get to know another continent. I can't wait to be well traveled. I can't wait to see the things in this world that are bigger than myself.

I knew no one when I signed up for this trip. And honestly? I am really proud of that fact! The challenge of making new friends is one I can't wait to get after. Plus the whole immersion in another culture thing probably won't exactly be easy. I don't really know how it will turn out. I think I'm looking for clarity: How do I see myself? How will I present myself to other cultures? Is this a test? Maybe. Why is it that we think that it's necessary to go somewhere to refocus? Is it? I think I need to refocus. I hope this is the right time and place for it. :)

Wednesday, January 21

things that have, as of late, been making me happy

Wednesday, January 21
1. House marathons
Why is it that I can't even think about needles or surgery without grimacing, and yet I am continually addicted to doctor TV shows? Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, House, E.R. ...This is a mystery. But last night I watched like 6 hours of House. It was fantastic.

2. The Container Store
If you know me at will know that I am obsessed with organization. And that's pretty much what the store is all about.

3. Packing and this website
I have never in my life been an effective packer...but that is about to change! I think I will actually have enough room for everything in my suitcases. I can't believe I leave on SUNDAY and it's already Wednesday. I feel both absolutely ready to leave and also unprepared. But, I guess this is something you can't be completely prepared for. And I can't wait to

4. Psychology
Actually this isn't a new love. But still. :) I just finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he talks about a psychologist, Paul Ekman, who studied body language and coded all of the possible facial expressions, which are the same across cultures. Interestingly there is this new show on that I've seen an ad for every night for weeks called Lie to Me. It's based on Ekman's world is getting smaller. So I'm watching the premiere tonight just to check it out!

Monday, January 19

running with gracie

Monday, January 19
We took sweet Gracie running today.

As you may or may not know, she recently became blind. So, it's kind of terrifying for her to run around...she might bump into something! We took her to an abandoned soccer field, where she could be free from the leash and from worry, and ran (jogged) around with her.

Thursday, January 15

i don't think psychology is broken.

Thursday, January 15
A quote from a book I have been reading: "The more mature or advanced stage in the development of a science is reached when it is no longer characterized by competing schools of thought- that is, when the majority of the scientists agree on theoretical and methodological issues. At that stage, a common paradigm or model defines the entire field....Psychology has not yet reached the paradigmatic stage."

Part of me is offended by the idea that psychology is "immature" as a science. As long as we are composed of therapists who offer their opinions, there should be absolutely no expectation of complete agreement. It isn't that psychology is made of quick opinions though. Compare the therapist making a judgment about a client's mental needs with a doctor making a judgment about a patient's physical needs. The difference? The medical world is intrinsically tangible; the mental world is not.

This is an invigorating challenge. Psychology to me is so varied, and that's what I love about it. I hate the idea that it's less than it could be. Is it fair to compare it to other scientific disciplines? It is undeniable that the addition of the scientific method has been a fantastic way for psychology to show its merit, its value, its practicality. Order and control have been indispensable in this way. But it is true also that with case studies the opportunities for understanding humanity as it adapts to extraordinary cases, we have learned a great deal. Scientific control can only go so far in a world where it is simply not natural.

Is it really true that the field of psychology is fragmented? Has it ever been unified? Or is it just a name for all of the "schools of thought" that analyze human mental tendencies and thus come to be known under the same field of study? I have wondered whether psychology is indeed paradigmatical at all. Can there be agreement on the nature of human thought and behavior?

So what are the commonalities tying the field together? As a study of thought and behavior, psychology is characterized by its differences. Psychologists differ simply because they are human. And this is a wonderful reflection of how EVERY person is different-- something I think psychology has not overlooked. Psychological principles are conditional, simply because of our differences. Is there anything wrong with exceptions, or the exceptional?

Thursday, January 8

dutch 101

Thursday, January 8
so i've had this self-help dutch book and cd since my birthday...i've been really good about listening to the cd in the car, but it's about time i get cracking on this workbook. i just want to have a functional knowledge of dutch so i don't seem like a lame, lazy american! here are some important phrases...i'm going to try and type them by memory!!

Hallo! Ik heet Joanna. Ik kom uit Amerika. Ik spreek vloeiend Engels, natuurlijk, en ik ben vrij goed in Spans. Maar, ik spreek geen Nederlands...nog. Tot ziens!

Translation: Hello! My name is Joanna. I come from America. I speak fluent English, of course, and I speak Spanish well. But, I don't speak Dutch...yet. Goodbye! i had to look up a few words. :) goedenavond (good evening)!

Saturday, January 3

my all-time favorite quote

Saturday, January 3
'Stuff your eyes with wonder,' he said, 'live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,' he said, 'shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.'

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

This is a fantastic book. And I love the advice: Stop your laziness! Get up and do something. And wake up the people who haven't realized they're wasting time.

I hope I haven't been one of those people, but with the limitless opportunities to sleep in during winter break, I'm afraid I have been wasting time indeed. And it's not just about sleeping- it's the time spent NOT doing what i SHOULD be doing. It's time for that to stop. I can't wait to see the world. And I'm ready to shake the tree.