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Paris 11/13/15: A Reflection

I want to start this post with something of a disclaimer. This will mostly be my retelling of the experiences in Paris on the night and throughout the weekend of the most recent attacks. There will be many “I” and “we” statements, and I do not want to discredit the stories of others who went through much, much worse on the night of the 13th than I, my father or my peers did.

Furthermore, I understand there is a great deal of uproar in response to the attacks, in many different ways. I read a post shared by a friend of mine on Facebook that I particularly agreed with and I wanted to sum up its perspective quickly before diving into a post of my own. It is important to see this horrific event as a reason for change and action and not as “a megaphone to be used for whatever you yearned to shout.” It is also both reasonable and more than okay to take a stand on social media and voice your outrage. Above all, it is imperative to think first about the terror at hand and grieve for those lost in acts of violence meant to shake a city and a country while having the rest of the world tremble in the shockwaves.

I am not studying abroad in Paris – while it was high on my original list of abroad programs, it was crossed off early due to growing antisemitism, what with 51 percent of all racist attacks in 2014 France being against Jews. Nevertheless, the city was again high on my list of places to visit, and I had the opportunity to do so this past weekend while meeting up with my father on his way to Israel. Never would either of us had thought that Israel would be the safer of the two destinations during his trip.

I arrived Thursday night, met up with friends for dinner and an evening out, crashed on a friend’s couch and then met my father at our hotel near Notre Dame. After a nap, some wandering, the Picasso Museum and the Pompidou – those powerhouses of majestic, moving works of art – we headed to synagogue for Shabbat evening services at the congregation of my father’s former student. While I struggled to understand any French throughout the service, it was both warming and comforting to be a part of such a welcoming community where Jewish beliefs, prayer and values were profoundly exampled.

From services, my father and I attended a small Shabbat dinner at his student’s home, where things were going swimmingly until I checked my phone. At around 9:15 p.m., I received messages from friends making sure I was okay and alerting me – before my news apps had done so – that there was a shooting in Paris. Turns out that we were not far from the (later turned plural) shootings – a mere seven or eight blocks from Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon, and a few more from the Bataclan theater, where attackers killed concertgoers in cold blood.

I told the rest of the crowd at our dinner, and immediately phones and computers were taken out. We began to contact anyone and everyone we could – friends, family, co-workers and colleagues to both ensure them that we were okay and hope that they were alright as well. We watched as BFMTV reporters and anchors told us more and more about the Stade de France bombings, the ongoing hostage situation at the theater, and finally witnessed the live stream of Francois Hollande’s shocked and appalled face as he declared a state of emergency for the city.

I contacted everyone I was close with in Paris. If I couldn’t reach someone, I contacted another friend to see if they had heard from them. I worried lots and lots, but found relief when all who I spoke with were safe and accounted for. I responded to messages on through many media asking about my safety and location. I used Facebook to “mark” myself as safe. I relayed information to my mother, sister and extended family. I listened to each round of sirens pass outside the apartment.

We were able to return to our hotel that evening, but not without seeing a heavily affected Paris. The streets in the 10th arrondissement – a popular area that on a Friday night should be bustling with locals and tourists alike – were as close to empty as they could be. Heavily armed forces with fingers at their triggers stood posts on every other corner, facing up and down streets in case of attackers. More forces were on the way, as we would witness in the morning. It was hauntingly quiet.

The next day, my father and I decided – maybe unwisely – to walk a bit and see the city after the attacks. I was dumbfounded to see people out on the streets – in restaurants, going to and from markets with bags of groceries and even a couple out for a run. It may have been my American paranoia at hand, but walking through Paris technically hours after the events made me extremely anxious. My guard was up for all around me, my head was on a swivel and we were avoiding crowds as much as we could. At times, I forgot about the events from the night before and admired the Parisian architecture and the streets we were wandering. But then I was reminded of what had occurred, and my fight-or-flight adrenaline kicked in yet again.

We wandered to cultural sites that were barren. Museums, schools, parks were all closed, all bearing signs of sorrow and in solidarity with those mourning. Concerts, classes, lectures and other cultural exemplars of Paris were cancelled. The attackers had without a doubt made their impact on the thriving city by depriving it of life, both literally and culturally. It was chilling to walk through the streets.

It was important for us to see those still out on the street, those still going about their daily lives – they serve as a reminder to not let those attackers, those terrorists, win by depriving them of their lifestyle. No matter what, Paris is still Paris, a flourishing city of so many different beliefs, ethnicities, traditions and languages. To give that all away at the hands of the few who don’t believe in that would be to stand against the city itself, especially in a time of such great loss.

This past weekend felt a bit like 9/11. I’m not sure I can make that comparison because of the difference in scale or because I was very young when the Twin Towers were attacked and consequently don’t remember much, but I do remember this troubling, complex mix of grief and mourning with determination and a call to action. Just as Parisians, French and other Europeans mourn, they are also determined to put an end to this ongoing threat of terrorism and ISIS that continues to loom. Columnist Roger Cohen addresses this determination in his article:

“It was wrong to dismiss ISIS as a regional threat. Its threat is global. Enough is enough. A certain quality of evil cannot be allowed physical terrain on which to breed…But history teaches that human beings are capable of fathomless evil. Unmet, it grows.”

I won’t lie – I am somewhat nervous to be in Europe at this time. There is an aspect to traveling throughout the continent that has begun to worry me after this weekend. Nevertheless, I have faith that the leaders of European nations and the West that have been so affected by terrorism and by ISIS will put together a plan to stop attacks like Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and more from occurring again. It is awful to see the life, the culture and the happiness be taken out of a city as I did firsthand this weekend. But in order to prevent this, difficult but necessary actions must be taken. For the sake of those who mourn in these cities, and for the sake of greater peace, let’s hope that action is taken sooner rather than later.

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The Caged/Uncaged Bird of Twitter

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

Hello again from London. All is well here.

To fill you in on my past weekend: I was fortunate enough to wander the beautiful city of Amsterdam and I think I experienced my favorite city so far on this European term. Before my visit, I read somewhere (I think it was in TimeOut Amsterdam – made sure to do my research before visiting) that Amsterdam was like London and Paris’ younger international city sibling that never wanted to grow up. Besides all three of these cities being somewhat sprawling and only limited slightly by the natural landforms around them, this rings pretty true – Amsterdam does have a great deal of international residents, but it doesn’t have the “all business, all the time” vibe that living in London or Paris may have. It sure does have a lot of culture though – after visiting three major museums, walking through De Wallen, Jordaan and De Pijp and exploring the Dam area, I can say that I was smitten with the city. I’ll be back, I’m sure.

Note: I may be considering these cities to be sprawling because they don’t have the defined limits that Manhattan and most of New York City have. Maybe I need to take a closer look at my own cities and reconsider.

Before I left for Amsterdam, I posted a long list of what was on my mind concerning current events and certain experiences. Hope you enjoyed that brainstorm.

So it feels reasonable to pick up where I left off, even if I had to edit my list of topics from a docket of posts to conversation points.

As a junior at an American university, I have joined the masses of applicants for internships with hopes of finding success somewhere. Sorry, camp. It’s time for me to try the real world for a summer.

Starting this process was not easy – compiling my best attributes as a student, writer, journalist, thinker and leader onto a few pieces of paper or a collective site such as this one took a lot of thought and a lot of cutting, pasting, deleting and retyping. But above all, what troubled me most during this process was putting together my “Contact” page; I particularly struggled with social media.

When I took my introductory reporting and writing course for journalism, my professor told my section to all make Twitter accounts. He told us to follow the media through Twitter – follow the companies and stations you enjoy to read, follow some dissenting opinions, follow some incredible reporters and writers, and follow some outlets that will cause your mind to stretch. So I did just that. But I had created another Twitter account much before college even began (although it is in disuse/dissolution at this time), and I was almost embarrassed to say I didn’t follow media outlets. I was pre-med at the time, to be fair, but high school version me wasn’t interested in hearing the news in 140 characters or less – something I more consciously stand by now than I did then, but for different reasons. High school Eli’s Twitter consisted of high school friends and their pun-filled handles as well as a few parody accounts and the ever-so-satisfying @CuteEmergency. That one made it through the transition to my professional Twitter – how could I say no?

What was it about high school that made me utilize Twitter in the way that I did? I sometimes enjoy, sometimes grimace at the silly things I retweeted, the thoughts I had found funny that followers did not appreciate, and the “subtweets” I had made and others I had saved to Favorites, perpetuating high school immaturity and conflict. But Twitter offered so much more at that time that I was too naïve to appreciate: it was an access to media and content that was unparalleled at the time as well as a platform for sharing that was short, sweet and to the point.

All this being said, Twitter is on the downfall. Robinson Meyer’s Atlantic piece on “The Decay of Twitter” points out the floundering of the social media site and its inability to gain new users in this day and age. Paired with excerpts from Bonnie Stewart’s post from September 2014, the article explores what has brought Twitter to its lowest – a point that can be summed up by saying that people have become more conscious of the medium’s ability to “smoosh” what is being colloquially said by users into printed, sharable material that may be misinterpreted or shared incorrectly to portray other views than what was meant to be said. Meyer puts it all into perspective:

“When you speak face-to-face, you’re always judging what you’re saying by the reaction of the person you’re speaking to. But when you write (or make a video or a podcast) online, what you’re saying can go anywhere, get read by anyone, and suddenly your words are finding audiences you never imagined you were speaking to.”

So your thoughts and words are reaching those you didn’t think of talking to, or didn’t want to reach, for that matter – this starts to sound a bit like high school to me.

In reality, Twitter is an amazing platform to voice your ideas loud and proud if you really want to. But Meyer and Stewart are right to say that as much as it can be a sounding board for things that you want to talk about, it can be “a free soapbox for all kinds of shitty and hateful statements”, such as perspectives on racism, privilege, sexual assault, gun violence, what have you. Don’t think I haven’t been checking Twitter frequently during this week’s Missouri and Yale conflicts, and the amount of hate/support I have read is worth both a smile and a scowl.

Meyer makes an extremely important point at the end of the article – the motive of Twitter, and its users, has changed over the past year:

“…the standard knock against Twitter—which had long ceased to be ‘I don’t want to know what someone’s eating for lunch’—became ‘I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.'”

Twitter’s ability to be a medium of portraying different perspectives has in a way become too public and too prominent of a way to gain negative publicity. See: Justine Sacco. Or this TED Talk that puts it all in perspective.

With all this in mind, why is it important for me – or anyone for that matter – to still use Twitter, if it is on its way out as it seems it is? Why is it important for me to keep this informal media aggregator that I’ve created and maintained? And why don’t I use it to post my own material, if it is a professional representation of myself (if it can even be considered that)?

I might be nervous about the public view of my writing, but as a journalist I have no choice but to get over that. I will continue to keep my Twitter and check it frequently because it does have the capacity to be an aggregator of perspectives. Especially in our day in age, perspective is both important to have and refreshing to see others. A change in perspective is a key reason behind my decision to study abroad, for instance. So sometimes on Twitter taking a grain of salt with each negative soapbox comment can be important to growing our perspectives on the world that we live in.

I’ll leave you with part of a piece from Frank Chimero, a designer from Brooklyn (worth the read). Think about this next time you check your tweet feed:

“I think for many of us Twitter started as the porch—our space, our friends, with the occasional neighborhood passer-by. As the service grew and we gained followers, we slid across the spectrum of privacy into the street…For the better part of a year, I’ve been trying to make Twitter feel like talking on the porch again, but it just can’t happen. Twitter isn’t talking for anyone with more than 500 followers—it’s publishing or advertising. We’re all on the street, and it’s noisy.”

The Perfect Storm – A Brainstorm

After a week of research, 5,000 words of writing and extensive argument development on English barbaric perception of their British Isle neighbors and the impact of dissection and vivisection on Hellenistic Alexandria and medicine – as separate papers, of course – I am finally back to writing something a little less academic and a little more colloquial.

Man have I missed this. Focusing on essay writing here has been a doozy. I have plenty more words to write though – 3,000 words on the impact of religion on European war is the next ugly beast in my path for the coming weeks.

As usual, I would like to refresh you intrigued lot (if there is a lot of you) about what’s going on for me here in London. I spent the past weekend enjoying what London had to offer in terms of Halloween and I was pleasantly surprised to find that people prefer to put on zombie or skeleton makeup rather than adorn a costume. I give more props to those who are willing to really go all out and paint their face rather than wear all black and call themselves a cat. It really adds to the whole scare factor and creativity, in my book, is always a huge plus. Especially if you’re really willing to walk around pubs and clubs covered in fake blood. A power move, if I may say so.

The weekend before I spent time with a couple friends in the wet and wonderful city of Venice. I have to say – water transportation is definitely more soothing than land transportation. While I was traveling from Venice to the islands of Murano and Burano, I realized how calm I felt moving from place to place just because I was surrounded by the water. Or maybe it was because I was having a weekend vacation before returning to my research and writing. One of the two.

All in all, the past week-to-10-days have been a lot, and it has given me some time to accumulate some thoughts. While I will not discuss them all in detail, here are a couple bullet points and some good reads that I may or may not get back to in later posts. Probably not. Depends on whether or not I consider them more. This is mostly a brain dump. A think tank.

  • Suits is a fantastic show. Great premise, lots of drama, easy to fall asleep to. Definitely worth starting, but understandable if it doesn’t mesh with your TV taste.
  • I finished 10:04 by Ben Lerner on the flight to Venice, and man was I satisfied with that book. Lerner does such a great job of blurring his own life into a piece of fiction while weaving in poetry, art and even a hint of film – the title itself comes from the time that Marty McFly has to reach the clocktower to go back…to the future! (my 2nd favorite film). I highly recommend reading. It is, in its own way, a great commentary on the future and the multiple possibilities of our lives as we live them. Also, Tyrone Beason of the Seattle Times gave a great review of Lerner’s work – also worth reading.
  • On the topic of novels – I’ve finally got around to reading some fiction while being in college and not being swept up in the amount of educational/textbook reading that I already have to do. I’ve found that I feel much more energized and enthusiastic about doing this assigned reading when I have the time to do my own reading – a feeling I haven’t had since my middle school days. It’s seriously reenergizing for my academic career.
  • One more thing on the topic of novels – if this conversation between President Obama and Marilynne Robinson doesn’t encourage you to read and write more, I’m not sure what will.
  • Ted Cruz’s “attack” of the moderators at the third Republican presidential debate led me to realize how odd his voice and his demeanor can sound. And then the New York Times’ Upshot posted this great graph/piece on candidates and the books they sound like and it all began to make sense to me.
  • After viewing “The Hunting Ground” documentary at Kings College and getting to discuss the issue of sexual assault with the director, Kirby Dick, I’ve realized how universal this issue really is and how poorly handled it is by the U.S. collegiate system, particularly due to the importance of college athletics (see: Jameis Winston’s sexual assault case that wasn’t). Moreover, the issues we deal with in America pretty frequently are so well handled elsewhere that it’s a bit shameful. I urge you to read this opinion piece on gun violence in America as seen by Europe and really consider what is wrong with the U.S. that certain issues like sexual assault, gun violence and other social atrocities are so prominent in our culture. I can’t go on for this topic as it upsets me to realize how many problems riddle my home country and how little has been done to fix this. Plus there’s just too much research to be done, and like I said, I’ve got other ugly beasts of essays in my path that are taking priority.
  • This piece by Josh Seiden is the written manifestation of how I am able to compose articles, posts, essays, what have you. Except the part on editing – I do that infrequently on this particular medium. Sorry; I think these are relatively clean copies, right?

That’s enough of a storm for one post. I also find it increasingly more difficult to create a docket for this sort of thing – too many thoughts go through my head at a time. But if you have any interest in discussing Paul Ryan and fatherhood, the dying nature of Twitter and why we love it, or European drugs versus American drugs and the regulation of both, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I love good company and better conversation.

Not Very “Hakuna Matata” – A Problem with Philosophy

Apologies for the large gap in between postings. Abroad life has picked up quickly, to put that as simply as I can. A quick brief on the past days: classes, visitors (family in particular), a weekend exploring the wonderful wacky language of Danish and the captivating city of Copenhagen, and more classes.

With a weekend at home (I believe I can call London that now; it’s been long enough) to think and to work on assignments, I think I’ve become a master of coffee shop exploration. It’s quite the way to explore a city and see some different neighborhood culture while staying caffeinated. Apologies to my stunted growth – cultural immersion is going to take the upper hand for this semester. Here’s hoping I’ll make it to six foot someday!

In one of my classes – Medicine in Western Civilization, something I am both intrigued with and surprised by every time I attend my class – we’ve been discussing the views of philosophers and physicians on medical issues such as dissection, gynecology, the brain and the heart. We’ve looked into their medical “preferences,” or more simply whether or not they believe in prayer/the supernatural in order to heal the natural illness. Text upon text of Hippocrates, Aristolte and Galen have come up in discussion to be looked at from a physical perspective, with surprising accuracies and expected inaccuracies, considering the time period.

Yes, while these philosophers are well-known medical thinkers, I was a bit surprised to have Aristotle in my course readings. My first encounters with this Greek philosopher occurred in high school math classes, learning about logic and reasoning as more than the conditionals, converses and inverses, and delving into the philosopher’s ideas of the field. It was way too complex for ninth grade. I focused more on the p’s and q’s (pun intended).

Aristotle looked into many fields of thinking. He used his methods on good reasoning as a basis to make his claims in scientific fields; he made connections between politics and ethics (does this happen anymore?); he discussed the truth in art – there was so much more to this philosopher than a decided study in a certain field.

So if well-rounded, perceivably ridiculously overthinking men in ancient times made for ideal philosophers, what makes a philosopher in today’s age? What are the standards or guidelines to define someone as a philosopher in our era? I don’t want to discredit the field of philosophy or those studying it – I do enjoy learning new philosophy from arguments with my peers who happen to love the field – but in today’s world, to understand philosophy doesn’t make you a philosopher. What these philosophers of old did that made them known as such was their ability to think deeply about the different aspects of the world around them. To just understand their philosophies, in my mind, does not suffice for this title today.

Can it be said that if you think deeply, you are a philosopher? Nowadays, thinking deeply seems to be the norm. In a competitive college environment, let alone a competitive job market, professors and employers are empowering students and applicants to think deeply and consider different facets of the fields they are interested in. We’re encouraged to explore, question and debate what our reality may be, but we aren’t philosophers for doing so.

What about drawing connections between the deeply thought-out aspects of our lives? Our current world relies so heavily on many different types of connections, whether social, scientific, political, what have you. If we consider these in depth, are we philosophers? If we make new connections between life aspects, have we done our philosophical duties?

A philosopher, by Merriam-Webster definition, is “a person who studies ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.” I couldn’t give you a list of current-day philosophers, and I believe that’s because this list is forever growing. Academics and professionals everywhere are consistently making new discoveries and connections between various aspects of life that make our world easier to understand.

Does a passion for study drive a modern-day philosopher then, by these guidelines? I guess so. But I think what can make a professional or academic stand out from the growing philosophical bunch is the aspect of teaching that past philosophers – especially Aristotle – emphasized while coming to their own conclusions. It’s one thing to make a connection between a behavior or lifestyle and the world around you; it’s another to bring this to light in the minds of others and have them consider the possibility of an idea to be true in their own lives.

An “Appropriate” Afterthought: Oktoberfest

Hello again, fateful followers whose stats I can see on my webpage. Funny how high tech the world is now that I can see who’s reading my rants and raves from miles away. I don’t want to get into the idea of personal information access via Internet because, let’s face it, I will go and have gone on and on about this.

Anyway. I apologize for the painstakingly long eight whole days in between posts. I’ve been somewhat busy in London finally setting up what courses I am taking for the semester. I guess since college was nearly free for Brits for the longest time and students only took courses in one discipline for years they felt no need to worry about administrative stuff. Dropping the ball doesn’t look good to me when it comes to college admin. But my classes are set so that’s that.

I spent the past weekend enjoying sunny (not at all) and warm (more of a brisk 62 Farenheit) Munich, Germany, with a handful of peers for the 182nd annual Oktoberfest. The festival is quite literally a festival dedicated to beer. Well, not at first – originally a celebration of a royal marriage between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese, Oktoberfest was all about horse races. It wasn’t until around 1818 when beer and carnival rides made their first appearances, and the infamous and hilarious experiences that are the beer tents didn’t make their debut until 1896. Wow. The more you know. Thanks, ofest.com

Oktoberfest for Americans is, yes, essentially what you are thinking of. We dressed up in lederhosen and drindls, drank beer from massive biersteins, and ate bratwurst and pretzels. We watched others stand on tables and chug, we listened to the oom-pa-pa of the German band as they performed “Ein Prosit” every twenty minutes – loosely translated to “I’m cheers-ing to coziness/good cheer” – and all were merry, not to mention a little broke by the end of it.

Upon returning to our respective study abroad locations, my peers posted photos to social media just to notify others that we had done this great experience. One of my flatmates was confronted by a friend of ours about how disgraced she was that we took part in such an example of cultural appropriation.

Here’s where I’m puzzled. Oktoberfest is a very, very old festival, and the lederhosen and beer and “Ein Prosit” are not strictly put together to appeal/appease the tourists that bring commerce to Munich for three consecutive weekends. These are German traditions that have German meaning behind them, but is taking part in a festival like Oktoberfest a demonstration of cultural appropriation, even if we don’t mean it to be?

My flatmate justified that it was not by saying: “if you went to a Cinco de Mayo festival in Mexico and everyone was drinking tequila and dressed up, would you have done the same?”

I guess. But for me, that feels different. In the 180+ years it has been around, Oktoberfest has become an international festival. 15% of the six million visitors each year come from the rest of Europe, the US, the UK and Canada. To me, part of the beauty of Oktoberfest was that everyone, regardless of nationality or country of residence, embraced German culture and was a part of a much bigger celebration in a way that I don’t think was culturally offensive. In the Cinco de Mayo hypothetical situation, my same feeling applies – being a part of a festival that means so much to a nation and its culture does not seem to me like appropriation.

It’s when these festivals are taken elsewhere that I feel like a cultural appropriation-based flag could be thrown. Take Leavenworth, Washington for example. The town a little over two hours away from Seattle hosts their own Oktoberfest ever year, complete with German beers, German-style food and German music. It feels like a strong demonstration of cultural appropriation, yet it has been an annual fixture of Leavenworth since 1998, upheld each year by a non-profit organization that promotes the “Bavarian theme” throughout the town. A “theme” that was made up by the town leaders to attract visitors!

I draw the line at Leavenworth. While Oktoberfest in Munich is definitely a commercial event, the repackaging, so to speak, of this event to western Washington state feels like a total appropriation. It takes the authenticity out of a celebration that has been so important to Munich, Bavaria and Germany for nearly two centuries.

I want to end on a more positive thought. While doing research on this topic, I found an article from 2014 in the UC Santa Barbara Daily Nexus. Allison Wright’s experience at a Santa Barbara Oktoberfest celebration and subsequent grapple with this same question reach a resolution in her final paragraph:

While cultural appropriation remains a hot coal in our societal balance, sometimes we as people ought to embrace our position as international citizens…’an exchange enriches both of our cultures.’

I can only hope that the exchange of cultures for both sides will lead to more of an appreciation less of an appropriation in the future.

re: Forgiveness – Message Sent

I’ve been religiously involved my whole life – my parents are Jewish professionals, I grew up at a Jewish summer camp, I was involved in youth group, the list goes on. I enjoy having a faith to internalize and at times to grapple with. I believe I embody my religious values and whether or not I believe in God’s divine presence or intervention comes second to the fact that I live the morals, ethics and beliefs of my Judaism.

This is where today gets difficult for me. Last night I attended a religious service where the leader spoke a great deal about God as a judging figure; God as the honorable one on the bench while our good intentions defend us and our bad intentions prosecute. Yom Kippur is a time for Jews to atone for our sins, to apologize to those who we may have transgressed against and to forgive those who have transgressed against us. While in the end God may be the supernatural being that judges our rights from our wrongs, or vice versa, and ultimately chooses our path for the coming year, today resonates with me more in my personal relationships than in my relationship with God.

To me, it is important to wholeheartedly take on the idea of asking and giving forgiveness to those around me. This is a true expression of who I am as a Jew. It is what I believe in and it is the way I know I should conduct myself, especially today of all days.

But in a heavily-digitized era, what constitutes a genuine apology or genuine forgiveness? With the amount of Facebook statuses that I have seen, or the many “easy fast” snapchats I have received (and the few I have sent) – does that “count” as atonement? Can I send a text to someone I know I’ve hurt and wish them a sweet new year and still have it feel the same way?

Could I even ask forgiveness in a blog post and have there be magnitude or significance behind it?

It is so tricky these days to understand the emotion of someone through text, especially on social media. Clear writing can only ever be so clear, but it can also be misunderstood. Disclaimer: I am not discrediting these posts, snaps, and messages as superficial; I simply struggle with the amount of emotion and intention that can go into a post as such. I believe this holiday is a time to physically make the effort to ask forgiveness, especially if what you are asking for has been a physical, in-person transgression.

Moreover, it is easy for the transgressions of the past to stay with you longer via social media. You can be reminded by photographs, messages, even constant contact through updating news feeds about something you may have done wrong or someone who may have wronged you. Somewhat related – I have taken quite an interest to #piggate, PM David Cameron’s collegiate mishap that has swamped British social media. If Cameron wanted to ask forgiveness or apologize – which I somewhat hope he doesn’t; it would be better if this could go away all together – #piggate would still be set in stone as a wrongdoing that social media now has a hold of and has eternalized, for lack of a better word.

At risk of sounding like an advice column, I want to end with this:

My fellow Jews: today, when you look to apologize or forgive those around you, attempt to do so in person. Make known to the person who wronged you or the person you have wronged that you care about your relationship, and do so in person or verbally rather than in text. It says so much more when you can address someone like this when it is not through a screen or a keyboard, and I aim to do so today especially, but even more so through the rest of this year.

Driving Me Wild – An Introduction, An Example, An Open-Ended Question

With hopes of actually taking this seriously, I’ve started a blog.

I hate to be yet another college student studying abroad and writing a blog on my experiences, so I’m trying to make this something more than that. Of course, no offense to those who are blogging their experiences – I am really intrigued by the way that you novelize your trip to that church or market or concert or what have you because there’s so much more you can say in writing than in person as our attention spans can only bear to listen to each other for a mere minute at the most. So keep writing (and posting), and I plan to keep reading, especially since your writings all seem to be damn good.

While I do plan on posting a bit about my experiences (London can be quite intriguing and the culture shock will always be a startling yet refreshing reminder that I am far from home), this blog will be an outlet for me to dive deep into the things that puzzle me, draw my attention, want to know much more about, or want to pose a question that may or may not be discussed by readers, if readers are actually accumulating.

The title of the blog – which came to me whilst on the tube listening to the Common/Lily Allen song of the same name – is not supposed to be a play on me being a Northwestern Wildcat, but at the same time is aptly that. As a student, I am “supposed to” be perplexed and interested in the complicated parts of life, whether it be academically, socially, physically(?), what have you. The things I want to talk about on DMW won’t always be things I’ll have particularly strong opinions about, but they will be things that perplex me in some way shape or form.

Here’s a good example. I chose to come to London to study at an institution where the premise of each course, let alone each year of “uni” is to allow the student to engage with the material in a way that is not dictated entirely by a syllabus or a reading list/expected reading for each class period. The whole claim is that we students should be free to explore the subject that we are studying. I’m struggling with this for two reasons. First, the amount of freedom in each course is a bit overwhelming, considering that the only assessments per most courses tend to be a final exam with very open-ended questions. It feels like the blueprint of each class could be described as: “Here’s what it’s about, here are the books you could read, here are your assignments, OK, good luck!” I grapple with this freedom but I am looking forward to the challenge of engaging myself in the material and pushing myself to do the research. I hate to say it, but I feel like I am finally being pushed to be a real student while abroad. I have gotten away with solid grades without doing the reading and that, clearly, will not fly in this county. Fingers crossed for this semester.

The depth of study perplexes me more when compared to breadth. I say “compared” very loosely – there is no breadth in British uni. Electives are unheard of here; being a double major has caused a few English friends of mine to become wide eyed with panic for my mental state. But when it comes to studying these courses, how can you consider all facets of a field of study without touching on information in other fields? How do you understand a course on European politics without touching on economics, sociology, history, and even a little bit of literature?

This “depth-instead-of-breadth” mentality is all British students know, though. They’ve been selected for a path in uni based on their A level assessments – kind of like SATs or ACTS, taken in high school and sent to different colleges. These assessments allow the university to pick a track of study for each student, if they get in.

I was curious if Brits considered American schooling for breadth instead (in addition to?) of depth, so I did some research. I found this 2013 New York Times article, which was both surprising and not. In this article, British students attending a Fullbright Commission-sponsored college fair were looking at schools in the U.S., but for monetary reasons, since British universities have become costly since 1998, when the price tag was zero quid. But when it came to British students’ interests, their speciality in study did not particularly mesh with the breadth of the American university curriculum, particularly due to the specializations themselves. Take this portion from the end of the article:

“Mitch Freinberg, who heads Columbia’s London alumni, said his table [at the fair] had been mobbed… “But some of them obviously haven’t done their homework,” he said, citing one student who hoped to major in “cosmetology” and another who wanted to do equestrianism. “I told him Columbia probably wasn’t the right place for that,” Mr. Freinberg said.”

Realistically, some Brits do study these things at uni, even beginning a bit of their cosmetology and equestrianism studies in secondary school. There’s less of a teaching of career skills and a very strong emphasis on theoretical information that can be applied to your practical life. This is not always the case at an American university, where sometimes the studies are so heavily based off of a practical, you’ll-need-this-for-your-job mindset. Which brings me to my big question – who is better off? Is it better to know a lot about little, or little about a lot? Does depth really outweigh breadth in the academic arena when it comes to preparing yourself for a career?

As a journalist, I prefer breadth to depth. It is easier to make connections between people, fields, and big ideas when you can understand at least basic concepts in different areas. However, while I am studying in London, I plan to take on the depth preference, as I am intrigued by the possibilities of getting so much more out of a subject, although I may not agree with the British academic system of doing so.