Happy New Year! An Update + Looking to 2020


Happy New Year! 

I have always felt that the new year possesses restorative power. Whether marked by the drop of a sparkling ball in New York City or a gigantic cardboard wrench as custom in my small town, something about the clock striking midnight reinvigorates my ambition. Every December, I look forward to reflecting on my past year and creating goals I can tackle with renewed vigor (if only for the first few months).

My annual reflection brought me back to this blog, a platform I have treasured since I launched a Blogger template as a curious eighth-grader. I love to read, I love to write, and I love to blog. So here I am, returned from yet another hiatus, enjoying the familiar click-clack of my keyboard, a stack of library books, and my notebook beside me.

Hi friends! I've missed you. A lot has changed since we last spoke. Here goes:

Where I've Been

I survived my first semester of college (*internal screaming*). As I reflect upon 2019, I find it hard to believe that I was a senior in high school worried about the college application process during this same year. Despite my initial hesitance about starting college, I am so grateful that my experience at William and Mary has been wonderful so far. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The kindness of the community. William & Mary exudes warmth. I have yet to meet an unkind person here, and the college and its students strive to welcome newcomers. During my first visit to campus, I witnessed a small gesture that ultimately convinced me to attend W&M: a student chased an older gentleman past the sports arena to return a wallet that the gentleman dropped.

As a student, I have been fortunate enough to experience even more acts of kindness. At the convocation ceremony that concluded freshman orientation, upperclassmen held signs bearing messages like "you belong" and stood in long lines to high-five and welcome us to the college (I cried). When I tripped on a trail run and cut my knee in the first month of being on campus, three of my new hallmates, equipped with first aid kits, offered me assistance. I received sweet notes from fellow freshmen and Model UN team members wishing me luck before conferences. One of my hallmates gave me a gift-- on her birthday. An unknown student, dressed in a formal suit for a business interview, jumpstarted my roommate's car in the pouring rain. I never caught his name. Heck, even the secret societies here are nice: during finals season, they left a bucket of encouraging notes in front of the library.

2. I traveled with the Model United Nations team. As a high school student, I dreamt of attending a formal MUN conference. To finally travel with a team at the college level was an incredible experience. Although I will admit I was startled by the intensity of college MUN, I loved interacting with students from other colleges to discuss issues I would not have explored before competing. This semester, I represented Australia and the USSR at conferences in Washington DC and Philadelphia. I even got to chair a committee at William and Mary's high school MUN conference (!) and help to plan the college team's training. (I've also started writing for Best Delegate again! Check out their website here.)

3. I was academically challenged. My favorite class this semester was Introduction to International Politics. Rather than assigning us pages from a textbook, my professor drew each of our readings from foreign policy journals and other publications. Although the content of this course primarily focused on theories, my professor's lectures never failed to keep me engaged. I have never studied harder in my life than I did for this final exam. I was tasked with memorizing the content and author names from our 74 readings for three in-class essays that could be selected from eight prompts. Studying felt hellish, but completing that test filled me with a mix of relief and satisfaction that I cannot articulate. I felt that I learned.

(This semester, I also discovered that I might actually like economics??)

4. I met new friends and made new memories. One of my greatest epiphanies this semester was that I was not confined to my dorm room after class. My friends and I spent many nights mapping out homework on the whiteboards in empty classrooms and singing away our stress in the music hall. My college friends have expanded my music and movie repertoire, provided me with a reason to continue playing the piano, and taught me that Domino's Pizza will deliver to the science center. 

What I Consumed

1. My favorite book of 2019 was, by far, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow. In this book, Farrow details his two-year endeavor to report on the misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein and make the voices of victims of sexual assault heard. What was most jarring to me was how the inaction of many permitted these atrocities to continue for so long. Not only were Farrow and the Weinstein's victims literally stalked and threatened by a foreign intelligence group that Weinstein employed, but NBC news blocked Farrow's reporting of the story to protect their own business interests (Farrow published the story with The New Yorker.) Review to come.

2. I didn't strongly dislike any book I read this year, but I was disappointed by The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson. I frequently grew frustrated with Salinger's narrator, and Johnson's storyline felt unnecessarily focused on the romance rather than the mystery that drew me to the series.

3. I started listening to podcasts. "The Daily" from The New York Times and Farrow's "Catch and Kill" podcast comprised my regular listening.

4. My favorite artist, Angèle, released new music during my first semester. I've had it on repeat for a month now.

2020 Vision: Looking Back and Looking Forward 

Looking back. 2019 was a transformative year for me. I graduated from high school and began college. More significant to me, though, is that I was much happier in 2019 than in 2018 because I learned to be kinder to myself and others.

Looking ahead. 2020 promises a lot already. In January, I will head to Montreal, Canada, for a Model United Nations conference. In the summer, I will live and work in Washington DC for my first internship. By the end of 2020, I will have finished half of my sophomore year of college (aaahhh!). I also look forward to returning to blogging-- stay tuned for a review this week!

I can't believe that 2020 is already here. I feel old. But, I am so excited for what the new year will bring. Tell me: what was your favorite book, song, or moment of 2019?


  1. Aww, I am SO glad that you loved W&M so much. I have never felt anything but accepted and loved there. I will miss it when I study abroad this coming semester. Happy new year, Claire!

    1. Thank you Erin!! I didn't realize you were studying abroad this semester, best of luck! I can't wait to hear about your travels. I hope you had a wonderful new year :)

  2. Joining the fabulous bookstagram and book blogging community was a major highlight if 2019.

  3. It's nice to have you back, Claire!! I'm glad your uni experience has been so positive - the people do sound warm and welcoming. :) I want to read Catch and Kill, so I'm happy to see you highlighting it as a favorite of 2019. I was so into The Catcher in the Rye when I first read it during high school - I'm not sure how I'd like it today, but still, pity it disappointed you.

    As for my 2019 - I love Taylor Swift, and her new album, Lover, is so damn good, imo. (Tbh, it's not my favorite by her, but still very good.) I've been loving the new music Dua Lipa has released recently, as well.

    Great post, and I hope you'll have a wonderful year! :)

    1. It's nice to be back, Veronika! Catch and Kill is a must-read.

      I haven't listened to all of Lover, but some of my friends have been really into The Man and Paper Rings. I also heard Don't Start Now recently and I am loving it! I need to listen to the rest of both their albums though. Happy new year :)

  4. Starting the year by subscribing to your email list. It's going to be a good 2020 - Happy New Year, Claire! :)

  5. First off, I love your blog name! So clever and different.

    Also, your college sounds awesome, and now I want to go back to my teen days, transfer to Virginia and attend! LOL. I mean - I probably wouldn't fare well with your course of studies, but I could always take another one...

    "I was much happier in 2019 than in 2018 because I learned to be kinder to myself and others."
    That's wonderful!

    I hope 2020 will be good to you, and you'll find the time and will to blog again!

    1. Thanks Roberta! I hope you have a wonderful new year as well :)

  6. I don't miss all the work of uni, but I do miss the community. Glad to hear you're having such a great time!

    I hated Catcher in the Rye too - it's one of those books that's like marmite. I found the narrator whiny and annoying. It wasn't 200 pages, but it took me three weeks to get through. (I read it for a book club, so I couldn't just drop it.)

    Happy new year! Have a fabulous 2020!

    1. Thank you! The community has definitely made my first semester of college as smooth of a transition as I could have asked for. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't enjoy The Catcher and the Rye XD. I felt like a bit of a black sheep during my English class discussions last year. Happy new year to you, too! :)

  7. I love the photos! I hope you continue to enjoy your college experience. Good luck with your MUN conference!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. Hope I'm not too late, but welcome back, Claire! I love how you seem really statisfied and content with what you've achieved last year, and William & Mary sounds like a really lovely place to be!

    I'm almost done with uni and I think joining MUN will be one of the things I missed the most haha. It's always super intense, but you also strike a really strong friendships with all the delegates there. I just really love the atmosphere :')

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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