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Courtauld Abroad

This year is a unique one; with COVID-19 travel restrictions and most coursework conducted remotely, many Courtauld students are studying outside of London for the first time. Across oceans and time zones, meet some of our fellow Courtauldians endeavoring to complete their degrees from abroad.

May

Sakina Nomanbhoy

Who: Sakina Nomanbhoy (MA History of Art - Continuity and Innovation : Reframing Italian Renaissance Art from Masaccio to Michelangelo) 

Where: Adelaide, Australia 

Time Difference: +8:30 hours 

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Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Sakina Nomanbhoy: Unfortunately, due to the current travel restrictions placed by Australia it has made it near impossible to leave the country. Although, the government has successfully managed the Covid-19 situation, they have not opened international borders and leaving the country comes with the very real danger of not being able to re-enter till the government allows it. As such, I was left (and still am) with little choice but to stay put. 

RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

SN: Admittedly, it has been difficult. 2:30 am classes are no joke! However, my tutors have been very accommodating and have tried to work around the time difference so it has been manageable. I think doing things remotely requires a LOT more focus and discipline - the distractions seem endless! 

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RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

SN: I think the biggest challenge for has been not being able to physically interact with other students. I am really missing the physical discussions where we just chat about how we are doing, our interests, etc. It has been useful having Zoom but it is just not the same - it would have been terrific to join clubs and go to museums - to experience the art world of London with fellow like-minded individuals. 

RK: What do you miss most about London? 

SN: The museums! The art! Whilst Adelaide does have a growing art market unfortunately its Renaissance art collection is comparably tiny. 

 

RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting Australia? 

SN: Rent a car! There is so much to see in Australia and a large portion of it (well really everything and everywhere) is accessible by car! The cities are great but it is nothing compared to the country and beaches. 

 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

SN: Noodles/Asian food! I grew up in Singapore and have not been able to go home to visit so I am definitely missing all the tastes and flavours of my childhood. 

 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

SN: I currently work for the National Trust of South Australia so that takes up a large portion of my non-studying time. Aside from that spending some time outside, walking, heading to beach and lots of eating! 

 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

SN: Hopefully London (or maybe even Venice) with a stopover in Singapore! 

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April:

Nina Ledwoch

Who: Nina Ledwoch (MA Curating the Art Museum) 

Where: Warsaw, Poland 

Time Difference: +1 hours 

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Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Nina Ledwoch: I have spent the first term in London and as I arrived a bit later in the term, I was able to only briefly enjoy it before the second lockdown began. When I went home for Christmas, the situation with new variants began to escalate quickly and the international students were advised against going back to London. For that reason, I decided to stay in Warsaw, where museums and galleries were opening up (this has since sadly changed) while the UK went into full lockdown. Overall, I am happy with the fact that I stayed longer and had a chance to spend more time with my boyfriend before he goes back to New York and I return to London. 

 

RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

NL: After taking my final exams at home during the first lockdown, I was more or less prepared for this experience. Exam preparation is often a way more solitary experience than classes via Zoom, which after the fifth or sixth hour can become draining but that is a rather universal experience for all of us studying remotely. I was lucky to be able to go to museums and galleries in Warsaw before the next lockdown was introduced but that would not be possible in London until mid-April/May. I definitely cherished the chance of an in-person museum experience, which I found to be crucial for my Curating course. Library access has proven to be less of a difficulty than I anticipated – I have skimmed through some books before I left London and was able to base most of my Extended Essay on articles and essays available online. 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

NL: For MA Curating, the aspect of the collective experience is very important – fortunately, we had a couple of occasions to meet together as a group in the first term. Co-curating and handling the practical side of organizing a part-online, part-in-real-life (fingers crossed!) exhibition via Zoom is sometimes a challenge. Doing smaller group projects in person when it was allowed the last term has proven to me that group projects usually take longer over Zoom but overall, I feel that our cohort has handled the difficulties of this year very well. 

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RK: What do you miss most about London? 

NL: I miss Primrose Hill, where I live, and friends who stayed in London or returned earlier. Last year has taught me to think differently about ‘home’ and missing things in general. I try to be at peace wherever I am and have learnt to pack a minimal number of things and think about everything in terms of essentials. I miss my London routine or the view of the Regent’s Canal outside my window but fortunately, routines are transferrable and as long as I have a set of small rituals, I feel at peace. I am looking forward to galleries and museums opening again and to seeing the shows I have been working on at Tate Modern.   

RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting Warsaw? 

NL: For anyone visiting Warsaw, Poland, I would highly recommend spending a little time in the Saska Kępa district. It is a lesser-known tourist destination, but it has a lot to offer in terms of its architecture since it escaped the systematic destruction inflicted on the city during WW2. The neighbourhood is mostly occupied by semi-detached suburban houses and beautiful modernist villas and is also the home to one of Warsaw's largest urban parks, the Skaryszew Park. Additionally, Saska Kępa is one of the culinary centres of Warsaw, with some of the best restaurants, artisan bakeries and cafes in the city scattered all over its uniquely green and narrow streets. 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

NL: My course and internship really picked up pace this term, which left me less time to enjoy cooking in my free time. As restaurants remain closed and only offer take out delivery, I tried to order from my favourite places (some of which continued working as restaurants and others, which branched out to selling mainly wine) as much as possible. Many Korean dishes have proven to be a perfect comfort food during Polish winter. 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

NL: As a part of my course, I intern in the Curatorial department at Tate Modern. So far, my internship has only been taking place online but thanks to that, I was able to virtually attend many meetings which usually would be limited to more senior curators and stakeholders. That was a silver lining I was not expecting! 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

NL: I was lucky to be able to travel last summer and had a relatively ‘normal’ summer as Poland avoided the first wave of the pandemic almost entirely. My plans for the ideal next summer would be to visit my boyfriend in New York City and a trip to Rome in search of the best carbonara. 

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March:

Emma Valjakka

Who: Emma Valjakka (MA History of Art, Experiencing Modernism: Utopia, Politics and Times of Turmoil) 

Where: Helsinki, Finland 

Time Difference: +2 hours 

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Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Emma Valjakka: In Term 1 I lived in London and I actively used the Courtauld 'Stay and Study' and 'Click and Collect' services. I travelled back home for Christmas when the term ended. When the UK went into another lockdown in January, I was still in Helsinki. I decided to wait here for the infection rates to go down in London, and for the Courtauld to open up its library services properly again. London has been in lockdown thus far, and I have decided that it is better for me both mentally and academically to stay in Helsinki with my family. The Covid-19 situation in Finland is relatively good, which means I can go outdoors freely, and occasionally see my friends in small groups. Cafés and restaurants have been open, and I have been able to see art in galleries and museums. The libraries here are open for 'Click and Collect' services and I have adapted my assessment topics according to what I can find from their collections. Although I miss London a lot, I find the circumstances better in Helsinki for me to complete my degree. 

RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

EV: After Christmas, it was difficult to start studying again, especially as I was still in my childhood home. There are lots of distractions here compared to my flat in London, but I have slowly adapted to this new study environment. I am also luckily very close with my family. The advantage of staying has been that I have been able to see exhibitions during the past couple of months. Seeing art in person is very important to me because it keeps me inspired and curious to learn more. 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

EM: It feels absurd that I am studying in a London university, but I am currently completing my degree from another country. I miss the feeling of being a part of a community. As mentioned above, I used the 'Stay and Study' service a lot during fall. Going to campus made me feel more like a university student and it kept me motivated. 

RK: What do you miss most about London? 

MD: My friends! They are all amazing and inspiring people and I miss them very much. And walks in Regent's Park. My favourite place in London is the Queen Mary's Rose Gardens and I am sad to miss the new roses this spring. Oh, and pizza from Purezza!! 

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RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting Finland? 

MD: Visit Finland in the summer when you can go swimming during the nights when the sun doesn't set, or in the winter when you can go skiing or ice skating on the sea ice. I recommend visiting the capital, Helsinki, which has lots of festivals during the summer and lovely museums, cafés and restaurants. I'm happy to show the best places to anyone who ends up in Helsinki! Lapland has beautiful nature for those who enjoy hiking. I went last summer and it was absolutely divine. 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

MD: My go-to has been rice noodles, tofu, vegetables and teriyaki sauce. Easy to make and tastes delicious every time. 

 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

MD: I have spent a lot of time outdoors in nature. This has helped me de-stress after a long day of studying. I have also played badminton and tennis, because the courts have been open. Every evening I read a book before I go to sleep. I just finished reading Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar, highly recommend! 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

MD: I want to travel to Berlin. We were supposed to travel there with our Special Option course and I was looking forward to it a lot. When the world is normal again, I want to visit the places we would have gone to with our group. Ideally with my coursemates, but let's see how everything goes.  

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February:

Madeline Defilippis

Who: Madeline DeFilippis (MA History of Art, Global Conceptualism: The Last Avant-Garde or a New Beginning?) 

Where: West Hartford, Connecticut, USA 

Time Difference: -5 hours 

 

Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Madeline Defilippis: I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and I graduated in summer 2020, at the height of pandemic in the States. I was sent home in March 2020 and finished my degree online, unable to have a graduation ceremony like so many millions of students around the world. I spent the summer at home, anxious to get back to London for a postgraduate degree I knew I wanted to pursue despite the uncertainty the pandemic ensured. I was lucky enough to spend a few months in London, in a flat with a recent graduate of the Courtauld's MA HoA programme. But, by the time we made it to the New Year, it was clear that another lockdown was imminent and I would be alone in my flat if I didn't make the decision to head home. It was a difficult choice, given that I don't know when I can return in the spring term. 

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RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

MD: There have definitely been advantages - if there's a lot of content to cover, we don't get chased out of a room for the next one to file in! There's a lot of access to my professor, Sarah Wilson, and she tries to make the experience as enriching as possible. Since the MA programme is all about discussion and sharing ideas, it can be a bit difficult, but for the most part, we've found a rhythm that works for us. 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

MD: Resources! It's hard not being able to wander into the library when a stroke of inspiration for an assignment hits me. Thankfully, my subject is a fairly contemporary one, and so much of it has been digitized. That being said, I miss thumbing through catalogues! 

 

RK: What do you miss most about London? 

MD: I miss discovering a new shop, restaurant, or any other hidden gem every time I go out! In December, my friend and I spent Christmas holed up in my flat since we decided it was too risky to fly home. We went outside for walks to keep ourselves busy, and happened across a gorgeous Church ruin, St Dunstan-in-the-East, which was built in 1100 and is tucked away in the City of London! I miss seeing places that pique my historical curiosity. 

 

RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting the United States? 

MD: I think the US is always a favourite for travellers because of its sheer size and all the possibilities for discovery, but it can be difficult to get around for that reason. Although I am biased, I think that New England in the fall is the prettiest it can get! The East Coast is great for a road trip in the spring, especially since you can see things like Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., Central Park in bloom, or Boston as the snow melts! 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

MD: I'm always partial to a good curry when I'm in London, but I have to say that the pizza in the States will always have my heart (my dad makes a mean pizza, which I immediately requested once I got home). 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

MD: My sister is also studying at uni from home this year, so we take walks with our cockapoo Willy around the block! I've gotten MUCH better at Mario Kart, and of course I've been reading more - a current favourite is Colson Whitehead's novels. 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

MD: St Andrews! That place has a special place in my heart, and I'd love nothing more than to reunite with my friends on the East Sands or in our favourite pub. 

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January:

Hannuri Lim

Who: Hannuri Lim (BA 3) 

Where: Busan, South Korea 

Time Difference: +9 hours 

Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Hannuri Lim: The pandemic has definitely changed most of the plans that I had for this year. At the start of this academic year, my family members were worried about me returning to London, so I postponed my departure to November. Unfortunately, I am still waiting to return to London! I recently paid the deposit for my new flat in London (starting from February) but since the new restrictions on flights to/from the UK are taking place, I will have to wait again and see if my flight ticket survives.  

There was no official lockdown here in South Korea so my experience of the pandemic may be less difficult and intense than others. Still, 2020 has been a tough year for me, too, because all the plans that I had for my last year of university suddenly evaporated. I had to pay for my empty flat for months, ask my friend to pack my belongings for me, and above of all, miss out on my university life in London - with friends.  

However, on the bright side, my dog was so happy that I did not have to leave and could take her for a walk everyday.  

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RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

HL: I have been away from home since high school, so the biggest problem with learning at home was that I did not have a room. At the beginning of the term, I made my own study space in the corner of my younger brother's computer game room. He did not appreciate it, but I had no choice.  

Another issue with remote learning is that I had to find online resources. During my last two years at the Courtauld, my research heavily depended on paper books in the library, so it was a real challenge for me to find research materials online. I think learning how to research online will be an important skill in the unpredictable future, so I am glad that I am getting used to it now.

 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

HL: Time difference could definitely be  one of the challenges of being a Courtauld student outside of London, especially when it's +9 hours. The afternoon lectures in London time were happening quite late for me. For instance, my Lessons in Critical Interpretation seminar was from 1 to 3 AM every two weeks. Although I got used to sleeping late throughout the term, early morning classes were not the most amazing part of my remote learning experience, for sure. Yet, on a positive side, it was nice to see the sunrise after the lectures sometimes. 

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RK: What do you miss most about London? 

HL: Friends, park strolls, pub, Brussels sprouts, library, and having a time for my own for the entire day! 

 

RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting South Korea? 

HL: It is very unfortunate that so many people who visit South Korea only stay in Seoul. If you are looking for a city experience full of pop culture, vibrant night streets, and modern architecture, yes, Seoul could be the best city to visit in South Korea. Yet, as an art history student I also strongly recommend visiting the countryside. You could book a stay in a traditional Korean house - hanok - or explore the landscapes of the Korean peninsula.  

I will be very happy to recommend some places to visit in South Korea if anyone is interested. You could also visit Busan, the harbour city, and then I could show you around. If you want to travel to Japan after visiting South Korea, then I could bitterly send you off at the Busan International Port!  

 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

HL: One of the best parts of staying at home in South Korea has been the fact that every type of food can be ordered in. I once ordered in steamed snow crab and that was my favourite.

 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

HL: I have been walking my dog, occasionally seeing my grandparents and friends, binge-watching Netflix, scrolling through Instagram, and trading second-hand items with neighbours through an app called 'carrot market.' 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

HL: As of now, I really hope to travel safely to London and resume my university life! I hope things will get better soon, so that perhaps in the near future I can enjoy being surrounded by tourists in Covent Garden once again. 

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December:

Aniela Rybak

Who: Aniela Rybak (BA 3) 

Where: Paris, France 

Time Difference: +1 hour 

Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Aniela Rybak: I decided to move to Paris during Reading Week. Unfortunately, everything that made my experience in London so special was no longer available. Not being able to go to university and experience proper studies, see my friends, visit galleries and museums or go to the cinema influenced my well-being more than I expected. Being an international student means dividing your life between different countries, with my family and best friends in Poland and my boyfriend in France, the travelling difficulties started to be a big issue. I spent three weeks in Paris in September and absolutely fell in love with the city, so I made a decision to take my chance and move here. 

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RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

AR: I think I can speak for the majority of students, if I say that remote studies are not fun. Because university is not only about taking classes and doing coursework. It’s about the daily commute to the campus, sitting in the library for hours with your friends trying to finish your essay, having a coffee after class, getting lunch in the common room and gossiping about everything and anything. Those experiences can never be replaced by Zoom classes. The biggest advantage I see was of course the possibility for me to move to Paris and make the most out of this bizarre situation. Living with my boyfriend, which would not be possible if university was working normally, being able to practice French on daily basis and experience living in a new city are definitely the high points of this situation. 

 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

AR: I think the biggest challenge is that taking classes online makes you feel very disconnected to your studies. I have been experiencing a lot of difficulties with focusing on my class, if I have to take them in my bedroom. On the other hand, if we think about it, it is quite incredible that thanks to modern technology we can be studying in one country and living in another. After all, it is better than not being able to study at all. 

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RK: What do you miss most about London? 

AR: I miss my favourite places in the city: Notting Hill, the Barbican and Brixton. What I love about London is the fact that every borough has its own atmosphere and architecture, you don’t get the same feeling in Paris. I will also always miss the view from Waterloo Bridge, the best panoramic image of London you can get. 

RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting Paris? 

AR: Hopefully one day it will be possible again to hop on the Eurostar and visit Paris even for a weekend. My advice would be to go everywhere on foot, Paris is an incredible city for walking around. Don’t try and visit all the touristic places in one go because you won’t enjoy it. My rule in travelling is to leave out at least one place I want to visit from my list, so I have a reason come back. Make sure you give yourself that excuse! 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

AR: Since me and my boyfriend like to cook a lot, we have been making many different dishes every week, so I've been discovering the world of French cuisine. I learned how to do a proper quiche and differentiate it from a tarte. I got to try traditional ratatouille and even made galette from scratch. I also have a goal of trying every cheese and yogurt available, which is not an easy task since both departments together take up half the space in every supermarket. 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

AR: Since for the past few weeks we were only allowed to move 5 km away from our house, I got to know Montmartre, where we live, very well. We go on a walk around the neighbourhood every day. Apart from that I read as much as I can, talk to my family who are in Poland and discover the realm of French cinema in the evening. My recent favourites are: On connaît la chanson, hilarious comedy happening in Paris where music plays a big role, and Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!, adaption of a theatre performance which talks about an important subject of gender with a funny twist. 

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RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

AR: For sure I would like to be able to go to Warsaw more frequently to visit my family and friends. I also want to travel around France to get to know the parts I haven’t been to yet; Lyon is at the top of my list. 

November:

Sara Blad

Who: Sara Blad (MA History of Art, Bodies of Knowledge in the Early Modern Netherlands) 

Where: Utrecht, Netherlands 

Time Difference: +1 hour 

Rachel Kubrick: Please tell us about your experience deciding not to or not being able to come to London this year. 

Sara Blad: The UK rejected my initial visa application because my passport was too full (this happened three weeks before classes started). I chose to apply for a new passport at the US consulate in the Netherlands because it would only take 15 business days (it actually only took 6) instead of 8+ weeks in the US. Doing so would also give me some more time to spend with my boyfriend who lives in Utrecht. This solution was only possible for me because the Netherlands now allows all partners (married, engaged, or just in a long-term relationship) to enter the country. Given the UK's current COVID statistics and that I am pretty comfortable here already, I would prefer to stay put in the Netherlands. I am now applying for a partner visa. I hope this visa application process goes much more smoothly than the last one! 

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RK: How has taking your courses remotely in a new setting affected your learning experience? Have there been advantages? 

SB: I think that being in a relatively familiar setting with my boyfriend makes this year's twists and turns less stressful. And while I wish in-person learning was possible, remote learning provides the flexibility for me to have the best of both worlds--studying at the Courtauld while also finally getting to live with my boyfriend. I'm from Washington, D.C. and we'd been long distance for a year. 

 

RK: What's the biggest challenge of being a Courtauld student outside of London? 

SB: Definitely not being able to easily access the library.

RK: What do you miss most about London? 

SB: Ole & Steen's cinnamon socials--I could eat one every day for the rest of my life. Masala Zone. Udderlicious ice cream--their sprinkles are divine. The Bookstores! Thank god there's a Waterstones in Amsterdam, but I wish I could visit Daunt Books and The Second Shelf. I'm also really bummed that I'm missing the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition at The National Gallery. 

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RK: Once international tourism resumes, what travel tips do you have for readers thinking about visiting the Netherlands? 

SB: Though Amsterdam is the Netherlands' most popular destination, Utrecht is just as charming but less crowded (and only 25 minutes away). I highly recommended walking along the city's canals while blasting Maggie Rogers' Heard It In A Past Life album into your ears. 

RK: What has been your favorite local food to order in or cook since quarantine? 

SB: I need to eat something sugary for breakfast and appelflappen makes me miss cinnamon buns and Lucky Charms a little less. It's a puff pastry filled with a mix of apples and raisins, topped with a thick sugar crust. Also, Oliebollen (Dutch beignets) are absolutely delicious and are now available at food carts all over Utrecht for the holidays. 

 

RK: What have you been doing when not studying? 

SB: I love to read. I'm currently reading Lauren Michele Jackson's White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue ... and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, which is very good. Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen, and Bernardine Evaristo's Blond Roots are up next on my to-read list! Also, reality tv is essential for my own happiness--I currently have Below Deck Mediterranean and the Real Housewives of Potomac on rotation. 

 

RK: Where is the first place you want to go when you can travel again? 

SB: Germany! I went to Berlin six years ago and did not visit a single museum ... I now want to make up for lost time! I'd love to spend two weeks visiting every museum in Germany. The Städel, Alte Pinakothek, and the Alte Nationalgalerie are all at the top of my list. 

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