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.
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!
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.
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.