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Writing Contest Winners - 2021

1st Place: Open Doors by Angel Luo

Starting from the moment I landed in the U.S. for the first time six years ago, I immediately noticed an interesting difference between here and where I have been and lived before, that is, everyone holds doors for each other when entering and exiting spaces. I lived in a busy and crowded city where people do not have the habit of holding doors for people behind them. The “door-holding tradition”, as I called it, was one of the first “culture shocks'' I experienced during my first year of studying abroad. It was both surprising and comforting when seeing a hand remaining in front of me pushing against the heavy door until my body had passed the doorway half way with my arm holding the door in a comfortable position and angle. The beaming faces and greetings I received from the door holders also made me, as a new international student away from home, feel extremely welcomed.

Since I began my journey at Miami University, I continue to find door holders at almost every doorway I walk through on campus. And beyond this “door-holding tradition”, I continue to find myself being welcomed, cared for, and supported in many other ways during my studies in this foreign country. As a first-year student a couple of years ago, I was still unclear about my plans and goals for my four years in college. And as an international first-generation college student with parents who do not speak a single word in English, I became more anxious about my unknown future direction and unconfident in finding out where I belong in the new environment.

But I realized immediately that my worries and anxiety could not last long. The first “door holder” I met was my academic advisor. After explaining details about each major offered from the academic college and discussing with me about possible directions to pursue, I was able to select my first major at Miami University. My advisor introduced me to Emerging Technology in Business and Design, which is a major that involves creativity and consists of multiple crucial elements in today’s business world. Selecting my first major with the help from my advisor was the first “open door” I walked through during my time at Miami university. Guiding me through steps of focusing my interests and providing me assistance on selecting the correct paths, my advisor slowly released the weight of the door on my arm while supporting and encouraging me at the same time. And that was one of the most memorable moments of my first year at Miami University, as I released my stress, rebuilt my confidence, reached my new path, and realized the enormous support exists within the Miami community. Ever since that day, I continued to meet different people within the community who have guided, assisted, and supported me in different ways. I have already walked through many doors on campus after taking many courses in different buildings, and I have also learned meaningful lessons through challenges I faced. I am thankful for those who have held my hands or provided me with a hand when I was in need, as well as those who have given others a hand to make their days better. Without those hands, I would not have found new open doors in my life, nor be able to combat difficulties on my own in a new environment.

Miami University is truly my second home away from home. I cherish not only my friends and mentors, but also the endless open-door opportunities offered and those “door holders” who provide support and always light up my days here.

2nd Place: First Time on a Plane in 13 Years by Nathan Gillin

Last October, I sat in my room in Akron, Ohio. With all online classes, I elected to stay home. Though it was a tough decision, an even tougher decision loomed ahead.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I grappled with applying for the illustrious Miami University Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) Program in Differdange, Luxembourg. There were so many uncertainties regarding the upcoming spring semester. So many Study Abroad programs throughout the world were cancelled…would MUDEC be any different? What sort of experiences would I even have in a COVID-riddled Europe? And would it be worth it to go abroad for an entire semester, once again leaving Oxford behind?

Despite the pandemic and the uncertainties that I was faced with, Study Abroad was something that I have always wanted to do. At this point, I had never been overseas and the last time I was on a plane was 13 years ago.

I thought of my grandma, who battled cancer for many years. Though she lived a life full of love, grandkids, and fun adventures, I know that—had it not been for the cancer—she would have loved to travel more.

I made up my mind: I applied. I was admitted. Before I knew it, I was looking down at the deep, blue ocean aboard the plane to Europe.

Nine hours later, my head was spinning, and I felt nauseous from this new feeling called “jet lag.” I couldn’t take in the European countryside like I’d hoped, and I met my host family…who didn’t speak English. Throw in COVID travel restrictions throughout the continent, and I became nervous about the remainder of the semester. Would I be able to travel? Would I be able to overcome language barriers and make connections with others? Culture shock seemed to be setting in.

However, I soon had nothing to fear. The MUDEC staff—including Executive Director Raymond Manes, Professor Elena Albarrán, and Student Activities Coordinator Daniel Riecker, among others—were so welcoming and they made the Chateau such an amazing place to study, hang out, and plan weekend travel. I will always have found memories of the ivy-covered Chateau walls and the sound of foosball in the student lounge, known as “The Cave.” I even got excited about navigating the train system (“closest tracks to the chateau go to Luxembourg City, the other tracks go to Rodange”)! While shopping for groceries, I found myself relying on pictures and Google Translate as I looked for things like ham and Dijon mustard!

After overcoming some initial culture shock, it was time to travel. This semester, I was able to do things that I’d only dreamed of before, like ski in the snow-covered Swiss Alps and walk through breathtaking national parks in Croatia, filled with flowing waterfalls and lush greenery. I traveled to nine countries in total and each one had its own unique culture and society. Cities on the sea, such as Barcelona, Marseille, and Marsaskala, had fresh seafood in markets and restaurants. Cities like Paris, Milan, and Madrid resembled major U.S. metropolises like New York while blending the new with many millennia of rich European history. Massive cathedrals and castles were lined with centuries of history that I loved exploring. My own country of Luxembourg was a cultural hub that welcomed people from all over the world, regardless of language, creed, or color.

My relationship with my host family was one that made a profound impact on my Study Abroad experience. Though my host parents, Mariana and Silvio, did not speak the same language as me and my housemate, we still had a great relationship with them. We communicated with gestures, Google Translate, and common words between English, French, and Italian. It was so much fun to have dinner with them and take part in family cookouts and celebrations, ultimately making the European experience even better for me. I still enjoy talking to Mariana on WhatsApp and keeping up to date with the family.

I think the thing that I am most thankful for on this whole experience is all the great friends that I made last semester at MUDEC. Each of us made the challenging decision to study abroad through MUDEC, even as the pandemic ravaged the world. Something inside each of us knew that we had to take this chance of a lifetime. The result: memories that will last a lifetime.

3rd Place: The Footprints We Left Behind by Kylee Yam

Outside the mouth of a large cave, in the tangles of an even larger jungle, hung a troop of spider monkeys. I craned my head upwards awkwardly to view them. Their long lanky bodies walked easily through the canopy of these giant broad leaf trees. I couldn’t take pictures any more because my phone’s battery was dead. It was nice because I was awarded the chance to just focus on my surroundings instead of worrying about getting the best shots. Plus, Hayley’s camera was better anyways.

yam-1.pngIt was the second time we had seen wild monkeys, not the ones at the zoo. I instantly felt kind of bad because it was clear we were on their land. One monkey, a young male, started shaking the branches and sticking his tongue out at us. I don’t think he wanted us there. This made me wonder how he saw us. We were invaders, disrupting breakfast, making them move, making him change his routine.

A few things on this incredible trip had gotten me thinking about my impact in this beautiful country. A few mistakes I made allowed me to realize the conflict of just being there. Was my presence overall helpful or harmful? It’s tricky business invading an area on the premise of education and conservation meanwhile doing your best not to leave too big of a footprint.

At first I wasn’t sure why it was so bad to take a photo in front of some super cute wild black howler monkeys. We weren’t hurting them physically, holding them, or disturbing their habitat. They didn’t even seem to notice we were there. I loved watching them hang around the branches, climb up and down, swing from vines, and traverse the corridor’s mango trees. But on our walk back through the rainforest with Robert, I realized why. It was about the image and what the image means. Taking a picture with your face in the foreground and the monkeys in the background portrays the idea that you see the monkeys as nothing more than something to make your picture cuter. It makes them seem like a thing and not as a species that deserves equal respect and admiration. Beyond that, if other people see that image, it might fuel them to get similar photos but in not so good ways. The black howler monkeys need to be the only subject of the photos!

Photographs with wild animals were part of the game at the Mayan ruins called Altun Ha. As I stepped off the bus into the blazing heat, caffeine-deprived and wildly exhausted, I made my way over to a man with a very large snake. The snake was beautiful, patterned and cool to the touch. But it didn’t take me long to realize this man did not have the best intentions for snakes and conserving Belizean wildlife. Again, I reflected. I wondered if my presence on this trip was encouraging men like him to go out and capture wild snakes. I wondered if we were unintentionally driving an entire business aimed at manipulating tourists. Not paying ten bucks to get a photo with the snake was a good step and instead supporting the small sustainable farm called a milpa and the conservation-minded tour guides like Peter, was another.

The writer lies on her back and looks up at the sky, with distant pyraminds in viewAs I trekked carefully away from the spider monkeys and into the caves, I thought this must be the best we can do. Not be too much of a physical presence and do the best we can to learn about the delicate relationships between animals and their environment. Listening to Runaway Creek’s presentation about their research initiatives, will help them continue their efforts and support the protection of the spider monkeys. Promoting conservation-minded travel helps to financially support these programs and also reduces impact by tourists.

The monkey sees you
Traveling through his forest
Step carefully by

Honorable Mention: Disguised Success: A Privilege of Identity by Lauren Doll

For the majority of my life, my educational experience has been marked by my determination to work as hard as possible so I could reap the benefits, whether they be grades, scholarships, recognition, or pride. My transition to college showed me many of my seemingly merited rewards are really benefits of my identity. I am white.

I had a “typical” educational experience. I had a dad who assisted me with math homework and a mom who helped me practice my weekly set of spelling words. Motivated from a young age by notions of meritocracy, I thought success meant being the best. In the gifted program, I was surrounded by classmates who similarly worked hard. As we grew, our gifted program turned into honors, AP, and college credit courses. Our desire to get all A’s turned into aspirations of superior scores on ACTs, exams, and a top spot in our class rank. My parents began helping me with economics and zoology instead of basic math or English. By the time I graduated high school, I thought I thoroughly earned my honors, scholarships, and most importantly my spot at Miami. My parents were proud of me, and I was proud of myself.

Before coming to Miami, I was excited for all the new opportunities and experiences I would encounter. I knew college would help me find my identity. I didn’t realize it would help me learn about others’ identities as well. Miami’s frequent training, lectures, and efforts to keep diversity discussions prominent and pertinent opened my eyes about my own life living as a student of dominant culture.

I recall telling a high school teacher that if I were him, I would give every student who had missing or late work a zero on each assignment. “They should’ve been more responsible in completing their work,” I said. He brushed away my comment saying it wasn't exactly that simple. I shrugged and sat down for class. Looking back, I realize the story I believed about meritocracy is a lie. I had married parents, both with master’s degrees and well-paying jobs. I lived comfortably in the middle class with a house in a safe neighborhood. I had a car with gas and insurance paid for. I didn’t have a job after school. I had time and resources to do homework. I had the choice whether or not to study before each test. I could afford to take the ACT as many times as I wanted. I am white. My 35-point ACT, perfect GPA, and even valedictorian position were almost benefits of the luck of being born into the “right” family. With all things given to me, how could I possibly think I earned these, and others just did not try hard enough?

What I thought was hard work was really a product of decades of systematic hierarchies of power working in my favor, almost guaranteeing my success. Coming to Miami helped me realize that my high school classmates that I thought were poor students were students impacted by a number of issues such as poverty, minority status, or family issues, not just lazy students. I never considered that homework and studying are not priorities when you care for siblings or work a job and your parent(s) are working multiple jobs to pay for enough food. Their parents may not even speak English or care to help them with school issues.

In my first semester, Miami showed me how underprivileged and minority students are fighting against battles that I have never experienced. I learned many rewards I thought I was earning were already given to me as privileges of my identity. I learned the importance of constant discussion, knowledge, and education of social issues. I learned sympathy is not enough for social change. Even though change isn’t easy, I must be a part of it because if no one from dominant culture helps, systematic social hierarchies will only prevail.

Growing up as a student, a part of the dominant culture has given me privilege that led me to success in primary school, secondary school, and in college. I am fortunate to have learned about my privilege stemming from my identity and have decided to use this to become a teacher who teaches a new generation of students who understand their identities and how they intersect with issues of equity, equality, privilege, and power. I want my students to understand systematic policies that promote social hierarchies and help them become agents of change.

Honorable Mention: Exceptional Experience at Miami University by Xinyue Jia

My parents always say that education is the best investment in life. Overseas study can help develop language skills and life independence, most importantly, gain global perspectives through cross-cultural experiences. So, they sent me to Miami University with high hopes that Miami will transform me into a successful person. With faith and visions, I came to the United States during the pandemic. And now, I could not be happier that my new chapter started at Miami. Two months into this semester, I already had so much fond memories here.

The first memorable experience at Miami was the orientation. For most international students, coming to a foreign land, the sense of not belonging can be overwhelming. I was very homesick in the beginning. However, after the first day meeting with the instructors at the university campus, it all changed. As soon as we got into the car, Jesse started asking everyone all kinds of questions. She showed great interest in our country, culture, and our hobbies. I could feel the enthusiasm and warmth from her words. All our teachers made genuine effort to get to know all of us. They made us feel like home thousands of miles away from China. They learned our Chinese names even though it’s very difficult for them to pronounce. It is their care and sincerity that made me feel safe and belonged at Miami.

The second memorable experience was about the janitor on campus. I have noticed an old man who seems very kind in here since day one. He is often talking and laughing with the staff, always greeting everybody with positive energy. He seemed like a great old man, very warm-hearted, I thought. I have never talked to him until today. This morning the light in the study area was not on. After searching all around the hall I still couldn’t find the light switch. Someone came to turn the light on after Jerry called the campus security. Later I saw the janitor and approached him. He stopped sweeping and put away the tools in his hands. I asked him where the light switch is. He was confused because all the lights were on, but he still patiently asked me where I needed the lights and tried to help me. I explained what happened and he said, smiling, “Sure, sure. Let me show you”. He then led me to the outer area of the hall front door, turned the light switch for me and said, “There you go, sweetie”. He added “You can always find me if you need anything. I will be here to help you.” He had the brightest smile on the whole time when he was talking to me. I think he might be one of the nicest people I have ever met.

Kindness knows no culture, race, or gender. Despite the differences we have, the love and kindness I experienced at Miami University have been exceptional and forever memorable. I cannot wait to see what amazing experiences Miami has to offer next.

Honorable Mention: Where the Desert Meets the Ocean by Cassie Klein

Piled in a van with 18 strangers is how it started. Piled in a van with 18 best friends is how it ended. We traveled to where the desert meets the ocean. The desert and the ocean seem like opposites, but in fact are very much the same: they both seem vast and lifeless on the surface, but both are teeming with rich biodiversity. This was my first Earth Expeditions graduate course, with field travel to Baja, Mexico, through Project Dragonfly in the Biology Department at Miami-- the course would provide a foundational start for my Master’s journey.

After we drove from San Diego to Tijuana, we became encapsulated by the desert. Miles passed by as did the endless array of cacti. One species caught our eyes. Out of the short, broad, and spiky “leaves” of the base of the plant sprouted a tall, thick stalk at least 12 feet high with yellow flowers on it. It towered over the other cacti, and we started to ask questions. “What is that?” “Why is it so tall?” “What purpose does it serve?”. The vans pulled over in the middle of the desert so we could investigate. Students gathered around the odd plant to discuss this unique adaptation, and work on hypotheses to find out. The discussion of agave reproductive anatomy would be just one of many inquiry-based discussions about the ecology and conservation of Baja wildlife.

Hours later it felt like we’d never reach the Vermilion Sea Institute, a field station midway down the Baja peninsula and our base for the trip. We’d been driving all day through endless desert and watched the sun set behind the cacti. But finally we passed a sign for “B.L.A” Baihia de Los Angeles, a small fishing community located on the Sea of Cortez. We were close. We turned down a dirt road before parking at an unassuming building. I soon realized that, just like the desert, there is more to this field station than first meets the eye. Exhausted from traveling all day and learning many new things along the way, we received an express tour of the essentials: how to flush a toilet with a bucket of water and how to set up cots for sleeping outside, next to the sea, across from the desert, under the stars.

Life at the Vermillion Sea Institute was simple. Take what you need, and no more. Respect the environment and the people around you. And, always find the answers to your questions through community inquiry. We had lessons throughout the day; some inside and some outside. We had assignments and we had the ocean. The breakfast bell was always welcome, followed by dishes and a “cot brigade” putting away beds once everyone was awake. We went to a desert Ranch and back and upon returning to the ocean from the arid desert, we all played in the ocean together for hours. Then it was time for me to face my fear and go out on the boats.

I’m not afraid of boats or the open water, but I do sometimes get sea sick and it can ruin my day. This trip, I was extra prepared with sea bans and bonine. Either it worked or there was something magical about Baja (or a bit of both) but I felt just fine on each of the days we went out on boats. And it was a good thing too because it was an amazing day. We started the trip floating by blue-footed boobies hanging out on the rocks, and I was so excited to see them in person (in avian?). Then as we were moving through open water the largest male sea lion I’ve seen was munching on a fish bigger than his gargantuan head. He was concentrating so hard on eating the fish that he didn’t even notice the three boats that had gathered, at a distance, around him. Finishing his meal, he turned, looked at us, panicked, and dove down into the water. We found an island containing a forest of miniature mangroves, a raft of sea lions who snorkeled near us, a giant pod of dolphins that surfed next to the boats, and finally whale sharks: the biggest fish in the sea. That was just one day; several hours really. Nevertheless, it was easy to see how all of these powerful field experiences inBaja—along with the human connections I made there—would support further inquiry and exploration throughout my life.

Literary London Prize - 2021

1st Place: The Case of the Bank Robber and the Cobblestone Streets by Caroline Funk

FOREWORD: This was my final paper for ENG 399 in the 2021 summer term of Miami’s Literary London Study Abroad Program. It is a creative story inspired by Sherlock Holmes mysteries and is based on the recreated Victorian streets from the Museum of London. In revising this story, I had a few key ideas and themes from class discussions in mind. The first one is the Week 3 theme of the construction of London as a character. In the example of the Sherlock Holmes story we read, London is the playground in which clues are found and adventures take place. Our readings discussed the description of London’s fog and darkness in Conan Doyle’s writing that creates a tone of mystery and ultimately becomes a character in the story. If it were a bright and sunny day in London, there would not be an ominous feeling of gloom or the suggestion that something dangerous is hiding and lurking in the shadows. I opened up my creative story describing a similar mysterious fog and rain to create the same aura of moodiness and mystery that allows London to become a kind of character and play a role in the construction of the story and ambiance as Conan Doyle does in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Another way I tried to emulate the theme of London being a character is by building into the plot. I came up with the idea for the clue being a footprint in the road because the very streets of London itself now become a physical piece of evidence and an essential part of the plot in the story. It’s not just the backdrop for which the story is taking place; it’s the central piece of evidence in the mystery.

The idea of London being a character ties back to our larger class and study abroad themes about how to read and write historical fiction located in London. I think the argument that you should attempt to write London as a character highlights the importance of physical setting when writing historical fiction. Doing research and knowing accurate information about the real place is an important part of writing historical fiction, and I think physically seeing the streets in the Museum of London as well as being in London itself helped me craft the setting for this story in a way I wouldn’t have been able to had I not been there in person. My story would be fine without the details of London. It could be a generic pub, a generic cobbler, and a generic footprint. But in giving the pub a location in Pimlico, setting it right along the Thames, making the cobblestone streets the central part of the mystery, giving details about the fog and the river and the rain, I characterized London in a way that allows the story to take on its own life. There is a reconstruction of time and an attempt to make this place feel realistic. Those details create verisimilitude and a tone that would not exist without paying attention to the importance of characterizing the setting. Overall, my focus in this creative story is emphasizing setting as a character in order to bring a reality, mood, and theme to my work of historical fiction.

The Case of The Bank Robber and the Cobblestone Streets

James had seen a lot in his pub. The bar would fill each night with all the important locals: the cobbler, the pawnbroker, the barber, the bank clerk. He would hear the whispers of gossip as he passed out pints of beer across the bar. Something about the dark wood surrounding him seemed to blend in with the rest of London. The city was filled with the sense of gloom: the dark paved streets, the thick fog that hung in the air like London exhaling its breath, the dim glow from the city street lamps, the cloudy drizzle of rain that pattered against the window. There was an ominous sense to all of the gray, but also a sense of beauty. James found himself comforted by the dimness of it all, the way the fog melded everything together. The rhythm of raindrops mixed with the chatter in the pub was a peaceful sound.

The cobbled streets, the dark wooden buildings, the barrels of beer and coffee outside their warehouses, the stands of freshly baked bread, the streets were always filled with markets and customers and people selling goods. James was always right there on the corner, watching people peer through windows. He watched mothers drag their children away from the toyshop window, pushing them again and again until they finally followed. He loved to watch people stop and slow down past the freshly baked biscuits and bread, inhaling the warmth of the scent. He would watch the coffee warehouse as workers carried in load after load of beans shipped overseas from Jamaica or Ethiopia. Recently, more and more goods had arrived at their harbors. The demand for new items grew and grew, more shops opened up, more people moved from the countryside to join in on the liveliness of it all. London was an expanding city.

Watney Combe Reid & Co sat right in the center of Pimlico, the neighborhood of Belgravia that expanded into Westminster, on the corner of Bessborough Place. The rushing current of the Thames ran up against the edge of the pub. When it rained, as it usually did, the raging tide would send waves crashing against the wall at the edge: rushing water mixed with the sounds of pub chatter and rainfall. The splashing waves and current had a rhythm, a flow that James grew fond of as it kept a beat running in the background of his daily routine. The rain, the fog, the crowds, the river, the street vendors, the pub was his home at the center of the city in the middle of all the commotion. There was nothing he could possibly miss out on here.

The pub was a family business, one James had planned on inheriting since before he could even remember, like his father and his father and his father before him. Of all the businesses he could own, James was glad it was the pub. The nights were loud and grueling long hours on his feet, dealing with the drunks and shoveling people away when the night had come to an end, forcing people out and slamming the doors shut in their face. But there was no other place where people seemed to come alive in such a way. The shouting and chatter was an energy that James couldn’t quite pick up anywhere else. He loved the gossip he could overhear from his customers, loved the way they would hustle throughout their day busy with their errands and work, and yet would come to his bar to relax. He loved to watch them loosen their collars, let down their shoulders, show a little of themselves.

Once the night struck ten, every surface of the pub was filled. The corner tables were packed full with crowds of people and crowds started to form at the bar as people lined up to order their drinks: dark ales, ciders, India pale ales, porters of Whitbread or Parsons. James helped each and every one of them. He moved effortlessly through the motions of muscle memory: twisting the valve, inhaling the bready foam of beer pouring from the tap, sliding it across the counter in large glass pitchers and watching his customers gulp them down. The bar would shake as they slammed their empty glasses down and pounded the surface, demanding another.

In the bustle of crowds, a familiar face slid through the front entrance and collapsed into the corner seat of the bar. The cobbler: William Whistleby. He was a regular at James’ pub, and a good friend. Without asking, James filled a pint of porter and slid it across the bar to William.

“Long day, eh?”

“They do seem to keep getting longer.”

William was quite a reserved man. He was short and slender, with rough and nimble hands from his work. James himself had gone to his shop a few times to mend a few worn-out soles and peeling heels. Most of James’ regulars wanted to talk for hours. He had just caught up with the barber the other night and heard about an absurd story of a horse carriage that had crashed into the pawnbrokers’ shop and damaged a few antique vases. But William usually kept quiet and to himself. He preferred to fade into the background, settle in with his surroundings, make friends with the shadows in the corners. He would begin and end the night with polite conversation, pause sometimes to request a few refills, but nothing more. But on a night like this, when the place was this busy, James didn’t mind his reserved and calm presence.

“Let me know when you want your next one.”

“Will do, thank you, James.” He tipped his hat slightly, flashing his slicked, dark hair in a polite gesture.

“Help, help!” James looked up and over William’s silhouette to see the bank clerk crashing through the door, flailing his arms about, “I’ve been robbed!”

A crowd immediately gathered around him, demanding questions and trying to figure out what happened.

“I—I—don’t know. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a strange noise coming from outside my door. I peeked through and saw a tall man, a bowler hat low over his eyes and covering his face, rummaging through my drawers and emptying them into a knapsack. I had a large collection of cash, a few pocket watches, and a few bank files in those drawers: all of them gone. I tried to run after him but he got into the boat on the river and I lost him.”

A herd of men ran to the river, trying to see if they could chase after him. James had unfortunately seen one too many robberies in his lifetime, being nearby so many shops. He followed the crowd through the door and peered across the street at the bank clerk’s office. The cobbled streets were uneven, pebbles that swooped up and down along the jagged surface of the pavement. There was a pattern to it, a rise and a fall in between the gaps of each stone, except for one empty spot where a stone had been pulled up from the ground. A large footprint was imprinted into the mud below.

A spark seemed to go off in James’ mind. The pub was in an uproar of gasps: a few shrieks of terror and a rushing noise of concern. James let it all fade to the background, melt into the fog and clouds around him. Instead, he ran back to the counter, back to the dark and quiet man he had just happened to serve, the only man left in the bar who hadn’t run out to the river to find the thief. The bank clerk ran desperately following behind him.

“William, I believe you may be of some assistance.”

He looked up from the murky bottom of his glass, and stared at James as if to say, “yes?”

“I need you to show me all the records you have of your shoe repairs. Please. There’s no time to spare.”

Though he was a man of few words, James could tell that he heard the urgency in his voice. After a few minutes, he came back from his shop around the corner with a stack of papers in hand.

“Here they are. What do you need me to do with them?”

“There’s a footprint, imprinted into the mud on the spot where a stone is missing from the pavement. Would you be able to tell what kind of shoe left it?”

William locked eyes with James. “I just might.”

They raced back outside to the footprint in front of the clerk’s office. William bent down, resting his forearms on either side of his knees, and examined the indentation. Carefully circling around it, he shuffled through the papers in hand, holding them up one after the other, examining the differences and similarities in each receipt, searching for something he could identify. As he examined the ground, a crowd began to gather behind him, looming over his shoulder trying to figure out what he was doing.

“Is that the one?” James asked from behind his shoulder.

“No, it’s not.” William declined, flicking through to the next paper and tossing the ones he had already compared aside. The crowd grew rushed with anxiety. Tension rose in the air with the looming sense of anticipation. After all the chatter and noise from the late night and the pub, the entire street was silent.

“Aha!” William burst up from the ground and threw his arms wide. “That’s it, that’s the one. Sheriff, the man you’re after is Edward Seabury.”

The crowd applauded, joining together in a sigh of relief that someone had managed to catch the culprit. People shouted William’s praises.

“Bless you, William!” James jumped out and wrapped his arms around William in a tight embrace, expecting William to return the favor. His face tightened with awkwardness, and his arms stayed glued to either side of his waist. James quickly let go and took a large step backward. William smoothed out his jacket and cleared his throat. “Sorry. Just, well, however did you figure it out?”

“I gathered all of the records I had on my shoe repairs from the last six months, as you asked. Naturally, I got rid of all the women’s as this is clearly a man’s dress shoe. I discarded all the laced walking shoes, all the Wellington and Blucher boots, until I was left with just the flat leather evening dress shoes.”

James hadn’t heard William speak this often and for this long. There was a level of understanding that struck him, the way William seemed to notice uncommon details, in shoes but also in everything. Maybe that was why he was also quiet, always taking in his surroundings, always noticing the little features everyone else ignored.

“The size was next,” William continued, “this footprint is around 28.6 centimeters long, and there were only seven records I had that fit that shoe type and measurement. The curve of the heel means it would have to have been a fine calf balmoral shoe, made of fine Italian leather based on the way the edges of the footprint fade out a bit instead of drawing a stark line in the mud. The size measurement is unique to begin with, but I know for a fact that I haven’t had a single client with that kind of shoe except for Mr. Seabury. Without a doubt, it must be him.”

They had managed to catch the robber in less than an hour, but there was truly nothing special about it. The missing stone in the mud was like the street setting up its own trap, its own spot to catch the culprit. London had a way of looking out for itself. And its people did too. James knew this town, its texture, its patterned fog, the store owners across the street, the pub regulars like the cobbler who he could summon for the job. William turned to the policeman to tell them more about his discoveries, and James turned back around to the pub to serve the next customer. The drizzle of rain against the window and chatter of customers was, like always, there to welcome him back.

Story based on shops in recreated Victorian streets, Museum of London

funk-1.pnginterior of pub

2nd Place: Homeward Bound and Bound to Stay by Megan Copenhaver

A woman makes her way down Church Street. The street is bustling with activity, which is to be expected on a warm spring day. She passes by people on their way to Bridge Street to trade in the markets. She clutches her daughter’s hand a little tighter, keeping her close, until they reach their destination.

Susanna makes this trip to New Place daily, bringing along Elizabeth so that her mother can see her only grandchild. She also makes the trip because she oversees the house on her father’s behalf. Her mother despises the trivial tasks of keeping up with the accounting of such a large house.

But Susanna doesn’t mind, in fact, she likes it. It gives her something to do, something to pass the time. It gives her an excuse to get away from the constant callers wanting her husband’s attention. She can’t seem to get a moment of peace before there is another knock on the door. Most of the time, she must tell the poor person that her husband, Dr. Hall, isn’t there, but that he has gone to cure an ailment elsewhere.

Husband. Even though she has been married for almost six years, the word still sounds foreign to her. Sometimes she thinks she’s still just the girl living with her mother and sister instead of the woman living in her own house with her husband and daughter. But her husband is always there next to her, sound asleep at night. She watches his chest as it rises and falls. She can’t sleep unless she sees the signs of his breathing. Once she does, she creeps over to Elizabeth’s room, and watches for the same thing. Ever since her brother died years ago, she has never taken their breathing for granted. Every night she must check, or else her heart doesn’t rest, doesn’t let her rest. And so, the Plague still has its hold on her.

Unknown to Susanna, her father makes his way to Stratford from London as she walks to visit her mother, his wife. His business in the theatre industry is highly successful, the playhouses and his many investments are bringing in quite a lot of coin. He has had his fun in London, and sure, he will miss the city, but he also misses Stratford. He misses his hometown, the quiet of country life, especially now that he’s older and not as able to keep up with the excitement of a big city.

Most importantly, William misses his family. He regrets that he missed seeing his daughters grow up as well as the birth of his grandchild. So, he decided to spend his retirement in Stratford, so he wouldn’t miss anything else. It was his chance to make up for all the years he was gone. He only hopes that it will be enough.

By the time Susanna enters the house, it’s already mid-day. She looks around the house and is told that her mother is at Hewlands visiting Susanna’s uncle. She’s glad that her mother seems to have taken the day off from her remedies. Her mother’s practice did not bother her as much when she was younger, but now that it’s in direct conflict with her husband’s practice, Susanna secretly despises it. She knows that every person her mother helps is one less person that John does. But her mother does not open the window as much as she used to, in fact, her mother doesn’t do a lot. She hasn’t done a lot since they lost Hamnet.

His death changed the family. There’s always an emptiness that looms around the house, even though it’s not as strong anymore. Time has made the feeling faint, but it has not erased the weight of her brother’s absence.

She finds that grief takes its hold on her at random times when she’s least expecting it. The last time she felt the pang was the other day when she saw a blonde-haired boy run past her, with the same playfulness that reminded her so much of Hamnet. She had to stop and catch her breath, and painfully remind herself that it was not her brother. She would never see her brother again, the cruel consequence of a life taken too soon.

Susanna sits at the desk, opening the book that contains the accounting of the house and her father’s other properties. She doesn’t know how long she sits there, but the sound of the door opening, and Elizabeth’s laughter, makes her pause. Smiling to herself, she makes her way toward the sound, expecting to see her mother and her daughter playing in the doorway.

What she doesn’t expect to see is her father, standing in the doorway, holding his granddaughter. For the moment that she stands unnoticed by the pair, she sees the large smile on her father’s face. She feels many things in this short period of time. She feels joy at seeing her father play with her daughter. She feels anger that he was never around to play with her like that. She wants to hug him now that he is here, and she’s realized how much she missed him. She wants to yell at him for being gone so long.

Before she can decide what to do, her father’s gaze finally lands on her. “My dearest Susanna,” he says softly. She tries to stand tall, but her resolve crumbles as she runs into his arms. In that moment, she’s not a wife, she’s not a mother, she’s a daughter, a little girl again. She doesn’t even try to stop the tears, instead she lets them fall down her cheek and land on her father’s shoulder.

“I have missed you so much,” she whispers.

“I know,” he replies. “I know.”

After a few moments, she breaks the hug and wipes her tears away. “So, Father, you must tell me, how have you been?”

William laughs, and just like that they start talking. The tears are gone, and it’s almost like he never left.

Anne walks through the garden on her way home from visiting her brother. The flowers are blooming nicely. She takes in the wonderful scents of lavender and roses as she walks to the house. She can hear laughter from inside the house, unable to be contained by the walls.

Curious, she enters the house and finds her eldest daughter, sitting with Elizabeth on her lap. Her eyes fall on the other figure in the room, her husband, her William. Upon seeing him, she’s surprised and happy, but she also can’t ignore the dreadful feeling that he will not be staying long. She doesn’t know how to tell him how much she misses him when he’s gone and how lonely this big house is. They lock eyes and she can see how London has changed him, he looks older every time he comes home. Life in London has both treated him well and unwell it seems. She looks for what is new about him, as she always notices something different every time he comes home. This time, it’s his new brown doublet.

Susanna notices the intensity in their gazes, and quickly takes a protesting Elizabeth outside to the garden. As soon as they are gone, he’s the first to speak. “Anne, I am staying.”

She says nothing, still quietly observing him, this man that she has not seen in over a year. This man that is her husband.

He touches her elbow gently. “I am not going anywhere.”

His words shock her. He has never seemed to want to live here, with her. She thought he could not resist London’s pull. She has gotten so used to his coming and going that she has abandoned all hopes of him staying. “What do you mean?”

“I bought this house; it would do me good to make it my home.”

And make it his home he did. William announces his retirement and moves in with his wife. It took a few weeks, but Anne finally comes to accept that he’s here to stay. At night, she starts to move closer to him, until her back hits his chest and his arm wraps around her waist. They take walks in the garden and around Stratford, they visit Susanna and John and dote on Elizabeth, but most importantly, they talk.

They talk about anything and everything and eventually Anne starts to recognize the man she fell in love with, the man she married. She stops looking over her shoulder to make sure he’s there and stops trying to memorize his face, so she won’t forget what he looks like when he leaves again. Instead, she memorizes his face because she can’t stop looking at him. It was like they were young again, the passion of their youth rekindled as she finds herself falling in love all over again.

On a day in late June of 1613, the family is getting ready for their weekly dinner. Susanna and Anne are in the kitchen preparing the stew. Judith and Elizabeth are at the table playing a game. The house is warm with the summer heat and alive with the sounds of life. William is in his study, writing, when the mail is placed on his desk. He decides to take a break, seeing that it’s almost dinner time. He combs through the letters, until he sees one from his friend Richard Burbage. He smiles and opens the letter, making his way to the table.

His smile turns to a frown as he reads the words fire, the Globe, burned down. He collapses into his seat at the table immediately drawing all eyes to him.

“What is it?” asks Anne, concerned.

“There was a fire,” William sighs. “The Globe burned down.”

The table is silent as they all take in the information. Susanna picks up the letter and reads it herself. “Well, no one was hurt.” Her father nods. “And they plan to rebuild quickly.”

“When will you leave?” Anne says, almost in a whisper.


“I assume you will leave as soon as possible to help with the rebuild.”

“I will do no such thing.” He stands up. “I told you I was going to stay, and I meant it, Anne.” He pauses as he sits back down. “They can manage without me. I want to stay here with my family.”

A huge smile replaces the frown on Anne’s face. It seems he really is here to stay. “Well then, we better eat this stew before it gets cold.”

Susanna sits in the garden, watching Elizabeth play. Suddenly her father is right next to her. “She’s beautiful, you know,” he muses.

“Yes, she is,” Susanna answers with a smile. They watch as Elizabeth studies every rock and plant.

“She is just like you. Curious about everything.” William chuckles. “I remember how you were full of questions, always eager to know more.” He turns to face Susanna. “Which is why I wonder why you never asked about your mother and I.”

“What do you mean?”

“You never noticed the age gap?”

“I did, but I did not question it.”

“It was quite common for an older man to marry a younger woman, but a younger man to marry an older woman was rare.”

“So why did you get married?”

“Oh, for love of course.” William pauses. “And because your mother was pregnant with you.”

Susanna looks at her father, the shock clearly visible on her face. He laughs. “Oh yes, you caused quite the scandal.”

Elizabeth picks up a flower and shows it to them. They both smile as she starts searching for another one to add to her collection.

“But I did not care about the scandal. To me, it meant that I got to marry your mother sooner.” He takes Susanna’s hand. It is silent between them for a moment, but not awkward. “Have you ever heard the story of how you were born?”

“No, I just assumed it was a normal birth.”

William laughs. “It was anything but normal. When she felt the pains, your mother left. Packed a basket and headed to the woods. Did not tell anyone.” Susanna leans in closer in anticipation. “I was worried sick. No one could find her. It was one of the scariest moments in my life.” William shakes his head. “When we finally found her, she had already given birth to you, a healthy baby girl.”

“She gave birth in the woods? With no help from a midwife?” Susanna asks, shocked once again. Her father nods.

“Your mother is strong. Stronger than me,” William states. “And you are strong too, Susanna, and Elizabeth is too.”

“And Judith?” Susanna asks.

“Yes, Judith as well.” He sighs. “She’ll get through it. I knew I could not trust Quiney, his actions prove that. How dare he ruin Judith’s reputation by whoring around with other women.”


“Sorry, sorry. But Judith does not deserve this. Lord knows she has already suffered enough.”

“Yes, but she is strong. She’ll be okay.”

“Yes, she will. All the Shakespeare women are strong, I have no doubt about that.”

It’s a rainy spring day in 1616 when the strength of the Shakespeare women is tested once again. Susanna stands by her mother’s side and watches as they bury her father. His death was sudden, as death often is. Even so, the Shakespeare family are no strangers to death. Standing at the foot of his grave, Susanna suddenly remembers the plague that quickly took Hamnet, snatching him from right under their noses. She remembers the makeshift grave they made for him, how it was so small, and he was so young. And so, she thinks, the Shakespeare men are finally reunited. Susanna is glad that her brother gets to spend some time with their father just like she did.

Her mother’s cries bring her back to reality. “He promised he would stay!” Anne wails. Even though it seems impossible, Susanna’s heart breaks again. For her brother who never got to live a full life. For her father who had just come back into her life. For her mother who lost the love of her life.

“But Mother, he did stay. He will always be here, right here.” She points to his grave. “He is not going anywhere.”

A man walks down the street. He carries a thick book in his hands. He walks with a purpose, with a very clear destination in mind. He doesn’t stop to chat and doesn’t get distracted. He stops at the front door of the house called New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon. He diligently checks to make sure the address is correct. Satisfied that he found the right place, he carefully wraps the book in cloth and sets it down. Then he knocks on the door and leaves.

Susanna is sitting at her father’s desk when Elizabeth, now a teenager, enters carrying a heavy book.

“Someone left this at the door,” Elizabeth says anticipating, and answering, her mother’s question before she even asks it.

“Well, bring it over here.” Together, they place the book on the desk.

Susanna unwraps the cloth and reveals the title of the book: Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.

“Is that grandfather?” Elizabeth asks.

Susanna carefully traces her father’s name on the book. “Yes, it is.”

“What is it?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

Susanna sits down, opens the book, and starts to read.

Honorable Mention: Bridgerton: Historical Fiction and Tackling Race by Mady Wilson

The Regency era drama Bridgerton smashed Netflix’s viewership records and became the streaming service’s biggest series ever when it was released on Christmas Day in 2020. Season 1 of Bridgerton was watched by a record 82 million households around the world, 19 million households higher than the four-week projection Netflix issued 10 days into the Shondaland series’ run. It was at the time the streamer’s fifth biggest launch in history. Bridgerton, created by Shondaland veteran Chris Van Dusen based on Julia Quinn’s novels, ranked #1 overall in 83 countries including the US, UK, Brazil, France, India, and South Africa (Andreeva 2021).

What drew so many people to this show? Bridgerton is not exactly like every other British period drama. It begins like many other period dramas about British aristocrats: It opens on a sunny town square with horses pulling fine carriages past elegant 19th century London homes and introduces us to two gentile families that we’ll be following along with the duration of the episodes. But the sunny, serendipitous atmosphere is readjusted when we hear our dear narrator and gossip columnist, pen-named Lady Whistledown, show her true colors. She introduces herself by informing her readers that “It has been said that of all bitches dead or alive a scribbling woman is the most canine. If this is true, then this author would like to show you her teeth” (“Diamond of the First Water” 08:35-08:52). A very unladylike statement indeed. And the show immediately detours from an idealized exposition to one that is gritty and promises a reflection of 21st-century sensibility. Women finding power in this society is a theme that runs through the storyline of Bridgerton. While trying to find love, the initially naïve Daphne discovers sexual knowledge and that having agency over one’s body is power. For Lady Whistledown her power is through writing. And for others, it’s through social manipulation.

There are scandals and seductions, and balls galore. But the most interesting departure is the racial integration of the nobility, explained midway through the season as a reverberation of love. A hot point of debate for the show revolves around the casting of Black actors as powerful nobles in the Regency era. Some people were outraged over this, insisting that the show is not historically accurate and that it is “blackwashing” history. And some are simply left wondering if such casting could be true. In this paper, I will look at Brenda Hoffman’s ideals for historical fiction to evaluate Bridgerton and investigate the single figure that Bridgerton truly hangs on, Queen Charlotte. Because Bridgerton relies heavily on the love between the King and Queen that defies race, the show does not qualify as historical fiction but rather a “historical hypothetical” displayed in a period drama.


According to Brenda Hoffman (2003), the historical fiction genre is characterized by stories that take place in the past with elements that can’t be proven historically but suggest how or the way in which things did happen. Historical fiction has authentic settings and characters, but some things about the characters may not be true. While historical drama or fiction is a drama based on a story that takes place in the real world, with real-world people, but with several fictionalized or dramatized elements, a period drama is slightly different. A period drama is based in a particular time or period, not obviously based on real events and the production features historical places, people, or events that may or not be crucial to the story.

Hoffman gives us two types of historical fiction. In the first, the setting is historical but there are no historical events or persons in the story. The second kind of historical fiction is where both the setting and supporting characters are factual. Bridgerton is closer to a period drama because the historical event the series centers on, the annual “Social Season,” was real, but the only historical people featured in the series are supporting characters—King George III and Queen Charlotte (with nephew Prince Frederick of Prussia making a small appearance).

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Social Season was a series of balls, receptions, and social and sporting events which ran from about April or May to August each year. The presentation of debutantes at Court used to be the traditional marker of the start of the Season. By 1780 the Season was well established, and George III held a ball named after his wife Queen Charlotte and it became a tradition. Veronica Levett-Srivener founder of More Than Good Manners, a British etiquette company, describes the Season as a time that the “well-bred daughters on to the marriage ‘mart’ were involved in a formal presentation of the debutantes to the Monarch, and a whirlwind six months of parties, balls, and attending social events” (2012). After the Second World War British society became more egalitarian and the strict social parameters of the Season were relaxed. Ultimately, Queen Elizabeth II terminated the practice of Court presentations altogether in 1958.

Bridgeton’s season one heroine, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) is one such debutante who was presented to the Queen in the first episode. Her beauty and grace won her the title of “the Season’s Diamond,” the incomparable debutante of the year. After her debut she is ushered to ball after ball, meeting all the worthy gentlemen in search of a husband while hoping for a love match. In season one’s eight episodes, no less than eleven balls occur along with multiple afternoon teas, wrestling matches, and other parties.

In terms of historical characters, Julia Quin, the book series author took quite a bit of creative license while crafting the English Regency nobility. Simon the current Duke of Hasting, Daphne’s love interest, a Black nobleman who is played by British-Zimbabwean actor Regé-Jean Page, is not a real title. This title doesn’t exist in reality because Hastings is actually part of the Cinque Ports of Kent, the historic group of coastal towns, which also includes New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich. The Cinque Ports didn’t have dukes but instead barons who oversaw the town of Hastings and the various other ports. In real life, there has never been a Duke of Hastings. Instead, Hastings is a cinque port under the control of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (Debnath 2021). There used to be a Baron Hastings, but a baron is a title that is ranked below a viscount and above a Knight or Lord but is four positions lower than a duke, so the power isn’t compatible with Simon’s on the show.


In her work, Hoffman also says that “Historical fiction can provide an escape from the present, time travel, or examples of human decisions and their consequences” (Hoffman 2003). A very important consequence we see in Bridgerton is one that comes from the relationship between King George III and Queen Charlotte. It is revealed later in the show that the love between the King and Queen allowed positions of nobility for other people of color in the show. In this way, the positions of all the Black nobility figures in Bridgeton revolve around the will of the monarchy.

In historical records and art, Black people were only visible in relation to those in power. Black people functioned in nearly every aspect of society but were rarely acknowledged. It was not uncommon for Black people to be included in paintings of aristocratic goings-on, as we have seen in museums because they operated in those places each painting depicts. However, without proper recordings of Black people featured in art, these Black people seem elusive, and their roles are diminished over time because we do not know enough about them. Therefore, we can only look at Black people in Tudor through Georgian era art and understand them in relation to the person in power. In a similar way, the Black historical figures we do know about found favor somewhere in their lives that projected them to be able to do the things they wanted. And favor sometimes came from the monarchy itself.

According to, in the 18th century Black Britons were able to rise in ranks. For example, “A small number rose from servitude (with help of their former masters) to enjoy independent lives. Prominent among this class were the Westminster shopkeeper, lettrist, and composer Ignatius Sancho, the coal merchant and property owner Cesar Picton in Kingston-upon-Thames, and the Nottingham-based George Africanus, who ran a servants’ register in the city” (2017).

In the Tudor era, royal trumpeter John Blanke had considerable favor with King Henry VIII. Blanke’s footprint has been left on history and he remains the only black Tudor for whom we have an identifiable image (2021). His own petition for a pay raise to Henry VIII was one of the few surviving first-person documents about him. Early in Henry VIII’s reign, one of Blanke’s fellow trumpeters died and he took the chance to petition the king for a pay raise (Kaufmann 21). His petition document reads that his wages were not “sufficient to maintain and keep him to do your Grace like service as other trumpets do” (21). And hence, his request was so that he could live in the same style as his peers. When Blanke got married in January 1512, the King himself paid for his wedding outfit (29). While other servants received fabrics as gifts from the Crown, Blanke’s gift was truthful to his rank and not his race. Blanke seemingly had the courage to ask to be paid like white trumpeters and might have been the first of Black people close to the monarch asking for a benefit.

Likewise, in Bridgerton the Black nobility, the late Duke of Hastings, and Lady Danbury were “granted” their social positions. Throughout season one of Bridgerton, we learn Simon’s backstory as he gets closer to Daphne. Through flashbacks, we learn that the Duke’s father was granted the title by Queen Charlotte and that it was his life’s ambition to continue the Hastings’ line. However, that ambition made him extremely cruel to young Simon’s stutter and eventually ignore his son’s existence. In a flashback, the late Duke rages at Simon saying “Do you know how precarious of a situation we are in, boy? We have been granted this line. The monarchy itself has declared it. But it will only remain ours so long as we remain extraordinary. The Hastings name cannot land in the quivering hands of a half-wit!” (“Shock and Delight” 15:20-15:49).

In his adult life, after the late Duke died, Simon feared he would become like his father and vowed never to marry or sire any heirs. He was not on the receiving end of very much love in his life and did not think it could ever be part of his life. Once he fell in love with Daphne she convinced him that he didn’t have to follow the same path as his father, and they were able to begin a family together by the season’s end. Along Simon’s character arc, Lady Danbury, another Black noblewoman who took care of him after his father rejected him, tried to show him that love was the answer to his problems. In episode 4 “An Affair of Honour,” Lady Danbury berates Simon’s lack of confidence in love saying:

But have you any idea those very things are precisely what have allowed a new day to begin to dawn in this society? Look at our queen. Look at our king. Look at their marriage. Look at everything it is doing for us, allowing us to become. We were two separate societies, divided by color until a king fell in love with one of us. Love, your Grace, conquers all. (20:26-21:02)

Lady Danbury’s speech is the only statement in the entire season that explicitly addresses the King and Queen’s biracial marriage. But she very clearly implies that without Queen Charlotte the Black people in Bridgerton would not be where they were.


Before becoming Queen of England, Princess Charlotte was born into the royal family of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on May 19, 1774, on their territory, or duchy, by the same name in northern Germany. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland as the wife of King George III from their marriage on September 8, 1761, until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom until her death in 1818 (Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). After the death of England’s King George II his grandson, George III took the throne. It was imperative that the new king took a bride and his search brought him to sixteen-year-old Charlotte as she was already a royal and a Protestant. To get to England Charlotte endured two weeks at sea and multiple storms and arrived on the English shore on the afternoon of her wedding. She was married 6 hours later; meeting her husband for the first time as she walked down the aisle. Charlotte did not speak English at the time. However, the King and Queen enjoyed 25 years of domestic bliss and had a whopping 15 children.

Compared to her Bridgerton portrayal, Queen Charlotte did enjoy extravagant balls and gossip. In 1780 King George held the first debutant ball for his wife and it turned into an annual gathering often referred to as “Queen Charlotte’s Ball.” She elected to move to Buckingham Palace, a fancier venue to please her tastes. Her real-life habits depicted on the show include her love of Pomeranians and her addiction to snuff.

Bridgerton tackles the controversy over her race by blatantly leaning into the belief that Queen was more than one race with the casting of Golda Rosheuvel, a Guyanese-British actress. It is believed by some historians that Queen Charlotte was the descendent of Afonso III of Portugal and his African mistress. Stuart Jeffries’ article “Was this Britain’s first black queen?” (2009), reports historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom’s thoughts on Queen Charlotte. de Valdes claims that the queen “was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana” whom de Valdes believes to have been a Black African Moor (2009).

The art of the day does not make a good argument for the authenticity of Charlotte’s mixed ancestry. Of the hundreds of portraits of the Queen, she is almost always depicted as pale with very plain facial features. However, it was common for artists to play down the subject’s less desirable features while adding more fashionable ones, therefore a monotonous face was not the last say. de Valdes argues that her features in some royal portraits were conspicuously African. He suggests that the way Queen Charlotte is depicted in Sir Allan Ramsay’s 1762 portrait supports the view she had African ancestors (see below on the left). In this painting, she has a longer, wider nose and more pronounced lips than what was “fashionable.” It also looks like she is wearing a more natural hairstyle, with a natural color, foregoing a wig. In contrast, later portraits of the Queen, like the painting by Thomas Gainsborough in 1781 (on the right), show her as ultra-pale with powdered wigs that sap any bit of color out of her complexion.

partraits of queens

In his own work de Valdes observes that Allan Ramsay’s representations of Charlotte were the most decidedly African of all her portraits. In his time Ramsay made his anti-slavery sentiments well known. He went on to marry the niece of Lord Mansfield, the English judge whose 1772 decision was the first in a series of rulings that finally ended slavery in the British Empire. de Valdes notes “that by the time Sir Ramsay was commissioned to do his first portrait of the queen, he was already, by marriage, uncle to Dido Elizabeth Lindsay, the Black grand-niece of Lord Mansfield” (2021).

Dido Belle, made famous by her portrait with cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, is an example of England’s first Black aristocrats. She was the illegitimate daughter of a young black woman named Maria Bell and a Royal Naval officer, Sir John Lindsay (“Dido Belle”). Dido was raised as part of the aristocratic Murray family at the same time Queen Charlotte was on the throne and at a time when the transatlantic slave trade was at its height. There is no guesswork needed for Dido’s portrait: her warm brown skin and dark hair make it evident that she is a mixed-race person of color. It was very unusual for a Black person to be the subject matter of a painting the way that Dido is. Generally, people of color were included in paintings to show the status of the painting’s true subject—usually a white aristocrat or nobleman. The most important takeaway from this painting is that Dido was well treated and well enveloped into aristocratic life. The painting shows that the two girls were fond of each other and were near equals. Because of the love of her family, Dido was allowed a place in upper-class society.

In contrast to portraits, Rosheuvel who portrays Charlotte on Bridgerton has middle-toned brown skin so that it is obvious that the actress’s rendition of Charlotte is not completely white while not being completely Black. Many actors and other people involved with Bridgerton expressed their happiness at the casting of Black actors and Black Queen. Netflix purposely cast the role of Queen Charlotte with a black actress and the series’ author Julia Quin supported the choice of casting black actors throughout the show. In an interview with The Times, Quin says that “It was very much a conscious choice, not a blind choice” (Lash 2021). Adjoa Andoh who plays Lady Danbury shared that her “reaction to the scripts was ‘hooray’ and ‘about time.’ I think that’s particular for actors of color because we’ve been in the history of this country since before Roman times, in all strata of society” (Davies 2020). Regé-Jean Page (Simon) says that playing a Black love interest in the Regency era “is a critical opportunity,” adding: “Setting the story in the past doesn’t mean that black folks do nothing but suffer. We’ve always lived and laughed and loved and married just the same as everyone else” (Simonds 2021).


While art forms such as paintings and period dramas can let us imagine in Black aristocracy like the characters in Bridgerton, it is still an ideal and not definite. Having black royalty in Regency period dramas can be problematic, given the way the royal family itself profited from slave trade and the exploitation of all the lands under the British Empire. In reality, if the monarchy actually awarded people of color noble titles they would be hyper-hypocritical, favoring some Black people while condemning others to inhumane slavery.

Unlike the early ideals of the Tudor era, particularly Henry VIII’s stance that slavery had no place in England, the late Georgian era was when the transatlantic slave trade was at its height, and Britain’s economy thrived on slave labor in the Caribbean and Britain’s American colonies. Over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, British merchants in the transatlantic slave trade exponentially increased the number of Black people living in Britain.

Yes, if Charlotte was a person of color she could have bestowed some fortune onto other people of color. But we don’t know if she was and bestowing such high rankings would be the ideal but not the starting place. Dramas are all about romanticizing love, so Bridgerton allows viewers to engage a hypothetical society in which love is the reason for breaking barriers.

In conclusion, Bridgerton is too loose to be historical fiction and must settle as a historical hypothetical. The historical characters are outnumbered by the fictional characters and there are no records for almost all of the societal events. All in all, this Netflix phenomena centers around love and not just the mushy-gushy kind: familial love, toxic love, possessive love, unrequited love, and the loss of love. To love is to give power to the person you love. Bridgerton comments on what we do with the power we are given even if the show depicts relationships that are not historically accurate.  

Works cited

Andreeva, Nellie. ‘Bridgerton’ Smashes NETFLIX Viewership Records to BECOME Streamer's Biggest Series Ever. Deadline, 27 Jan. 2021,

“An Affair of Honor” Bridgerton, created by Chris Van Dusen, season 1, episode 4, 2020, Netflix,

“Black People in Late 18th-Century Britain.” English Heritage, 18 July 2017,

Davies, Alan. Who Is Lady Danbury in New Netflix Series Bridgerton? Welwyn Hatfield Times, 21 Dec. 2020,

de Valdes y Cocom, Mario. “Queen Charlotte | Frontline.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 11 Mar. 2021,

Debnath, Neela. “Bridgerton: Is the Duke of Hastings a Real Title?”, Express, 19 Feb. 2021,

“Diamond of the First Water.” Bridgerton, created by Chris Van Dusen, season 1, episode 1, 2020, Netflix,

“Dido Belle.” English Heritage, 30 Sept. 2020,

Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Charlotte”. Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 May 2021,

Gainsborough, Thomas. Queen Charlotte. 1781, The Royal Collection Trust, London.

Hoffman, Brenda. “Introduction to Historical Fiction.” Hoffman: Introduction to Historical Fiction, 2003, J

effries, Stuart. “ Was the Consort of George III Britain's First Black Queen?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Mar. 2009,

“John Blanke.” Historic Royal Palaces, 2021,

Kaufmann, Miranda. Black Tudors. Oneworld Publications, 2018.

Lash, Jolie. “Queen Charlotte Is Getting a 'Bridgerton' Spin-off and Shonda Rhimes Is Writing It.”, Entertainment Weekly, 14 May 2021,

Levett-Srivener, Veronica. “A History of the Social Season.” A History of The Social Season | More Than Good Manners, 6 July 2012,

Ramsay, Allan. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. 1761-1762, National Portrait Gallery, London.

“Shock and Delight” Bridgerton, created by Chris Van Dusen, season 1, episode 2, 2020, Netflix,

Simonds, Deirdre. “Netflix's New Period Drama Bridgerton Has Been Streamed by 63 Million Households within 28 Days.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 5 Jan. 2021,

Photo Contest Winners - 2021

1st Place: “Lost in Between Past and Present” By Pankaj Nath Joy

Lost in Between Past and Present” By Pankaj Nath Joy

The cottage grove of Chicago Woodlawn street was once a main attraction point of Chicago. It was enriched with lots of economic hubs and other cultural activities. But in 2021, no one can imagine that place has become where the community lost its old tradition and charm. Their life comes to a standstill. Only the remains sometimes try to remind them what it was once. (Chicago, IL, Summer 2021)

2nd Place: “More Than a Way of Life” By Ginger Levinson

“More Than a Way of Life” By Ginger Levinson

Conway from the Community Baboon Sanctuary shows us how local residents can process cashew nuts (Belize, Summer 2021)

3rd Place: “All Things Cassava” By Kevin Browning


“All Things Cassava” By Kevin Browning

This is a photo of myself, Kevin Browning, learning to make cassava bread with a woman of the Surama tribe. (Guyana, Summer 2021)


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Honorable Mention: "Snacks at Sunset" By Abbey Falknor

"Snacks at Sunset" By Abbey Falknor

On my last night with my host family in Luxembourg, my roommate and I took the kids on a walk to the park. However, little Rayan had other plans and cried the whole time, unless we gave him his favorite snack. It was a blessing to live with my host family, who shared their Serbian culture and home. I will never forget watching "Frozen 2" together or singing to "Driver's License" with my host sister. (Luxembourg, Spring 2021)

Writing Contest Winners - 2019

Transformative Cultural Experiences Abroad

1st Place: L′Histoire Vit Ici (History Lives Here) by Talia Mesnick

During the summer of 2019, I found myself in France. I state this passively because I never expected it to happen, not to me. Since I’d begun studying French at the age of 12, France had felt like some mythological land—far away, idealized, romantic but unreal. Even after I was accepted to the study abroad program, after the whirlwind of planning and packing and scholarship applications, something in me felt that I would never actually go to France. Maybe my scholarship would fall through, or I’d find out this was some elaborate joke. Maybe I’d get in a car accident on the way to the airport. It wasn’t until the plane landed in Paris that I realized this was for real: I was studying abroad in France.

I went through most of the trip in a stunned haze—thrilled, of course, but shocked. The program took me to Dijon, a metropolitan city that retained its medieval charm. Nestled in historical buildings (including the old Duke’s Palace, a sprawling mansion that is now the museum of fine arts), I was to nurture my passion for art, history, culture, and language.

This trip was life changing. I learned and learned. I became more independent. I grew intellectually, personally, socially. But there was a strange dissonance present in my experience, the dull hum of something either unfulfilled or unfulfilling. I first noticed it in Vézélay.

Every week, the program took field trips to historic sites in the areas that surrounded Dijon. Most of these sites dated back to the Middle Ages—they were much older than anything I’d ever seen in the United States. It’s hard to describe the awe I felt, but I tried to in a postcard to my parents: I couldn’t believe that I was standing in a building that has witnessed so much more than I ever have, than I ever will…The past is somehow real, somehow alive in Burgundy, and I knew I was privileged to stand before it.

But with history comes responsibility. The past isn’t just stained glass and pruned hedges. My discomfort arose when I felt history’s more personal echoes.

I was raised Jewish, and I’ve always felt a strong connection to my cultural roots. This closeness to my own family history has manifested in a closeness to Jewish history in general: in fact, the semester before I studied abroad, I took a course on medieval Jewish history. I won’t rehash the details of the course, but I’ll say this: it really sucked to be Jewish during the Middle Ages.

This knowledge was sitting in the back of my mind when we visited Vézélay, but I was mostly excited. Vézélay was a charming town—really just one street with some old buildings covered in rose vines—and I immediately fell in love.

We took a guided tour of Vézélay’s cathedral. I gazed in awe at the high ceiling, the stained glass, the ornate carvings on each pillar. I was halfway listening as the tour guide described the architecture and history of the cathedral when I heard her say: Bernard of Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade here.

I remembered learning that the Crusaders, inflamed with religious zeal, had killed thousands of Jews on their way to the Holy Land. I knew that the visitors to this church, to whom I had just felt so connected, would have wanted me dead. I thought, how do I appreciate the past when the past hates me? This tension would only continue to grow the more churches I visited.

I did attempt to connect with Jewish history as well. I took a weekend to visit Troyes, the hometown of Rashi. In Paris, I wandered through the labyrinth of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, seeking out Jewish graves. The old synagogue in Dijon was almost never open, but I returned every week, hoping it would be.

And history is nuanced. I learned that the cathedral in Vézélay had also sheltered Jewish children during the Holocaust. It’s possible to unpack history, to sort the good from the bad from the in-between, to feel a connection in spite of fear. After all, we study history to learn. Sacrificing knowledge to some sense of comfort or affirmation will only stunt our growth. As I came to this realization during my time abroad, I found I could stand in a cathedral, speechless with both awe and fear, balancing history against its flaws while appreciating fully all I had the privilege to witness.

2nd Place: 'Taki Taki' with the Resiales by Annika Fowler

“I said to pack lightly!”, Profe joked to me as we waited in the Ministro Pistarini International Airport, looking at my massive suitcase. Little did I know, everything the Resiales would give and show me during my two weeks with them would not nearly come close to fitting within that suitcase, and instead, one song would come to represent so much.

With some trepidation, I waited to hear my name and host family pairing. At last, I heard Carlitos yell out mine followed by “con los Resiales!” Immediately, I heard whisperings around me which I quickly worked to translate in my head, focusing on the word “el campo.” El campo means farm or rural countryside… am I living on a farm, away from the other students… can I really do this?

I was immediately engulfed in a hug from Silvia and Juli. Most of my worries subsided with the warm embrace and smiles, but I feared for my ability to communicate with them, considering my Spanish skills mediocre at best and rather slow.

We departed for their muddied truck and headed home; I pronounced my name to them a few times en route. They struggled to pronounce it, so we settled on a nickname. In my mind, that nickname given to me by the Resiales is not a representation of the communication challenges, but rather synonymous with the love and compassion they showed to the “American” placed with their family in the tiny town of Colonia Almada:

When I freaked out in excitement after seeing the Lilo & Stitch statutes randomly in the park as we sped along the road, they stopped the truck just to take a picture for me as I tried to explain how, in a sense, my sister back home is Lilo, and I am Stitch… that the Disney art sculpture represented a merging of both my families.

When my expression looked overwhelmed at the kitchen table during our first dinner, trying to comprehend and keep up as Richard or Silvia rapidly spoke, my host sisters acutely read my visual cues, stopped the conversation, and began to slowly repeat in basic terms what was being discussed. They proceeded to repeat this practice at every meal if I needed it.

When I expressed my love for their homemade salami, they professed that Richard is the King of Salami, proudly showed me his awards, and proceeded to make sure they had some at every meal for me to enjoy.

When owners would stare at me in the stores of Río Tercero when I walked in with Silvia and my sisters, Silvia would explain that I was a new member of their family from the United States, studying and learning for a month in their country.

When I woke each morning for class and entered the kitchen for breakfast, Franco would greet me with a shout of “hello!”; it was one of the five English words he knew, but that one repeated effort meant more than he knew.

When Franco drove us to the final dinner in town with all of the students and our families, he put on the song “Taki Taki” for the drive. On the surface, it was just a popular English-Spanish song at the time, but we shared an understanding of its deeper meaning for our family. It was my alarm clock for the duration of my homestay, and we shared a long laugh when they first heard my alarm, followed by a little dance party in the kitchen.

Acts of love and compassion shown to me by the Resiales transcended the language barriers I so deeply feared.

We all speak the language of love and compassion across the globe, whether it is communicated through the song Taki Taki as my alarm clock, a cup of instant coffee awaiting me on the kitchen table each day before class, or the young Argentine boy repeatedly bringing me, a stranger to him, little flowers from the driveway bush as we watched the New Year’s fireworks at 2 o’clock in the morning.

It is because of the Resiales that I will return to Argentina to share that love and compassion given to me, for I have a new family over 5,000 miles away and a great appreciation for the generous Argentine people. When I miss the Resiales and my time in Colonia Almada, I just play “Taki Taki”, and the wonderful memories come flooding back.

Honorable Mentions: Paris: A Moveable Feast by Emily Brandenburg

Traveling abroad for the first time is as every bit as stereotypical as you thought it would be and you just have to accept that. You will stand out before you make one step or speak one word, simply through appearance, posture, mannerisms, facial expressions; in Paris, I’d like to say that you will stand out by the amount of joy you radiate. If you radiate none, you might just fit in. This is the first thing I learned in France. The second is that there is no point in having fear, as there is always something else to be afraid of with every new experience. Forgetting this fear will allow you to continuously adventure through Paris and not dwell on the process.

From Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011), Gil Pender said that “Paris is the most beautiful in the rain”. I don’t agree, because it is the rain and clouds that dull the beauty that you seek in a city like Paris. Therefore, it’s most beautiful at dusk; the closing of a day and the opening of opportunity. You see the beauty of the sun setting over the city, knowing that it will come back up again tomorrow and with it, new hope and new adventure. In the meantime, the night offers exploration that even those who are scared of the dark can appreciate.

I’m first seeing this beauty at night. The bright colors create a map to outline the city and enhance the excitement of a new tomorrow. Despite the sour airplane yogurt breakfast, the lights below feed into the anticipation of discovering what is beneath. Physically, yes there is a city to explore, but there is also a deep inset reflection on personal life, cultural values, and development to be had. Paris is a place of historical discovery in which you can find personal understanding. You don’t go to Paris to find yourself, you go to Paris to find Paris. You look within yourself to discover what Paris means to you and more importantly, allow what you’ve learned from Paris to change you. It is a process of reinvention that I’m willing to start.

Honorable Mentions: The Kindness of a Country by Kaylynn Borror

No place is perfect. Anyone can claim utopia, but it’s an unreachable dream. Nowadays, people all over the world—people like me—expect the worst of humanity, for fear of being hurt or abandoned. Far too often, this worst in humanity rears it’s head, and we all hear about it in the news, nothing more we can do. But I’m not here to talk about humanity and its downfalls. Here I talk about one small, seemingly insignificant, moment that showed me the true kindness of a country.

I studied abroad in Japan during the Summer of 2019. Japan is known as being a country where the residents are polite and proper. People mostly keep to themselves, follow the rules, act according to the social structure assigned by previous generations.

Every morning I rode the bus and underground metro to get to classes, and every evening I would do the same, only backwards. People of all ages did the same as me: from 6-year old children going to school to 40-some-year old business men rushing to their jobs. It’s quite a sight to see all of the people in the mornings: packed onto the trains like sardines in a tin. The buses are often similar, but with less sitting room.

One evening, I was waiting for the bus for the return home. The returns home were almost never crowded: I often got a seat to myself. It was raining, and it was in general a miserable, humid-hot day. The bus arrived, people filed on, and I fumbled with my umbrella and my metro card to put one away while taking the other out of my pocket.

It was at this point in the trip where I was aware of metro card holders, but I considered it too late to purchase one and feel as if I’d had my money’s worth. So, I just kept it in my pocket. It had worked for the last seven weeks, what was one and a half more?

Well, when I fumbled with the umbrella, my metro card came out of my pocket and bounced of my fingertips right under the bus. I didn’t even think twice: I hit the ground, the puddle beneath me splashing and instantly soaking the front of my shirt and jeans. I tried reaching under the bus, but my arm span was just a touch too short. As I reached up for my umbrella to use the handle as leverage, I noticed some people on the bus staring at me, wide eyed. ‘My card… went under the bus,’ I managed to say before reaching for it again.

When I looked up again, metro card in hand, one woman who had been on the bus was standing beside me, holding her own umbrella above me. I thanked her quickly and bowed multiple small times, embarrassed to no end, and swiped my card to get onto the bus. There were no open seats where I would usually sit in the evenings, so I decided to stand, knowing that people probably wouldn’t want to sit next to a soaked student.

An older lady, who must have been at least eighty years old, told me to sit next to her. I refused a couple times, saying it was ok, but she still encouraged me to sit. After being seated, she took off her light jacket and put it on top of me, telling me to put it on. ‘But it’s your jacket,’ I remember saying, still refusing as was customary. She practically commanded me to put it on, and I wore that jacket until the bus got to my stop. I lied to her that my house was close to the stop, so that she would take back the jacket: she was insistent on me keeping it on all the way home, but she did relent. I apologized again, to both her and quietly to the entire bus, then stepped off.

Something like this would never happen in America today. At least, not where I’m from. One thing that really touched me was the fact that they didn’t treat me like a foreigner: they treated me like any other person in the country. All in Japanese, all understanding, all humble and kind. It really made me think about what makes people kind, and what we can do as a whole to be better. We can’t be perfect, but what can we do to be better?

Honorable Mentions: We Make Such a Pair by Cierra Farst

My human claimed me from a Burlington shoe rack back in January. It’s October now and together we’ve seen so much. We went on vacation, took a trip to a state we’ve never been to before, she made it through her first year of college, and I learned how mud can really do a number on my appearance… At the moment I rest under a bed in Auckland, New Zealand, in a room that has become my human’s temporary home.

We arrived in July, when the skies were cloudy and the rain never failed to say hello. I’m always fond of the rain; it keeps me clean. But I could tell my human wasn’t as enthused. She’s meant for the sunshine. And one day, she got it. She was so excited that she took a bus to St Helier’s Bay, and I came along too. She carried me as she let her feet sink in the sand and let the water touch her toes.

I got some water on my toes when we traveled down south. I met the edge of a lake and studied the colors of the rainbow found in a waterfall. I kept my human balanced on an occasionally swaying boat, kept her protected from Queenstown’s cold, and left her to dance on the warm carpet of a place she was falling in love with.

When we’re at university together, I get to learn too. Once we wandered around The Clock Tower, her taking notes and pictures, and I gliding on colorfully tiled floors. But most of the time, we journey from class to class with a backpack on shoulders, phone in hand, and me on foot. She scribbles away on notebook paper in lectures while I greet my fellow shoes underneath the tables. For lunch, we either sit on the benches or sit in the aisles of the library, her reading a random book and I counting the titles on the shelves.

Although I don’t eat, my human loves to. Queen Street and those surrounding it have a variety of culinary wonders for her to explore. She’s had Korean pancakes and a bubble waffle cone. She’s watched a bowl of fettuccine get mixed into a cheese wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. She’s feasted on pumpkin soup, lamb, and raspberry chocolate cake in the Sky Tower. She’s done late night McDonald’s runs with friends and ice cream strolls along the harbor. Countdown has become our most visited spot.

If I had to pick one shared passion between me and my human, it would be our fondness for walks. We’ve walked down Queen Street and Quay; crossed the bridge to Newmarket; trekked to the top of Mount Eden.

Sometimes we have a destination in mind; other times we just walk. More recently, we’ve been hopping on the buses and trains, giving us even more ground to cover. While she looks at the map of the train lines and stops, I gaze at the patterns on the seats. They remind me of seashells, a whole wave of them.

When we’re in the apartment together after a long day, I rest as she continues moving. I’ll watch her type away on her computer or jot down words on a sticky note. Sometimes she’ll follow along with a ballet tutorial on Youtube or she’ll play music. She started listening to Italian music too, in the hopes it will make her a better learner. She adores movies and TV shows, and at least one or two New Zealand programs have caught and kept her attention. I’ll see her scroll through pictures on her phone, smiling. Although we have only been here for a few months, the images on that phone contain many memories.

Often, when I catch her staring out the window, I can imagine how she must feel. Instead of looking at frozen images on postcards and the internet, she’s here now, watching as the picture moves and breathes. I think occasionally she feels as if she’s in a dream. I don’t blame her. After all, traveling has been a dream of hers ever since I met her and before I even knew her. She’s half a world away from home right now, and my intuition tells me this won’t be the last time she is. I just hope the next time she is, I’ll be the one keeping her on her feet.

Writing Contest Winners - 2019

Transformative Cultural Experiences at Miami

1st Place: Living on a Chessboard by Jing Xiao

At the first time when I learned to play chess, my teacher taught me the rules before introducing any strategy. This is because despite all the fabulous strategies facilitating in winning, the basis of chess is actually its rules, a lack of which would lead to a meaninglessness of the game itself. As I arrived in the United States, what I noticed first were the strictly regulated custom and quiet visitors waiting in lines. When I arrived at university, it also impressed me that all professors emphasized the rules of their classes and the significance of academic integrity in their first lectures. Perhaps because an emphasis on rules was always the first thing I encountered upon arriving in the U.S. and my classes, I have developed an impression of the United States as a country in which citizens follow the rules at all times. It even seems like they are living on a chessboard. Of course, I now understand that violations of rules definitely take place all the times, and American people also speed on highways and get tickets from the police. However, my first impression on the significance of rules are so is and lasting that I myself become a person valuing rules.

Just in last month, one minor event took place on one of my psychology class, an event that showed American’s emphasis on rules and was unlikely to happen in any college in China. It was simple, short, and took my professor less than a minute: he apologized for an unclear question on our last quiz. I had to admit that I was shocked in class for this “unusual” behavior of my professor. I used to consider his apology as a consequence of his humbleness and sincerity. When I thought it through after class, however, I recognized that his apology was actually a result of following the social norm: to apologize when it is necessary. All people around the world, of course, have learned the necessity of apology, but this is not sufficient for a college professor to apologize to his students; the significance of rules must be emphasized in social norms as well. After realizing Americans’ value of rules, I still admire my professor’s humbleness and open-mindedness, but admire even more his complying with rules when he has power over us students.

Now I have become a person valuing rules, a result that is both beneficial and unfavorable in certain situations. As a fully enrolled Miami student, I am glad that my emphasis on rules has made me a more industrious student. For example, I become willing to read the textbooks before classes and perform according to instructors’ exact requirements in group discussions and projects. I have learned also to ask my professors’ expectations and requirements of assignments before starting to write. Unfortunately, my valuing of rules has also drawbacks. The most obvious one is that I would feel uncomfortable witnessing violations of rules when I go back to China. It is a pity that in China, sometimes following the rules leads to disadvantages since others could gain advantages by violating the rules without getting caught. I have to admit that I might join in the people who violate rules in such circumstances, even though I understand it is wrong. Despite the internal struggles I might have, I currently experience no bad becoming a person valuing rules. Thus, I would say, I am enjoying my life right now on a chessboard.

2nd Place: My Experience in America by Jiangxue Lin

It was a sunny day when I was on my way to buy a pre-owned car. Three of my friends and I picked up an Uber to get to the automatic car store. Before deciding to go to the store, I had already searched on the apps for my preferred cars. Cheerfully and excitedly, I dressed in a yellow skirt and made up delicately. As soon as the Uber driver saw me, he immediately appreciated my dressings and said that “you look like a pop star.” I was really happy to hear that. Living in China for all of my previous life, I found that Chinese people will not usually appreciate others in such an obvious way. Although I knew that he was just greeting me, it still brought a good mood to me. During the process we went to the car store, the Uber driver chatted with us with enthusiasm. I had never thought of a person could be so passionate like him until I found that nearly all of the American people treat others in this way. We soon found the common interest of us. As a fan of Chinese songs, the Uber driver played a lot of music of Jay Chou’s, who is one of the most famous Chinese singers. We listened and sang the songs together all the way. The happy time often passed very fast and it was the time of arrival at our destination. While we were about to get off the car, the Uber driver suddenly stopped us. Under our puzzled eyes, he told us that this car store was an informal one and it could not guarantee the legal services and qualities. “I can carry you guys to another official one,” he said, “the cars in this store are awful, even American people will not buy a car here. You are cute Chinese students, and I do not want you to be cheated.” With zero experience of buying a car, nothing could explain our gratitude to him. Although I thought it was the best kindness of him, he said “I will take you to another place for free, and you just need to tell me where you want to go.” As we come to the store, we were still singing all the way. When we arrived at Nissan 4S store, the Uber driver talked to the workers there and told them to give us the best service as they could. During this journey, I found the good faith of American people. I could not even express my moods by words but held them in my heart. This experience removed all the tension about the unknown life since I came to America and I know that whenever I need help, no matter identity and nationality, people are always willing to give me a hand.

Honorable Mentions: Meeting New Friends at Miami by Jiayi Chen

Not published, by request of the author

Honorable Mentions: Cure by Smile by Linda Zhu

*Not published, by request of the authors

Honorable Mentions: Different Food Culture in my Life by Meihan Chen

From a classmate at Miami University, I heard an interesting phrase, 'Freshman 15', which means that many freshmen typically increase their weight by 15 pounds. I have a deep understanding of this. As a student who has traveled across half the globe from China to the United States, I feel the pronounced difference in food culture. This difference made me gain almost 15 pounds, but I don't know the exact number because I don't dare to weigh myself, and to escape weighing, I didn't even buy a scale. One day, passing through the electronic scale area of Walmart, I pushed the shopping cart to go straight to the food area. In Walmart's food area, there are many quick-frozen foods and large packs of snacks, and I like them. In the end, I left Walmart with a shopping cart full of food.

I come from Shanghai, a typical southern Chinese city, and most food in Shanghai is small and exquisite. At lots of restaurants in Shanghai, the dishes are only the size of a palm. After coming to the United States, I have found that the size of food in American restaurants is much larger than expected. In Miami University canteen, fried chicken nuggets are about two times larger than China's, and hamburgers are also one and a half times larger. Even Coke is offered unlimited, and I can have as much as I want. In China's fast-food restaurants, Coke sold by a cup. If you're going to drink more, you have to pay for it in China. When I first came to the United States, I liked this kind of service in the restaurants, but it didn't take long for me to get fat. It may be because I don't want to waste food. Even if I am full, I will eat all the food I bought, and even greedily have another cup of Coke. I adapted to the different food in the two countries so well that I am distressed when looking at the fat on my belly.

As an introverted international student, I always feel lonely. Whenever I really can't bear the loneliness, I eat chocolate or chips, which always make me feel better. I am not good at communicating with American students, nor am I good at making friends with other students from China. However, I always have a soul resonance with my food. My friendship with food is quiet and profound, while my communication with my classmates is noisy and short. The life in universities in America is different from that of high schools in China. In high school, everyone is in the same classroom all day long, and it is easy to make friends. When it comes to the study at university, everyone has different courses and learns in different classes, and even classmates rarely communicate. Therefore, when I am alone and with no one to talk with, chewing snacks and making a squeaky voice always makes me comfortable.

Honorable Mentions: Winter Grief by Jiaxian Lin

The voice of the rain is getting milder and milder; finally, it softly stops. However, the rain in my heart never ends. When I was young, I thought the day I would become an adult was very far away from me. Now, it is still far away, but in my memory. To decide to leave the home nation and study abroad was not a big deal to me when I was at the age of 16, but it extraordinarily changed my destiny.

Many overseas students would feel hard to get into a new culture. I was in the same situation as well before. I was having struggles with many culture shocks in adapting to American life: different languages and different food. I doubted my decision to come to a strange country which I did not know. For example, when I bought a Coke, I read “To BFF.” I had no idea that BFF was “Best Friends Forever.” I could not understand the sentence: “A metaphor is like a simile.” I knew every single word by itself, but I could not understand what the sentence meant. Luckily, I got through it quickly, because I knew some tips for life. Anyway, this struggling was not the biggest problem for me. As I found the way in a different language, in a different country, I had overcome my fear of adapting to the new environment.

As much as I loved my daily routine in China, I lost this most precious part of my life in coming to the US. Leaving home always means being apart from those people who love me and who I love. It is painful to be in a lonely feeling, especially when I am sick. I miss my family and friends so much, but I know I could not meet them in the next moment. Besides, I guess many international students would have a similar situation, which is breaking up with their girlfriend or boyfriend. Breaking up brought me to suffer deeply because I still love her. I had never thought that the distance would wreck the relationship between us. However, I had to admit that it works. During day and night, my head was keeping flashing back to the old days she and I owned. The days, when we were together, appeared in my mind time after time, because they were so joyful, happy, blest, disappointing, sad, and painful. The fact that she left was like a needle in my heart, stinging over and over again. Even now, I miss her so much, and it is not for my loneliness. I do feel lonely when I miss her. I feel so alone because I miss her deeply. This feeling makes my day gray and rainy.

To get away from the ache in my heart, I tried reading, playing games, and hanging out with friends. Fortunately, I made some great friends in Maimi University. Some of them brought me to the church and prayed for me, which did move me a little bit. Some of them spent their time playing ping pong with me even they did not know how to play. The most important thing was that they cared about me. It warmed my heart because of the feeling that I knew some people loved me.

The rain was still in my heart, and the raindrop used to wash my face ruthlessly. However, I get the umbrella now. I know there will be a rainbow after the heavy rain and the sky will turn to colorful from gray. My life is getting more and more hopeful.

Honorable Mentions: Different Cultures by Zhengxuan Tan

As a Chinese student major in computer science, there will and should be a lot of troubles when switching the language because most words and facilities we used are not common. That’s also why it surprised me that the language of academics like some proper nouns is not the most confusing thing that troubles me, but the different customs and culture. After passing the IELTS test, I thought my English level was good enough for normal communication, while the reality hit me in the head hard.

The first obstacle was when I went to a brunch restaurant. When I was ordering egg, I was asked how I wanted my egg cooked. The first idea came to my mind was “how can I choose it?” “Is it like when I ordered steak, should I say medium rare or medium?” My friend probably found out my confusion, laughed and said to me, “You can choose from scrambled, sun-side up, over easy, or boiled,” and he explained what each one like to me. This kind of awkward thing happened a lot when I go to restaurants. It also happened when I went to fast food restaurant for the first-time order. After ordering the meal I wanted, the waiter handed me a empty cup but not the drink I ordered. I asked the waiter about my curiosity. He just laughed and pointed to a place nearby—a drinking machine was just over there. What’s more, the ketchup’s offering way was also different from Chinese packed ketchup bag, but a huge bucket of ketchup on the serving bar, people can grab a little cup and fill whatever they want.

It also confused me that whenever someone made a sneeze, I always heard a “bless you” from different people. At first, I thought it was because that are a lot of people believe in god in the United States, but when I asked the people around me, it does not seem to be like that. I googled my question as soon as I arrived home, turning out that a sneeze typically precedes illness. For a reason, people always say “bless you” to pray for those who sneeze for a good health.

After more than a month living in America, I gradually get used to those different culture and customs. I found myself falling love with this country with diversification, which allows different cultures to come together and to communicate with each other. Nowadays, I can order my food fluently in a restaurant, knowing the basic procedure during ordering. I also say “bless you” when people make a sneeze, hoping them feel better.

Top ACE/ELC Submission: The Mailbox by Cheng Chen

When first I came to Miami, I didn't realize the importance of mailbox in the dorm. They looked like pigeonholes, not the mailboxes I’d imagined standing by the side of the road. Nearly two weeks later, I heard there was a lot of letters in those pigeonholes. So I went downstairs to the mailbox immediately.

When I was standing in front of the mailbox, I did not know what to do because I found they were opened by a rotating password lock, and I knew nothing about it. So I asked the guy who was next to me for help, and he told me that the password had been sent in the email before. So I started to look for my three number password in the emails sea and I soon found it. I'm a little excited, because it's exciting for me to try something I have never done before. I rotated the code lock to the right to those three digits, but I couldn't open it. I tried four more times and still couldn't open it. So I had to ask that kind person for help again. He said that it was very easy; I should turn left first to clean up, and then turn right to the passwords. While he was talking to me, he opened my mailbox. I am very grateful to him, not only because he helped me get the newest mail, but also because he taught me how to open the mailbox.

About a week later, one time when I went downstairs, I saw a girl who was worrying about how to open her mailbox. I was very confident to walk over. She asked me if I can open the mailbox, and I said definitely and started to show her what I had learned last time confidently in front of her. But when I found that I still could not open it, I was very surprised. My first thought was that the lock must be broken. I tried three more times, but I still couldn't open it. When we were very upset, an old lady who was sweeping the floor came to us. She asked if we needed help, and I reluctantly said yes. So she opened the mailbox easily in few seconds. But what was different from last time, she told me after turning left to clean up, I need to turn right, then turn left and finally turn right. Although I was a little embarrassed that I didn't help the girl open her mailbox, I finally learned the right thing this time.

A few days later, when I was hanging in the dormitory building, I saw the mailbox, and I decided to try it again because I didn’t believe these small mailboxes could not be opened by me. So I followed the way that old lady taught me, but I still could not open it. I tried at least seven more times, but it was still locked. At this time the old lady appeared again, I immediately asked her why I still can't open. I saw she pulled the mailbox’s door gently and it opened. She told me that after I had rotated to the correct password, I needed to pull the door to open it. So when I rotated to the correct password again, I tried to pull the mailbox’s door. But I found that no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn't open the door. The old lady smiled and gently pulled the mailbox door open again by shaking her hands. She said that the password may not be stuck to the right card slot sometimes, so I need to shake my hands when I was pulling the door. I was shocked. At that time I believed the old lady standing in front of me must master the mysterious magic; and I just like those who can't do any magic in Harry Potter called Muggles, was trying to humiliate myself by trying to do something I couldn't do at all.

So after that, I always asked my roommate to help my pick up my mails. Compared to try to open those terrible designed mailboxes, I was more likely to say thank you to my kind roommate. Something even if you think you have the capacity to do it, but you really can’t do it. Everyone is good at something, but it never means that everyone can do everything well. This is the lesson I learned from the mailbox.

Literary London Prize - 2019

Winner: Tending Sleep by Meg Matthias

Not published, by request of the author

Photo Contest Winners - 2019

Cross-Cultural Moments

1st Place: “The Wonder of a Parade” By Taylor Hicks

Wonder of a Parade

This photo was taken at the annual Carnival parade in Montevideo, Uruguay, celebrating the unique cultural heritage of the region, including traditional Afro-Uruguayan candombe music. The young girl in the photo was enraptured with the parade of dancers and drums, and she would often reach up to touch the flags as they passed by. This was a striking cultural experience for me because I realized how much I have in common with a culture born five thousand miles away from my own. I saw myself as a little girl being in awe of the beautiful floats and costumes of the Fourth of July parade in my own hometown, and I saw the joy of that experience in a young girl with whom I do not even share a first language.

2nd Place: “Galway Mural” By Madison Casey

Galaxy Mural

This photo was taken in Galway, Ireland. While living in Ireland, it became very apparent that the presence of graffiti is more widely accepted than it typically is in the US. It was impossible for me to walk to class without passing painted walls, from amateur drawings to full blown murals. This image captures a mural that I personally felt was one of the most beautiful paintings I witnessed while in Ireland. I appreciate the casualness of the men smoking in front of the mural, which accurately depicts the natural coexistence of graffiti in the daily lives of those who live in Ireland.

3rd Place: “Monthly Pregnancy Check-Up in the Gambia” By Melanie Ziaziaris

pregnancy checkup

Aided a skilled, certified midwife/nurse give women abdominal examinations to determine fundal height, find the heartbeat, and positioning of their baby as well as taking weight and blood pressure to screen for preeclampsia and other possible conditions.

Top Votes: "Bunkers of Barcelona" By Danny Clark

"Bunkers of Barcelona" By Danny Clark

Built in 1937, the Bunkers del Carmel were used as a military base and place to locate incoming enemy planes during the Spanish Civil War. Later on, the base became a shanty town of sorts until the city decided to rehouse the population during the 1992 Olympic Games hosted in Barcelona. Now, the site offers spectacular, panoramic views of the city and is one of the best places to meet locals along with other tourists from all over the world.

Photo Contest Winners - 2019

Global Classroom

1st Place: "Laughing with the Locals" By Leanne Stahulak

"Laughing with the Locals" By Leanne Stahulak

None of us were prepared for the freezing rain we experienced in Erfurt, Germany. We were tired, cold, and wet to the bone, but our fearless tour guide was determined to help us learn about the musical city. With witty commentary, talkative gestures and spontaneous dances, he led us on an inspiring journey through a city none of us had ever heard of. I didn't expect to be so engaged or moved by such a small place, but our local tour guide spiked our curiosity. His character taught me more about the spirit of the city than any guidebook ever could, and I've learned to never underestimate the power of love and laughter.

2nd Place: "There is no bulb in their classroom, but there is light in their eyes." By Nan Luo

"There is no bulb in their classroom, but there is light in their eyes." By Nan Luo

During this summer, I volunteered in Mathare Slum to investigate the school teaching environment. I saw these children reading books and writing assignments in a dark classroom, but it didn't affect them to study hard at all.

3rd Place: "Miami University and Gaelic Football" By Eleanor Crabill

 "Miami University and Gaelic Football" By Eleanor Crabill

A picture of a Miami Student playing Gaelic Football in Dublin, Ireland.

Top Votes: "Shaolin Demonstration" By Pierce Kaufman

"Shaolin Demonstration" By Pierce Kaufman

Built in 1937, the Bunkers del Carmel were used as a military base and place to locate incoming enemy planes during the Spanish Civil War. Later on, the base became a shanty town of sorts until the city decided to rehouse the population during the 1992 Olympic Games hosted in Barcelona. Now, the site offers spectacular, panoramic views of the city and is one of the best places to meet locals along with other tourists from all over the world.

Photo Contest Winners - 2019

People and Portraits

1st Place and Top Votes: "The Women in Yellow" By Susie Lambesis

"The Women in Yellow" By Susie Lambesis

While roaming around the ancient Amber Palace in Jaipur, we turned a corner and found these women sweeping the sparkling white steps. They followed after the tourists feet and lightly brushed away and dirt being left behind. They swept to preserve the beauty and sacredness of the Amber Palace. It was a reminder that even though as tourists and travelers we are eager to explore historical monuments, these places hold a special meaning and sacredness to those who reside there.

2nd Place: "It's So Fluffy!" By Olivia Snyder

"It's So Fluffy!" By Olivia Snyder

In the Cusco Plaza de Armas, there are many groups of women dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing that carry around baby lambs or alpacas. They use the cute appeal of these animals to attract tourists, who give small tips to capture a photo with these adorable animals. Although my friends and I were initially drawn in for the same reason, afterward we had a conversation with the women in the photo and talked about indigenous culture in Peru. The women were impressed by what we had learned in our history classes, and were happy to talk with us. This encounter taught us the importance of viewing these "tourist attractions" as not just a mere photo opportunity, but as real people with a vibrant history and culture

3rd Place: "Life in Hang Hau: An Observation" By Pierce Kaufman

"Life in Hang Hau: An Observation" By Pierce Kaufman

The nearest metro station to campus is Hang Hau. One day I simply walked the area randomly with my camera, waiting to see what I would encounter. I met this man directly outside the Hang Hau sports center, while he was feeding his two pet birds. He was flattered that a foreigner was interested in them and taking photos with a real camera. In this photo, he looks up at his pets in the tree he let them walk around on, with a playground and many apartment buildings in the background.

Photo Contest Winnres - 2019

Love and Honor

First Place and Top Votes: "Miami - anywhere with me" By Claudia Zaunz

This picture was taken at Sziget festival in Budapest, Hungary in August 2019. Sziget stands for a love revolution, for accepting anyone no matter where they come from or what they want to be like. The Miami flag represents the pride that we have in sharing our values: love and honor! Those are always in our hearts, and we carry them around with us wherever we go.

Second Place: "Chinese Language" By Naman Agarwal

This photo was taken during the annual Chinese festival. We can see an International Miami student from China is teaching the Chinese salutations to other people in the Miami spirit.

Third Place: "Love and Honor Every Step of the Way" By Carl Resnick

Showing off Miami pride at Torres del Paine, the iconic national park in Patagonia, Chile. These socks accompanied me on a 10-mile hike to this awesome view of Los Torres (The Towers), the main attraction.

Grand Prize Video Winner - 2019

I am Miami by Lauren Sandeman

 View the fully accessible, audio described version of this video

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