An Open Letter to Ohio State fans from a Sooner Student

I remember reading a very well articulated post about a year ago from an Ohio State gentleman regarding the behavior of Sooner nation during his time down in Norman, and after spending the weekend in Columbus, I thought it was more than appropriate for me to return the favor. 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Columbus with the Pride of Oklahoma. We left Norman around 7:30 and arrived in Ohio a few hours later. Our first stop was Franklin Heights HS where we were set to rehearse and perform an exhibition at the football game that evening. Every person I came in contact with was so welcoming and went out of their way to ensure every member of the Pride (All 330 of us) was taken care of and doing well. It was not only school administration who greeted us with this hospitality, but every single person we came in contact with at the school. Post rehearsal we enjoyed a meal put together by a small group of parents, and I wish I knew their names so I could thank them publicly. Feeding 330 college students is a feat, and each and every one of them served us with a smile on their faces, and encouraging words for the days ahead. However, the hospitality did not stop there. On more occasions than one I was pulled aside, and very intentionally told, “Welcome to Columbus. We are so glad that you are here.” 

After our performance the praise was unending. I was overwhelmed with the number of “great job”, “we’re so impressed with your show”, and again, “we’re so excited that you’re here” comments. Simply put, this fired me up in a way I was not entirely expecting. I knew there was an exciting game ahead, but more than anything I was looking forward to meeting more Ohio State fans, because every interaction I had was so intentional and kind. 

On game day my expectations were not only met, but exceeded. Hospitality radiated from the moment we unloaded the bus on campus. Walking to and from our rehearsal site people told us they were looking forward to a good game and getting to watch us perform. 

Moving on to my favorite part of the entire trip: Skull Session. For those of you who don’t know what Skull Session is (because I didn’t until Saturday), Skull Session is like a giant pep rally where the Ohio State band, and a high school band come and play for the immense number of fans in the basketball stadium. The football team comes in and hype speeches are made. The time came for us to play part of our pre-game and our show for the evening. When we started to play our chant the giant stadium became silent, except the sound of every person in the stadium standing in respect, as we played a song that means so much to us. In that moment the football game did not matter. While the OU Chant probably does not mean much to those in Columbus, they gave us the utmost respect as we took part in one of my favorite traditions. 

A quick comment on the Ohio State band; not only are they incredible performers, they are genuinely wonderful people. I had the opportunity to talk to the assistant band director, and the drum majors, and I can honestly say they are some of the kindest people I have ever met. 

My post-game experience was very humbling. Of course the entire band, and OU fans could not contain the excitement from such an exciting victory, but all the buckeye fans we came in contact with said, “good game” and wished us safe travels home. 

While I would love to end this post there, I cannot ignore the one part of the game I wish I could forget, but unfortunately it needs to be addressed. I would like to formally apologize for the actions of a select few students in the OU student section. I was embarrassed by their actions and conduct, and would like to say they are not an accurate representation of the University of Oklahoma. There is a difference between being excited for your team, and being disrespectful. They took everything a little too far, and for that I would like to apologize. 

Thank you, Ohio State Buckeyes, for a great game and a  weekend I will never forget. Your hospitality has inspired me to conduct my everyday life a little differently. I am looking forward to next time. 

Boomer Sooner!

Gillian Gauss

OU Class of 2020

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Day Seventeen/Eighteen: The Last Day(s)

Writing this post makes me so sad. It cant be real that my trip is already over, but don’t fret, I will have one more post following this one as a reflection on my trip, so those of you who have actually been keeping up with it can look forward to that. 🙂

Today was our free day and a group of us decided it would be really fun to go snorkeling. We woke up early and walked down to the marina to find out they were completely booked for the day. That’s fine. Not a problem. We still had the entire day ahead of us, so we hopped on a bus to Positano, a beach town on the Amafi Coast, and set off for a new adventure. 

That bus ride was an ordeal. Never have I been more motion sick in my life! Going up and down mountains and around curves in a large, over crowded, non-air conditioned bus while standing is a recipe for disaster, and that is just what we got. Most of our group got off the bus feeling a little worse for the wear, but once we saw the view and the beach we suddenly got better. 

Down the stairs we went toward the most beautiful blue water and beach. We rented some chairs and spent the day hanging out on the Amafi Coast. The water there is so clear you can be way out in the Sea and look down and still see your feet. It’s unreal. After we had been there several hours Rylea and I thought it would be fun to explore the coast a little more by renting a kayak. This was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We got to see so much that would not have been possible by just staying on the beach. I looked off the side and could see all the way to the bottom. I would look behind me and see the most picturesque view. Truly an amazing experience. We got tired and headed back to the beach where we layed out and burned for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily it turned into a nice tan, and my Chaco tan and watch tan are coming along very nicely. 



We headed back to Sorrento around 5 o’clock and then had a wonderful seafood dinner a few hours later. Of course I ended my trip the way it started, with gelato. My only regret is that I didn’t get the next size up. I finished my last real night in Italy shopping around and exploring down town Sorrento. 


Unfortuanly we left beautiful Sorrento at 8:15 the next morning to go to our hotel in Rome. Our hotel is right by the airport, but not by anything else, so we are stuck here for the day. I was really bummed that I was spending my last day in Italy in a hotel, but as always this group made the most of the situation and we had a little PLC pool party which was so relaxing, and probably what we needed. 

My wake up call is bright and early at 4:47AM to catch a shuttle to the airport, and then I will be Dallas bound. I’m ready to be back, see my people, sleep in my bed, and eat a hamburger (My first meal back will be In-N-Out, I just decided this). These last three weeks have been a dream, but I might be ready to wake up.

Ciao for now, 

Gillian

Day Sixteen: Capri

Today was one for the books. We were ready bright and early to take a ferry boat over to the beautiful island of Capri just off the Amafi Coast. As the boat approached the island I couldn’t help but think that it did not look real. Everywhere I looked it looked like a postcard.


 As soon as we got on the island our group got on smaller boats to take a tour of the entire island. The guide took us in the caves and all the coves. I saw more coral than I ever had in my life. The water here is so clear, its unreal. It is the most pure aqua blue I have ever seen. Towards the end of the tour our guide let us jump off the boat and swim a little. That was a highlight for everyone. The water was freezing but we didn’t care because we were swimming in the Mediterranean Sea! When it was time to get on the boat was when it got interesting. All of the other tour guides let ladders down over the side for people to get back on, but ours told us to find a rock in the water and then jump on the boat. I am forever grateful for the boys who helped us over to the boat because that was a jump and required far more upper body strength than I have. We had to jump up onto the boat while it was moving and we were standing on a slippery rock underwater. That was an experience to say the least. The tour came to an end and we were set loose on the island for the day.


A little about the island to help explain where we went: the bottom level is the marina, the second level is Capri, and the top level is Anacapri, which means above Capri. We hopped on a bus and went all the way up to Anacapri for lunch and an afternoon adventure. Four of us went to the highest point of Anacapri by taking a 20 minute ski lift ride up to the top. That is by far one of the best experiences of my life. You get to see everything and everything is a gorgeous thing to see. Once we got to the top we got off the ski lift and were able to look around. To give you an indication of how high up we were, we were at the same level as clouds. I’m not kidding. It was absolutely incredible and we stayed up there probably too long, but it was well worth it. We took the lift back down and then headed down to the marina to hang out on the beach before going back to Sorrento. That was the best 11 euros I have ever spent.


When we got back to Sorrento a small group of us decided to have a picnic on the pier instead of going out for dinner. This was the perfect end to the perfect day. We bought some bruschetta, crackers, bread, cheese, cherries, chocolate, and wine and had the most incredible time. We made it to the pier just as the sun was setting, so naturally we had the La La Land soundtrack playing while we ate. We just enjoyed eachother’s company while eating good food and it really is one of my many favorite memories from the trip. A lot of time was spent on this pier enjoying the view and just being with each other. That was the best dinner of the trip, in my opinion. 

We got back and crashed after such a long but wonderful day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow, our free day and our last day, holds. 

Ciao,

Gillian

Day Fifteen: Pompeii

It’s day one of the southern trip! How is this real?!My day started off earlier than I would have liked, boarding the bus at 7:15… it could have been a lot earlier, but it still came a lot earlier than I would have liked. It took us about an hour to pick up the other group, but once we did we were on our way to Pompei. 

The bus ride to Pompei was a little over two hours and we were  all asleep the whole time. That little nap was so necessary. As we drove through the city Kirk told us an interesting factoid that I thought I would share. The ancient city is spelled with two i’s. So the ancient city is Pompeii, but the new, modern city is Pompei. I thought that was really interesting. I also learned that Vesuvius is 100 years overdue for its next eruption, so that was nice.

We grabbed lunch and headed into the ancient city. The first thing we saw was bodies of people who had been preserved over all these years. It was so incredibly sad, especially the ones that looked like a parent protecting their child. As we moved on into the city I was amazed at how well preserved and beautiful it was. It is in much better shape than the Roman Forum, and in my opinion, more beautiful. It is crazy how such a gorgeous place has such a sad history. I’m glad Kirk was there with us, because he gives so much more to all these sights than we would get on our own. If I had gone to see the ruins by myself I would have looked around and thought it was cool, but I wouldn’t have understood everything that I was seeing. It really was amazing and depressing all at the same time. I stood on the top of the amphitheater and saw the beautiful, daunting Mount Vesuvius staring back at me. This truly is a special place that I think everyone should see while they still can. It is an experience unlike any other. 
We made our way to beautiful Sorrento. This place is like a tropical paradise and I am so excited to explore this entire new world. Tomorrow we head to Capri, and island just off the coast of Sorrento. Rumor has it this place is beautiful… I will be the judge of that. 

I just threw all of the pictures I took at Pompei down below. You will see that the city is almost perfectly preserved, and a lot of the damage has been done since it has been uncovered. It is truly crazy that the volcano was able to freeze time and perfectly preserve an entire civilization for so long with no one knowing. 


Ciao, 

Gillian

Day Fourteen: Last Day of the Main Trip…

THE LAST DAY OF THE MAIN TRIP! That is a sentence that came way too soon. The morning we went and saw the catacombs which were really cool and did not have any dead bodies, so that is a win. I am still scarred from the crypts yesterday. Wow those were weird. After the catacombs we went on a three hour walking tour, and if I am being honest, I have no idea what we saw. 
Once that tour concluded we were free until dinner. I really wanted to find a Pandora store to get a charm for my bracelet, so after lunch we made the hike to the closest one and it had been turned into a different store. Thank you internet for letting me down once again, please be better. In order to redeem that really unfortunate turn of events, we went to a famous macaroon store a mile and a half away. I think I had one macaroon before this trip, but they weren’t my all time favorite dessert in the world. I just had not been exposed to them. After the four I had today I am obsessed. They were so wonderful  and were gone so fast! I bought four: vanilla, salted caramel, caramel chocolate, and cafe. They were all homeruns and I am sad that I’m not eating them right now. 

After the macaroon store we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our last dinner as a group. I got back early enough that I had time to chill out for a while before our last hoorah. Dinner was incredible, as always. Dr. Watson gave us his final farewell and it was one of the saddest interactions of the trip. We all loved him so much and seeing him go was the first time we all truly realized this incredible trip was coming to an end. After dinner Sarah and Kobe, our group sponsors, took us out for gelato and one final trip to my beloved Trevi fountain. They headed back to the hotel to pack, and the group I was with headed over to the Scholars Lounge where we heard there would be karaoke. 


Meredith and I waited and waited for karaoke to start, and it finally happened. We sang Bye Bye Bye together and it was a dream come true. I felt like a true pop star. I didn’t realize doing karaoke in a foreign country in front of several of my closest friends was a dream of mine, but apparently it was. Those 4 short minutes are one of the many memories I will vow never to forget.

As our group got back to the hotel for curfew the goodbyes started, because everyone was leaving at different times the next day. Some were going home, some backpacking, and some going on the Southern trip. Before the trip started I decided I wanted to get closer to that group and that was beyond accomplished. Many of the people in my group I hardly knew, and I now consider them very close friends. This trip brought so many unlikely and unusual friendships together, and I will forever be grateful for that. Now the new goal is to continue those friendships throughout our time here at OU, and hopefully after that as well. As a whole, this is the closest group of people I have had the privilege to be a part of. I will be eternally grateful for this experience, trip, and the memories I get to cherish. 

I have four more days before I go back home, and I already miss those from my group who are not on this Southern trip with me, but am excited to gain even more friendships from this new group. Tomorrow we go to Pompeii, the city frozen in time. You better believe I will be singing the Bastille song. I have no shame at all. 

Ciao,

Gillian 

Day Thirteen: The Vatican

This will be the day that I will remember as the day I walked all the way to the Vatican, and all the way back. Only the strong survived this endeavor. 
Following the trend of our days in Rome, today was a lot. We were constantly moving and seeing new things. The plan was to walk toward the Vatican while stopping at the major sights along the way, and we saw a lot. 
Our first stop was a weird one. It was a really weird one. We stopped at a monestary and did a tour, but little did we know what was in store for us at the end. Kirk told us we would be going down into a crypt and no photos were allowed… there is no way to accurately describe what I saw. We went down the few steps to get into the massive crypt and just saw mosaics of bones everywhere. When the original monestary was moved, the friars took the bones from that crypt and made art with them in their new space. I truly mean art. There were chandeliers made up of skulls and other bones, there were mosaics on the walls, and even lanterns just made up of bones. Bones, bones, bones, everywhere you turned. This was not just for one room, oh no, there were about 6 or 7 rooms intricately decorated with bones. I will never be able to unsee what I saw that day. My favorite part of that entire story is the fact that Kirk did not warn us at all… what a funny guy.

Walking over to the Pantheon helped to get that disturbing image out of our minds. We arrived at the Pantheon and did a quick tour of the inside. I wish it had been raining, because I bet that experience is incredible. For those of you who don’t know, the Pantheon has a huge skylight in the top center of the dome, but there is no glass. It is completely open and lights up the entire facility. You could not find one light in that place because renovations were not necessary due to the genius of those who preceded us. Kirk told us that when it rains you can watch one singe drop from the second it enters the Pantheon until it hits the ground. I really wish I could experience how beautiful that would be. We also stopped at the Spanish Steps, but just long enough to take a few pictures and fill up our water bottles. It was beautiful. 


 After the Pantheon we continued on our way to the Vatican. We made a quick stop for lunch and then finally made it. The Vatican museum itself was pretty neat, but not my favorite part of the trip. The Sistene Chapel on the other hand was the single most incredible thing I have seen in my life. I cannot fathom that Michelangelo painted that entire chapel. My favorite part was not even the ceiling, even though that was amazing. My favorite part were all of the biblical scenes on the walls. They told us we were not suppose to take pictures, but I sneaked some in anyway. I know, I’m a rebel. The Sistene Chapel made up for their rule against water bottles and air conditioning. We quickly made our way into Saint Peter’s Basilica, but unfortualy could not stay long. I thought the church in Siena was the most beautiful church I would ever see until Saint Peter’s. Even though we could not stay long, I still managed to fall in love. 


Most people took taxis back to the hotel, but Kirk said he would take anyone who walked to the best gelato place in town, so naturally that justified a two hour walk for me. Our group was slim in number, but it was a blast. You really get to know some people when you are walking through Rome, absolutely exhausted for two hours. It is a special experience that I would recommend to anyone. I know you’re all curious, so I will confirm, that was the best gelato I had in all the cities, except my beloved Cremi. Cremi always wins. 

We made it back to the hotel 20 minutes before we needed to be down for dinner, so I quickly changed and ran back down. I don’t know if my food really was incredible, or if I was just famished, but either way I loved everything I had at dinner that night. After dinner I had every intention of writing my final paper of the trip (excluding the final that is due in three weeks) and ended up falling asleep at 10:00. I fell asleep and 10 and woke up at 7. That is probably the best thing that I could have done. It was such a long, but amazing day. I will remember it forever, but I don’t know if I could do all of that in one day again…stay tuned. 

Ciao,

Gillian

Day Twelve: Graffiti Art, The Pantheon, The Colosseum, and The Forum… Oh my

The first day in Rome… what a rush. It was a long day, hence me writing about it three days late, but you know what, life happens. The entire time we were in Rome we were constantly moving and I still feel like I could have seen so much more.  Our morning started with a tour and analysis of some graffiti along the walls of Rome. This was our first real outing and to be completely candid, it was not what I was expecting, but that is okay. After the graffiti tour we headed back into town, ate lunch, and prepared for the rest of our very long day. I finally made myself order the traditional spaghetti and meatballs. It was a solid decison that I do not regret. We had a little free time after lunch, so a small group of us made our way to see the Pantheon, even though we knew we would tour it later in the week. It blew my mind, but are we really surprised? Everything here is so intricate that I cannot seem to wrap my head around the fact that everything is so ancient. 


After lunch we made our way to the ancient Roman Forum and Colosseum. The Roman Forum was on the agenda first, but when the famous Colossum came into view I immediately became obsessed. It truly is one of the most incredible sights to see. 

Dr. Watson narrated our tour of the Forum and let me tell you, we love that guy so much. Sometimes you are not super interested in the subject you are being taught, but if you have a good professor that doesn’t seem to matter any more. I’ve always thought history, Roman history in particular, was interesting, but it wasn’t my absolute favorite thing. Dr. Watson brought everything to life. As we walked under an arch we would learn of the stuggles and lives of all these people who came so long before us. We walked down the same roads as Augustus, Caesar, Nero, and so many others. We were pouring sweat, and felt like we were dying a little, but it was so worth it. 10/10 would recommend to a friend. 


Immediately following our tour of the Forum was a tour of the Colosseum. Oh my word. Nothing could do this place justice. I thought the outside was amazing until I had the opportunity to go inside and stand on the same floor that gladiators fought on years and years before. We walked in though the tunnel onto the playing ground. I thought it was cool walking out onto the OU football field, but this took the cake. The middle was taken out so we could see the under ground of the Colosseum where the lions would have been kept, and where all of the behind the scenes madness took place. At that point I don’t remember anyone complaining that their feet hurt, or that they were burning up, because we were so enthralled in that historic space.

We walked back to the hotel and capped off the day at around 12 miles. I’m convinced the sun in Rome is a lot more intense than it is anywhere else.  I came back with a nice little burn on my shoulders, and tan on my feet. Not a bad way to spend the day in Rome, but I will tell you it was exhausting. 

Side note: most of my pictures are on my camera.. sorry for any inconvenience. 

Ciao,

Gillian