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Lessons learned as a first-time JASP attendee

By Ashley Oldham

JASP First Time Attendee Lessons

1. Everyone loves a good cardboard cutout of Colin Firth.

And I mean everyone. You won’t go a day without seeing someone (or everyone) cheesing for a picture beside the standee of many people’s beloved Mr. Darcy.

2. New to dancing? That’s okay!

If you thought you couldn’t dance (like I did), then get ready to move, because JASP has a thing — or fifty — to teach you about many Regency-era dances that you probably never thought you could attempt on your own. JASP offers three main dance classes, plus introductory sessions if you’re entirely new dancing.

3. Thought you knew “Pride and Prejudice” inside out? Think again.

Okay, so this lesson applies to last year’s convention in particular, but it carries over to  any JASP. I thought I had a good bit of knowledge surrounding Austen’s novel, but let me tell you: I left with way more insights into “Pride and Prejudice” than I would have ever gained on my own. In 2019, speakers included three authors discussing their diverse modern retellings of “Pride and Prejudice.” This year JASP has Janine Barchas (“The Lost Books of Jane Austen”), Mary Robinette Kowal (the “Glamourist Histories” series) and Robert Morrison (“The Regency Years”).

4. In fact, there is so much more to learn about Jane Austen.

JASP explores Austen’s world beyond her texts: There’s the social context to all of her novels, there’s the information about her life, there’s the historical events and traditions that were prevalent in her time. The list is ENDLESS.

5. There’s so much more to JASP than words on websites and emails can describe.

You can put a lot into emails and website headlines, but you really just can’t convey all of the heart in this program. The friendships, memories, fun moments, interesting speakers and more all work together to make JASP a blast.

6. There’s no reason to be nervous about speaking up and talking to others.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little shy. However, last year’s JASP gave me the courage to speak up and interact with people in ways that I might never normally. The small-group discussions feel a lot like a book club than a formal meeting, which allows people to open up and talk to one another.

7. You’re going to want to go to EVERY TALK and hear EVERY SPEAKER.

And I do mean EVERY. They’re all so good, and your JASP experience really wouldn’t be complete without them all. 

8. Part of what makes JASP so appealing is the diverse group of attendees.

There are so many people from so many places, of so many ages, and with so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences with Austen’s novels — and it really is beneficial to your JASP experience to interact with everyone. You can learn just as much from your fellow attendees as you would from those at the lectern.

9. Go to the ball, and have fun (you won’t regret it)!

The ball is SO MUCH FUN, and if you feel like it, you can go all-out. It really amplified the experience to get dolled up (in a Regency gown or modern dress). You won’t regret it.

10. The opportunities you’ll have are even greater than you might imagine.

You’ll have the chance to speak to best-selling novelists, professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and Austen lovers from all over. You get to engage in all sorts of activities. Your love of Austen is really taken to the next level.

11. By the time JASP is over, you’re going to be ready to register for next year ASAP.

Those were my exact thoughts when I left last year’s convention, and they’re just as true today as they were then.

12. Interning with JASP was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

I really do mean that. I’ve had lots of great experiences since coming to UNC, but no college experience has been as academically and personally challenging and rewarding as the Jane Austen Summer Program. I learned so much in just a few months, and I’ll carry those lessons with me forever.


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