The Twelve Days of Flat Hunting

On the twelfth day of flat hunting my true love gave to me:

  • 12 cups of coffee
  • 11 flats a-looked at
  • 10 rude estate agents
  • 9 miles walking
  • 8 absolute rat holes
  • 7 diff’rent Tube stops
  • 6 complaining phone calls (to my parents)
  • 5 panic attacks

(ba-dum dum dum…)

  • 4 moldy bathrooms
  • 3 post codes
  • 2 missed opportunities
  • and 1 flat to call all my own!

I’m going to share some pictures with you, but only if you promise to keep in mind that I still have a lot of work to do on it, okay?  Good.

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Also, these are the “before” pictures, so of course they’re low quality.  Obviously. 😉

Moving abroad: tips

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  • Keep a small binder or folder with all pertinent travel documents with you in an easily-accessible location.
  • Scan your legal documents and e-mail them to yourself.  In moving from one place to another, you never know what could happen.  Have backups of anything you might need and keep them readily accessible by having them on your phone in the form of an email.  I sent copies to both my personal and school accounts just to be safe.
  • Unless you can afford a storage space or international movers (or have incredibly obliging parents) you’re going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff.  Start doing it as soon as possible.
  • Don’t trust those Pinterest infographics that tell you the best time to buy tickets is 8 weeks before you leave or whatever.  The best time to buy your ticket is as soon as humanly possible.
  • Find a temporary place to stay before you get there, even if it’s only for a week.  PLEASE don’t assume you can just arrive and find a hostel.  Don’t make any long-term living arrangements before you arrive.
  • Save as much money as you can.  I’m personally afraid to total exactly how much it cost me to move myself from the US to the UK.
  • Have a backup plan for everything.
  • A friend recently told me, when it comes to banks, multiply the amount of time you think it will take by 2 and then go up to the next unit of time.  So if you think it’ll take 2 hours, it’ll actually take 4 days.  I would say this is completely true (in the US as well as the UK).  I would also say it applies to almost anything legal or financial you’re doing, including looking for flats.
  • You’re going to need a lot of money.  How much?

Cost to move: single person, moving for school, 2 years

Visa fee = $502

NHS fee = $585

Airfare (extra miles + ticket + bags + exit row seat) = $150 + $265 + $420 + $83 = $918

Homestay, 1 month (deposit + payment on arrival) = $289 + $536 = $825

School deposit = $2346

Total = $5176

and then my plane landed in England.

Tray Frawnch

Last week I had the misfortune of taking a mandatory trip to Paris.  I know, what a bore.

Thanks to some slight miscommunication about travel times, my visa wasn’t valid until 23 August.  But, by the time I’d gotten my visa, I had a plane ticket leaving 20 August.  Therefore, I HAD to leave the country and come back in, in order to “activate” my visa.

My life is really hard, you guys.

Here are just a few of the amazing pictures I got!

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Check out Flickr to see which photos didn’t make the cut.

Eileen

A few of my favorite things

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And when I saw a few, I mean a few.  This list is not exhaustive in any way, shape, or form.

  • I’m living with an Indian couple so I eat delicious authentic Punjabi food every other night.  I’m sure you’re jealous, and, if you’re not, you’ve probably never eaten Indian food.  Stop reading, go do that, then come back and be jealous.
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  Yes, I had to squeeze through a crowd so tight last night it felt like being given birth to all over again, but otherwise public transportation is thebomb.com.  I mean, I hate driving and like day drinking so it’s a win-win.
  • I don’t have to wear shorts and I get to wear sweaters all the time.
  • Walking, walking, everywhere.  It turns out the physical activity I was made for was leisurely strolls in beautiful parks.
  • There are so many dogs here.  On the street.  In cafes.  Big dogs, little dogs.
  • The museums are free so you don’t have to feel bad about leaving if it’s too busy/hot/boring for your tastes.
  • Tea time: basically a built-in period during the day for snacking.  Such a good idea.  Also, a great excuse to eat biscuits.
  • If I had done this move 10 years ago, I would have only been able to keep in touch with all of my friends and family via expensive international calls and e-mail.  Skype, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger have been godsends these last few weeks.  So, as much as I generally and pointlessly rail against social media, it has finally proved it’s utility to me.  Two for you, Social Media.  You go, Social Media. (I mean, someday we’ll have teleportation devices and distance will cease to matter at all, but that’s probably going to be the weird generational thing I turn Luddite over so I won’t be able to enjoy it.)
  • I’m going to see Nicole Kidman in a play.  So… yeah.
  • The sheer multiculturalism of London has astounded me.  You think you know what that word means when you’ve visited New York (and, to a lesser extent, Washington, D.C. or Boston) but it completely surrounds everything that happens here.  You would be hard-pressed not to interact with someone from outside the UK on a daily basis.
  • Want to go to Paris for the day?  Done.
  • Donald Trump is an ocean away.  Now that’s peace of mind.
  • People know how to pronounce my name.  I have not been called Ellen/Elaine/Irene once since I’ve gotten here.

Like I said, that’s not even a full list.  hashtag blessed.

And also, since it feels a bit weird not to mention, there is a great way to donate to the refugees pouring into Europe, specifically the ones currently in Calais: purchase a sleeping bag, sweatshirt, or food item for them from this wonderful wishlist. (UPDATE: the wishlist has now been closed)

Eileen

Here I am!

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Well, the last few days have been exciting and hectic over here in jolly ol’ England.  The weather has been gorgeous – one day uncharacteristically hot, the other drizzly and cool, but I loved them both.  I kind of feel like I might be getting the hang of this place – knock on wood!  But it’s not all been easy sailing and I don’t expect that to change.  Despite all of my preparations, I made a few mistakes and I’ve also learned some valuable lessons.

  1. If you’re so jetlagged that you find it difficult to function, go to sleep!  I tried to power through it and made some avoidable mistakes along the way.  The fact is, there’s really no rush to adjust your sleep patterns, so don’t pressure yourself.  It’s more important to feel up to the task than to defeat jetlag.
  2. Despite all of my checking and hoping and praying that, since my phone was unlocked, I would be able to use it, none of the UK sim cards worked.  I tried 3 different carriers and it was always the same: texting worked, calling worked, but I couldn’t get it to access the network to use data.  Which is kind of important since the only way I can contact friends and family in the US is with Skype or another messaging service.  If I had a UK credit card I could have paid monthly for a phone (like the Verizon Edge program) but since I haven’t been here long enough to get one I had to buy one.  It cost about £200, which seemed to be a median price in their selection.  I would also recommend going to one of the shops specifically for whichever company you choose, versus buying from one of the smaller shops that stock all of them.
  3. Exchange any currency on you as soon as you get there.
  4. If you decide to ride a hop on, hop off tour that takes you all around central London like I did (especially on a summer weekend) start early.  Before 10 am.
  5. On that same note, don’t go to the Natural History Museum on a drizzly Sunday unless you love crowds and heat.
  6. Have an umbrella, hat, or hooded jacket (or all three) on you at all times, even if it’s sunny.  But especially if it’s overcast.
  7. Buses run less frequently at night.  Okay, okay, I know, I’m showing my suburban stripes with this one.  Yes, it was stupid to assume they run as frequently after 11pm.  Just don’t assume that and you won’t end up standing at a bus stop by yourself for half an hour.

Eileen

What’s in my carry-on?

I love flying.  I have no idea why.  I think it’s something I’ve picked up from my dad, who has always been obsessed with planes and was even working towards his private pilot’s license at one point.  Of course, he’s much more knowledgeable about them than I am – I might as well call them “Big Metal Birds With Non-Flappy Wings Way, Way Up In the Sky” for all I know about them.  Despite my lack of any workable knowledge, I’ve always enjoyed flying and gaining any new knowledge about planes.

But at the same time… flying can be a bit of a headache these days.  Tiny seats, crying babies, packets of tiny pretzels.  If you’re prepared, though, you can ease your way a little.  Here’s what I do to make the flying experience as stress-free as possible.

  1. The Outfit

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The biggest rookie mistake when it comes to flying is the clothing you wear.  You want to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, both for the security check and the plane (do the rest of us a favor and only take off your shoes on the plane if your feet don’t reek, please).  Wear stretchy clothes: small seats feel restricting to begin with; don’t further constrict yourself with tight, confining pants and shirts.  Layer: the temperature on a plane can vary greatly during a trip, no matter the time of year, and you never know if the air vent will be easily accessible.

2. Noise-reducing headphones

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Bose headphones, $299

Poor babies.  No one told them flying would be so difficult, and then add to that the fact that their ears are popping and they have no idea why.  Still, when you’re on an 8-hour overnight flight crossing several time zones, chances are you’re going to need to sleep.  Since glaring at the poor mother trying to comfort her crying baby won’t do you (or the baby) any good, a good pair of noise-reducing headphones will help block out some of the noise and get you some rest.

3. Entertainment

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Kindle, $79

This is the one part I’m always tempted to over-do and I have to scale back.  I remember taking a flight in the early 2000’s (back in the day before iPod’s, Kindle’s, and smart phones) and my backpack was jam-packed with books, my CD player, and various notebooks for writing.  Now everything fits in one or two small devices.  I just have my phone (loaded with movies, TV shows, and radio shows) and my Kindle with a nice little cross-section of books, since I never know what I’ll be in the mood for.  That’s pretty much all you need.

4. Toiletries

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Burt’s Bees moisturizer, $12.19

Airplane air is DRY.  Maybe I’ve lived in Florida too long, but the minute I step foot on a plane I can feel the moisture being sucked from my skin.  Since dry skin is one of my fastest ways to discomfort, I always make sure to bring a face moisturizer and a water bottle.  Make sure the moisturizer is a TSA-approved size and that the water bottle is completely empty before you go through security.

5. Portable phone charger

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Sentey phone charger, $34.99

My phone’s battery can be erratic, so it’s been known to take me by complete surprise when it dies.  I bring along a portable battery pack for my phone just in case this happens.  That way, I don’t land and discover I have no battery to find my ride or let people know I’ve landed safely.

That’s all it takes!  Those five things can keep me happy on a flight for any length of time.  I hope this helps you ease your way too!

Thanks for the Memories

In less than two weeks, I’ll board a plane heading for England.

That thought is finally starting to seem real to me.

Yesterday was my last day of work.  Although it seems hard to believe, I’m really going to miss working there.  I got to work with some amazing people.  It’s hard to elaborate just how much each person meant to me, but what I can say is:

Oh my God, thank you for the support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  It hasn’t been easy for me – I can only imagine how it’s been for you guys, day in, day out, listening to me go on and on about homestays and visas and student loans and radio comedy.  But you did, and never once did your eyes glaze over.  That’s meant more to me than I could ever truly express.

XOXOXO Eileen

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Livin’ La Visa Loca

Oh my God, I did it.  I finally got my visa.  That was the last official thing I needed to do before I left and now – it’s done.  I’m in the home stretch.  This is my last week at work, then two weeks later I LEAVE.  On a PLANE.  To live in ENGLAND.

Lest you think applying for a visa is lollipops and raindrops, allow me to take you through some of the high points of my application process.

  • After months of being reassured that my CAS would arrive in time and I had nothing to worry about, I only received my CAS after hounding all interested parties for over a week.  Yes, I have turned into that woman.  I’m sure a few memos have already been sent around the school warning administrators about me.
  • The online visa form turned out to be a lot harder than it looked, especially if you get anally pedantic when under stress like *ahem* some people I know.  Also, I tried to submit it five times before I realized I had forgotten to put the school’s phone number in one field.  You can only imagine the panic that ensued until I worked that out.
  • I went to my biometric screening under the impression that I would be submitting my application then and there.  So of course I took every single piece of paperwork I had associated with the application.  I only ended up showing my passport and the first few pages of the application.  Then they took my picture, got my fingerprints, stamped my application, and I was done.  It turns out you have to submit the actual application by mail yourself. (I would recommend taking all of your paperwork, anyway, just in case.)
  • Call me ignorant (please don’t, I’m very fragile) but it never occurred to me that I would have to send in my actual passport as well as originals of all of my paperwork.  I made multiple copies of everything I sent in so they had a copy to keep and I had a copy in case something happened to the originals.
  • I genuinely doubted my application would be approved.  Not because of the sordid past I’ve hid from all 3 readers of this blog, but because I was afraid I filled in the form wrong.

At least the parade of frustrating online paperwork has subsided (momentarily).

Our story so far… (an update)

When last we left our intrepid heroine, she had just purchased her airline ticket and was feeling pretty good about the status of her bank account.  Here’s what has happened to her since then.

8 June: fill out information for CAS

11 June: receive proof of loan letter PDF

18 June: receive proof of loan letter by mail

24-25 June: email school about CAS (supposed to take 5-10 working days)

26 June: receive email from school regarding CAS, told it just needs to be signed off by supervisor

2 July: email school about CAS again

3 July: receive CAS

3 July: apply for visa, pay health fee, schedule visa appointment

9 July: visa appointment – take picture, get fingerprints; mail in visa application

Left to do

July/August: receive visa, pack!

Do as I say, not as I do

Today I’m going to teach a valuable life lesson.  That life lesson is:

DO NOT GET A DRASTIC HAIRCUT WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE IN YOUR LIFE IS ALSO ABOUT TO CHANGE

In case you couldn’t guess from the title of this post, I’m dishing out this piece of advice because that is exactly when I’ve done, and it was one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had (hard to believe, but even so).  The haircut is just all kinds of wrong for me, which wouldn’t really be an issue if everything else was copacetic and I could just twiddle my thumbs until it grew out.

The problem is that I already have a lot of stress surrounding my move and the effect it’s having on pretty much every aspect of my life.  I didn’t need to add to that a haircut I completely hate, something which was my own doing.  Of all the things I worried would go wrong in this process, I never thought one of them would be something I intentionally did.

If haircuts (good or bad) aren’t really something you worry about, allow my to simplify this for you:

When you’re going through a lot of changes in your life, don’t arbitrarily add changes

You’re putting yourself through enough.  The changes are good but they’ll get even harder before the big payoff.  Go easy on yourself.  Save the next big thing for when everything else has settled down.  And just get a trim, you freaking idiot.