Tag Archives: graduate school

Updates Galore!

WELL.  Now that things have calmed down a bit, I finally feel like I can update everyone on what’s been happening here at Chez My Flat (title pending).

I’ve been in school for about three weeks now.  Even though I was super excited about going back to school and getting back into the swing of things, I’ve gotten to the point where I can see and feel my lack of knowledge.  In all of my previous academic experience that was the point where I became frustrated and felt like giving up.  Now I’m trying to use it as a teachable moment: if you don’t feel like you totally get it, you’re probably heading in the right direction.  I will always feel like a fraud around other writers, like I don’t take it seriously enough, but I really think if I push myself through the difficult bits something amazing will happen.

I’m starting to get to know my classmates and they’re a fun bunch.  Lots of different personalities and backgrounds, proving writers aren’t all anti-social hermits with drinking problems.  But I think most of us would agree that burgers are fantastic.

My flat is still a work-in-progress.  I would show pictures but nothing has changed aside from the food in my refrigerator (i.e. there is some now).  A lot of “setting up” the flat was buying boring things like can openers and toilet paper.  I’ve finally gotten around to ordering ACTUAL FURNITURE so when that arrives in a week or two I’ll be sure to update.

And then there’s just London in general.  I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.  Which is not to say I have the hang of it.  I’m sad to admit this but when I first got here I was nervous about doing certain things because I didn’t know how they worked (or thought I didn’t know).  Getting registered with a GP, ordering drinks at a pub, taking a taxi… all things I was hesitant to do but eventually forced myself to.  And it wasn’t as scary as I thought.  I’ve found that if you’re really nice and apologize constantly, most people will forgive you for anything (except for murder.  I don’t recommend it.  The court case was hell).  I met someone last week and she was shocked when I told her I had only been in London a month and a half.  That was a huge compliment.  I’m assimilating.

And now, because no post is complete without an ode to food, here are some of the best places I’ve eaten so far:

  1. Boom Burger: I’ve eaten so many burgers since getting here and this is still my absolute favorite.  I’m basically free PR for them at this point, like a Boom Burger Jesus.
  2. Danny’s Traditional Fish & Chips
  3. E. Mono
  4. The Chicken Shop: Just had it tonight.  The apple pie!  The fries!  The CHICKEN!
  5. some stall in Camden Market with fresh doughnuts
  6. Paris: Just, like, the whole city.  Trust me on this one.
  7. Borough Market: Again, just the whole place. (apparently Sunday is Apple Day so… that’s where I’ll be)

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Since my sofa bed is on the way, I’m now taking reservations to stay at Chez My Flat! (again, we’re working on the title – sorry)

See you guys in London! xx Eileen

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

I messed up.

“But Eileen,” I hear you saying, in that shocked voice you save for only the truly egregious things in life, “I thought you didn’t make mistakes!”

Well, I mean, I don’t, it’s just that this time-

Okay, I can hear you rolling your eyes.  Rude.

Anyway, there is a lesson to be learned from this mess-up, which is why I’m telling you in the first place.  It’s not like the time I broke my toe on a vacuum cleaner or tried to scalp Duran Duran tickets.  No, this one’s constructive.

So, it’s November 27th, right?  I just got my admission email from school.  I’m psyched.  I’m trying to figure out where to start.

I put the turkey in the oven (it was Thanksgiving Day).

Plane tickets!  I’m going to need a plane ticket.  Obviously.  So I check Google Flights, one way tickets, Orlando to London… $400?!  Seriously?  What a deal!  Can I buy ten?

But wait.  I don’t know exactly which day I’m going to leave.  Where I’ll be living.  When school starts.  So I don’t buy the ticket.

But I watch.  Every day I check Google Flights.  As my plans begin to take shape and solidify, I consider buying the tickets.  Then one day I check Google Flights and – BAM! – $700.

“They’ll go down,” I reassure myself, then force everyone else to as well.

But they don’t.  They go up to $890.  Then they dip back down.  Then they hover in between.  But they never go below that $700 mark again.

Eventually I scrape my jaw off the floor and recover enough brain power to remember I have some miles with Alaska Airlines.  On the vague chance they have a flight to get me from one point to the other for under $800, I check.  It turns out they do.  A direct flight*, in fact, which I never thought was possible in my wildest dreams.  And it only costs me $450 if I buy a few extra miles.  The only thing to consider is…

I’m just kidding.  I bought it.  How stupid do you think I am?  Wait, don’t answer that.

Moral (or tl;dr for you youngin’s): Don’t wait until your airfare doubles to consider purchasing.  Buy early and often (after checking to make sure they can accommodate your luggage).

*Side note: who would have guessed Alaska Air would have a partnership with British Air?  Not me.  Or anybody in Alaska.

Helpful sites

Hello there.  Are you doing well?  Lovely.  I had two London-related dreams last night, and one was simply that the prices of plane tickets went down.  Yeah, sad.  The weird thing is, they actually had.

I think I might be psychic.

Anyway, there are a lot of websites out there aimed at making the transition from America to the UK as easy as possible but wading through them can be a bit overwhelming.  I’ve compiled some of the websites that have helped me the most in preparation for my move.

UK-Yankee Forum: I would say this website has been THE most helpful, since, as a forum, it is updated just as regularly as anybody needs it to be and you can ask individual, specialized questions.  The people on this forum KNOW what they’re talking about.  However, I will say you can spend too much time on here and make yourself worry about things that don’t pertain to you or have the smallest chance of happening.  If you’re a student like me, start with this board.

UKCISA: This site will take you through the basics of applying for school, getting funding, figuring out where to live, and getting your visa.  This is for the beginner who needs an overview of the process.

Homestay: Like Airbnb, but you’ll be living with the family who owns the home.  This is a good alternative to hostels or arranging for flats you’ve never seen.  A great advantage to this is that you’re living with people who know the city.

Zoopla: If you plan on living on your own or buying, check out Zoopla.  You can search by the kind of property you’re looking for or area such as post code.  Even if you planning on having flat mates, it can be a good springboard to give you an idea of what’s available in any given area.

Flatshare: The most popular website for finding flatmates, although there are more out there.  You can search for any number of factors including preferences in the ideal flatmate, but I tend to just search by location and price.  It’s good to look at even before you’re serious about looking just to give you an idea of what’s available and what you can expect price-wise.

Of interest:

London property prices by tube line map, international scholarships, check to see if your creative programme is accredited

This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list.  It’s just a good jumping off point from which to start preparing.

Our story so far…

I can only assume you’ve found this post/blog if, like me, you’re preparing to go to postgraduate school in London and are worriedly whiling away the days waiting for yet another person to get back to you.  Or maybe you’re considering doing so, in which case… hold on to your butts.

I’ve been slowly compiling a timeline of my journey through the entire process.  I’m going to post it for other people to reference, keeping in mind that it isn’t over ’till the fat lady sings and she’s not even on stage yet.

howididit

early November 2014: submit application

24 November: receive offer for phone interview

24-26 November:  study for interview, (over-)prepare notes

26 November: phone interview w/programme director, told decision could take a couple of weeks

27 November (Thanksgiving Day US): receive acceptance e-mail

1 January 2015: fill in FAFSA – there isn’t really any use officially submitting this until you’ve done your taxes, I submit anyway

24 February: apply for SASS scholarship

17 March: put correct tax information in FAFSA, submit

31 March: start contacting potential homestays (homestay.com), start looking on school board for accommodation

1 April: hear back from most homestays within a day; only 1 says not available

7 April: book homestay for 21 August-21 September through homestay.com

8 April: submit enquiry to HSBC for overseas account

9 April: HSBC cannot open an overseas account for me unless I already have an account open with them

22 April: receive award letter, sign, send back to school loan administrator

23 April: complete entrance counselling and promissory notes for unsubsidized loan and Grad PLUS loan, send to school loan administrator

19 May: Buy my plane ticket!

Things that haven’t happened but are supposed to, with projected date

June/July: approval for loans from Department of Education

June: receive CAS, apply for visa

May the Fourth

Two bits of good news:

1. April is over.  Peace out, April!  Long live May! (actually, no, May, do not live long; live an ordinate and logical amount of time, please please please)

2. The ball has started rolling on my postgraduate funding!  I’ve completed my entrance counseling and master promissory notes, and my award letter has been sent to the Department of Education.  Now I get to wait until June or July (?!) to hear from them.

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Yay!

May the Fourth be with you!

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