Tag Archives: international student

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

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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

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.

The plot thickens (and becomes difficult to stir)

If you read my New Year’s post, you’ll know I filled out my 2015-2016 FAFSA as soon as possible, i.e. Jan 1.  I figured I would send an e-mail to the school just to get an idea of how long it would take to process the information and get back to me about how much I could ask for in loans and such.  I received an e-mail back from them saying they don’t usually process those requests until April.

This makes me anxious for 2 reasons: firstly, I like to get things done ASAP.  I know on their end they have a lot more to deal with than one girl’s financial aid information.  In fact, they might not be able to do anything about my financial aid until April because the US student loan office might not process them until then.  The timeline just worries me a little because they won’t get back to me until right before I apply for my visa – will that give me enough time to hear back from the US loans office and get my information in order for the visa application?  They’ve done this before and know what they’re doing.  I just need to have faith in the process and the people carrying it out.

Secondly, on a pettier level, I really just hate waiting.  I keep reminding myself that 2 months have already passed and things ARE getting done.  Yeah, it’s a long time to wait, but having 9 months to prepare means I will be as ready as I can be when I actually go.  I’m grateful to have this time with my friends and family, so that I can appreciate their company while I still have the chance.

Hopefully as the time draws closer I will have more helpful information to share and confirm that there is nothing to worry about time-wise.  For now, though, I just have the worry.  Thankfully I’ve started doing yoga.

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Namaste.