Summer breeze makes me feel fine.

I submitted my dissertation two weeks ago and am officially finished with grad school. Now’s the waiting game for my final marks, but it’s been an amazing year! The past two months have been an absolute whirlwind of great things, so just wanted to give a quick updated on all my adventures. If you have questions or want more info on a particular event, feel free to message me or leave questions in the comments 🙂

July was great, celebrated the 4th with some friends at a proper American cookout.

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The next week, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a day with my friend Jen at Wimbledon. New-found respect for the game of tennis, to say the least.

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At the end of that week, Jarin and I jetted off to Pamplona so he could run with the bulls (he survived!) and spend a bit of time in Madrid as well.

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We got home and the next day Jarin’s brother and his wife arrived, and that weekend we all headed up to Scotland for the British Open. It was the second year at the Open for us, and just as fun as the first time (if not more so, getting to experience it with family!). 🙂

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I spent the next three weeks at the British Library finishing up my dissertation. It’s nice to be finished, but slightly bittersweet since I don’t know when I’ll be back to academia. Hoping that it’s sooner rather than later!

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Turned in my essay on a Friday, and went straight to the airport to welcome Jarin’s parents to the UK. Spent the weekend sightseeing with them, and then the next weekend we all headed to Ireland and did a road trip around the northern half of the island. Absolutely stunning landscape, I think Jarin and I both really enjoyed the chance to get out of the city and back to familiar scenery 🙂

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We got back from Ireland, and I had a call for a job offer just a couple of days ago. HOORAY!! It’s been an amazing couple months, but I must admit I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine and settling in to my new job (and having a salary again!). What are you guys looking forward to in the fall?

xx

Audrey

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Summer has FINALLY come to London

So I wore shorts today for the first time since…last August. Not exaggerating. I have a new appreciation for why Brits have the bad rep of being extremely pasty (sorry for the people I blinded today). In conjunction with my personal understanding of the pale Brit stereotype, I also have a new awareness of how precious the sunlight here is. Brits (and all of us expats, too) cherish their sunny days and squeeze what they can out of every ray of sunlight. Which means the 7-day forecast for a heat wave has put a summer spring in my step, not the least because 4th of July is in that 7-day forecast. I’m really interested to see what the 4th is like in England…it’ll be an experience, I’m sure. 🙂

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My heart on the 4th. Thanks, Zazzle, for the accurate depiction.

 One thing that has become increasingly charming for me since moving to London is to just enjoy an afternoon in the park. It’s a very European (or rather, non-Midwestern) thing, I think, because in the Midwest usually the only people you see lounging on blankets in a park are families enjoying a picnic. But here, if the weather is above 60F/15C, you’ll see all sorts of people lounging in the park–families, couples, friend, and even people enjoying some solitude. I think it’s due to various reasons:  perhaps because yards are much smaller if not non-existent, the weather is much more mild so when we get a nice day people want to enjoy it and on the other side, it almost never gets unbearably hot here, people are allowed to enjoy adult beverages in public and the legal drinking age is 18 (hellooo Sunday funday), there is a significantly higher number of parks in London than anywhere else I’ve lived, and people simply live in much closer contact here than in the Midwest so getting together with friends isn’t necessarily the drive-across-town production that it can be in the States. And for me, spending time in green spaces is a way for me to feel closer to home when I’m missing the Heartland.

Whatever the reason, it’s one thing that didn’t make sense to me when I first moved here but after a year I fully appreciate the charm of a day spent lounging with friends in the park. And now that the sun is here to stay, the park is calling my name. 🙂

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Enjoying St. James’ Park. And studying. Also, didn’t know you had to pay to sit in those chairs. Word to the wise: bring a blanket for your lounging pleasure, those are free 🙂

Takeaway Tidbit: London teaches you to appreciate the finer things in life, on so many levels.

Paying for a London degree.

Tuition fees can be overwhelming, but for an international student thinking of studying in London there are many options to help ease the burden of paying for a degree. Scholarships, part-time work, and loans are how I am making ends meet while studying in London

Scholarships

  • Most universities offer scholarships, so make sure to get in touch with the financial department to see what’s offered through your school.
  • Don’t forget to check with your specific department. Often, scholarships are offered for a particular field and won’t be advertised on the general scholarship page. If you can’t seem to find any information, e-mail the department.
  • Check for scholarships specifically for international students. There aren’t as many of these, but most schools sponsor a few scholarships specifically for international students, masters students, non-traditional students, etc.
  • There are sometimes options with your home country for international studies….but not many. For example, in the US you have to be a genius or solving world hunger or something equally as impressive, AKA I didn’t even come close. Look into your options, but don’t be too disheartened if nothing seems to be applicable.

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My scholarship has opened some amazing doors for me–here’s me with the president, Professor Simon Gaskell, at the International Scholars Reception.

Don’t rely on part-time work to help you pay tuition fees! If after scholarships you still have tuition left, make sure you take care of that either through personal funds or through a student loan.

Loans

Loans are the reality for a lot of people when pursuing an education in London. Work with your home government to try to get the best loans possible. For US students, that’s Perkins and Direct Subsidized loans before looking into Unsubsidized, PLUS, or private loans. Once you’ve been approved for your loans, work with your London university’s Financial Aid department to complete all the necessary paperwork and tasks to ensure your loan will be transferred to the right university. Queen Mary has an amazing flow chart and Excel document that walked me through the process step-by-step, and the FinAid people were wonderful and very helpful, which made for a hassle-free loan experience.

Once you’ve covered all the tuition, make sure you’ll have enough to live on as well…London is a VERY expensive place to live! I took out a larger loan than I needed to help me cover living expenses while studying, since I didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to find part-time work. Then if you are able to find a job once you’re here, you can use that income to enjoy life in London:

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 Part-Time Work

**If you have a Tier-4 (Student) visa, you are only allowed to work 20 hours per week.**

  • If you’re in the country on a Tier-4 (T4) visa, you have to be aware of restrictions other than just time. For example, I looked into tutoring as an option for part-time work, but since I’m T4 I can’t work freelance. Most tutoring agencies are freelance since tutoring is often 1-1 and at the request of the tutee. Luckily, I found a tutoring agency that had a scheduled timetable (aka not freelance) and have been working for them while studying.
  • Use your university’s job site to look for part-time opportunities on and around campus. Most job searching sites have filters so you can just see the part-time work available. Many of my friends found jobs as baristas at local cafes or as food service staff at restaurants or catering companies.
  • A third option (which you should be very cautious of when using) is Gumtree, the UK version of Craigslist. I found an amazing nanny job through Gumtree but I’ve heard horror stories of terrible families scamming college students for free childcare. If you choose to use Gumtree be very cautious, meet the family or employer before agreeing to anything (as many times as you need to be comfortable!), set and put in writing clear guidelines for what the expectations, duties, and pay will be, etc. I absolutely love my nanny job and there are great families out there, but don’t jump into anything if you don’t feel comfortable.

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 I love my nanny job 🙂

Takeaway Tidbit: Take the time to make sure you’ve looked into all your options for funding your degree in London.

Happy Holidays! Christmas in America and New Year’s Eve in London

Getting upgraded to first class with Delta on my 9-hour flight home to America basically set the standard for how the rest of my vacation would go…free drinks and a reclining seat all the way home, baby. It was a fantastic break, and SO nice to be home with family. Saw lots of friends, spent most of our time with family (aka drove back and forth a lot between Nebraska and Missouri), AND I shot some guns. Lucky for my boyfriend, a friend let me borrow her shotgun and I was surprised how much I enjoyed shooting that gun. It might just become a hobby. Hunting though…that’s another ball game. Good luck, Jarin 😉

2014_12_20_6109Best Christmas present ever: a cookbook with handwritten copies of mom’s recipes.

DSC_0182Jarin’s family, wearing the hats from the Christmas crackers we brought home from London.

DSC_0183 (2)Bald eagle in front of the house….so cool. America.

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Shootin’ school. I was taking notes. (And pictures.)

We headed back to London before New Years because we wanted to celebrate in London, and I’m so glad we did. Unfortunately, this year was the first year that you had to buy a ticket to see the fireworks. We didn’t get tickets because we thought we could just meander down that way and surely find a decent spot to watch from. WRONG. They weren’t joking when they said they’d have all viewable places blocked off. And heavily secured. We were steered through the Embankment station up to the Strand on a very inflexible route…which made for a crowded walk.

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Once on the Strand the crowd dissipated a bit because, thankfully, they had the street blocked off from traffic. We walked down the Strand towards Somerset house and really lucked out, because the security working Waterloo bridge decided to gift everyone with a free entrance to the bridge.

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See the green security gates on either side? They were everywhere.

Made for a tight walk through security, but once we were on the bridge it was perfect. Room to take some beautiful shots of London at night:

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And had time to spare to get set up for the fireworks. As cheesy as it sounds, I used some of that time to reflect on how lucky I am to be pursuing my dreams in this marvelous, historic city. I’ve touched on my story previously, but it really has been an incredible ride getting everything in place for London to happen – and it wouldn’t have happened if this kid hadn’t brought up the idea. So I owe a lot of this journey to him, and am grateful that we get to experience it together. 🙂

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I had time to get switched over from camera to video, and was able to record the first part of the show. With no further ado, for your viewing pleasure, here is our view of the 2015 New Year’s Eve celebration in London. (Listen for Big Ben…coolest thing ever!!)

(goshdang WordPress isn’t letting me embed the video. Boo. Check it out on YouTube!)

Home will always be the Midwest for us, but while we’re living in London we’re absolutely making the most of it.

Here’s to a fabulous 2015!!

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Takeaway Tidbit: Make 2015 your year 🙂

Differences between America and London

One of the most common, vague, hard-to-answer questions that EVERYONE from America asks is, “So what’s it like over there?”. Personally, I love this question because it gives me an open invitation to talk that person’s ears off (which I am exceptionally good at doing, according to my boyfriend). Plus I know I was most interested and concerned about the differences between America and London before I moved over here.

The thing is, there aren’t many BIG things that are different which Americans don’t already know about. Yes, people drive on the opposite side of the road here but I don’t ever deal with that since, like half of London, I don’t use a car. Yes, people have an accent and are sometimes hard to understand, but then again I’m the foreigner-therefore I’M the one with the accent that’s hard to understand. Although it’s fun adjusting to the big differences, it’s the little, quirky, day-to-day things that catch me off guard and, for the most part, make me love London more. I’m sure I’ll find many other tiny twists as life progresses over the next couple of years so we’ll call this part one of an ongoing list.

♥You don’t have to use the designated crosswalks when crossing the street. You still get honked at if you cross at inopportune moments, but you can cross wherever you want. No tickets for jaywalking. (Just make sure you read the street markings and look in the right direction to check for traffic. The nice, international-friendly city planners remind you which way to look. Or, like me, simply look back and forth constantly because you’re so mixed up on the direction of traffic flow. I wish all streets were as small as the one in the photo.)

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Don’t ask me what the yellow or blue markings mean. I haven’t the foggiest.

♥Definitely don’t love this part, but heads up: it takes significantly longer to get things set up here than in the States. Getting wi-fi hooked up took a solid 3 weeks. Thankfully most cafes have free wi-fi. I really enjoyed that part; I visited a lot of different cafes around town that way. 🙂 It also took  about 3 weeks to get a bank account set up. The requirements to do so are much more elaborate than in America.

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♥On the plus side, you can use any ATM- there are no surcharge fees. Doesn’t matter which bank you use or which bank sponsors the ATM, there’s no charge.

♥Because a lot of people don’t have cars, and because apartments/kitchens/fridges are miniscule compared to the States, there are grocery stores EVERYWHERE. Literally. There are at least 3 on my 2-block walk home from the tube (aka subway). Which is fantastic because now stopping at the store 4-5 times a week isn’t crazy. I don’t have to plan and purchase a week’s worth of meals anymore, I can just do it a day or two at time.

Blog13Oh hey dorm fridge and small freezer. And dorm…stove? …at least it works.

♥That being said, the UK rules on food and processed stuff make it really difficult to find things that we use all the time in the States. Besides not having most of my favorite junk food, just this week I’ve had to look up the UK equivalent to corn syrup (doesn’t exist here), corn bread (they don’t do pre-made mixes here so I made it from scratch using polenta. Had to look that up too; that’s what they call corn meal here), sour cream (crème fraîche here), cilantro (coriander), and powdered sugar (icing sugar). That’s on top of discovering that eggplants are called aubergines, zucchinis are courgettes, they don’t have maple syrup bottles larger than 250g or refrigerated rolls of biscuit dough, and they have a significantly smaller selection of gum (apparently Extra bought the rights to be the Royal gum). Among other things.

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Also, corn starch is called corn flour here (not to be confused with corn meal, aka polenta). Forgot that one.

♥You may have noticed my use of ‘g’ in the previous bullet point. That’s because they use the metric system here. Which is really a mental exercise when you’re using American recipes for things, because you constantly have to do conversions. Grams, cups, ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, Celsius (non-food related: things got really complicated when I attempted to mentally convert distance on a treadmill)… Thankfully, I’m not the first American ex-pat to experience this frustration so there are conversion charts aplenty on Google. I’ve copied a few out and scattered them around the kitchen. On the plus side, weighing myself in kilograms makes me feel REAL good. I haven’t weighed double digits since I was in middle school…or if you use stones as your weight measurement (yes, that’s a weight measurement here. Look up the conversion yourself. Alright fine, I’ve converted it enough times I have it memorized…one stone=14lbs.), I’m in the single digits. Hellooooo newborn baby weight! 😉

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Everything is metric. Even my stove is in Celsius.

See, I told you I could talk your ears off. This is my longest post yet. I’ll call it quits for now, but more to come on this subject later 🙂

International friends, what else have you experienced that’s different? Add yours in the comments!

Takeaway Tidbit: There’s more adjustments to life in London than accents and driving on the opposite side of the road.