Posts Tagged ‘Overseas’

California to London: My Personal Case Study

This could also be entitled, “Why moving away from my homeland has been the best decision of life and why all human beings should experience the same thing: a case study,” but I thought that would be entirely too long. Also, let me define: by case study, I mean my personal experience which, herein, will be used as a case study and the base for this discussion/monologue. I suppose it’s primarily intended for those who are looking to move away for graduate school, work or study abroad, but anyone with input, please comment away!

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I spoke with a friend of mine who, rather abruptly, gave up her life in Northern California to pursue a Marketing/PR internship opportunity that had arisen in LA. She had never lived away from her family and there was no pay attached to the internship period (although there were hopes of a future job opportunity), but working in public relations in the LA area had been her goal. About a month after her move (a couple of months before my move to London), I asked her about her feelings on moving away and starting an entirely new life. The verdict? Hard at first, but ultimately the most fulfilling adventure.

Now that I’ve been living in London for nearly four months, I would tend to agree with her perspective on the move. Although I miss my family, my friends and the relative normalcy (read: monotony) of life in Northern California, I can positively say that the path that I chose was undoubtedly the best personal decision of life, to date. The move has given me new perspective on relationships, on other cultures and on life.

Tiff & I <3.

Chris & I at The Lion King!

I have had the opportunity to look intently at my relationships and realize that the connections built in life don’t need to fade away just because the distance between two individuals grows; that physical proximity and emotional proximity are not linked, even in the slightest (although I’m sure the advent of social networking sites has helped make this much easier than it would have been 25 years ago)!

National Gallery

I have also been able to experience life in a foreign country and soak up all the nuances that come with it. Living life in a cosmopolitan city (London, Paris, New York, etc.) grants one the ability to marinate and grow in an undeniable melting pot. Daily, I find myself running into people from France, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Canada, Nigeria, Ghana (and the list goes on and on). In one term of classes, my eyes have already been opened to the vast differences in culture and individual perspectives; issues that I had been dealing with at home seem ridiculous when compared to famine and $1.25 per day that my classmates are familiar with. Moreover, it’s not just reading about these far-off places (Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda) and theorizing about how life is lived there; it’s a chance for me to talk with new friends about how their lives are and how their personal experiences have changed their personal paths.

Perhaps the best part about the move, though, is the fact that I now know that I am fully capable of being on my own in the world. Despite having lived away from my family for the past five years, I was close enough to know that I could call if ever there were an issue. Now, I am in a completely foreign country with an entirely new set of people surrounding me and amazing new experiences every day and I absolutely love every second of it. I know now that I am capable of keeping my options open after graduating, and living/working abroad without feeling detached. Instead of being scared of things, I feel as though now I have fully realized that every day brings something new: new people to meet, new things to learn, new mistakes to make and new ways to be a better, more fulfilled person.

So, for anyone wondering whether a move is a good decision: what is there to lose? Really? A small bit of income that can be regained? Leaving behind some friends that you can contact via Facebook and Skype? On the flip side, think of everything that you can gain from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I think in this case the reward is definitely worth the risk.

Lots of love from London,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

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Things I Miss: An Ode to the US.

If I could have snagged a glimpse into the future to see what I should have brought on my trip across the pond, I think that the space in my luggage would have been better allocated. I’ve had to call up the fam to have a few necessary items shipped over. Although the UK is much like the US in terms of grocery stores and offerings, there are a few items that I love (and miss!) that I can only find in the US. If you’re planning a move to Europe, here are a few things that you should consider bringing for a taste of home:

1. Deodorant. I had assumed that I could purchase my Secret solid here, but I searched to no avail. The only thing that Boots seems to carry is the anti-perspirant spray and a couple of old-school Ban roll-ons. No Secret or Degree in sight!

PB

2. Peanut Butter. Once in a while I love an english muffin (another item I can’t find here… such a misnomer!) with peanut butter and banana. Unfortunately, the peanut butter here literally tastes like crushed unsweetened peanuts mixed with butter; no good. If you’re a PB lover (or even a PB liker!) consider bringing a tub of Skippy. Don’t underestimate the power of good peanut butter!

Fiber One... *tear*

3. Fiber One Bars. You probably saw the previous post wherein I showcased the six boxes of Fiber One bars that my parents sent from the States — that’s no joke! I love to carry healthy bars to snack on and so far the only ones I’ve been able to find over here are Special K and Atkins. They’re alright, but they’re no FiberOne!

4. Orbit White Peppermint. I chew gum like it’s going out of style and the only gum that I keep handy is Orbit White (Peppermint flavor). The old-school stick gum weirds me out and every other Orbit White knock-off is mediocre. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a place that carries my beloved gum…

Any other Americans have things that wish they would have brought?

PS. If anyone knows where I can find any of the above items, please leave me a comment & let me know!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Onward to London!

It’s currently around 6:27P and I’m sitting at Gate 98 at San Francisco International watching planes depart. I’m staring at the black lit signage above my head that’s letting me know that my plane is next to leave, in forty-eight short minutes. It’s rather ominous actually. My grandma, dad and sister joined me to say goodbye and although it was a bit tearful, I have to admit that I definitely felt much stronger than I had anticipated. I thought I would be a wreck. So much so, in fact, that I packed cucumbers to use on my eyes to reduce to tear-induced swelling that I thought would be inevitable. As fate would have it, though, I’m sitting here, just twenty minutes after saying my goodbyes, rather tear-free and more excited than nervous.

Forty-six more minutes now. My handy ‘countdown clock’ on my laptop is counting down the seconds until departure, mind you. Tick, tick, tick. I’m armed with my laptop, my iPhone, some snacks (nectarines, cucumbers & baby carrots), the new Dan Brown novel (The Lost Symbol – which, by the way, is already fantastic), Benadryl to knock my ass out on the plane, and some make-up that will inevitably need to be touched up before arriving. The best part so far? My bags were overweight. Both of them. One weighed in at 56.5 and the other weighed in at 60.5, far surpassing the 50 pound per bag limit. All is well, though. I managed to take out a number of sweaters that were not totally necessary. Luckily, I have my family ready to ship a box of goodies over for me so the sweaters will find a home in there. I was actually still slightly overweight (51.5 and 52.5 pounds), but the guy let me through (thank goodness). I think I feel ready to go now, despite the 10+ hours that I will have to sit on a plane in anticipation.

Here I go! Off to London!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Jet Lag: Averted

Keep Jet Lag at Bay

It is my mission to be as jet lag-free as humanly possible when I arrive on Friday. My flight leaves San Francisco airport around 7P and arrive in London at 1:35P (UK time) on Friday. Considering it’s a straight, 10 hour flight, getting some sleep on the airplane should be relatively doable. I will hopefully be going to the Coldplay concert with my girlfriend on Friday night, so I MUST have the energy to be fun & enjoy it to the fullest. Here’s my plan of attack:

1. Lots of Water. Although this will inevitably result in heightened lavatory use, I think water is key on a long flight like this. Many experts think that lack of hydration = increased jet lag, so pumping in some serious H2O should hopefully help on this front.

2. A one cup of coffee limit. Please. We know that this is relatively impossible considering the ridiculous amount of caffeine I tend to consume, but if dehydration = jet lag, and caffeine = dehydration, then it follows that caffeine must increase jet lag (If a = b, and b = c, then a must equal c, right?) This is going to be quite a task, but I’m going to try to drink WATER only… I said try, mind you.

3. Sleeeeeep. Since there are no stops to wake me up on this flight, I think that catching some shut-eye will be amazing, if possible. I have a relatively difficult time sleeping on planes unless someone I know is with me. I’m going to pop a couple of pills before I get on the plane to help knock me out (Benadryl, perhaps?), plus I’m toting a mini pillow (courtesy of grandma) and an eye mask… maybe some earplugs are in order, as well (I don’t know if there are any pesky children on this flight, after all.)

4. Pack My Own Snacks. I don’t think airplane food is all that awful, but I definitely prefer to bring my own healthy snacks in case hunger strikes. There’s something comforting (for me) about eating something that I know is good for my body. I’m packing a bag of mini carrots and cucumbers (which may double as puffy-eye deflators) and some trail mix.

Does anyone have good tips on avoiding jet lag?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

On Board with the Skype Subscription!

Skype I’m pretty obsessed with staying connected; I don’t think that’s much of a secret to anyone. I think that technology is an amazing thing and I am so grateful for the internet, email and facebook! I have been able to meet so many LSEers through facebook forums and make friends before even setting foot on British soil. Now that I’m only a week or so out from the big move, staying connected to my family is number one on my mind. As a going away gift, my awesome sister got me (amongst other very cool things) a web cam with built-in audio to use with my Skype account! I’ve been using Skype for about a year now and have used it primarily in an instant messaging capacity. While I was in England this past February visiting London and Manchester, I was actually able to use Skype as a phone service to talk with my sister and Chris while overseas and I was thoroughly amazed with the sound quality — it was better than a normal phone!

Since Skype is 100% free for PC-to-PC use, I figured that the basic (free) Skype would be the main form of communication between myself and my family in the US. Today, however, I signed up for a US/Canada subscription with Skype and I am obsessed! For anyone that doesn’t know about this yet, you can get a “subscription” for $2.95 per month or $30 per year that allows you to call any landline or cell phone in the US or Canada from your PC! You get unlimited calls plus you get a number of other affiliated features and a discount on a Skype “phone number”. Since my grandma is unlikely to actually use Skype or a webcam at any point, I can now call her house at any time from my PC without having to purchase a calling card or pay ridiculous international fees. Although I purchased the US/Canada subscription since my roots are in California, there are a number of subscriptions available including an Unlimited Country subscription that runs $5.95 per month and allows you unlimited calls to a country of your choice (there are loads of countries that are a part of this scheme — everyone from Argentina to Thailand!), an Unlimited Mexico subscription that runs $5.95 per month,  and an Unlimited World subscription that runs $12.95 per month and allows unlimited calls in 40 different countries! Also, for iPhone users, there’s a Skype app for iPhone that is totally free and incredibly handy!

Equipped with my handy web cam and a Skype subscription, I am definitely ready to rule the world. Or at least the internet.

If you’re a Skyper, too, leave me a comment with your Skype info and I’ll add you to my account!

Happy Skyping!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Bonnes Nouvelles — Le visa vient!

Fantastic news, friends:

My UK Student Visa is on the way!

passport

I am beyond excited right now — the visa was essentially the last component to get the move completely under control and as of yesterday, everything is secure. Now that all of the stressful paperwork is in order, I can get excited and not worry about being stranded in the United States sans student visa.

FYI for those that are still waiting, here’s an idea of the time frame from start to finish:

July 29th, 2009 // Sent my visa from Sacramento, California with package tracking
August 3, 2009 // Package arrived in Los Angeles (per tracking #)
August 17, 2009 // Received an email from VisaInfoLA noting that my visa was beginning to process
August 25, 2009 // Visa approved and UPS Tracking Number was sent via email
August 26, 2009 // Got a call from UPS noting that my package was overnighted and would be arriving today!

About a month from start to finish to receive the visa, possibly a little more now since they’re pretty backed up, but on the brightside — once it is approved, it should be delivered within 1 – 2 business days!

Super happy travels!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

I’ll take a copy of that, please!

travel documentsAs I was puttering around the house yesterday, I was flip-flopping between shopping online for new cool weather clothing and making a list of documents that I would need to carry with me whilst on my impending excursion. I recall fairly vividly a communications class that I endured wherein a student did a presentation on documents that one should keep copies of, in case of an emergency. I made a list for myself and will be making copies this week: one copy for myself and one copy to leave for my parents (so they have information to reference in the off chance that my originals AND my copies go missing!)

I will be making copies of my passport, my visa and my California driver’s license. Although I will have to carry the originals with me, a second copy is going to go in my checked baggage for two reasons: 1) if the luggage is lost, there is identification and information that links the items to me, specifically; 2) if any of the almighty identification documents go missing at any point, I have a copy to reference. The copy does not serve the same purpose as the original, of course, but keeping a copy can never hurt (in case it needs to be referenced).

Also, I will be keeping a copy of necessary paperwork (of which I will also carry the original): my acceptance letter from LSE, my visa letter awarded by LSE, my loan guarantee form provided by my lender, my HSBC account information to show the bank upon arrival and open an account, and a list of emergency contacts. If I were taking prescription medication, I would likely keep a list of this with me as well, along with the side of effects of said meds. As I don’t take any as of now, this will be one less thing to think about.

Now that I have been wielding the limitless powers of the iPhone, I have been downloading some very cool and handy apps (see yesterday’s post!) As luck would have it, I ran across one of the handiest apps ever, Evernote. The program works in a few different capacities and it’s an all-around handy tool if you use it properly. You can download the desktop versionof Evernote, access the Evernote website and download the iPhone Evernote app. It’s essentially an archive-type software where you can create “notes” on information you would like to access; the notes can take the form of written text, voice notes, photographs, PDFs, etc. (The upgraded version, which costs $5 per month, allows all different types of file formats, whereas the free version is limited to some basic types – PDF & JPG… still great!) 

I bring this up for a very important reason: I use this app to keep my important documentation with me at all times! Through the Evernote website, I created a free account where I uploaded scans of my passport, my ID, my flight information, my HSBC account and my LSE acceptance letters. Now, since it syncs automatically, on my phone (where the Evernote app is installed) I can access all of this information with a swift click! Voila!

For people that are looking for something slightly more sophisticated, I also ran across a website called My Online Safe, a more sophisticated, password protected archive system. It’s $49 for the year and you can keep scans of all of your important documentation. If you have an internet connection and a printer, you can print out all of these goodies in flash! I personally like Evernote, due to the fact that it’s free and it serves essentially the same functions, but I can definitely see the benefits of My Online Safe!

Also, on a side note, I paid for and printed out my visa application and have scheduled a biometrics appointment for this week! I feel like the final pieces of the puzzle are coming together, which is such a relief. I’m waiting on a piece of documentation from my lender that states that the loan money that I have been awarded is guaranteed. Once that official paperwork arrives, it will be shipped out in an envelope along with my filled out application, my biometric scan information, my official LSE acceptance and Visa letter and  my undergraduate transcripts, and — provided everything goes as planned — I should be awarded my visa within 15 days of applying! Such a relief to have all of this paperwork out of the way!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon