Posts Tagged ‘Packing’

Prepping for an Early Morning Mediterranean Excursion!

Now that today is my last day of term, I finally feel the excitement for Malta building up! Not that I wasn’t excited before, mind you, but I felt so consumed by all things school-related that I didn’t really have time or energy to get as excited as I should have! Despite the fact that I’m 75% Maltese, I have yet to visit the hailed archipelago and am beyond excited to see my homeland (if you will) and check out the places where my mom and grandpa were born! Now, before the excitement can really begin, there are a few minor things to get in order: packing, getting to the airport and purchasing a thank you gift! Our flight leaves at 715A on Sunday from Gatwick airport which means that we have to be there by around 530A to check in and get through security. We’re flying Easy Jet, which means we can only bring one piece of hand luggage free of charge, anything that gets checked in is a charge (£18 per piece). Despite the fee, I’m opting to bring some luggage. Unlike American Airlines or British Airways, you’re not allowed a carry-on AND a “personal item”. Your personal item would qualify as your carry-on. Thus, since I’m bringing a laptop and other goodies, a checked bag is pretty necessary for five days worth of garb. Also, if I didn’t mention this before — Easy Jet is spectacular! We got our roundtrip flights for £58.

Now, here’s our very minor predicament: We need to be at Gatwick airport by 530A. We’re opting to take the Gatwick Express, which leaves from Victoria station, instead of EasyBus (or a similar service) because it’s so quick and convenient. At 430A, I’m all about quick and convenient. That being said, I need to actually get to Victoria Station. The problem? The tube is closed that early in the morning. So, to manage everything that morning, I’m booking a cab (which, FYI, charge a higher start rate when booked — convenience fee, perhaps?) Here’s our plan of attack to make it to the airport:

415A: Cab pick-up at my flat
430A: Pick up Al from her flat
440A: Get to Victoria Station
510A: Arrive at Gatwick on the Express!

I’m hoping that the Gatwick Express is as great as the Heathrow Express! Lindsay and I opted for the latter when we were heading to Heathrow for our Italian adventure. It’s £16ish for a one-way ticket, but it’s honestly so convenient! We were there in less than 30 minutes and it was so much more comfortable than a bus. EasyBus is another options for travelers looking to get some where on the cheap (I think Alex & I paid £6 each way when we went to Germany). The bus does take quite a bit longer though and it’s not nearly as comfortable!

I think I finally have everything in order. The only other bit on my agenda is purchasing a thank you gift for my Maltese family. They have been kind enough to allow us to stay with them for our five day stint and I’m trying to find the perfect something to say thank you.

Any ideas on an appropriate thank you gift?

Hitting up Borough Market tomorrow morning for a last bit of London love before my Malta/Scotland whirlwind adventure!

xoxo,

Realization.

LSE Beaver

You know when things are just surreal? When everything around you just seems like a dream and you’re waiting to wake up? That sums up my life at this moment quite well. I just finished packing the two suitcases that contain my life for the next twelve-plus months, and am slowly putting the finishing touches on my carry-on. As I put away my Let’s Go Europe book and zipped up a pouch of toiletries, it dawned on me: I am leaving the United States in two short days. I have one real day left in the US, and then I will be sitting on a flight to the United Kingdom, courtesy of United Airlines. Not only am I moving to another country, I’m moving to another country to study at one of the best institutions in the world. If ever there were one single word needed to describe this university, “institution” sums it up pretty effectively: educating the likes of John F. Kennedy, fifteen Nobel prize winners, a load of Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings and Queens speaks volumes. Whomever looked through my application and decided that I should study at the same institution that bred that prominence is my new hero. There is such a mixture of excitement (for the opportunity to study at such a magnificent university) and nervousness (for fear of being overwhelmed by the brilliance of it all). I find that for me, the nerves typically breed greatness; at the times when I fear failure in any capacity, I put in that much more time and effort into being able to compete and succeed.

One of the underlying reasons for deciding to study in Europe was to create an inherent opportunity to travel and see the world. I truly feel that experiencing the way that other people live is an eye-opening, life-altering experience that is necessary for total self-actualization. I don’t fully think that I can be the greatest version of myself without knowing everything that is out in the world. There are people to meet, perspectives to understand and valuable lessons to learn, and without having gained that worldly knowledge, your world stunts you; it is too small for you to fully grow and develop. That essentially sums up my greatest goal for the year. To grow and develop. In every possible capacity; as an academic, as a youth of the world and as a human being. Everyone talks about how experiences like this change your life and your views forever. At this point in my life, I think I’m more than open to that.

So, in conclusion, here’s to an amazing year; a year of change, a year of growth and a year of amazing adventures.

Now I’m off to enjoy my last few moments in the States.

Lots of love,

SignatureStamp

Here’s an undergrad lesson for those not versed in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (summed up in a super-fun pyramid):

Maslow

 

My Name is Shannon and I’m a Bum.

I didn’t make it a point to get to bed at a decent hour last night and my alarm didn’t scream at 6:15A like it normally does. It’s currently 745A and I’m sitting in my kitchen, sipping home-brewed coffee, browsing Nordstrom’s website and organizing my online life (read: unsubscribing to emails from a million obscure websites that bombard my inbox) before leaving for England on Thursday. It feels like a three-day weekend today; the Monday after Labor Day, perhaps. It still hasn’t hit me that I have opted to be a jobless bum for an indefinite period of time. My schedule today is filled with the oh-so-important tasks of shopping, gymming, tanning, laundry and packing. It’s truly bizarre because I haven’t been jobless since I was 15ish and now my “job” is to be a super student and traveler extraordinaire (and blogger, of course). If that’s the case, I suppose I should hope to graduate with a Masters with distinction (or high distinction, if such a thing is humanly possible) and should return next year with the most amazing pictures ever! On the traveling front (to ease my bummy nerves), I do have trips to Germany, Malta, Italy & Greece nearly set in stone, and getaways to Scotland, Ireland and France are a must considering their proximity to England! In any case, before I start thinking about those fun-filled adventures, I’m off to Kohl’s to stock up on an array of socks and shoe inserts.

Don’t be jealous.

Hope everyone’s having an amazing day at work!

Shannon

PS. As a side note, I tried Skype with my iPhone last night (with no phone plan or SIM card or anything!) and it worked like a charm! Provided you have internet access (and the Skype subscription — $30 a year to the US and Canada), you can call any landline or cell — CRYSTAL clear!

PPS. Buy one, get one 50% off at H&M! Download the coupon here.

Nine Days Until Liftoff!

I was lounging around yesterday, playing Trivial Pursuit with my family, when I realized that there were only ten days left in the United States to enjoy that type of family-oriented leisure. As of this morning, there are nine short days left until I leave, and although that is fast approaching, I find that I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be. I feel as though I have done well to organize everything in advance and knowing that my bank account, my phone, my housing and my finances are in order (as much as they can be!), help make the trip more exciting and less nerve-wracking. I got my official email from the housing department at LSE noting that I secured a standard single room (not the big one that I had hoped) and am looking at about £163.66 per week (£654.64 for the month, to save you the calculation), which is about $1080 at the current exchange rate ($1.65). It’s definitely not cheap, but it does include the room, kitchen, lounge, computer area, utilities and internet (a must)! I’ve heard that the rooms tend to vary a bit in size, so I’m really (really!) crossing my fingers that it ends up being on the larger end. Either way, the area is so prime, that I have every reason to be ecstatic about this situation.

I have to re-cap my weekend since it was rather eventful and totally fun! I spent tons of time with family and friends. Friday night, my sister took me out to sushi at one of my favorite places downtown, Tamaya. We got t0 spend some time bonding over one-too-many rolls & some amazing lychee martinis (their lychee sake is equally tantalizing). I love my sister to death so the realization that we only get a few more nights like that together was a little bittersweet.

Sisters 4

Saturday morning, after an 8AM 60-minute cardio sesh (which made my life), my grandma, dad and I headed over to Starbucks for coffee and conversation. Definitely a perfect way to start the day — we all ended up going to my parent’s house for dinner that night and followed the food up with a riveting game of Trivial Pursuit (which we are now obsessed with). I was able to spend Sunday with my friends, which was much-needed. My friend, Hilary, was in town from LA and we were able to get together for a couple of hours on Sunday and catch up — she always puts a smile on my face so it was good seeing her! By the way, check out her hilarious license plate:

HilLicensePlate

Afterwards, I met up with Laura to chat about London! Laura & I have known each other for years (twelve, perhaps) and she studied in London a few years back and lived a short walk away from my soon-to-be home. She has been an awesome source of information plus an inspiration on the finance front — she managed to travel on a serious budget, which has helped me put things into perspective! Side note: I still need some consolation on this front — I keep worrying that $15,000 won’t be enough for food, travel & basic necessities (toiletries, cell phone, gym, etc.)… I don’t have a reason to worry, right?

Yesterday, I finished the majority of my packing, which was way less stressful than I had imagined and way more successful than I had hoped. I managed to fit a ton into one suitcase and the second suitcase (that I am currently working on) is housing shoes and some soon-to-be-washed clothing (lots of jeans and basics that are frequently worn).

My goal for today is to gather all of the needed paperwork and organize them into a neat packet to have everything I need on hand while at the airport (in SF & London). My plan is to make two copies: one extra copy to stash in a suitcase, and a set to give to my parents (just in case)!

Paperwork That’s Getting Packed:

* Passport/Visa
* LSE Acceptance Letter
* Housing Confirmation Letter
* Loan Confirmation
* Flight Confirmations:
– SFO to LHR
– LHR to MUC (Oktoberfest)
– MUC to LHR
*  Dot2Dot Chauffeur Service Confirmation
* HSBC Paperwork (to open bank account)

I’m half way sure that that’s all the paperwork I need to keep on hand, but I’ll have to keep that list updated as I find new things to add to it!

Nine days until departure!

Anyone else have a fun-filled three-day weekend?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Friday Already?!

MACEyeshadows

I absolutely cannot believe that it’s Friday already. Last time I checked it was Monday, but somehow that really long day morphed into Friday which will, in turn, morph into a much-needed three-day weekend packed with working out, tanning, relaxation and packing. Although the week has flown by, on the whole it has been rather productive. My suitcases had found a home deep in the corner of a room where the sight of them constantly haunted me — “start packing your bags, Shannon… only 14 days left.” It’s true. As of today, there are only 13 days left until I’m on a plane to begin my year overseas. Considering how fast time has flown in the past few months, I thought it best to get a move on on the packing front. I managed to pack almost one full suitcase with loads of goodies (a surprising amount) and still have one and a quarter suitcases + a carry-on to fill with pieces of my life. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, I managed to fit a peacoat, a trench coat, a few smaller jackets, fifteen or so sweaters, some tops, leggings, five scarves, a few dresses, some hats, my make-up, a pair of shoes, and some other items into 3/4 of a bag using the highly-respected rolling method. It’s pretty exciting to see how small an otherwise large item can become once it’s rolled tightly into a neat wad. The packing has been very encouraging thus far, but I will keep you posted on the happiness/packing factor come next week.

Also, whilst packing I made a list of all of the makeup that I have, in addition to the items that I need to stock up on prior to the move. After filling three-plus pages with fancy names for eyeshadows, lipglosses, lipsticks and pigments, I have come to realize that I have purchased way too many of MAC‘s coveted beauty bits over the years. On the bright side, the only things I needed (I use that term very loosely in this context) to purchase were a new mascara (for back up), a backup of my most favorite lipstick (Creme d’Nude — best lipstick on the market), a backup eye kohl and a couple new shadows, of which the lipstick and eyeshadow were free courtesy of the Back to MAC program.

Also, since the MAC store abuts the Aldo store, you know I had to pop in to see if they had cute/comfy, walking boots. I should have never had a doubt that my favorite shoe store in the world would come through for me!

IllsleyAldoI adore these boots because they’re versatile, canvas-y and the buckle details are darling! To boot (no pun intended), they have a built in 3″ wedge to give me the lift I’m looking for without the standard stiletto heel. I am in loovvvve with them and so far (for the ten minutes I’ve worn them), they are comfortable.

Hope everyone else is having a productive week! Have an amazing three-day weekend!

THIRTEEN DAYS LEFT!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Rainy Days & Mondays.

I’m trying to get over  rainy days getting me down, seeing as how there will be a lot of those coming up. The Mondays, though… well, they’re not so fun. Weekends never seem to last long enough and Mondays come around entirely too quickly. Despite having a (semi-) fun-filled weekend, the scream of my alarm at 615A was definitely not welcomed. On the bright side, I did get to spend Saturday soaking up the sunshine, which was pleasant. Today marks 30 days until the big move (September 17th!), so I’m trying to get in as much sunshine & tanning as possible before sunshine becomes an enigma known only in my dreams.

LSE2

With thirty short days left, what’s on my calendar?

What still needs to be done?

1) Visa. I have applied for my visa, of course, but I have yet to hear back from the LA office. They received the package on the 3rd of August, so I should know within the next few days whether or not it has been approved. Once that’s done, my stress will be hugely relieved.

2) Packing. I have begun the packing process, but I (obviously) still have a lot to sort out. I feel relatively unorganized in this arena: I have jackets, sweaters, pants, dresses, etc. packed, but I feel like there’s an entire world of items that I haven’t given enough consideration. I will be buying shampoo, conditioner, etc. once I’m over there (to save the space & weight of those items) and will be traveling with mini, travel-sized versions, in lieu.

3) Shopping. Oh, I do plenty of this, but I still have to go out and get a few things that I don’t want to have to worry about overseas: some back-up make up, new brushes, sunless tanning lotion, etc. For the most part, my shopping is complete, but there are a few beauty items that I need to acquire before leaving (as to not deal with exchange rate fluctuations and already high prices in London).

4) Ethernet Cable. I can get one of these guys whilst overseas, but since I’m addicted to be connected, I would like to take one over with me so I can plug in as soon as I’m on-site!

HoughtonStreet

What’s done, already?

1) Bank Account. I’ve already applied for a bank account with HSBC and have gotten the majority of that hassle out of the way. I just need to pop into a location, show them my CA ID & my passport and I’m golden!

2) My Phone. My glorious iPhone is already in hand. I just need to get to an O2 store and sign up for their SIM Only – Simplicity plan.

3) Chauffeur Service. Since I’ll be arriving at Heathrow with huge bags in tow, I will be needing some serious assistance and am definitely not opting to take the tube. I have booked my trip with Dot2Dot and have them picking me up from the airport & dropping me off at my new home!

4) Luggage. After perusing the aisles of discount stores, I now have two 29″ bags plus an awesome carry-on in which to take my life.

5) Visa. I have to consider the hardest part of this done — it’s sent in with all of the necessary information. I just need to wait for it to be approved. (*Please be approved, please be approved.*)

6) Classes. Now that the provisional timetable for classes has been posted, I have been able to go through and check out the availability of classes and see what my schedule will tentatively look like — as of now, no Friday classes!

7) LSE e-mail. I am the proud owner of an LSE email address: s.e.falzon@lse.ac.uk. Lovely.

I can’t believe how fast the summer has come and gone!
Thirty days left until I’m wandering the streets of London!

Lots of love,

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