Posts Tagged ‘planning’

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!



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:


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

What’s with the Disbursements?!


{I’ve been looking at these pictures to calm my financial concerns — if the year is amazing then it nullifies any exchange rate/financial concerns, right?}


I recently received the paperwork for my loans detailing the loan money I would be receiving for the coming year. The money more than sufficiently covers the “tuition + maintenance funds” criteria detailed in the UK Visa application process, so that works perfectly! The loans, however, aren’t disbursed to me, they are disbursed to the academic institution (LSE, in this case) and the extra funds that aren’t used to pay tuition are sent to me. Now, this wouldn’t irritate me quite so much if the school took the entire tuition payment up front at the beginning of the year and sent the rest over to me. Instead, the school takes disbursements: one in September, one in January and one in April and I get the extra at each given payment period. If it were a US-based institution, my only issue would be the fact that I couldn’t have all of the money up front to manage on my own (versus the school managing my disbursements), but since this is a foreign institution, I have to deal with a whole other facet: the exchange rate! As of this moment, the exchange rate is $1.649… definitely not the best, but I can deal with it. If the exchange rate goes up even more in the coming months then my money is worth even less!

I’m not entirely sure how they do it… it would seem logical to take all of the money, convert it and pull disbursements at the three given points in time (to reduce exchange rate exposure/transaction exposure), but I highly doubt it’s that efficient. In the case that they take the three disbursement at the exchange rate on the given day, I am crossing my fingers that the exchange rate will drop, like many professionals have projected. (Note: Many forex pros that I have spoken with have said that they feel the exchange rate will go down/the US dollar will strengthen, however the exchange rate has not dropped at all as of late. In fact, it has increased in the last couple of months, leading to a definitely loss of faith in my ‘sources’.)

Although it’s a little irritating, I’m trying my best to not let these things bother me, since they’re not under my control. Getting upset clearly doesn’t solve anything and just puts me in a bad mood. Maybe if we collectively think happy thoughts, the exchange rate will become more favorable! We should probably start now!

Talk soon,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Packing & Shipping Overseas!

luggage tag

I have been giving a lot of consideration to the fact that I have to somehow manage to pack my entire life into two suitcases and a carry-on, per US Airways’ guidelines. This is so absurdly unrealistic for me! Now, it’s not so much that I don’t want to pay for the extra piece of luggage; I don’t mind the cost so much, it’s more of facing the reality that it’s going to be physically impossible for me to carry 3 huge bags, a carry-on and a personal item from the airport to my final destination. Sadly, I’m just not big enough to handle the task. I have since been perusing the Internet to find a (relatively) inexpensive way to ship all of my extra items overseas. My coats, shoes, some extra personal items and my sleeping bag will probably be shipped over to me instead of joining me on the actual trip from San Francisco.

Thus far, I’ve run into USPS as a legitimate option as FedEx and UPS are extremely overpriced for the most part. I have also heard mention of EMS, although I am not very familiar with the organization; it looks like an Asian-based company from the looks of their website. I visited all of the websites and calculated shipping for one 65 pound box from California to London with their least expensive options.

USPS :: $208.53
UPS :: $389.09
FedEx :: $482.31

USPS is by far the winner on this front! $208 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s way better than $400+!

Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

What’s the best way to get everything overseas without spending a bundle?!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Malta, here I come!

After holding my grandfather’s memorial yesterday and meeting so many amazing Maltese people, I cannot WAIT to head over to Malta later this year or early next year. Considering I will be a short four hours from the island, it seems logical that I’d be able to make it over there for a three or four day stint. I snagged an academic calendar off of the internet which I think should be pretty accurate when I’m there (although I still have to verify!):

Autumn Term
28 September – 11 December

Spring Term
8 January – 19 March
19 April – 18 June

19 June – September

Obviously, a chunk of that break time is dedicated to studying & writing papers, but some of it will definitely be used for exploring. March might be a nice month for a trip over to Malta, Sicily & Italy — take note, Staci & Stefanie! I definitely want to take a trip to see Mosta (where my grandpa was born) and Qormi (where my mom was born), but what else should we be visiting? For those of you that have been to Malta or have lived (or currently live) there… what are your suggestions?

Thanks for the suggestions — can’t wait to see my Maltese family sometime soon!