Calling all Loaners…

sorry, i couldn’t think of any other tile, but we are getting closer to adventures in London!


Blue Eyed London. London Eye, London, England. Summer, 2013.

The basic progress for this week is pretty simple: I finished my loan paperwork and am now waiting for my school to get back to me so I can start in on my Visa…

It’s one slow going step at a time as my deadlines creep steadily closer… awesome.

So, last week I gave some of the basics of the process I am undergoing, but now that I’ve actually gone through the documents, there are more technical aspects I can guide you through.

No matter how many charts and checklists I had on hand, I was still pretty lost when it came to getting through all my loan documents. The sites don’t give all the information one may need at first glance and that makes it hard to decipher exactly what papers you need to complete.

The steps before getting onto the main portion of the Loan process was the primary focus of last week—filling out FAFSA early and making sure all your answers are correct. You should read your SAR (Student Aid Report) and the “Comments about Your Information” section and resolve any issues under the “What you must do now” section. If there were any issues you should submit any documents mentioned in the latter section with the rest of your application.

The next parts of the Loan process can be done through Student Loans website after you receive your student number. I believe this can technically be done before you officially accept your offer (something I wish you knew before this late in the game), but I’m not 100% sure of this.

Once you are ready to start the Loan process (and I’d have time open as the whole process is easier if you can do it in one go. Some parts are, in fact, required to be completed in a single seating.), you can log into the site with your FAFSA login information and run through the side bar to get comfortable with all the options there.


Step one is completing your Entrance Counselling for “Stafford for undergraduates/Stafford and PLUS combined for postgraduates.” You can find this on the main page under “Entrance Counselling” or in the side bar under the “Counselling” heading. After you fill out the pages (it’s really just answering the quiz questions so they know you are reading it all), take a screenshot and/or save the completion certificate PDF for later use. Printing out a copy of your counselling is a good option for keeping your own documents up to date. If you forget this step, you can also take a screenshot of your completed counselling log found in the same counselling section with the link “View completed counselling”


Step two is working through your Stafford loan and your Stafford MPN (Master Promissory Note). The problem I ran into on this step was that “Stafford” was not one of the listed choices—not until you open the document you actually need. It is located under the heading “Master Promissory Note” under which is the link to “Complete MPN.” This will load a page with three options. The first option “Subsidized/Unsubsidized” is your link to the Stafford Loan MPN. Fill out all the paperwork (it takes about 30 minute which you’ll need to complete in one sitting) and then download and save your MPN for your records and later use. As a grad student, you can borrow up to $20,500 and no credit check is required if you only want a Stafford Loan.


Step three of this process (if you will need more than what is offered through a Stafford loan), is to take out a Grad PLUS Loan and fill out the related MPN, if this is your education level (I am a postgraduate, therefore, this is the loan I needed). The only reason you would have to apply for these loans is if you are borrowing more than $20,500 (the maximum Stafford loan) and then, yes, a credit check is part of this process. Remember, you can only borrow up to your COA (Cost of Attendance) which is a monetary sum sent to you in your school acceptance letter. When it comes to the amount you are borrowing, you have a few options including naming an amount (do NOT ask for more than your COA) or letting your school determine the maximum. Once you finish your papers and the MPN, just like with all the other documents, you should save the documents and have it ready for future use (Including your credit check).


Each of these forms will have an email sent to you informing you that the school of choice has been notified your completion and sent your documents into them. However, as your school—if you are going overseas for studies—will probably inform you, these documents aren’t really of much use to them. Instead, they need each student to fill out a few extra papers (for me, this was my paperwork checklist with my COA and the funding I wish to pursue, and a completed and attached the Tuition Fee Instalment Request Form) and send these papers along with the downloaded loan papers and MPNs to the financial office.

About two weeks later, you should receive a letter and/or packet with your loan package which you can then use to fill out you visa paperwork… FINALLY!

So in the interim (hopefully just next week), we’ll cover the Visa prep check list with any preliminary documents one may need and any other bits of prep and tips I can scrounge up. Hopefully I’ll make some housing headway, as well.

Yep, lots to cover as we proceed, but I hope this was helpful.

Until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

Calling all Loaners…

Jumping into the Next Adventure…

An American Grad student in London!


The London Eye. London, England. Summer, 2013.

…Well, almost. I’ll be moving out in September (barring any Visa troubles) and if I thought the process of applications while planning my sister’s wedding was complicated, there’s no way I was prepared for after accepting my place.

So here it is, a quick run through of my to-do list and some preliminary steps to taking each step on.

First things first, as an American student looking at schooling overseas, FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) is a must. Look early for the deadlines and read everything. If you filed a tax return, have your information handy and the process will run more quickly and practically hassle free. If you forget this last part, they’ll email you back saying that going through your IRS tax form is the easiest way and walk you through the steps, but this takes longer. If you do get this email, respond right away as well. Yes, I know we’re all busy and you can wait and fix details in you paperwork for a while before the final deadline but really why would you want to?

And I know some people don’t want the hassle of filling out the paperwork or don’t want to take on loans that will inevitably put them in debt, but seriously, fill it out. Filling out FAFSA in no way requires you to take any of the money and we’ll get to why having some of this debt while preparing may help a little Visa-wise later.

So, here’s the confusing part:

You file for FAFSA and they’ll give you an estimate based on everything you have sent them (independent, overseas schools, annual income, ect). However, it’s the school that ultimately lets you know your FAFSA information.

Why, you ask?

Because overseas schools don’t actually take FAFSA! (Stay with me here.) For these schools, FAFSA is a number that let’s them determine you eligibility to borrow US federal Loans by producing an SAR (Student Aid Report). Then if you are eligible, you can borrow up to your COA (Cost of Attendance).

I mean REALLY with all the abbreviations! It’s like alphabet soup in here!

SO anyway, the reason that this is good even if it kind of kicks your but later is in order for your Visa to be approved you have to have a certain amount of money (and not in bonds or the like, but in withdrawable accounts) available for them to view for a whole 28 days BEFORE you apply. This money is the sum of your year’s tuition and 9 months of an average Cost of Living for the area you’ll be living in for the year—basically, a whole lot of money. And the account holding the funds can’t drop below the amount factoring in the fluctuating exchange rates.  Luckily, if you provide evidence for multiple accounts, the funds don’t all need to be sitting in a single account for that whole span.

And again, back to why FAFSA and getting loans can help here. Any money that does not come directly to you or through you (or anyone you know who is helping you pay), and anything you have already paid to the school, gets taken out of that total. So let’s say you have a loan through this Visa process that covers half of everything. You then (if you show all the proper paper work), only need the other half for those 28 days. The catch is you need to be sure of these funds because if you guess, go ahead with your Visa and then your funding falls through, your Visa will be denied for lack of funds!


So, here you are, you’ve done your FAFSA, put down your deposit for school and accepted your place (YAAAAAY!), Now your school gives you a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) Number which basically means your school has said that, yes, they have accepted you and you them, and that they are your “sponsor”—this does not necessarily mean financially.

Well, it’s time to get started on Visa documents, and since that’s my adventure this week, I’ll let you know next time!


The nice thing about being a student is most schools I’ve found have been pretty helpful by answering any questions I have and sending me information on all the paperwork I have to make my way through now. My chosen school has sent me check lists, flow charts and requests for question chats through the computer or over the phone.

Still it’s a lot of work to get through.

But I say, take it in stride. The adventure that allows you to go on your actual adventure.

I’ll tell you more next week as I venture further into this work and let you know how I’m getting on.

But, until then,

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

Jumping into the Next Adventure…

My Home-Locked Summer…

…living and planning vicariously.


Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly, South Wales. Summer 2013.

So, if it hasn’t been obvious up to this point, I’m not traveling this summer—not unless you count the odd weekend away or day trip. This summer I am homebound; working, taking part in my sister’s wedding (blessedly over this Friday!), and getting everything from funding to paperwork squared away for moving to London this September.

All this adds up tone LONG summer of living vicariously through my friends’ facebook and blog posts and, of course, writing this blog.

This summer, it feels like everyone I know is off having adventures. I’ve gotten to see the Louvre, the Coliseum, the white building skyline of Greece, the London Eye, the Cliffs of Mohr and so much more than I could ever list here flooding my feeds with the faces of friends and much colored commentary.

It’s been pretty fabulous, but also has my inner travel bug pushing at the seams to get out!

But alas, homebound (and not the nice post trip kind either!).

If you’ve ever been part of a wedding, you’ll understand the major time—not to mention funds— suck I am in the middle of. And planning and saving up for grad school is no picnic either.

Now that I’ve heard from my final school, the next few months—unless anyone has any topic suggestions they have been hankering to read about—will be on the process of getting my butt in gear while it’s all happening—sounds fun, right?

Well, hopefully it’ll be entertaining for any of you who are thinking of—or who have already undertaken—this undertaking.

Anyway, what I have observed—which is the point of this post—is the speed at which my fellow Americans travel the globe. I mean, I’ve known this and have heard others from other countries comments and questions on what we even see at the rate we travel, but it hasn’t been until I’ve seen friend after friend post an “I’m here!” post one day, only to read “and now a whole new country” two or three days later.

I understand getting the most out of your travel days— as Americans, we tend to hit a certain point in our careers where the only parts of other countries we see is either on film or the inside of their office buildings and conference rooms; which I have to say SUCKS!—but I feel like I miss some of the atmosphere when I am having to move at lightning fast speeds. You also definitely tend to hit only the highlights and not the hidden gems in this travel.

Maybe I’m not really one to talk; I’ve covered four countries in the span of 5 weeks but I still wasn’t satisfied. I wanted so much more time!

So, I guess my question for this homebound summer is, how can one find the happy medium between seeing everything beyond the pages of your travel guide, make the most of your always limited travel time and still be satisfied with what you’ve gotten?

Or, maybe that’s the point. I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and so now—no matter how much I love my LA valley girl life of sunny beach days—scheduled and monitored vacation days aren’t going to be enough to see everywhere. I’ll be going places over and over again to search out every gem imaginable—

Sounds like a life I can get behind.

So, I have discovered that living vicariously is a bittersweet experience but it’ll tide me over, and, for now, I’ll be starting to turn the page to a new chapter and adventure. I hope you enjoy the read and the ride.

As always,

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.


My Home-Locked Summer…

Double dog dare…

…yourself. (Within measure!)


Below the Bridge. Waterloo Bridge, London, England. Summer 2013.

So, one thing I have learned from traveling and entering (read: planning!) this new chapter of my life in a new and exciting adventure is that there are times when you just have to dive in.

I am lucky enough to be… full of moxie, as one might say. I don’t know how it happened but I’ve been one to jump into life choices and then halfway through have to pause and say, “Wow. Look at this. How did I get here?” (I’m working on embracing the experience, rather than freaking out half way through, of course. We’re all works in progress, right?)

From joining a boys’ football team and becoming a student ambassador and traveling without my family in middle school, to going out to a club with strange boys in Dublin, to applying to grad school and moving to a new country within a span 6 months, I plot quickly and take a leap.

Yes, I know that this is a blog that is (primarily) about planning trips and adventure and really pushing the research aspect of said planning, but I’ve also said that there are plenty of things that can’t be planned for.
And even more, there are times when you really don’t want to have it all planned.

I have a friend (and this really isn’t code for me) who can’t take a leap; instead she sits around, taking her cues from those around her. Luckily, she does have people who push her to take small steps outside of her comfort zone and therefore has stories to rival pretty much any go-getter.

This is fine; great really. Except for one small issue: It’s never on her own.
One thing I have discovered about life in my 23 years here is that you’ve got to have some passion and let it lead you. The key to diving in is to embrace the experience. Thomas Edison made the point that something not working isn’t failure if you don’t give up; you simply find a thousand (or however many times you try) ways not to do something.

So my advice is to go out and try. Try new food, say yes when your first instinct is to say no, start a conversation with a stranger, don’t just stand by the wall and watch but get out on the floor and dance, wander and wonder what else you can push, but mostly just be in the moment and let things happen.

But for your safety, have a safety net. Whether this means leaving a note to let people know where you are going and who with at home or abroad, or making connections where you are going to be through people you know at home. If you have ever watched a horror film, you should know the dangers of being alone, not necessarily physically but in the sense of no one knowing where you are.

In March, I applied to grad school programs that will be starting up in September. My schools are in countries where I have visited but, besides that little bit of time with my family, it’s a foreign place where I know no one. However, I do work with an author who happens to know people. This is the point, go have your adventures but use what you have in the process of having them.

So, Double dog dare yourself. Dare to take one step (or leap) out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t have to be everyday but why not? If you are safe, you have little to lose and so much to gain. Think of the stories you can tell, the things you’ll see, and the people you’ll meet. Have an Adventure!

If your life was written, would you enjoy reading it?

Keep adventuring and enjoy,

This is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

Double dog dare…

A change of pace…

in that I’m not just off wandering the world and writing about it; I’m moving.


Bex and The London Eye. London, England. Summer 2013.

So this post will probably be pretty quick and, sorry for anyone wanting or looking here for advice this week (totally post questions or topics below if you are interested), lacking in advice to help you along.

But to the point, I’m (most likely) moving this upcoming September from Sunny Southern California to the UK. After a year and a half out of college with a degree in English and creative writing, I’m going to be heading overseas to get my Masters—a year long, full time program for Publishing. At this point, I’ve been lucky enough to get in to two of my three schools and am waiting for the third.

Between then and now—unless real adventure advice strikes me—I’ll probably be going over my progress. I’ll be looking at funding, finding a place to live, making connections, (possibly) working in a country you don’t know well, and pretty much my time figuring out what the hell I have gotten myself into.

I started this program in March after attending a meeting at a local college and kind of jumped in on impulse. Unfortunately, this means that my time frame has been remarkably short and I am pretty much drifting… or at least I feel that way.

In that sense, I’m totally open to any advice anyone feels like sharing. I have traveled all over the world under many different circumstances but I have never done anything quite like this.

So, yea, that’s pretty much the whole of it. If you have advice or questions, seriously, feel free to post.

And, at least for this week, that’s all I can think of. Sorry for the second off post in a row… life has been quite interesting and hectic lately.

Thanks for the read,

I’m Leave on the Wing, (usually) helping you soar.

A change of pace…