Almost There…

Planning on packing.

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The Shard and London Bridge. London, England. Summer, 2013.

No banking today as I am waiting for a letter that will let me start setting up my account…. So, what to write about?

I’m less than three weeks out, my visa answer should be in tomorrow, my passport and paperwork should be back a few days later, I’m finalizing housing, have selected my classes, and am about to set into cleaning and packing mode. It’s an interesting experience, moving all by myself and further than a car ride away. In the next week, I’ll be going through everything I have to decide what I’m keeping, what I’m packing and what I’m giving away—but I’ll get to that as we go along.

But as I sit here, all I can think about is what I’ll be ABLE to take.

A few weeks ago, the school’s countdown blog did a post on buying vs. bringing. It advised only bringing things like prescription medications that you can’t get (making sure they are legal in the country you are traveling to) and enough for the entire time of your trip (if not a permanent move); and plug adaptor kits as buying them at home will mean they will work for you appliances like computers and chargers, while the kits will give you options as you travel from place to place—if you are able to work extra travel into you time away.

Buying on the other hand was a larger list. Things like hair driers, straighteners and curlers (as the voltage difference from country to country can cause serious issues); and bulky or heavy needs such as towels, sheets, toiletries, and books (with the exception of the one or two you take on the plane!), which just fill up suitcases or boxes which cost you just as much to ship as they do to replace.

I’m sure there will be plenty of other items to go on either of these lists as the packing gets under way and I would love to hear any of your suggestions. What would you take or buy that others don’t think about? Do you have an argument on taking one of the suggestions rather than buying?

No matter what you choose, there will always be things that you have to buy right when you move whether because your boxes haven’t arrived yet or starting from scratch, and you’ll need to budget a little wiggle room into your start of year spending.

Well, that’s all for now as I’m swamped and still figuring out the details.

Two weeks and five days; I think I can make it!

Thanks for reading and I love hearing from you,

Thins is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar

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Almost There…

This week the trend…

Is waiting.

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The Sundial. Hampton Court Gardens, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, England. Summer, 2013.

And yet there is so much I have to get done.

I’m waiting for my Visa paperwork to get processed (I sent it all out yesterday, so keep your fingers crossed for me), my housing confirmation, work research, and the next four weeks (give or take a few days) until I leave.

But in the meantime, let’s cover some of the day to day items and coverage that a person would need when moving (permanently or temporarily) to a new country… This could also be helpful to the average traveler who is hunkering down in one place rather than running about like most of us crazy American Euro-trippers.

HOUSING

While I covered a ton of temporary lodgings earlier in this travel blog, it wasn’t until I started this moving process that I realized the differences and similarities in looking for long term residences.

Just like when you are budgeting for hostels or hotels, when you are looking at long duration housing, you have to look at the numbers. When you see prices, what do they include? What is the time span covered by that price? What if you need to extend your stay? Is your contract flexible? Do you have to have a contract? Is it a fixed price? Do they have pricing exemptions that can give you a better deal (my brother in law has asthma so they get a discount on their electricity because he needs a breathing machine.)?

These all are things you have to consider no matter where you are looking, locally or not. The issue really arises when you are looking for somewhere to live when you aren’t even in the country you are looking at. So, here are some tips:

TALK TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN: Just like I talked about last week, the more people you tell, the more likely it is that someone (or many someones) will be able to put you in contact with people living in your destination. Touch base with co-workers, family, friends, and acquaintances; I really mean anyone. This will not only leave you with a good number of people close to where you are moving that you can contact in emergency situations, but they may be able to find people that have space or scope out places that you can’t. Just remember it means you will need to thank and really maintain those friendships.

USE YOUR RESOURCES WELL: again, like with works, using the connections your friends and family give you well is important, using the resources that are specific to your situation(s) will also give you a step up. For me, this was getting I touch with the housing resources my school has. This is campus housing, student Flat-share lists and facebook pages. All of these guarantee housemates that have aspects in common with you—like the need for quiet times because you have work to do.

MAKE YOUR OWN CONNECTIONS: Go through my list on housing. These are all temporary housing options which will wrack up so charges (for lower costs, focus on hostels and the like) while you find something once your boots hit the ground (there are a few short comings that come with this that we’ll cover further down.) You can also do searches on the internet; sites like Craig’s List have postings for just about everything including rooms for rent. Just check this stuff out or ask a connection to and never pay anything until you get eyes on the place (that’s how you get scammed.)!

TRAVEL PLANS

Just like when planning any kind of travel that involves air travel, there are always sites that will give you deals and researching these sites are a great way to save money. As a student, I was able to get an even better deal through a student specific site. All I had to do is make a profile—they have the condition that they will not sell your information—and search. As a student, you can also get a great deal by shopping and booking a one way ticket rather than guessing at a final return date. Buy your second ticket closer to your exit date and see what deals you can get then. This allows you to mix and match based on the best deals at the time you need your ticket.

Most of the inner city transport I have covered before. Go take a look at the history if you’re interested.

PHONES

When you are going to be out of your country for longer than a vacation, just extending you current plans features (data and international calling) can cost you a lot more than what is worthwhile. Instead, think about picking up a low cost phone when you get there; stop in at a market and get a phone you can update minutes on for when you absolutely NEED the contact in your new or temporary home.

Go ahead and extend your data if you think you’ll need it but more importantly, make sure you are using any and all WiFi areas you can get your phone on (there are aps that help find you hotspots so do your research!). The less data you use, the less chances to incur fees.

Get international phone apps. I’ve talked about WhatsApp! before and I know I talked about having some issues with it, but with a year (at least) in another country, I have a feeling this app will help get me through. Look at what these apps use before you ship out, because if they run off of data, this can add up just like international messaging!

Look for alternatives. If you have your computer, Skypeing or Facebooking from your computer gives you your connections and face-time with loved ones without using up your phone. For long story sharing, start a blog, a tumblr, a twitter, anything social media that can keep you in touch—just keep it off your phone! You can also use these as a way of keeping in touch with out of country friends if/when you get back home!

Of course, this does change if you are moving your residence permanently. Then, get your new phone for the country you have moved to and decide what to do with your old one (if you’ll be traveling back for work or the like, it may be worth it to hold on to your phone a little longer).

Banking

I’ll write more on student banking later, but even if you are not a student, if you are going out of country to a single place for a long period of time, opening a bank account can be a path you want to take. Again, this is for long term. Some reasons for this can be limiting the conversion fees, paychecks are easier to deposit directly, and as a student (we’ll cover more fully later), your loans will run from government to school to you through this account. This is where temporary housing can be an issue; to set up your bank account you need an address—talk to the bank if you can if there is no way around these issues.

Again, I’ll run through this whole banking thing in an upcoming post.

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

Travel well,

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

This week the trend…

It’s been a quiet week…

A week of waiting.

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Eyes and Towers. London, England. Summer, 2013.

There were a few things that I meant to write this week, but they didn’t work out… at least, not this week.

It’s been a week of waiting. I’ve sent out my request for passport information and then I’ll be working through it. Next week, I should be looking at hints and advice drafted from travel advice and fitted for longer spans of travel and moving.

But this week, I’m a little off; maybe even a little lost. As I said, I’m waiting; for my visa; for my housing; to leave; for classes (and picking classes); for all the plans I’ve made to start happening.

This week, I ran across this post. It was written in April by Morgan Cantrell contrasting the expectation and realities of living abroad. Before reading it I was sure I had everything figured (and for a good set of the topics I had; I know I’m not driving for at least my year of study!), but there were little things that I was suddenly thinking: OH $#!T! I didn’t think of that!

Case and point: I cook for my family all the time (I’ve even cooked in other countries) but suddenly faced with the knowledge that I’ll have to be cooking all the recipes that I know by heart in CELSIUS (!) completely threw me. In fact, I freaked out so much, my father (who was sitting in the same room with me listening to the list) laughed out loud about my sudden realization that, yes, I have to deal with the metric system. GREAT.

One thing I loved was the comments on finding a JOB. As a student, I’m only allowed to work 20 hours a week during the semester and then full time when classes are not in session. The reality in Cantrell’s list is a frank one that I believe a lot of people forget about: (the sudden realization that) I have ZERO references in this country.

If you are a student, you are in luck. Your school probably has opportunities and contacts within the school but these tend to be basic part time gigs; library or cafeteria staff, possible office/departmental jobs, ect. And while some can boost your portfolio, resume, or CV, most are purely for pocket money.

One way to circumvent this (even though you are not a local and you references probably aren’t either) is to really work your connections.

LOOK UP PROFESSORS. These shouldn’t only be in your field, but, more specifically, in the specific emphasizes that you are looking at. This can be in your previous studies and/ or the ones you are undergoing. Talk to them, send them an email, whatever; Just make contact. If you are looking to break into the academic world, references from FORMER PROFESSORS (and, therefore, fellow academics) may count for more. Even if you are not looking at academics, contacting professors in your current level will probably be some of the best reference you can make when you are starting out in a new place. This contact can be made before you begin but you should really consider it once your classes get underway. These are the people who will most likely share your passions and really want you to succeed; they’ll be your most relevant contacts and references during and post- studies. Not to mention (besides being references), they probably have a whole list of their own contacts for you as well.

TALK TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. Let them know you are moving and that you are looking for any work within your field (or work in general) as you probably do have more contacts than you think you do. The way you contact and use these contacts is what can make or break you. If a family friend gives you a contact, do not burn either of those bridges; it will just come back to haunt you. Many fields work like a web of contacts, so if you are lucky enough to score a job in your field, don’t waste the opportunity by taking it on when you can’t do the job. This can mean working on your time management skills, cutting back on extra-curriculars, knowing what your skills are and using them (as well as developing new ones), or slaking because you have a contact and feel safe in the opportunity. Make your opportunities and embrace the chances you get.

THEN there are also opportunities that need less references; at least, less solid ones. If your references are weak, look to talk to someone in the business. Go sell your personality and ability and hope those will speak for themselves. Do your best with getting references and tell those you have back home that they may be contacted by a company overseas. Put as many ways to contact your references as you can, because phone may not be the best or easiest ways to contact people outside the country.

These are my tips to work around the realities of moving and living abroad (though remember, nothing is guaranteed, no matter your contacts). Seriously, check out this post because it’s well worth it (the whole blog really)!

Anyway, til next time,

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

It’s been a quiet week…

The Paperwork Quest.

All the stuff you know (and did NOT know) you need to get stuff done!

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Across the River. River Thames, London, England. Summer, 2013.

I’ve discussed before the joys and woes of doing things, like traveling or moving half way around the world, with little extra forethought into the planning; give your life some spontaneity. This is great; the spice of life some say. It is also, however, quite troublesome when one has to deal with government agencies and paperwork. Not that I don’t understand all the hoops; I’m a 23 year old American—if life hasn’t taught me the dangers, all I have to do is turn on movies and television to be reminded of the world we all live in. Still, it would be lovely if you could look up a single list that would give you EVERYTHING you needed to get through your paperwork without scrambling for information part way through.

In this light, this week I received what I thought was the last of the documents that I thought I would need to sit down and work through my Visa application with a little more than a month to go before I want to be in country to settle before my program starts. As it turns out, however, I’m missing a document.

Perfect, right?

So this week, I’ve put together a list of EVERYTHING I could think of that the basic person filling out their visa paperwork would need; the stuff they tell you about and the documents they don’t.

Here’s what pretty much all the sites will tell you that you need:

  • Your up-to-date Passport,
  • Two passport photos taken within a month or two of applying for your visa, done to the specifications of the country you’ll be heading two;
  • Your Application fee;
  • TB test though this can be waved (mine was because of my American status, but there is a list of exemptions);
  • Funding Documents; ie. Loan papers; Bank statements with a letter of sponsorship if the accounts (cashable) are not in your name, ect. These cannot drop below a designated rate in the currency of the country you’ll be visiting for a full 28 days before you apply but also cannot be the only money you have (they want to be sure you will not be bankrupting yourself in the effort to travel).

If you are going for schooling you’ll also be told to have:

  • Your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) number which you have to request from your school once you have secured your funding;
  • ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) certificate, which is program based so looking up your specific needs online should give you this information;
  • The offer documents that will be listed in your CAS letter, ie. Official transcripts and certificates.

These are the listed documents that you can find listed on school websites and the visa website.

HOWEVER, these are not the only things you will be needing to secure your visa and get on with your preparation. While each type of Visa will have a few different requirements (as a student I am a Teir 4 Visa Applicant).

As I sat down to complete my application this week, all the above listed documents on every available surface around me, I discovered I needed more. AND, I didn’t have it, at least not all of it.

  • If you have held any other passport or travel documentation than your currently active one, you have to have that information on hand if it was active in the past 10 years. This includes old passports, visas, ect. If you no longer have these documents or the needed information from them (nationality, document number, date of issue, and date of expiry), you are request that information from, well basically the government.
  • Information wise, you will need an estimated day you plan on traveling to your location—however, it is not recommended that you buy a plane ticket until your visa comes through. If you feel it necessary, only buy a refundable ticket. If you don’t, there can be issues down the line with your documents.
  • Again, information wise, you’ll need an address and information for where you are staying in the country you are bound for. As a student without a current residence, I put down my school (also acting as my sponsor in name only) as my address but you have to change your residence and information as soon as changes occur.
  • Your travel history; your last five visits to the UK which will include you arrival and departure dates, and the purpose of the trip(s); and you travel outside of the UK and your country of residence for the past 10 years which will include the date you went, the country you visited, and the reason for said visit. If you don’t have the information for this, I’m not really sure how to retrieve it—check out your pictures, social media, journals, junk drawers, and scrap books; anywhere there could be date listed or old ticket stubs.
  • You’ll need access to your basic travel history beside those listed above because for every “yes” you answer, you will have to input information explaining that yes.
  • You will need your family information; parents’ information (names and dates and place of birth), dependence/ children’s information.
  • While they tell you need your funding information, you will need this in a few forms.
    1. Broken down into the country’s currency;
    2. Split into school fees (tuition); and
    3. Maintenance fees (housing, food, ect.)
  • There is also a section entitled “points claimed” which I did not understand. A quick google showed me that it’s a simple point system to see eligibility. It’s not a required fill (no asterisk) so if you don’t know quite what to do you could skip this section.

As always when you are filling out documents such as these, you should try to fill out as many areas as you can but if you really don’t know, it is always better to leave an area blank than guess or be caught in a lie. Lying is a sure-fire way to be denied your visa and have to scrub all your plans and forfeited any funds already paid.

While I was able to figure out the money stuff on my own, what I am missing is my old passport that definitely did not expire until after 2006. So today I had the pleasure of running down to the local postage store (which is never busy and always staffed by the nicest people, at least) to get my information request notarized and sent out to Dulles and, hopefully, a quick turnaround.

Until then, it’s all holding patterns here. So, for any of you going through this journey with me: good luck and safe travels.

In the mean time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

(ps. Sorry all the links are aimed at travel to the UK)

The Paperwork Quest.