The only thing to fear…

Or the post I wasn’t going to write.

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Beacon in the Dark. Paris, France. February 2015.

This week, one of the worst things that most of us can imagine happened on the streets of Paris: armed terrorists attacked and killed unarmed civilians to further a cause that uses bastardized faith to justify both their means and ends.

But I wasn’t going to write about that.

Then this week, across all media and social media platforms, news of all kinds of disasters, all over the world – natural and unnatural, yet all terrifying – started to pop up in my feeds.

Still, I wasn’t going to write about this.

Then, one conversation caught my attention:

A fellow traveler, another American girl like me living abroad, had written how she loved being out in the world but sometimes it’s a scary place to be. An older family friend responded:

“Well, you should just come home right now and you’ll be fine.”

This is a thought so many of us have had: ‘If I’m home, where I grew up, where everyone knows me, I’ll be safe.’ In our heads, it is only out in the world that danger lurks.

But I think what human history has shown us is that just staying home doesn’t grantee us anything. These acts can happen anywhere, but it is my belief that if we just sit in our houses and watch these evens on our screens, we are giving ourselves a huge disadvantage:

It is out in the world where you gain the perspective to see more than your our tiny world, your own life; even if gaining those worldviews is a truly scary experience. I’m not saying traveling is the only way to get this perspective, but it helps.

So, I’m not going to sit here and write not to be scared, or that fear is the only thing to be afraid of (although there is wisdom in that), or that if you stay afraid and at home, you’re letting the terrorists win, because that will never be my point.

What I want to say  -in this long-winded way – is that if you want to go out in the world and learn, don’t let events like the one this past week be the thing that holds you back. As always, be safe in how you travel, where you go, what you do, but don’t hold back on experience and living and learning because of the ignorance of others.

Beyond fear, ignorance and, more so,  settling for ignorance is the thing I fear, so go out, be safe, be kind, be open, and travel well. Now and always,

This is Leave on the WInd, helping (and hoping) you soar.

The only thing to fear…

Moving week…

… aka. hell week.

Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.
Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.

This is another week that we’ll be keeping things short, sweet, and casual, here at Leave on the Wind.

Why? Because on top of my first days (kind of) at my internship and scrambling to finish my dissertation (thank God it’s finished), I have had to pack up my life, clean my old rented room, and high-tale it out to the other end of London right in the middle of the rest of my suddenly very hectic life.

In the process of finding a new place to rent, I looked at a few different renters sites to get a feel of the market and then pick my next home for the next four-ish months.

And, oh my God,  were some of these places scary – and that’s just the websites!

After my searching, I landed on AirBnB and this is a site I can really recommend.

While, like any site on the internet, there are a few listings that made me skeptical, the proportion of sketchy to  easily livable or outright lovely compared to every other site were tremendously improved.

What makes renting through AirBnb so great comes down to a few simple points:

  1. The website is exceedingly easy to navigate – you get to set your specific parameters from cost to time needed to rent to type of let to pretty much anything that you might need to consider.
  2. The places are certified – what you see is really what you get, and with (generally) clear pictures, you can count on these rentals even if you aren’t in a place where you can physically go and check the room out before paying for it.
  3. Everything goes through the website – you are told to never directly pay the person who owns the room but to go through the site. This is great in case something goes wrong because the company can come in as an intermediary. This is equally helpful if you end up having a problem with the letter, such as things not living up to the agreement, the company can be contacted.

On the down side, during busy season like August into September when schools are coming back and new students are flooding into the city and old ones, like me, are scrambling for last minute housing as they wrap everything up, spaces can go very quickly so you don’t always have time to sit around and consider your options. If you take too long, the places you like will not stay around!

In the end, I’m going to be staying in two rentals I picked through this sight. The first is a studio I’m splitting with a friend until she heads back home and I wait for location 2 (a private room rental in another studio/warehouse setup) to be free.

Once I get a feel for both of these locations (and my life more under control), I might give a little bit more on this whole process, which should be wrought with pain, adventure and hilarity but until then:

Be safe, travel well, and I will be back, same place, same time, next week… if I survive it:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Ps. and if you have any great stories on moving, feel free to share them below; make me laugh or share my pain, I’d love to hear them!

Moving week…

Life gets complicated…

…just keep moving.

They call this summer? London, England. June, 2015.
They call this summer? London, England. June, 2015.

The thing about travel is that when it comes to figuring out how to balance it out with the rest of your life, it gets a little bit complicated. This is no more obvious than when you are a twenty something and your whole life is constantly shifting; everyone is either telling you to start to settle down or that you should be running around seeing the world.

This is the situation I am struggling with at the moment.

All my classes and finals are officially over which is great, but puts me neck deep into my hunt for an internship. I’ve been searching off and on for months but most publishing internships—which are limited to begin with—seem to take place in summer. While I love not having to balance a class schedule with a working one, it’s more than a little frustrating waiting and trying to plan all the things you want to do when you are waiting for someone else to call you back with work and a whole new schedule to work your life into.

Because of this, my life has become a mission of planning everything on the fly—literally, a few days at most before I’m due to head off.

The big complication for me right now is all this month, my mom and sister are touring around Europe—mostly places I haven’t been yet!—and all I want is to have a work schedule nailed down so that I can be there with them.

They landed in Paris on Sunday and I had hoped to meet them there today, but after a communication error, the job interview I hoped to do yesterday got bumped to tomorrow. Now, I’ll be jumping on an early train to Paris on Thursday to meet my family as we hop on the next train to Normandy.

Still, what happens after this weekend with them is completely up in the air: will I get the internship? When will it start? How many days a week and are they set up where I can take my off days together to make long weekend trips?

Well, I won’t know any of this until at least tomorrow and that’s only if I get a yes right away (fingers crossed guys!).

While all these official timelines are causing scheduling problems, I am also constantly aware that both my internship report and my 12,000 word dissertation are due in September so I’m scheduling my writing work for both of those between everything else I’m trying to plan!

Oh, the joy of being young!

All is not lost or angst, however. I’ve learned a lot in this struggle.

The way the working world works, twenty-somethings in the job hunt are definitely feeling the power shift. I’m not saying that a company looking to hire you owes you something—especially a job and a paycheck that will help you pay off the money needed for your degree(s)—but as a worker, you don’t exactly owe them everything you have to give either. If you find that you are having to sacrifice everything you want to do when you are this young—and yes, I understand that some sacrifice is needed to show your dedication and maybe curry favor at some later date—but you should still be able to do the things you want to alongside working. After all, you are doing them at least as much of a favor for them as they are for you—they need to hire someone, you are just trying to show you’re the best one to do it.

So if you want to go travel while balancing the rest of your work life, it’s well worth it to do that even if it is all last minute weekend trips—you don’t have to go far to feel like you are really traveling, just go and do something you wouldn’t normally do at home. It’s all about trying something new in a new place.

The fact is, you can put your whole life into working and starting out in your career, planning to go out and explore the world later in life—that’s a great way of doing things that many generations before us millennials have done. But, looking around at how many people who could be retiring are either still working or for some reason or another, can’t travel after retirement, that doesn’t seem likely to me.

My advice is just to go for it. Go out and do the work you have to get done, but don’t forget that this is your life and you’re young (even if just at heart!), so go find your bliss even if it means you don’t have it all mapped up in front of you. Sometimes those adventures you never planned for, are the best ones you’ll ever take.

Sorry this wasn’t very travel heavy, but I’ll continue to write and post as I figure out more of my busy summer-student life.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Life gets complicated…

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

Almost There…

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.

Calling all Loaners…

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

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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…