So Long, Astoria

Said goodbye to the city yesterday, and to Astoria, my home for the past 2+ years. The end was full of fun but also enough annoyances that it made leaving not so hard. The annoyances were mostly just my landlady being incredibly annoying and the next tenant being absolutely insane, but they’re all in the past and I don’t have to deal with them ever again. I got my security deposit back, so I give approximately zero shits about anything. I sold off some furniture–not as much as I wanted to, but that’s the nature of trying to sell things on the internet, I guess. I found someone to buy my dresser, which was great since that would have taken up too much room in the car. My parents drove down Sunday to take a lot of things away, then the rest of my week was spent slowly corralling the rest of my junk into some kind of sense that would fit in my little Honda Civic and cleaning up my little apartment.

My friends put together a surprise sort of thing last Saturday night at a delightfully British little bar. The surprise was slightly ruined only in that I kew *something* was happening, but had no idea what. It was really sweet and lots of people came by, I felt sooooooo popular. Since then I’ve just been eating my way through the city–lunches with co-workers, dinners with old friends, new friends, everyone.

Things feel weird but at the same time they don’t. I guess I never really saw New York as a permanent home, so not being there anymore doesn’t feel so strange. At least not yet. Astoria definitely felt more like home than anywhere else I’d lived in the city, but I guess it just felt right to go.

And hey, a shout out to Astoria. I love Astoria, I can say that without any kind of reservation. When I lived in Brooklyn, I couldn’t really do that. It was always ‘well, I live on like, the edge of the good part, but it’s really not so bad!’, or ‘well, I like Brooklyn most of the time, but I don’t know…’. But Astoria, you’re great. The right mix of young professional types and family types. Bars, restaurants, a movie theater, some museums, so close to Manhattan. The N train is generally one of my favorites/best running, and I’ll always love you, R train, no matter what anyone else says. Where else in New York can I get all that and still afford to live by myself? (We won’t go into the shady nature of my apartment.) Queens will always have a special place in my heart. Maybe we’ll meet again someday! Maybe not. Who knows!

So now I’m back at my parents’ for like 2-3 weeks. Chunks of that are taken up by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so that’s a pretty handy way to make sure I see lots of family/family friends before I head out. I plan to take full advantage of the laundry being in-house, and of course I have to pack, but otherwise? Just taking a break for now. Today I got to have lunch in New Haven (mmm, pizza) with two friends who were driving through on their way to Maine. So the whole not working thing is pretty great so far.

I have lots of pictures and things to say about fun things I did this summer, but I’ll save that for another time!

Waiting Game

It seems I’ve now reached the point in this whole UK grad school adventure where all I can do is wait. I finally received all the various components I needed to apply for my visa, then applied for my visa, had my biometric appointment (fingerprinting, oooo), and sent it all away. Now I just wait for it all to come back, hopefully approved and happy. I paid extra for the priority service, which puts you at the front of the line (sorry, queue), since I’m a nervous nelly and just want things to be sorted.

The visa application wasn’t as horrifying as I thought it would be. When I initially started looking into things, it was just a lot of gibberish and scary-sounding phrases. I didn’t think I’d ever work out what I was supposed to do. Fingers crossed I have.

One confusing bit for me was the concept of “differentiation”, as they call it. If you qualify for differentiation, you don’t have to send as much along with your application. For the Tier 4 visa, you need to show you are actually 100% a student (that CAS thing I’ve grumbled about before is part of that), and that you have the financial means to live in the UK. One section on the CAS explains how the university decided on whether to accept you. Mine says “Bachelor of Arts from New York University”. So ordinarily, I would have to include evidence of my BA (in the form of an official transcript from NYU). To show financial ability, I would need to include my loan letter from the university, saying my government loans have been secured (or, if I was financing this some other way, proof of that). But it seems with differentiation, that isn’t necessary. As an American studying with a “Highly Trusted Sponsor”, I qualify for differentiation, so I don’t think I need to send the transcripts or the loan letter. I can just check off “not required, but held by applicant”. The visa people can request it from me, but it doesn’t need to be sent with the application.

That’s all well and good, but I’m sending the things anyway. I’m not convinced I fully understand. This is just what I *think* is the case. So I’m sending a transcript and the loan letter. If they don’t need it, fine! But it saves the step of having to send it later or possibly getting rejected because it wasn’t there to start with. I  don’t think they can fault me for sending too much? I didn’t see that anywhere, so I’m going the overly cautious route. I’m also hoping I didn’t label an envelope wrong or make a silly little mistake somewhere. Devil’s in the details and all that. I did have a freakout over paper size the other day. Brits use A4 paper, which is a bit bigger than our regular copier/printer paper, so everything looked all wonky when I printed it out. Then I figured out I could change my printer settings, crisis averted. I DO know that I am an idiot and forgot to include my middle name on the online portion of my application. For some reason ‘given name’ didn’t translate to first and middle in my mind, so I just put first. The people at the fingerprinting office yelled at me about it. The chatty guy actually doing the fingerprinting told me it probably didn’t matter, since they were officially entering my middle name from there, and that data would be attached to my application. I found one instruction that says you can make changes by just writing them in on the printed application, so I guess I’ll write in my middle name? Silly me.

My favorite part of the visa application was where they ask if you’ve committed genocide, are a terrorist, or are guilty of anything else that would show you as having bad character. I’m hoping they don’t get many “yes” answers on those. OR that there are just some very honest terrorists? I don’t know, it seemed like an odd line of questioning.

I’ve also booked a flight! Aaaahhh. I know I have to be in London the week of September 23rd for enrolment, so I’m flying out a few days before so I can get acclimated, figure out my phone, settle in, etc. So September 18, I fly! I get in the morning of the 19th, and my school has a handy one-time airport pick-up service for international students, so I can arrange for a car to come get me and take me straight to my hall.

That’s the other thing that’s figured out–I have a place to live! This was sorted a little while ago, but I didn’t mention. The thought of getting to London with my life in a few suitcases and then having to stay in a hostel for an indeterminate period of time while I desperately search for a place to live in an area I know nothing about while ALSO trying to understand how school works and where to go….well, it was terrifying. So I opted for university housing. I’m…apprehensive! I didn’t get into the special block of flats they reserve for graduate students (only 15 rooms, boo), but I’m still in a building close to my college, and it’s a new building, so that’s nice. Everyone gets their own bedroom and bathroom, but it’s within a shared flat. But that’s ok, if everyone is terrible, I have my own space. The thing I worry about is the whole, living in what is basically a dorm again. It’s been so long! It’ll be weird. Also, my flatmates might be like 10 years younger than me, and that makes me feel super weird. I hope there are some other olds hanging around.

It’s funny, too. Around the internet, I’ve seen lots of people complaining about how expensive the halls are, and how expensive London is in general. I think it helps that I’m coming from New York! I did the math on this, and what I’m paying for my university housing, even with the exchange rate, is around what I pay for my apartment here for a year (my tenancy in the hall is 51 weeks). So…I feel like it’s a good deal! But hey, I’m also an alum of like the single most expensive university in the country, so, maybe I’m a bit biased. And this hall isn’t just for my school, it’s open to other students as well. If you look at the hall’s website, the prices for just random students not affiliated with my school ARE pretty crazy. Like £250 per week or something insane like that. Thankfully I am paying far less than that.

So, that’s what’s going on for now. Started to stress a little about packing. But I have to pack up my apartment here first, before I can start worrying about getting my life over to England. Someone’s already been found to live in my apartment (my landlady uses one broker anytime they need a new tenant, and the broker already had someone looking). Even better is that she needs furniture! So hopefully I can sell her some things and not have to deal with craigslist and all. The annoying part is that she apparently wants to move ASAP. But uh…I’ve paid for August, lady. And I need a place to sleep until the 30th, so. We’ll see what happens there. If someone wants to just pay for a weekly commuter pass on Metro North, I wouldn’t complain about having to do that.

That’s all the updating I’ve got in me!

I’m just going to leave this here in closing, so you all know how insanely excited I am about Peter Capaldi being the 12th Doctor. Because that’s what’s been occupying most of my non-visa thoughts lately.