The First Week: Tourist-ing

Hi gang! I am here. I made it safely to my AirBnB and from there to my apartment as of today. It’s been, frankly, an exhausting week. I am so glad to be where I’m living for the next year, though. It’s a big relief. Today was rainy but luckily the worst of it didn’t start until after I had moved my bags in. I only had to walk back and forth to the shops in the drizzling rain – and I own waterproof combat boots and a raincoat, so I’m basically invincible. So, here’s how the past few days have gone:

Day 1: Arrival

I got into Heathrow at about 9:30 in the morning. Just so you know, the walk from international gates to passport control is ETERNAL. It was warmer here than I had anticipated, as well as more humid, so I was wearing a few too many layers to be comfortable. The passport control line wasn’t the worst, but it certainly wasn’t short. If you can, take advantage of the ePassport line – if you have this symbol:

biometricpassport

…that means you can use that line. It’s for biometric passports and it’s much easier. I went through the regular line because I wasn’t sure about how my student visa affected that, but now you have been forewarned and can do research! And know for yourself!

After passport control I collected my checked bag, went through customs, and then was out of the airport. From there I requested an Uber – I used Heathrow’s wifi because my cell phone account in the US was suspended (this means I can keep my line at home but not have to pay much) and I didn’t have UK service yet. This actually ended up working out well. The Uber driver was very nice and drove me to the AirBnb where I checked in. The host was very kind and helped me with my bags. I got settled in and FaceTimed my mother who was anxiously waiting to hear from me. By now it was noon or so. Before I left I had ordered a Visitor Oyster card to use until I got my 18+ Student Oyster card. Using an Oyster card is cheaper than buying single fares and London buses don’t take cash, so it’s really your best option.

I slept almost not at all on the flight – in terms of elapsed time, it was only 8PM or so when I tried to sleep, and I was anxious and overstimulated. I catnapped for maybe an hour or so, but that is not a substitute for a night’s sleep. So I took a quick nap and then when I woke up, freshened up a little and then went exploring.

Ok, so in the interests of journalistic integrity or telling the truth or whatever I have to confess that I woke up from my nap pretty distraught. I was far from home, I didn’t have anyone I knew, I missed my mom, I didn’t know how to do anything or get anywhere, there was nowhere familiar, I didn’t have any favorite restaurants and I was living out of a suitcase… What I’m saying is I had some emotions. So I cried about it for like 15 minutes and then pulled it together and went for a walk. I walked as far up and down the nearby high street (Walworth) as I felt comfortable and then discovered a cute little Thai place to have dinner. I ate by myself but made friends with the waitress who taught me how to count change when I paid. The coins here make about as much sense as in America, which is to say – very little.

I’m pretty sure I was asleep before the sun went down.

Day 2: Tate Modern & The Globe

On my first full day in the UK, I had a pretty low-key day planned. Earlier this summer I bought a ticket to Midsummer Night’s Eve at the Globe, and as it was a matinee I decided I could spend the morning next door at the Tate Modern. They’re literally right next to each other.

I got up, put on a cute dress because it was about 80 (Fahrenheit) here, and before leaving the safe haven of wifi, I made sure to save my routes between the place I was staying and the Tate, as well as my route from the Globe back. Citymapper has a great offline save feature where you can star a particular route and it saves it to be accessed offline. Simple.

I successfully made it to the Tate on my first-ever bus ride in London. It was a great confidence booster, and the beautiful weather also helped. Public museums in Britain are free, so it doesn’t cost anything to get in, but they do ask that you donate if you can. The Tate also has free wifi, so if you use iMessage or any apps that use the internet to send messages, you’re set within the Tate’s boundaries. It actually reaches pretty far – later in the afternoon I was making my way down the riverwalk along the Thames and had reconnected to their wifi several hundred yards away. They also have a cafe, which is where I got lunch, but if I’m being honest the food was not great. It was nice not to have to leave the area though, so beggars can’t be choosers.

I was done a little earlier than I had planned on – I finished one floor and there really was no time to start a new one but also it was far too early to go to the Globe. So! I walked along the aforementioned riverwalk, down to the Millenium pedestrian bridge. It’s a lovely place to just wander around if you’ve a spare hour.

The Globe is literally next door to the Tate, but you’ve got a bit of a winding path to get there. If you follow the signs mounted along the street, you’ll find it easily, or you can walk down the riverwalk and also find it very easily. It’s hard to miss. I saw Midsummer there and I have to be honest, I teared up a little during curtain call, thinking about 450 years of theatre happening in that same spot. That exact play, even, those words, echoing through four and half centuries. You can trace a through line from that place all the way down to me, a humble stage manager just starting her career. It’s any theatre kid’s Mecca. I made the Western thespian equivalent of the hajj. Of course I cried!

Be aware, friends, that as a rule there is no central AC in British homes or public spaces, and if there is – say, in the Tate Modern, for example – it isn’t used to the extent you will be accustomed to. Most homes, even those built recently, are built with the expectation that you just leave windows open for ventilation in the summer/early fall. Restaurants are the same way, as are shops. As it has been particularly humid these past few days, you can imagine how I feel about that.

I braved the London bus system today and it was actually much easier than I expected. If you aren’t familiar with the general idea of a bus system, you’ll need a few pointers:

  • Many bus stops have similar names. For example, Elephant & Castle is a different stop than Elephant & Castle London Road. You’re only a few blocks apart, if that, but if you mean to get off at one and end up off at the other, it will be noticeable.
  • Citymapper. Citymapper Citymapper Citymapper. It has saved me. It will tell you all the possible routes to a location from a location with near-endless customization, and tells you how long it will take. Want just bus routes? Want to leave at a different time? Citymapper does it. They cover most major cities and are adding new cities all the time.
  • For the love of God make sure you’re getting on the correct bus and that the bus is going the correct direction. You can get on the same bus on both sides of the street at most stops – the difference is what direction they’re going. Also, the route maps that are posted at each bus stop don’t list every single stop the bus will make, just major ones along the route. When you figure out where you’re staying you might want to note which major stop is near your nearest bus stop, in case you ever have to navigate without the use of the internet or if you want to double-check your digital directions. These posts will also tell you when buses are due and when the first and last bus runs.
  • Don’t confuse night buses (N#) and express buses (X#) with the bus you’re expecting. For instance, X68, N68, and 68 are all different buses that will not all get you where you’re going. Night buses, as the name implies, run at night; express buses are more direct buses to a certain destination; 24-hour buses, indicated on the placard that has the route number, run 24-hours. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • If you want to stop at a bus stop and the STOPPING sign at the front isn’t illuminated/the digital readout on the sign doesn’t say BUS STOPPING under the stop, press the red STOP button that is on a pole just about every seat. A bell will ring. The bus will stop at that stop. This is relevant because if no one is at the stop to get on, a driver will just keep going unless they know someone needs off.

Also, I need an explanation – do I have to hold my hand out to hail the bus? If there are people at a stop on its route, will the driver not just stop automatically? I’ve seen several people do this, but it’s like the hivemind only ever elects just one person. Someone weigh in. TfL should distribute some kind of “buses for dummies” guide.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening wandering. There’s a Starbucks across the street from the Globe (Shakespeare would love that) and I stopped and got my first pumpkin spice beverage of the year. Honestly there’s no better end to a day like that. I spent the late afternoon walking up and down the Thames; I considered striking out and trying to get to my campus but I was tired, a little hungry, and not at all confident in my ability to find it or my way back once I had either found it or given up. So I hopped the same bus route I had taken down there and rode back up to where I was staying. So ended my first proper day in London.

(There is no wifi at the Globe.)

Day 3: British Museum

Today, I had planned for a visit to the British Museum in the late morning through the afternoon. Then, I intended to go back and change because I had tickets for the evening performance of Yerma with Billie Piper at the Young Vic. Honestly, if you’re going to the British Museum, you could spend multiple days there. I would take some time beforehand and figure out what you most want to see. I saw the Rosetta Stone and that was very nearly a religious experience for me, so do a little research and figure out your can’t-miss list. I plan to go back many, many times.

To cover all my bases, they also had little cafés set up and free wifi, but their wifi was much slower than the Tate Modern’s. The food was, however, better. Qui pro quo, I guess.

And, hey, no one tells you this, but London smells. Not bad, necessarily, but definitely not like tea and lemon. Sorry Bath & Body Works. There’s just a scent that’s different from other places I’ve been, and I’m still puzzling it out, but. You know. Just fyi.

The Young Vic is very easy to find. The box office is inside, and you should definitely not get in line outside without asking what it’s for, because you will get in line for returns when you already have tickets, thinking it’s the line to pick them up. If you have tickets, go straight inside to the box office to pick them up. There’s also a cute little restaurant and bar inside that I didn’t arrive in time to enjoy, but if you’re planning a trip, I would suggest it. It looked nice. There are also a lot of other restaurants up and down The Cut that look appealing. You have options, is what I’m saying. There is, however, no wifi.

Yerma was incredible. From minute one I was captivated. Billie was amazing and carried the show. It was touching and hard and I cried more than once. I had worried, briefly, that I wouldn’t be able to connect to a show about infertility because I don’t want kids but boy was I wrong. It closes in a few days so I’m sorry to everyone who will never get to see that show. I will be thinking about it for a long time. Huge kudos to the design team and to the SM calling the show – she may as well have been calling a musical, with the amount of precision she had to have.

Day 4: Imperial War Museum

I slept in a little today because I knew I still needed to be at the house at 10 AM. Donmar is doing a program for their Shakespeare trilogy in which they give away free tickets to under 25s – I wanted to make sure I got tickets, and the next batch opened at 10 AM. I also finally got my SIM card in the mail, so I tried to set that up in the morning. As it did not go to plan, I went ahead and left for the Imperial War Museum, planning on finishing that evening. I spent quite a while at the IWM and could easily go back and do more; it’s got a lot of information and thousands of artifacts packed into four or five floors. The Holocaust exhibit was especially emotionally resonant for me. Until I got there and had gone through the WWI exhibit, I didn’t know that the IWM was founded explicitly as a WWI memorial/educational site. It then expanded during/after WWII, and now also has an exhibit dedicated to Peace and Security from 1945-1995, including the Cold War and the War on Terror (all my issues with that phrasing aside). They also have a few other specialized galleries, including one on the stories of decorated British soldiers and armed forces members. For consistency’s sake: they had free wifi and the best museum café so far. Schools here are back in session, so I did have to share the IWM, The Globe, and the British Museum with school groups. They were mostly entertaining and rarely a nuisance. In the end, I did get my phone set up and then ended up going to bed at like 7 PM. You win some, you win some.

Day 5: Moving Day

This is the day I was most excited about. I got to move into my apartment and see the neighborhood where I’ll be living for the next year!

I took an Uber from the house where I was staying to my apartment – no part of me wanted to deal with the hassle of moving three pieces of luggage on public transport. Uber is much less expensive than a cab and I’ve never had anything but good experiences. Granted, my entire two experiences are both described on this post, so take that with a grain of salt.

Turns out, my apartment building is literally right next to a huge transportation hub – Stratford station has Overground, bus, taxi stand, DLR, National Rail, Underground…I have no excuses for not being able to get somewhere. It is also right across from a shopping center that includes one of every major bank, Boots, and Sainsbury’s. I bought two pillows from a linens shop in it for £10 total, and then did some grocery shopping. Let me tell you, grocery shopping in the UK is definitely grocery shopping in a foreign country. You speak English but you don’t speak British grocery store English. I struggled so hard. Also I bought a Kinder Surprise Egg, because they’re illegal in the US and I’m that kind of a person. I’m not sure the soy milk I bought is actually soy milk and what I wanted was almond milk but Sainsbury’s was having none of that. Also, milk and poultry and who knows what else is labeled “British X”? So there was “British Chicken Breast” or “2% British Milk”. I require an explanation.

Also! It is so rude to me for them to package THE EXACT SAME PRODUCT I purchase in the US differently here in the UK. All I needed was my tea and my digestives and both of them look completely different here. Same brand, same product. Completely different.

Also, update: I am still tired. A day that I will not be eternally tired has been promised, but I am beginning to doubt that it will ever come. I am glad I came so early even if it had just been to get this constant low-level exhaustion out of the way.

Because I am a millenial, I checked out the snapchat geotag for the neighborhood almost immediately – I don’t love it. However, I can learn to live with it, because we have two really cute general “London” geotags that I like.

Anyway, you have been updated.

Good night!

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Seven days out.

oh gosh.

it’s a week until I leave.

Like, in seven (7) days I get on a plane and leave the country. I’ll leave from Houston and land in London.

It’s strange to think that all the things I’ve been planning, all the places I’ve only read about, all the dreams I’ve had about this city since I was a freshman in high school – they’re all going to be real. I’ll be walking there, where I’ve only seen pictures. I’ll be attending lectures at my dream school. I’ll be studying in that library.

I have seven days left, and that’s five too many days to really start packing in earnest (can’t live without moisturizer for four days), but too few days to pretend that I have any time at all. This is always the weirdest time for me before a big trip, and this is… the biggest. I have sort of let myself think of it as temporary because there’s a definite, official end date but it’s really not. I’m moving out of my childhood home. I’m never going to live in this room again, I won’t come back here for weeks at a time in the summer, I’ll hear third-hand about the changes downtown. It’s not anything I didn’t want, it’s not even bad, but it is a change. These are the last seven days I’ll spend living in my parents’ house.

I have lunch and dinner dates scheduled with a variety of family members in different groups and configurations over the next week. Food is really important to me, it’s tied to places and people in a very visceral way, and my family knows that. So what I’m doing is sort of like a culinary greatest hits tour, if the various fast food and local restaurants of my childhood and young adulthood can be called that.

I’m comfortable moving on though, too, in another way, because so many of my friends are. A lot of us are going to grad school at the same time. Off the top of my head I count at least 4 friends who are in their first year of postgrad/professional school. I might be going alone to London, but at least I’m not alone in going to grad school. We’ll all whine about it together.

I can’t wait to be just one more person living in London. Me and 8.6 million of my closest friends.

Banking in the UK

Disclaimer: Everything here comes solely from my research and shouldn’t be construed as actual financial advice or complete or even, frankly, correct. I have been known to be wrong before. This is for your guidance if you’re going through this process and if you aren’t, it’s for you to feel better about your stress levels. Mine are ridiculous.

My goals when I started out were to find someone who wouldn’t charge me for moving money from a US account (like, say, my parents) to a UK account and to have the account started before I moved (that didn’t quite work out).

A note on terminology: what we might call a debit account or a checking account in the US is known as a current account in the UK.

Here are the banks I looked into:

Lloyds Bank

They offer a variety of accounts – however, international students are ineligible for their student account and they suggest you look into their Classic account. This offers balance alerts via text, a debit card, and a service called “Everyday Offers” which is a certain percentage cash back on certain purchases if you meet their criteria. Interestingly, they also give you a sort of grace period wherein if you overdraft, you have until 3:30 PM UK time that day to add money or arrange a planned overdraft.

You must appear in person with two or more options from a list of documents within 14 days of your application in order to open an account. This is pretty appealing to me as an international student because it means I can begin the application process from home and appear a few days later, after arriving in the UK, to finish opening the account.

Lloyds also offers a helpful checklist for moving to the UK; my school also has one, but I think you can never have too many checklists to cross-reference. They have an international account service specifically for people moving to the UK, but you have to make £100,000 a year. Since I qualify for that only in my wildest dreams, I was a little disappointed. However, they do say that even if you don’t qualify, they’d be happy to meet with you and do what they can to help.

Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS offers international students the same account they offer domestic students with the exception of arranged overdrafts. This means that the international student account includes a debit card, cash withdrawals, 1/3 off coach travel if you use internet banking (I have a lot of questions but I’ll take it), digital banking, and a mobile app. The app has a service called Get Cash which allows you to make ATM withdrawals using your phone. They also do a cash back program and text alerts. RBS also has a program that allows you to pay your friends using only their cell phone number.

Barclays

Once again, I am too poor for an international account, although Barclays only wants me to be able to deposit a quarter of what Lloyds wanted. However, they have an account specifically for international students. They have an “award-winning” mobile banking app, as well as a similar cash back program. I did notice that the names Barclays gives cash back with are places I think I’d be shopping more often. Barclays also has a similar program called Pingit that allows mobile money exchange. Along with the standard eligibility requirements, Barclays stipulates you’ll need to pay your “main source of funding” into this account. You can apply online and then confirm your identity in person. Unless I’m reading wrong, it seems like I don’t get a debit card? I definitely don’t get text alerts or e-statements. Those things are really what disqualified it for me. I rely on that kind of notification.

HSBC

It looks like I’d be applying for their Basic Bank Account, which is Lloyds Classic Account but a £200 lower threshold for ATM withdrawals in a single day. HSBC makes a point of saying they allow direct debit (like for paying recurring bills) but I honestly don’t think anyone else doesn’t allow that, so much as they don’t advertise it as an advantage of their account. Stay tuned to see if I’m wrong. HSBC also lacks the cash back and savings programs that I liked about Lloyds.

 

To help me narrow down further, I took a look at which banks were near my flat – there is an HSBC branch, a Lloyds branch, Barclays, and a Santander branch. So not actually narrowing anything down any further. After consulting my mom to confirm my decision, I’ve chosen to start a current account with Lloyds. I’ll let you know how that actual process goes around Sept. 13th. I can begin the application online, but I’ll have to appear in person as well. Let me know if you have any advice or questions about the bank account process.

Until next time!

No one told me getting accepted was the easy part.

An incomplete sampling of my current to-do list:

  • ship a box of linens and kitchen stuff
  • fit all my clothes into my suitcase
  • pick up GBP at my bank
  • blog about all of the above
  • submit international voting form
  • clean out my desk
  • somehow fit all the things into my personal bag that I want to fit
  • register for optional modules
  • confirm arrival time for accommodation
  • unlock my cell phone

 

But really –

What I did, using Evernote (but many note-taking softwares will serve the same function),  was sit down in early June and make a checklist of all the things I had to do between that day and a nebulous future date by which I will have “settled in”. I divided these things by the date they needed to happen on, and if any of the tasks originated on, had instructions on, or involved a webpage, I hyperlinked the task to the webpage. It made life so much less stressful and more organized – I didn’t have to leave a bunch of links up in my browser; any time something new came up, it was easy to add to the list; this format allowed me to see when I was busier vs. when I had more free time, evenly distributing my preparations. It’s been stressful, but much more manageably so than if I had not worked all this out ahead of time. One thing I would do different, though, if I had it to do over again, is that I would treat my scheduled checklist like the dates were harder deadlines as opposed to suggestions – these past few weeks have been a little heavier than I planned because I let things slide in some cases where I probably shouldn’t have.

Choosing a Cell Phone (Mobile)

So here we are – August. I’ve come back from working at a summer stock theatre and it’s time to deal with the minutiae of moving for real now. One of the entries on that endless list is finding a mobile phone carrier so that I can, you know, communicate with the people I need to talk to in the UK.

So, as usual, I took to the internet to find the best fit for me.

My wishlist looked a little something like this:

  • SIM only – I’m happy with my iPhone and have no desire for a new one. Or to have to pay for one. It’s also important to note here that you need to know what size SIM card your phone takes – iPhone 5c/s and above take nano SIMs.
  • 5+ GB of data
  • Unlimited texting

Bear in mind, I know less than nothing about UK mobile phone plans or service areas. I was going in blind and have spent this entire process self-educating. Much like the Tube, most of the guides I found were geared towards people who didn’t have even a basic understanding of how mobile phone companies work.

Resources:

Sensorly – This website, which works for both the US and the UK, will show you 3G or 4G coverage as well as upload and download speeds for whatever network you choose overlaid onto a geographical area. It was incredibly helpful for finding out which networks had the best coverage where I needed it most.

USwitch – This site has a lot of great deals. They do other products and services, but I only used their SIM-only mobile plan search option. I relied pretty heavily on this service.

 

 

Not to be misconstrued as an endorsement, but I’ve pretty much decided I’m going with a giffgaff £20 goody bag, which is basically a monthly plan. It has unlimited text, calls, and data (after 6GB of usage, though, they slow your data speed).

The Housing Application Process, King’s College London

Be advised: This is just for King’s, and it is their first year doing it this way, so some things may change by 2017.

The housing application is the first real interaction I’ve had with King’s in the mindset that I’ll be thereIn September. But before we get into the actual application process, let’s talk about on campus vs. private housing.

I made the choice to use on campus accommodations because:

  • I honestly can’t imagine finding a place with cheaper rent anywhere near the Strand
  • If I have problems, my landlord has a stronger-than-usual obligation to me
  • I am prioritized for housing at King’s because of my status as an international postgraduate student
  • It’s fairly near campus
  • I don’t need someone to cosign or serve as an agent for me, although King’s has a service where they will cosign with international students for a percentage of their rent
  • My lease with King’s lasts exactly as long as I am sure about where I am going to live
  • I obviously can’t tour any flats before I sign a lease, and I feel much more comfortable moving into school housing sight unseen than I do some rando’s flat for lease – I have at least been able to do a decent amount of exploration on the housing web pages

The Actual Housing Process

Step One: Accept Your Offer

You can’t really do anything until you’ve done this part. In my case, this step also involved paying my deposit. It appears from some correspondence I’ve gotten that you don’t receive your housing email until you’ve paid a deposit, but this could also be school- or program-specific, or just outdated.

Step Two: Wait

I accepted my offer in early January. And then… nothing happened. Mostly because, in January, everything at King’s is still geared towards the process of starting the term then and there, not the term that will begin in September, even to a larger extent than I am accustomed to at American universities.

Step Two B: Email people at King’s with questions way more often than they want to hear from you.

Step Three: The Email

I received an email April 4th from KCL Accommodations with what I’m sure they thought were fool-proof instructions for logging in. They linked to the accommodations portal and told me what my login credentials were. Unfortunately for me, I can’t log in. Of course, they have anticipated this, and the rejection screen contains a redirect to email the accommodations team if you have trouble gaining access to the portal. It would happen to me.

Once I finally managed to get in (a simple reset of the form on their end did the trick), the process was very simple. I checked a few characteristics that I was looking for, indicated my interest in an orientation week, and submitted. A note of caution: once I submitted, I couldn’t access the portal again, so all the helpful information within the portal (dates, etc.) was no longer accessible to me. I would write this stuff down, if you’re worried. I wish I had, for reference purposes.

The plan is that after the housing portal’s open period ends, they begin to sort people into actual housing assignments based on what we indicated as being important on our application. Sometime in mid- to late June, my housing assignment will appear in my inbox. I then have five days to accept or decline. If someone were to miss the portal’s open period, they have a wait list of sorts that you can be added to, which fills out the remaining slots for housing in August, mostly.

Step Four: Wait. Again.

Now I wait until this summer.

Also, I wait because I need to know if they can accommodate my early arrival; planes were filling up fast and I bought my ticket a couple of weeks before the housing portal opened, foolishly believing the “two week early” move-in figure I had seen on the site. I have now come to believe that it was inaccurate, unclear and therefore misunderstood, or my math was faulty. Reality probably looks like some mixture of the three.

Step Five: Receive and Accept Your Offer

In late June, I received my offer – actually, a day earlier than I had been told to anticipate it. You are not placed in order of your registration in the housing portal, so I’m not entirely sure why I was so near the top of the offer list, but I’ll take it. After thoroughly reading everything, I accepted. You view and sign your contract and the housing policy online in the portal. I did email them because the dates displayed on my contract did not include early move-in for international orientation, but they corrected it quickly. They also said that even if it wasn’t displayed, it was reflected in their system, but I must admit to a lack of confidence in that. I wanted to see it.

I’ll be living in Angel Lane in an ensuite room. This means I’ll have my own bedroom and attached bathroom, but share a kitchen and general living space with the other people in my apartment, which is co-ed. (How progressive!)

Unfortunately, the FAQ says that I won’t know who I am living with until I arrive to move in. I would have liked to be able to coordinate with them about what to bring to stock the kitchen, but it’s not the worst thing to ever happen. I’m already starting to dread paring things down.

I had sort of known this was where I’d be placed. On their accommodations FAQ, King’s provides a flow chart of sorts that can tell you which handful of housing options you’re most likely to be assigned based on what preferences you ticked. Because I opted for a price under their £189/week threshold and also for an ensuite, more or less the only place I could live was Angel Lane. I’m less than 20 minutes by Tube from both campuses where my classes are held, and I’m next door to another King’s housing unit. On a map of KCL housing, we do look sort of far away and isolated, but I’m not really bothered by it. It’ll give me the option of experiencing a different part of London.

They did let me down on one front, however – they won’t let me move in four days early.

Optional Step 6: Book an airbnb

Since I generally enjoy having a place to store my baggage, lay my head at night, and shower, I have decided to get an airbnb for the four nights between my flight landing and my move-in date. I initially considered two other options: a hostel and King’s summer accommodations. I rejected the hostel idea because, while very inexpensive, I didn’t love the idea of sharing a room with a bunch of youth and lugging around big bags, or storing my luggage someplace I couldn’t immediately access it, especially if they were going to surprise me with a fee for it. King’s uses their housing in the summer a bit like a hotel, and so I could have rented a room for four nights for £40 a night, but that’s more expensive than an airbnb would be. Besides that, something in me rebelled at moving into another KCL housing unit before I moved into mine. I’m a bit weird like that.

As a result, I made my first foray into booking an airbnb. I actually had to make three attempts at booking, once I settled on a place I wanted to stay. As a very basic explanation, airbnb operates by letting you send a request to book, which the host has the option of accepting or declining within 24 hours – your card is not charged until they accept. Two of the places I wanted to stay were booked or otherwise became unavailable between my request for the booking and the response from the host.  However, the third time was the charm and I landed in a nice flat in Zone 1 for four nights.

The verification process I as a guest had to go through makes me feel pretty positive about the safety of staying with these people. I did try to find places with just women hosts, but ultimately I had to opt for a male/female couple. Of course, once this actually goes down, I’ll let you know what I thought about it (as though there was any doubt). For now, though, I’ll close out this post that has been six months in the making. This move is finally starting to feel real, and I’m starting to let myself get excited. Even the miles-long to-do list is sort of exciting. T-minus 69 days to London!

The 1st Purge of Everything I Own

I have done it! I am home! I graduated college! And now, because I lack anything resembling an instinct for self-preservation, I’m going to grad school.

But before I do that, I’m working at a summer-stock theatre in Indiana for 9 weeks over the summer. For the two weeks I’m home from school before leaving for Indiana, most of what I own is in my mom’s living room. As I moved out of the dorm, I performed the first great big purge of the sum total of my earthly possessions.

Throughout the last semester, I’ve been slowly pulling things out of my closet and putting them into a bag. These are things I don’t enjoy wearing anymore, haven’t worn in ages, that sort of thing, but that I’m a bit wary of absolutely getting rid of quite yet. They’re things I’m pretty sure I’ll never want again, but they’re still within reach, just in case. That particular cleaning-out has been happening since January. I finally consigned them to my mother to donate or give to my younger sister a few weeks ago. However, now, moving out of my on-campus apartment for the last time, I’m doing a real purge.

Some of you may be acquainted with the KonMari method of de-cluttering. To summarize her entire book in a sentence, “if it doesn’t give you joy, toss it.” So, piece by piece, I’ll be going through every. single. thing. in this apartment and deciding, based on usefulness (sorry, Marie Kondo) and whether I still like it, to keep or toss it. I’ll probably actually do this full-scale in August, but I’ve started sorting through things using this method now.

To elaborate on the destination for these items:
There are four general categories. Number 1 is “get rid of it entirely”. Whether this is being donated to my little sister or the local Goodwill, it’s no longer my problem if it lands in this pile. Some of what’s in this pile is being sold; for instance, my TV. Plenty of college kids would be happy with a 3-year-old TV for much less than sticker price, and I’m certainly not carting it across the Atlantic.
Number 2 is “store at home”. I’m not getting rid of it, but I’m not packing it either. It’s things like PJs, non-essential but much-loved books, and a smattering of home furnishings and accessories.
Number 3 is “I need it for this summer”. These are things I will need for my summer job/furnishing housing there, whose fate won’t be relevant until August. I suppose, technically, there are three subcategories here: “Definitely Keeping It”, “Definitely Getting Rid of It in August”, and “TBD”.
Number 4 is “taking it to London”. These are the things that are for sure, absolutely, no doubt about it, coming with me.

Group Number 1

Included in this group are the contents of that bag I told you about earlier. This bag holds a lot of dresses I wasn’t quite ready to admit I’d outgrown, some pieces that no longer mesh with the rest of my closet, and a handful of bras that I should have gotten rid of a year or two ago.I threw away a lot of school supplies that weren’t worth the space to store them, some old binders, a lot of paper or scribbled notes from classes that I took three years ago. I also sold my microwave, TV, a bookshelf, some rugs, and a lamp, along with a handful of other odd dorm furnishings I’ve purchased over the last four years. Luckily for me, I don’t own a lot of the furniture that I was using – the school does – so that was left at the dorm.

Group Number 2

As mentioned, many of my beloved books are included here. I can’t justify shipping them but I can’t bare to get rid of them. I also have more t-shirts than a single human being needs, so most of those will live at home. Some other articles of clothing will also be permanently housed at my parents’. A lot of this stuff is not necessarily always banished to my parents’ house, but it will stay here until I know with some certainty what my postgrad plans are. For instance, I might ship some more kitchen stuff or some things with sentimental value if I end up in the UK permanently.

Group Number 3

This includes my rolling laundry hamper, a lot of kitchen stuff, and an assortment of furniture. I don’t plan to take a lot of my kitchen stuff to London – most of it can be replaced for cheaper than shipping it. In addition, I’ll sort through most of this clothing when I get back and probably end up getting rid of some of it and storing some of it here for me to pick up when I come back at Christmas. London is far milder in September than north Arkansas is, so a lot of my “summer” clothing that I usually think of as being needed in September and October can wait to make it over.

Group Number 4

Things in this group that aren’t also going to Indiana with me include a lot of fall/winter clothing and my full-sized bedding. According to the accommodations website, the beds in on-campus housing are some in-between size between full and twin, so I’m taking my full bedding with me, or at least that’s the plan right now.

All that being said, I have survived and made it out with a few tips:

  • The more you can get rid of before you have to move it, the better. Getting rid of stuff as I encountered it was a good idea – I felt less frantic and I had time to consider each item individually instead of feeling like I was throwing things out willy-nilly.
  • Try to consolidate boxes and sort them by their contents to make finding stuff easier on the other end. I still haven’t found my eye cream.
  • No matter how packed you are the night before, you still have so much to do the next morning. I recommend laying out exactly what you’ll need for the next day at the end of the night before and packing literally everything else.
  • There is a sweet spot in terms of having help. I find that more than two people helping becomes more of a stressor than a help. Think about how many people you can fit in your living space comfortably, and then remember it’s full of boxes.
  • Always plan as though you won’t have as much time as you think you’ll have. You won’t. Inevitably there will be traffic, someone will oversleep, a whole box of stuff you forgot to pack appears.
  • It’s probably not worth keeping most of what’s in your pantry. Throw it out, replace it later.
  • Sometimes throwing things away can feel really cleansing. Don’t underestimate that feeling.

Also, you guys, SPACE BAGS. Ziploc makes some great ones but pretty much Space Bags in general. They will save your life. So much fits. We live in the future.

I haven’t moved terribly many times in my life; I do a lot of back and forth between my parents’ house and my dorm. Do you have any advice for moving? Leave it in the comments!