Nearly a month.

It’s been nearly a month since my last blog post. I’m not okay with this. At all.

Especially, because since then, I’ve celebrated my birthday at least three times, turned in my dissertation, attended the weddings of two lovely couples (one of which was the Brit’s sister and I felt so honored to be one of only two people to have seen her dress prior to the day and to be her official dress lacer-upper), celebrated the end of the Olympics and Paralympics by watching the parade of athletes with one of my good friends while stood amongst the crowds in London, and a host of other things.

To say the least, it has been a whirlwind of events and emotions. And, I’ve wanted to write another blog post since September 3rd when I submitted my dissertation, but I’ve been overwhelmed. Where do I start?! I have so much to say. So much running through my head. And, not just about everything I’ve been experiencing, but about what I’ve been feeling and observing.

Because, along with all of what I listed above, I also celebrated one year since moving to England. That just seems crazy to me. One year. It went so fast.

So, why today? Why start writing again today? Well, no reason really other than I didn’t want to wait another day. My new goal is to post once a day for the next month. I realize this could require some pre-planning on my part as we have a getaway planned for the last weekend in September, but I know I can do this and I really want to do this, which is the most important part.

I’m excited to get back to writing the blog and sharing more about life here. I hope to re-cap some of the fun we’ve already had and the fun we plan to have in the next few months (hello, two trips to the Caribbean and our wedding!!!). So, to my loyal readers out there (I know there aren’t many of you, but I do appreciate each of you that does read — thank you!)…I AM BACK!

P.S. And, to the Brit, your sweet text last week about missing my blog posts really lit a fire under my bum, too. So, thank you for always encouraging me and getting me back to where you know I like to be. xx

P.P.S. The Holiday is on ITV2 right now, which is one of my all-time favorite American girl meets British guy movies, so if you haven’t seen it, then I recommend it as a great rom-com with some super cute old man thrown in for good measure. Have you seen it? Did you like it?

The Musings of a Postgraduate Student

I haven’t spoken much about my postgraduate program, but I assure you I am still working away as my dissertation is due at the beginning of September. Spending a lot of time in the library does lead to my mind wandering at certain times when I’m reading a particularly non-interesting work and here is some of the randomness of late….

1. Yesterday, I received an email from the university library saying three books I had requested through interlibrary loan had arrived. My reaction was one of pure nerdy joy and excitement – I could not wait to pick them up! I also exuberantly thanked the library enquiry desk worker and I think he was a bit taken back by my enthusiasm! Oh well!

2. The first few weeks of classes, I carried my laptop bag that goes on one shoulder to and from university. This quickly ended because I couldn’t shove enough books in that bag, so I resorted back to the good old days of a backpack with both straps in full use on my shoulders. And, because my ‘cool’ backpack was at my parents’ house in the U.S., I was using the Brit’s giant gray backpack with the word ‘MAMBO’ written boldly across it. Funny thing is I would have been embarrassed by this backpack in years past, but it was sturdy and necessary and a welcome break for my back.

3. My dissertation is due in just over one month. I know I need to start writing, yet I keep reading and taking notes because I am so interested in my topic. Nerd alert!

4. As a follow up to number 3, my right wrist has been horribly sore from said note-taking for the past month. Yes, I do realize I could enter the 21st century and type my notes as I go along, but that is never how I have worked so I felt no need to change to the ways of my much younger classmates.

5. I never knew how much I would miss working a full-time job and having a steady income, but I do and I’m ready to get back on the career track.

6. I would not survive a two-year Master’s degree program. Well, I probably would, but one year is enough for me. Thankyouverymuch.

7. When my classes ended, I was trying to think back to what I have learned, if anything at all. [I know that sounds terrible (perhaps some of the English pessimism is rubbing off on me), but I felt a self assessment was needed after my coursework ended…the sign of someone who is used to annual self assessments in past jobs!] As I have been researching for my dissertation, I have seen what I have learned come together nicely. I had seen the effect the UK university system had on my study abroad students (I was a study abroad adviser previously) and was always impressed with the independence they returned with when it came to taking on their education. I am now a more firm believer in the British university system, which places the owness on the student to take their education into their own hands.

8. I took this photo when the sun was shining brightly through the library windows casting a perfect outline of my side profile.

Studying (legally) in the UK, Part II

(Here is Part I, in case you missed it! You know, since it is so hard to find it amidst my whopping three posts!)

After the FedEx box swallowed my application, I told my perfectionist self that it was out of my hands and hoped for the best. At that point I had done everything I could have done. It was hard not knowing if I was really going to start graduate school or not, especially because I had no back-up plan which is not typical for me.

A few days after I mailed my application, I received an e-mail that my application had arrived at the British Consulate in New York and was in line to be reviewed by an Entry Clearance Officer. This same e-mail mentioned that I should receive another e-mail stating when it was reviewed with a follow-up message informing me of the outcome. So, I continued to wait.

That same week, the Brit was coming to the US for a quick visit. (I would be doing all the traveling, but my passport was being held hostage, remember?!) I picked him up at the airport on Thursday night, and on Friday, we were enjoying lunch together at my favorite cafe in my hometown. For some reason, as we were waiting for our food, I decided to check my e-mail. There, staring back at me was an e-mail about my visa.

I opened it and the first line was all I needed to see, “Your UK visa has been issued.” YESSSS! (Apparently, they skipped the middle e-mail and just went straight to the good stuff…fine by me!) We were both ecstatic! I planted some big kisses on the Brit and neither of us stopped smiling the rest of the day. (He even beat me at miniature golf that afternoon, and I still didn’t stop smiling!)

So, the process I was most nervous about went better than expected. In a matter of a week and a half after mailing the application, I had my passport back with a fun sticker inside!

Good thing I didn’t have a back-up plan after all!

A snippet of my visa in my passport!

Studying (legally) in the UK, Part I

I thought I’d give a little background about how all of this came to be….

All of my application materials were into the university, which left me obsessively checking my e-mail for any news from the school I had applied to. I had just woken up one morning in mid-May and was browsing my e-mail on my phone with one eye still closed. (Totally normal morning routine, right?!) When I saw the e-mail from the university, both eyes were wide open in a flash! I clicked on the e-mail and saw what I was hoping for – an acceptance! Just so happened that I was meeting the Brit in New York City that night, so we had much to celebrate!

They really want me!

Step one was complete. However, as an American wanting to study legally on a year-long graduate program, I still needed to apply and be approved for a UK Tier 4 PBS (Points-Based System) General Student Visa. It was now up to the UK Border Agency.

I should mention that I do have prior experience working with UK student visas because in my past ‘life’, I advised college students on study abroad. At the college where I worked, I was the official (yet unofficial as I can’t speak officially for foreign governments) adviser on student visas. Because I was the sounding board for my students as they went through the UK visa process, I was a bit nervous. I knew fairly well what was required of me to submit a complete visa application, but after my acceptance, I began more thoroughly sorting through the details of the visa application guidelines.

In late May, I set off to England for 5 weeks. I worked on my application a bit while in England, but mostly I procrastinated (oops!) and waited until I returned to the U.S. to take care of it. Completing the application included a trip to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Visa Support Center to submit my biometric information (basically digital fingerprint scans and a digital photograph of my face), which was an extremely painless, simple, and much shorter than expected appointment. Most of the other requirements were fairly simple to gather as well, which was a nice surprise. So, I completed the application and read over it one too many times. In late July, I overnighted my passport (eeeek!) and all of my application materials to the British Consulate in New York.

There were a lot of what if’s running through my mind when I dropped that envelope into the FedEx box….