I have been slack about posting, but for good reason!

To be fair, I have been a busy, busy bee! I got all moved in to my dorm/room in the residence hall last weekend. I’ve spent all of this week trying to settle in, as well as attend a week’s worth of workshops, seminars, etc… for the international students. I’ve also been running around trying to take care of things related to finalizing my visa, getting ready for my classes/getting fully registered, and just basically gearing up for this school year. In addition to that – let’s face it… I’ve moved to a new country AND am in a part of London that I didn’t know very well (I’ve visited Greenwich once,) so I have been trying to get out every day and explore and familiarize myself with my new “hood.”

Let me just go on record as saying that I am completely blessed beyond measure to be here – and this place is absolutely beautiful. Just a few steps from my residence hall lies one of the oldest parks in London – and one of the Royal Parks at that! Greenwich Park. It’s huge, lush, green, and gorgeous. Oh, and there’s this little ‘ole thing called the Royal Observatory up atop this pretty steep hill where there lives a thing called the Prime Meridian… but also, it’s one of the best vantage points to look out over all of London. And this is literally at my back door, people!!

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View from atop the hill at the Royal Observatory, overlooking Greenwich Park and showing a view of London near sunset.

Then if I walk the other direction towards downtown and the Cutty Sark area, I can get the most splendid views of the Thames… where I can sit and watch the boats glide past. It’s really quite calming for me! I have a feeling that will be my “go to” place when I am feeling stressed!

Sun setting over the Thames as I look out over the water, and out at London.
Sun setting over the Thames as I look out over the water, and out at Greenwich, London.

The campus itself is, of course, strikingly beautiful. The history one feels when one strolls along past these buildings… some of which were designed/built in the 1600’s… well… it’s pretty awe-inspiring for sure! I’m beginning to get a handle on which building is what, and I feel confident about where my classes are to be held, so that’s a good thing!

University of Greenwich campus
University of Greenwich campus

And I’m really loving my actual residence hall, this old building has a lot of charm. I have an exposed beam in my ceiling, as well as some brilliant storage up in the rafters over my en-suite for my luggage. Even our mailboxes are adorable! 🙂

If anyone ever mails me anything, this is where it will go!
If anyone ever mails me anything, this is where it will go!

I’ve even begun to personalize the place a bit – make it look a little more like home. 😉

It wouldn't be Janni's room without a little geek/nerd culture!
It wouldn’t be Janni’s room without a little geek/nerd culture!

And I am learning ways to save money. For instance, I can use a kiddie bowl to have my cereal out of in the mornings and it makes a box of cereal last a WHOLE lot longer (smaller portion sizes.) I can also look for meals/food that’s near its expiration date at the supermarket and get it REALLY cheap (just have to be sure to eat it in time!) I have to find every way I can to cut costs!

Breakfast of frugal uni students!
Best breakfast for this frugal uni student!

And speaking of money – I am hard at work perfecting my CV so that I can get it out there and try my best to find a part-time job. I am only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on my Tier 4 student visa, but I need to work every bit of that if I can. I’ve got to earn as much money towards next year’s tuition as possible! I am also still looking into any scholarships that might be out there that I haven’t found yet, so if anyone finds any – please forward the information my way?

I’ve had a lot of start-up costs – many of which were unexpected (I guess I SHOULD have expected some of them, but just didn’t.) Any time one moves to another country though, I guess one will run into things they didn’t count on.

I still have my GoFundMe campaign going if anyone wants to help out there – it will go towards next year’s tuition, etc…

I could also REALLY use gift cards! Especially to places like Sainsbury’s, Waitrose… I get groceries from those places. 🙂 ALSO – THIS IS A BIGGIE: Gift cards/certificates from Amazon.co.uk are also quite useful! (One can find darn near anything on Amazon, and I know I will be needing more books for school in the coming weeks and months… Amazon’s a GREAT resource for those because I can get them cheaper than I can in the school bookstore!) I also shop at ASDA (which is like Walmart here, it’s owned by them, actually…) but sadly, you can’t get gift cards for ASDA online anymore, according to their website. So… anyway… I’ve had a few people ask if there were ways they could help, or which particular gift cards might be handy – those are all good ones! One other gift card possibility might be Argos (they pretty much sell anything and everything… reminds me of the old Service Merchandise types of stores we used to have in the states years ago, where you put in the catalog number then go pick it up at a counter…) I have bought things like my printer, and my small desk fan from them. Argos is right next door to ASDA, and just a short bus ride away, so it might be handy now and again. But the other places (like the grocery stores and Amazon for my textbooks) would be much higher on my personal preference list. 😉

Many of you have asked about a mailing address for me as well. I don’t really want to post that here on the blog, but if you know me and would like to send me something, just drop me an email and I will be happy to give it to you!

Well, I guess I will close for tonight. It’s been a busy week and I plan to kick back tonight and get some rest. I will be working on my CV this weekend, and hoping to try and find a part-time job as quickly as I can. That will be the focus for this next week for me. It will be Freshers Week (and since I have sort of already had my own kind of version of that with the international students welcome week, I think I can skip a good bit of it. LOL!) Right now, I need to focus on the job hunt so I won’t have to worry about it as much when classes begin.

Until next time… signing off from breathtaking London!

Janni

 

Beautiful autumn weather in London…

Today I did nothing but just enjoy the gorgeous weather we’ve been having over here in London. It got up to around 68 degrees (I’ll never get the hang of this Celsius thing, but I think it was about 21C?) It was sunny out all day, and breezy. I walked down to Camden Town first thing this morning, had a bit of a late breakfast/early lunch, and then hit up a comic book store I’d been wanting to check out. I picked up a cool Deadpool book, and a vintage Journey Into Mystery print for my new dorm room (or residence hall flat room, maybe I should start saying…) and then caught the Tube back up to Belsize Park. From there, I walked back down to my hotel room and hung around for a couple of hours there. I know, I know… seemed like a sin to go back inside on a day like today, but I had a few administrative tasks with regards to school and banking and such… and I needed to get them done after 2:00 pm (when my bank opened back in the states.) I took care of those things, and got the first part of my registration completed for school! I am really excited about my classes this term:

  • Culture, Theory and Context: Fictions and Visual Narratives
  • Applied Drama
  • Modern Stages
  • Shakespeare, Then and Now 
A little fun reading in the park...
A little fun reading in the park…

After finishing all of that online stuff, I DEFINITELY went back out! This time, I went up to Primrose Hill, armed with the new Deadpool book, and curled up on the grass to read for a while. Sure, I probably should have been reading something really deep and insightful for school… (snickering)… but in my defense, I have already read SEVERAL of the plays from our reading list for this semester, so I felt as though I had a little playtime owed to me. 😉 Anyway… it was glorious. Until it wasn’t. Haha! What I mean by that is… by the time it got to be about 5:30, the lovely “breeze” turned into some pretty gusty winds and it began to get a bit chilly to this girl who was clad in a thin, short-sleeved Doctor Who tee. It was time to pack it up and head back. I stopped by a little take-away place on the way home and brought a light dinner back to my room. I spent about a half hour (after I ate) emptying one of my suitcases and putting all of my dirty laundry inside of it. I plan to get up super early tomorrow and run around the corner to the local laundromat and knock out my washing. The brilliance of this plan is that I can just pack it all, nice, clean, and folded, back into the suitcase (which has wheels on it) and roll it back to the hotel. I’m checking out on Saturday morning and moving into the residence hall, so it will be nice to do so without a bunch of dirty laundry going with me, eh?

After I finish my laundry tomorrow, I’ll hop on the Tube and then the DLR and head down to Greenwich to complete the second part of registration (which has to be done in person.) I don’t know when I will complete all of that, but I thought I would have a look around while I’m there – to sort of see where I need to show up on Saturday with my plethora of luggage. That sort of information will be good to know, I think. 😉 I’ve made a friend on Facebook who lives in my residence hall and who has offered to meet me to show me where it is. So lovely of her! I’ll just see where the afternoon takes me, but if I get back in time, I would love to walk up to Hampstead and go visit Keats’ house. I wanted to do that the last time I stayed in this neighborhood and I ran out of time. Hoping I can make it happen this time. If not, then I will just have to run back up here another time and do it. I’d quite like to see Hampstead Heath as well – I guess it will all depend on how much time I have. If this weather holds out, I’ll try to MAKE the time! I check out of here on Saturday, and will head straight to Greenwich to move in… then I’ll go to my friend’s house to pick up a bag I had sent to her this week. I’ve affectionately named that piece of luggage “Stonehenge” because it’s REALLY tall and really heavy! (Gigglesnort) I put all of my winter wear and school supplies/books in it! I definitely could not have managed it on the way over here with the two airplane rides, etc… It was crazy enough keeping up with the three suitcases I had with me!

Okay, well, it’s time for me to log off of here. I’ve been up until 3 am or so just about every night. I need to start getting into the actual “London Time” routine at SOME point. Haha! Although… it sure is tempting to stay up late again and see if I can catch this week’s “Geeks Who Drink” episode (SyFy Network) with Zachary Levi on Amazon. But alas… I may have to wait and watch that one tomorrow night. (sigh)

I still have to pinch myself when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning to believe all of this is real. I’m really living in London now, and I am about to start school! Holy SMOKES what a miracle and a blessing!

Goodnight, all!

We came, we saw, we conquered. (A.K.A. – We saw Hamlet!)

Rebecca, Freyalyn, and Me in the lobby of the Barbican Theatre!
Rebecca, Freyalyn, and Me in the lobby of the Barbican Theatre!

So I got to meet up with two very dear friends tonight – one from Australia, and another from the Northernish part of England… and we all had dinner and then went to see Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. We had the most amazing seats! I think Benedict was about 25 feet away from us – literally! It was so fun to watch him go through all of these emotions from such a great vantage point. He’s so entertaining to watch! Incredible show. The set was really amazing. It was a very interesting take on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, for sure. We bought tickets over a year ago, so to say that we’d all been looking forward to it was an understatement! I enjoyed it immensely. Benedict brought a certain kind of humor and angst, as well as… at times… sarcasm, to such an iconic character. Very entertaining! We waited around at the stage door afterward, hoping for a glimpse of him or an autograph, but there were loads of people out there and we were just too far back. Ah well, it was worth a try. I saw a great show, and that was my main goal for the night, so I’m a happy camper!

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Program, Ticket Stub, and Promo Card

In other news, I purchased a hair dryer today. I know, I know… the excitement is unbearable, right? 😉 Well, I couldn’t bring mine from home because the last time I did that and tried to use one of those converter plug thinggies – it fried the hair dryer. I don’t think dryers like those adapters too well. Anyway… that’s one thing sorted.

Also, I realized today how much HEALTHIER it will be for me to live here in London! According to my Fitbit, I far surpassed my 10k step goal for the day, as well as exceeded calories burned, flights of steps climbed, and active minutes. And today was really a “light” activity day!! One just walks more in London. And uses more stairs. LOL! This is going to be GREAT! Who needs a gym membership, right? Woot!

I’m here! London, I have arrived!

Flying over the UK at dawn...
Flying over the UK at dawn…

After about a 24 hour travel marathon, I’m now safe and sound in my London hotel room. I started out leaving the house around 6:20 am on Sunday, then a friend took me to the local airport shuttle place, where my bestie surprised me by showing up to send me off as well! The shuttle left around 7:00 am, and we were off from Chattanooga to the Atlanta airport. We arrived around 9:00 am and my flight was to leave at 11:25 am (which it did.) It was a smooth flight to Boston’s Logan Airport where I had about a five hour layover (and yes, I found a place with some GREAT chowda! No WAY would I leave Beantown without some chowda in my belly!) until my flight from there to London’s Heathrow Airport departed just before 7:30 pm. Once again, it was beautiful weather and a smooth flight – I’m SO thankful! We arrived SUPER early this morning (I was still on EST, so my internal clock was hating me… it was like 1:45 am in my head, but it was 6:45 am local time here in London!) After standing in a pretty swift-moving line to check passports and visas for non-citizens, I was off to collect my obscene amount of checked luggage. Thankfully for international flights, your first bag is free. The next is $100. I was able to check my carry-on at the gate for free as well, so that was a bonus! The hard part was loading up three suitcases and a very heavy backpack (loaded to the gills with laptop, tablet, chargers, books, personal belongings, etc…) onto the luggage cart, and then getting it out of the airport and out to the taxi stand. The line for that also moved quickly and I was blessed with the most courteous, compassionate driver! He loaded all of my luggage (wouldn’t let me touch a thing) and then when we got to my hotel and he discovered there was not a porter AND they had a revolving door… he simply turned off the cab and said he would bring my bags inside for me! That’s going above and BEYOND the call of duty right there!!! And trust me, I tipped him nicely for it, too. I so appreciated him!

The fun part was getting all of those bags to my room. I am on the first floor, but it’s up one floor from the lobby and the lift is very narrow. The front desk clerk gave me a trolley to put them on, but it barely fit. I had to squeeze my way in. It was hilarious! Then when I got up to my floor, housekeeping was up here doing their thing, so there were trollies all over the hall and not enough room to bring mine through. I ended up just taking them off one at a time and walking them down the hall to my room. Haha! Got in a great workout too, because each of those bags weighs just under 50 pounds! 😉

When I got here, I soon discovered this room’s heater isn’t functional, but the desk clerk made arrangements for a space heater for me (which I use in the winter back home anyway, so I am used to them) and now my room is quite toasty. 🙂 It’s not a huge room, but it’s clean and it’s just fine for me to stay in for a week until I can move into the residence hall. The front desk clerk has been most helpful too! She printed out maps for me to get to places to check into getting a SIM card for my phone, and I was able to get there with no problems. I got a SIM card, and I’m now on the EE network. So far, so good! The girl who helped me in the EE store was also just as nice as she could be. It was the store up in Hampstead. She was most helpful and I enjoyed talking to her. (British people are just the NICEST! I love them so much!) I then had a lovely lunch in a cafe just around the corner (one that I stumbled into on my last visit here and really enjoyed…) and afterwards, I came back to the room. First thing I did was to call my Dad and talk to him for a bit. I wanted to reassure him that I was okay – had arrived safely, and to give him my new phone number. It was great to hear his voice. I wish I could have just brought him with me! (sigh) It’s hard when you’re a Daddy’s girl and you have to leave your Daddy. 🙁 I’ve decided to just stay in and rest up tonight since it’s been a long stretch of travel for me (and I don’t sleep on planes…) I had a hot shower, put on my jammies, and am lying in the bed here – and it’s only just 6:30 pm! Haha! There aught to be a rule against THAT! I figured this would be a nice night to have some tea, read a bit, and catch up on my rest so that I can be in top form tomorrow! We are going to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet tomorrow night at the Barbican!!! I can’t wait! We got tickets over a year ago for this!

I plan to go EARLY tomorrow morning to Primrose Hill and watch the sunrise. Just because I can. I love Primrose Hill SO much, and have missed it. It will be nice to enjoy that view. Hoping the weather will cooperate. It has been nice here today, with temps in the mid to lower 60’s (or, I guess I should say… around 18 Celsius… I really need to get used to using Celsius here – but I DID download an app on my phone for that, so… I might be cheating. My Math is not the greatest.)

Since I got my local phone service activated, I’ve been texting with one of my friends here already this afternoon, and… Facebook messaging with others. I can’t wait to SEE them all! It’s been too long!

London… Janni’s back… and she’s ever so grateful to be here!

Last night sleeping at home…

I’m lying here in my jammies, and I am looking around my room at all of my cool posters, action figures and nerd regalia and feeling a bit sad that I will be leaving it all behind while I embark on this journey across the pond to go and chase after my dream. I’ll have to find a way to “nerd up” my room in the residence hall, for sure… to make it feel a bit like home, I guess. It won’t be the same, but sometimes one has to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Those things, however special they are to me, are nothing compared to the giant emptiness I will feel whenever I have to hug my Dad goodbye bright and early tomorrow morning. This will be the longest span of time that I have ever been away from him. I won’t be able to come home for holidays because I simply cannot afford it. I’m not due to come home again for a visit until next summer (end of June.) I’ll miss his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, and my birthday as well. Even though he and I have discussed this all SO much, and we both know that I have to do it… this opportunity is a once in a lifetime thing… it still isn’t easy – for either of us. But, I am ever so thankful for technology… because we will be using the heck out of Skype and Email! Dad doesn’t really email, but he has an iPad and can read the ones I send to him, so I can do that whenever we can’t Skype for some reason. His phone doesn’t do international calling, so I got him a phone card… but I think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to use them. There are SO many numbers to “plug in” just to make your call. (sigh) I told him we would reserve that for special occasions or emergencies maybe. Heck, maybe Skype will be enough. I hope so.

My awesome cousin Troy and his youngest son Drake came over today and helped us out by putting up a new mailbox for Dad that’s closer to the house. We FINALLY got permission from the postmaster… took us until yesterday to get the approval, but we finally did. We got the new box up today and it looks great and will be SO much safer and easier for Dad to get his mail now. Whew! One less thing I have to worry about.

As I am kicked back here in the bed, I am not the least bit sleepy (of course) though I feel like I need to get SOME rest because I have to get up at 5:00 am. I leave the house around 6:15 and then the shuttle leaves Chattanooga at 7:00 bound for the Atlanta airport. I will have almost 24 hours of travel time! I fly to Boston first, then have a few hours layover before I fly out tomorrow night for London (overnight flight.) I will get to London about 2:00 am our time (7:00 am their time.) Wow! That’s a loooooong day. LOL! First thing I want to do after I get to the hotel and get all settled? Change clothes and go for a nice walk up Primrose Hill!!! I can’t wait!!! I have been away for too long. I love Primrose Hill and can’t wait to get back to it! <3

So… I guess I will just have to make my peace with feeling conflicted for tonight. I am SO excited about things to come, but I am also SO sad about what I am leaving behind. Lots of prayers, good thoughts, etc… from all who read this would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, everyone!