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!

Hardest parts of packing?

Close-up of girl sitting on the suitcase and trying to pack it, isolated on white

So yeah, I’m deep in the throes of packing for the upcoming UK move now. I might add that I am not the best at packing – for any trip – let alone a move. I always tend to over pack. I got my friend Traci to come over and help me with the clothing parts of things the other day, and she was a big help! I was able to sort of get things organized and decided to leave some things behind that I likely would not use much once I was over there. My tee shirts, however, were non-negotiable. I am a huge tee shirt collector and I wear them pretty much every day. My “standard attire” consists of a cool, nerdy tee shirt of some sort, a pair of shorts, leggings, jeggings, etc… and my trusty black Converse. London is not as hot of a climate as North Georgia/Tennessee though, so I opted to leave a lot of the shorts behind (just packed three pair of basketball shorts for workouts and such.) Anyway, with Traci’s help, I was able to get the packing organized into which bag things should go into… for instance, I am spending the first five days in a hotel in Central London – so I needed things for that leg of the journey in one smaller bag (including my clothes for the theatre to see Hamlet.) Then the next bag was the things I would wear during the first week of school (as I will be arriving early since I am an international student and will have a lot of administrative type things to take care of, etc…) Lastly, all of my heavier/bulkier winter items (and books) would go into a large suitcase that I’m having shipped to a friend’s place nearby to Greenwich – I can go and collect it from her the day I move into my dorm room/flat at the residence hall.

Now I am to the “non-clothing” bits. All of those “vital” must-haves to make it through this next year of school. The electronic bits and chargers, etc… as well as a few toiletries, vitamins/supplements, umbrella, rain poncho, one set of bed linens, etc… AND the “homey” things I will want to bring along to keep me from getting quite so homesick. I honestly think this part is the most stressful, because I’m so afraid of NOT packing something vital… or packing something I really DO NOT need. Last night, I finally had to stop for a bit because I found myself looking over my selection of teas and pondering which ones I might want to take with me. I stopped myself and said “Janni, you DOLT… you’re going to ENGLAND and you’re seriously contemplating packing tea to bring WITH you? Of all the places where you would not need to bring your own tea…” LOL! Yeah. Overboard.

Today, I am still pondering items to bring along, and I am trying to figure out how to get my plush/stuffed Iron Man and Hedwig into my luggage. I sleep with them at night. Go ahead – insert your laugh HERE. (sigh) I will have to just purchase pillows when I get there, because those are not things that would be easy to pack in suitcases. And of course I will have to make a run out to a local discount store like ASDA or someplace to pick up a few essentials, but I am trying to limit the things I have to buy because I need to stretch every penny this year. I’m going to need every little bit that I can save. Thankfully, I am blessed to have some really great friends, and one of them who lives North of London and who is coming down to see Hamlet with me after I get there, is bringing me some towels! That’s one less thing I will have to buy! YAY! I will need to pick up some room essentials though, like a small wastebasket, maybe a pencil cup, and a few school supplies. There will probably be some more books I need too. Which brings me to the hard part. My books. Leaving my Shakespeare library behind is excruciating. You have no idea. LOL! BUT, I am taking my set of Lexicons. I don’t know how much I will need them, but I want to have them there, regardless.

Somehow though, I foresee me smuggling a few little things into my bags that I know others would question (a few favorite posters, a couple of action figures, and a few stress-relief toys…) I’m okay with that though… I’ve found that packing for a big move like this is all about compromise. 😉

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to help out and buy me a cup of tea, or put money towards some of the things I will have to pick up when I get over there, please feel free to visit the links on the right-hand side of my page for my PayPal, or my GoFundMe. GoFundMe is mostly for fundraising for next year… PayPal is for things I can use right away while I am over there.

Today, however, I am going to work on more errands leading up to the move… as well as try to take some time to breathe and relax. My nerves have been taking over and panic attacks have been looming. I am under a crazy amount of stress at the moment, as you can imagine. The emotional upheaval of leaving home, leaving my Dad here, and going to another country for the next ten months is really starting to hit me hard. I need to be sure to take time for “calming” when I feel myself spiraling.  Deep breaths. Please pray for me? Thanks, everyone!

It all started like this…

Okay, so no… I am not going to go back and re-tell my long, arduous story about how I got to this place in my life. It’s a LONG story. And did I mention arduous? There is a lot of heartbreak, heartache, abuse, sadness, and a few triumphs towards the last part of the story… But yeah – I’ll give you the VERY abridged and somewhat cheeky version:

Basically in a nutshell, Girl is born. Girl then struggles throughout her entire life with undiagnosed autism (along with sensory issues and anxiety problems) and learning disabilities. Girl unsuccessfully tries to excel in school, life, and a plethora of careers – even being abused and tormented along the way just for good measure. Girl finally just assumes she is a loser and REALLY stupid. Finally however, Girl gets diagnosed and is provided with the tools she needs to succeed in life. Tragically though, Girl has racked up a huge amount of student loan debt from her countless failures, and also medical debt (which ruined her credit) because she ended up with kidney cancer too (thankfully she triumphed over the cancer!) Girl wondered if she would EVER be able to make something of her life. 

Finally Girl re-discovers the THEATRE. Girl had loved it as a youngster and had done many plays, but finally realized that the theatre is the one place where she felt alive – mostly because she didn’t have to be herself (a task at which she isn’t all that comfortable…) and could instead be a variety of fun, interesting, and amazing characters! Girl participates in some really great community theatre shows, and is over the moon with happiness. (Girl is basically SAVED by the theatre!) Oh yeah… and Girl is also obsessed with Shakespeare. Girl decides to go back to school one last time to see if she has any sort of true abilities whatsoever in theatre. Girl enrolls in a local community college in their really fabulous two-year conservatory style Professional Actor Training Program and does very well. Girl went to two major US cities her last semester in the two-year program and auditioned for three different London drama schools, but did not get in. Girl is disappointed, naturally, but still believes she gained valuable audition experience as well as gaining newfound independence during her travels. (Girl made two trips within a week to a very snowy Chicago via a 14 hour bus ride each way. Girl also flew to NYC for a super quick weekend for one of the other auditions!) Finally, after a grueling last semester in which she undertook eight classes, a spring musical, and a final play – Girl eventually graduates Summa Cum Laude and receives her Associate of Arts degree in Theatre Arts in May 2015. But Girl wants MORE!

Girl desperately wants to get her Bachelors degree, and then to hopefully go on for a Masters (maybe in Shakespeare studies,) and perhaps even a Ph.D. someday. Girl has decided she wants to teach Shakespeare/Drama/Lit on the university level OR be a researcher (in addition to acting.) Girl REALLY wants to do something Shakespeare-related. Girl looks into many colleges, both stateside and abroad, but since Girl has no money and no financial aid left, Girl was very limited. Girl gets accepted into a university in London with her DREAM combination programme in Drama and English Literature and is beyond elated! University tuitions are generally less expensive in the UK than the schools stateside, but since girl was at the end of her financial aid rope, how would Girl pay for it? Girl spent nearly two months, nearly 24/7 doing online research to try to find scholarship help. Girl either did not qualify due to age or due to chosen major. (There were a few with cut-off dates she had missed though, so she will apply for those for next year.) Girl tried fundraising and it wasn’t hugely successful initially, so she was just about to give up when a friend (who shall remain anonymous) offered to pay for the first of her two remaining years towards her Bachelors programme. Girl was ELATED, HUMBLED, and SOOOOOOO OVERJOYED! Girl still had to find more money though, for something called “maintenance funds” to show the UK Student Visa people that she could support herself over there. When Girl was just about to throw in the towel (it looked as if the remaining funds could not be raised) Girl was told by the university that she still qualified for a little bit of financial aid and it would be enough for this year. Girl will STILL need to find a way to pay for next year, but after Girl graduates with her Bachelors degree, Girl will once again be eligible for federal student loans for her Masters programme because the aggregate level is increased. For now, Girl is on track to enter as a year two student on the three year Bachelors programme… and will be leaving for the UK on Sept. 6th, 2015! 

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By now, you’ve probably guessed that “Girl” is me.

I will be attending the University of Greenwich and studying on their BA (hons) Drama and English Literature programme. The term officially begins on Sept. 21st, but I have to arrive the week earlier because there’s a week’s worth of workshops, seminars, and other planned events for the International students. I’m ACTUALLY arriving on the morning of Sept. 7th and staying in a hotel in central London for the first week because I’m meeting up with friends to see Hamlet at the Barbican Center on Sept. 8th. Then I move into my room at the residence hall on Saturday, Sept. 12th. Oh yeah… and I also registered for a Shakespeare Master Class at RADA for the evening of Sept. 28th! My September is going to be BUSY!!

I’ve been spending the last few weeks working on securing my student visa. I just received word today that it’s been printed and they are sending it out to me soon, so I should have it by next week – just in time for my trip! Things are really happening… I’m starting to get VERY excited! My bestie came over today and helped me pack. It’s amazing how much stuff will fit into suitcases. 😉 I still have a lot of things on my “to-do” list but every day I am crossing more and more of them off, and making progress!

Packing, packing, and more packing!
Packing, packing, and more packing!

Admittedly, during all of the trying and heartbreaking times as I was attempting to make this dream happen – I was losing faith in myself and in my abilities. I was starting to fall into an ugly pit of despair. After having worked SO HARD these last two years to do well in my program, and succeed – and then to have such a hard time when it came to going on and “finishing what I’d started…” it was overwhelming. I was under incredible stress. I just kept hoping and praying… and praying some more. I couldn’t give up. I just couldn’t. And just when I thought I was going to have to give up – things miraculously worked out!

This is certainly a dream come true. I am going to be studying in my favorite place in the world – London! London makes my heart sing with happiness. I feel alive and “at home” there. It’s where my soul is at peace, and I simply cannot WAIT to get back there!

I will be using this blog to write about my experiences abroad, both with university life, theatre projects, etc… and hopefully with any fun “extracurricular” stuff I do in London as well! I cannot begin to tell you how very BLESSED I feel that this is all coming to fruition. It’s a life-long dream, really, and I’m seeing it unfold before my very eyes. God is good. That’s all I can say about it… I am truly thankful.

Stay tuned!