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

 

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!