Saturday, 13 June 2015

Settling In In the UK

Saturday, 13 June 2015

(Late post - I am home now! More posts to come)

By now, four months after I've arrived in Rochester, I am definitely settled in. Though my dorm room isn't quite as complete as it would be if I were staying for more than five months, I feel that it's important to make your space cozy, unique and a place where you like to be.

The fun part about moving far away is starting from scratch. It's a clean slate, an opportunity to be creative and express your individuality. Everyone has their own style, but this list of places to shop may be a helpful starting point for those of you in the UK

My favourite home decor stores:

TK Maxx - It's like TJ Maxx in America or Winners in Canada. I love it for kitchen accessories and I got my yoga mat there.

MUJI - A Japanese lifestyle store based on practicality and minimalism, my favourite. Everything is cute and useful and very soft or smooth. I got a plastic pencil holder, cloth coaster, ceramic toothbrush holder and two gorgeous candles packaged in tin. (Elderflower and _)

Primark - Very inexpensive and adorable decor. I bought a vanilla diffuser, vanilla candle in a mirrored glass pot, a strand of forty simple fairy lights and a white "LOVE" sign to remind me to put love into everything I do.

Local Florist Shop - I bought a red Christmas berry plant for just 50p and a cascading ivy plant for my shelf.

Poundland - Gorgeous picture frames for just a pound each! And they have books for only a pound, which are not only great for train rides, coffee shops and flights, but look pretty on a shelf.

Zara Home & H&M Home are also AMAZING but too expensive for just my dorm. I think I'll take most of my decor back home but I'd rather spend less on decorating and more on school and food! They're a good option if you want a really pretty keepsake to take home.

Local boutiques in Rochester - Rochester is filled with gorgeous little curated shops with an English bohemian aesthetic. They are so much fun to browse and so full of treasures, it gets really difficult to choose what to buy! But if you decide to splurge and support the local economy, you're sure to go home with something unique.

Thank you for  reading,

Thursday, 8 January 2015

What to Pack, Buy, or Ship

Thursday, 8 January 2015
Me with my little sister, who I already miss!

Packing for four to five months is daunting! At first I was quite afraid to pack, but I started by making a series of lists that I just kept adding to for several weeks. That helped to get the ball rolling.

For anyone it would be fairly easy to decide what is best to pack and what to purchase once on foreign soil. However, I have a few tips on what's better to pack vs. buy, particularly if your destination is London!

Lots of clothes plus a decent amount of scarves and shoes and a little big of jewelry. Unless you plan to do a lot of shopping. But trust me, as an exchange student on a budget, I do not have money for buying lots of clothes! I also hate having just a few clothes to choose from in the gloomy winter months. I packed about two weeks' worth of completely different winter outfits, plus three fancy-ish dresses that can be dressed down. I also packed a bikini and a few spring/summer clothes because they're just so small and light I think I'll be going to Greece or Portugal. Clothes that can be worn in more than one season are great to choose over clothing for specific seasons if you want to pack less.

Appliances that you cannot live without. I bought a small blender just for this trip, because I am a vegan and I like to eat a lot of raw food. I cannot live without my smoothies and natural ice cream and this semester I will try making baked vegetable soups and dips. I bought one with a North American plug because I didn't want to use it just for four months.
     I also brought a mini travel hairdryer that changes voltages, a curling wand and a flatiron. Unfortunately my flatiron doesn't work properly here, so I have to do some research on converters. Another thing to pack is adapters because they are generally cheaper a home I've found, but they are easy to find here.

Mini products such as floss, mouthwash, lotion, body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Full size versions of these items can be heavy and take up lots of space, so buy small sizes or transfer product into smaller containers and buy full sizes when you get there.

Full sizes of your makeup. It may be difficult to find what you need and there are no Sephora stores in London. :(

For those who wear contacts, a sufficient supply as well as enough contact solution.

• A few feminine hygiene products at least for the first month, to be prepared!

Photos of your friends and family. It's nice to have physical pictures in the room. I didn't bring any because I thought that having photos on Instagram and Facebook would be enough, but I do miss them and having their familiar faces around all the time would be a great comfort. So my mom is kindly going to send me some photos in a care package soon! (I have a bulletin board where I will post them and I'm sure that every dorm comes with one, but if yours does not they are fairly cheap to buy and there are some very pretty picture frames to be found here, even for £1 at Poundland.)

Some snacks such as granola bars to have handy especially for the first few days while you are settling in and sight seeing before school starts, just to have on hand, in case. I also took some other food from home that we had a lot of such as organic teas, Himalayan sea salt and coconut oil.

I would recommend packing a warm and cozy blanket in your carry-on to use on the plane because it has been proven before that many airlines do not wash their blankets, (I don't find them very cozy anyway) and that way you could also use it abroad.

School supplies that you don't want to buy again, as long as it isn't too heavy. I would recommend at least bringing a USB and several pens and pencils if you have plenty at home because why buy more?

An obvious one is something that will remind you of home/you can't live without. I brought a small fuzzy pillow that I hug when I sleep and I can't really sleep without. It could be a stuffed animal, a piece of decor that isn't too heavy, a certain type of dish, etc.

Other necessities that you may not want to repurchase including an umbrella, water bottle, travel mug, headphones, slippers, bath robe and a small journal.

Cosmetic products such as lotion, body wash, shampoo, conditioner hand soap etc. You can find great products for awesome prices. They even have good brands at Poundland! In the small town outside of London where I'm living there are so many convenience and drugstores with a huge variety of choices and deals.

Decor for your room. I love Primark because I've gotten some really pretty things there for quite cheap. A candle with a silver glass holder (£1), a vanilla diffuser (£1), a little "LOVE" sign (£1) and forty fairy lights (£2.5) as well as six batteries (£1). I also purchased an amazing hamper for very cheap at Primark, and a very cheap bath mat from Wilko. Things that I didn't really need include a pen holder and fabric coaster from MUJI, still very inexpensive.

Notebooks and other similar school supplies. I even bought my new agenda book here.

Hangers for your clothes. I got two packs of 10 for £1 each.

You could also ship to your accommodation before you arrive, which is a great idea so that you don't have to carry a lot of supplies from the store to your place, and if you don't have room in your suitcase for your bedding. I did have room in my large suitcase for bedding (that was very inexpensive and I wouldn't feel guilty parting with if I have to when I leave) but in England it's so cheap!

To ship supplies, you have to make sure that someone will be at your accommodation to accept and hold your package for you. Be careful about allotting time for this because you don't want to be waiting for important things such as your duvet since you will need it on the first night. If you will be staying around London, Wilko and Matalan are great stores to order from, and you get free shipping if you spend about £50.

Things that are a great idea to ship are:

Bedding including pillows, duvet, duvet cover and pillowcases and a protective mattress cover for hygienic reasons.

Hamper. Depending on the type you get, it make take up a lot of space and be difficult to take home. You could definitely buy a fabric folding hamper once you arrive, but if you want a traditional plastic one I would recommending ordering it.

Dishes including glasses, mugs, plates, bowls, spoons, forks and knives, pots, pans, cutting board, cooking knives, grater, strainer/colander, and a vegetable peeler.

Towels. I would say you need one or two hand towels, four bath towels and two or three face cloths.

A bath mat or two for your sink, toilet and shower.

I hope this was a helpful post! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Good luck,

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Exchange Preparation Checklist

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Once you have completed the drawn-out but necessary application processes and received your acceptance letter from the school abroad, you can REALLY get excited about your trip and begin preparing the details! The following list breaks down the next steps you will need to take to prepare for your long trip. Time to get out a pen and paper!

Stay on top of emails & paperwork

When you are accepted to your school abroad to the time that you leave, make sure to check your emails. Stay in touch with an international students representative about any questions you have, finish signing up for courses and to fill out paperwork.

Make a budget list

This will help you to get a rough understanding if how much you can spend. Take into account the fact that big and metropolis cities are more expensive, especially for food and transit. (It costs me about $30 to get to and around London in one day!) If your total costs are bigger than your bank account will be, think about applying for scholarships (free money!) and about applying for a student loan (make sure to include your budget list and proof of acceptance to the school with your application).

Set up accommodation

It can be quite tricky trying to find private accommodation abroad. Start looking well in advance if this is what you plan to do. I opted for living in a dorm, even though it is about $200 extra a month than I would have liked to pay. There are many advantages to dorms, however: you get to meet people in different programs and make more friends, some cleaning supplies is included, there is a warden who fixes things if you leave him a note (quite quickly in most cases), and dorms are close to school.

Book your airplane ticket

Choose the most convenient dates for yourself to leave home and return and do some searching for tickets. If you are on a budget like me, try, which has the lowest rates I've found. Tuesday is generally the cheapest day of the week to fly. I chose to arrive five days before school starts (it starts tomorrow!) to get enough rest and settle in before beginning. At this point I have unpacked everything, bought the rest of my bedroom and bathroom supplies, a decent amount of groceries and even a little bit of decor to create a space that I enjoy. My flight back home is a month after school ends, which is time that I will use for traveling Europe.

Call your credit card

Notify your credit card that you are going abroad, or notify your bank online, so that they don't assume it was stolen and cancel it.

Payment Methods

Sort out the ways you will be paying for things. I pay for a few things with Visa when cash is inconvenient or not accepted, but minimally because the interest is 2.9%. I brought quite a bit of cash with me, enough to last at least the first month, though only one or two weeks is really necessary. I am also going to set up a bank account here and wire transfer the money I will need for the following four months, including travel. My back-up plan is to ask my parents for help by sending more money through a wire transfer. I had to go to the bank and give my dad power of attorney to my account for this to be possible. However, I am hoping that I did a good job of budgeting and that I won't have to ask my parents for help!


These are necessary but sometimes don't work, which can be a drag. Most of my appliances work except for my straightener, and a few of my friends' converters don't work with certain appliances. Do your research to make sure you bring the right kind, otherwise you could probably find one in the city where you're staying. For certain appliances, maybe think about buying them abroad, but generally I found that appliances are too pricey for me to use just for four or five months.

Plan Your Packing

Start thinking of what you will need to pack. I made an Excel spreadsheet and kept adding things when I thought if them for about a month. I didn't list all the clothes I would take because that list is long, but thinking about things ahead of time helped prevent last minute purchasing and errands and made the process less stressful. I am working on a post about what to pack vs. what to purchase abroad, coming soon.

Arrange Transportation from the Airport

At first my friend and I thought that we would take the Tube and the train all the way from Heathrow airport to the town we are staying at, two hours away. I am so glad that we opted to arrange a car the day before! Visiting the city of London we found that the Tube was way too busy and totally not doable with a bunch of bags and suitcases. With just one smaller suitcase it would be okay. Student services are much cheaper than taxis. A taxi would have cost us £200, while our student driving service cost £70.

Search for Shops

Before arriving, I asked a classmate who has taken the same exchange about grocery and supply stores, and she gave me an informative list. I searched these up on Google Maps and printed them. This was very helpful because once I arrived all tired and jet lagged, I already knew where to go to get some food and necessary supplies, such as bed sheets.

Of course every country is different and everyone's situation is different. There may be other things that you would need to look into, but I think that this is great starting point. I am more than willing to talk if you have any questions. (

Good luck with your preparations,

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Saturday, 13 December 2014

The poster I designed for my BUTEX scholarship application.

While preparing for a semester abroad I have been searching and applying for as many scholarships as I can! Here is a list of resources:

  • BUTEX Scholarship - £500 scholarship for those studying in the UK. (must be a BUTEX affiliated institution)
  • Irving K. Barber Scholarship - Two different scholarships (One World Scholarships and Pacific Horizons Scholarships) at a variety of amounts for students from British Columbia, Canada.
  • Remes Scholarship - A scholarship from BC Study Abroad that pays an airplane ticket! For students from British Columbia, Canada.
  • School educational grants - My school has a program that allows students to write a statement about an educational trip and include receipts to receive a $500 grant.
  • Canada's Luckiest Student - many people already know about this amazing website but the prizes are so big and there are so many that it is definitely worth mentioning. Check it out if you haven't already!
  • Scholarships Canada - For all Canadians, this website is Godsend! After you make an account and enter some information the website matches you with scholarships that you could apply for. I got over 60 matches! I did weed out a few, but there are still so many.
Good luck with your applications!

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