Cost of moving to London (Part 1)


This is a look at my monetary cost of moving to London, UK from the USA to become a student at UCL for the next year. This should cover all major costs so far, but the cost of my everyday consumables during the application portion is not included, e.g. internet, printing, or gasoline costs.

Before setting foot in London:

  • Tier Visa Application Fee: $446
  • NHS Immigrant Health Surcharge: $306
  • Shipping the visa application and shipping label for return: $22.95 + $34
  • MA Education and Technology programme tuition as overseas student : £15,525
  • Welcome week ticketed events: £50
  • Round Trip Flight to London and back to Chicago (found a good deal earlier in the year): $589.26

Total so far: $1,398.21 + £15,575 (exchange rate is generally around 1.33)

I’m going to be looking for some ways to offset these costs.


Another go at this blogging thing…



Okay. So here I am again thinking I should blog a bit more. I like jotting down my thoughts–especially as a cathartic release of anxiety, anger, or fear–and I want to work on how I present my thoughts, in writing and in conversation. Eventually I want to update the way this blog is organized, but I think I will start writing and trying to focus myself on producing regular blogs on a few topics. I’m thinking (in no particular order) I’ll start with 1) life transitions because I’m going through another transition in life: moving to London and starting a master’s program in Education and Technology; 2) education: current trends, policies, etc. and my thoughts (since I figure I need to learn more in this space and actually start forming some stances and ideas anyway); 3) stuff I like: so that I have a record of some of the things I find interesting as I try new things (and also revisit old things).

Yay! 🙂



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Times of uncertainty are exciting and anxiety-inducing. Thrilling and oh-so confusing.

I haven’t been on this blog in a while. Perhaps it’s because, as I’ve mentioned before, I write most when I am anxious and concerned and these last few years haven’t been as dramatic  (at least not in the ways the ways that make my head spin, because teaching high schoolers is anything but calming). Revisiting this blog brought my attention to one of my favorite quotes:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. (Meg Cabot, Princess Diaries; Ambrose Redmoon) (I find it hilarious that I attribute this quote to a teen comedy.)

Right now, I am definitely struggling to figure out whether my future decisions are acts of courage and bravery or just stupidity. I supposed they are not mutually exclusive, but I can’t help but think that I’m ignoring one side of my thoughts in favor of the other, and unfortunately I can’t figure out which side is correct. In situations like these, I think it’s impossible to know if “future-me” will reflect on my situation with 20/20 hindsight or whether that hindsight will be the same as what others have had. So what advice is worth taking and what advice is worth ignoring? What is a mistake worth making, if only to have learned from it myself? Do I invest blind faith into something, so that something might end up being fruitful–whatever that something might be?

Song: Lost Boy by Ruth B

The Month of January 2014


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I’m dreading the month of January 2014. I have been for a few weeks now. Tomorrow is the first day after my “winter vacation,” so it’s back to the work world.

I think there are many feelings that I have that explain my dread. I’m nervous. I’m scared. I’m exasperated. I’m overwhelmed. I’m uncertain. I guess it all comes down to the fact that I have more responsibility than ever and I’m scared that I won’t be able to meet my students’, my manager’s, my mentors’, my superiors’, my parents’, my future employers’, and my own expectations.

This month has more work responsibilities since we’re reaching the heart of the lab work for the science and engineering fair and I have 5 high school teams and 1 middle school team to help. I also have to prepare things for later in the year like the employee’s children day, preparing for the Citizen Schools apprenticeship, preparing for the summer programs, and hiring and training a high school intern.

I also have been feeling the pressure of figuring out what will be next after this fellowship is over. I had debated graduate school for a while. I took the GRE but found myself too uncertain and too unfocused to apply. However, I am proud that I took the time to speak to several people during the month of December about what they do. Many of them have reassured me that there are varied paths to success, but many also have advised me to go back to school (either to learn more in biology, education or to teach in high school). So we’ll have to see. I think at this moment, I hope to be doing education research “in 5 years.” We’ll see how I can get myself there.

I won’t be surprised if I end up writing here more this next month. I tend to write more when I’m upset.

However, so I don’t lose touch with friends (since I think this might become a month that I will hole myself in a little more, especially given the weather), I want to ask myself to write cards to my friends. I did my holiday cards (to the friends that are far–sorry to my friends that are near! You may get a card soon!) and read about the postage increase coming up, but I also read a few nice articles that reminded me what a wonder the post office can be. For less than a dollar they will take your thoughts to whoever you’ve addressed them to! So in the month of January, I’m going to be spending approximately a whopping $20 to hopefully send some of my thoughts to friends around the country! I’ve already bought a box of cards that I think are fun and well suited for this month of uncertainty and change. (I’ve recently bought two boxes of cards published by Chronicle Books. I think they are my new unforeseen fascination in the realm of life’s little things.)

Calculating Worth


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How do you calculate worth? I’m trying to pull together some thoughts as topics about feminism, education, pick-up, post-college inadequacies and other things that may not seem to be alike, but definitely are on a grander picture, arise more in my conversations with friends and as I notice more (re)postings about such topics from friends and in popular journalism.

Because these topics have come up so much, determine self-worth is definitely something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I was definitely a student who excelled in the extrinsically motivated school system of America. I relished the stickers in 1st grade and the As in high school. When I didn’t pull straight As, I didn’t beat myself up–my face was on every letter of the award hall in my high school and I was voted the most likely to be successful in the senior superlatives!

College definitely gave me a run. I think that I was one of those who was slowly beaten from the inside out. I’ve graduated and I have great memories. I know I’ve learned and grown, and even though I really wanted to be done, I recognize that I have so much more to learn. Especially now that I’m considering next “moves in life,” everyone says you have to “know your strengths.” But how do you figure out your strengths and where does the confidence to declare a strength come from? Clarity or ignorance?

So how do you measure the value of a dynamic person? (I guess I still think quite highly of myself since I assume things will change in the future (and I can only hope for better).) In context? Context of what? I think this is where many people struggle. People will try to compare. Compare to other of similar age, of similar race, of similar means. Or perhaps compare not to other people but the individual to herself. How far has she come. But how much further will she go? Should she go?

I don’t think I have any answers yet. I once had the reassurance of stickers, but now I feel that I have to seek within myself, but this is much easier said than done. I don’t think this post is meant to convey much insight, but rather a glimpse of what is mulling in my head.

Taking the GRE tomorrow


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And of course I’m distracted. I’m not too concerned about the test. I don’t think I’ll score perfectly in every section, but I figure there’s not much use in fretting over things like this. I’ve studied. I probably could have thought about the test earlier and prepared better, but I’ve taken practice tests, identified and fixed some weak areas, and taken more practice tests.

In studying for this test, I’ve definitely realized that my college experiences have shaped the way I do things. I’m a social studier. I like to be near other people. I like occasionally talking to others. I must be plugged in–reading about my friends; reading about the country (and right now the US government is probably more frazzled than I am).

People have asked me to which universities I’m applying. A reasonable question that I meet with the vague commonplace answer of “I’m not really sure.” I’m interested in education, especially science education. I’m interested in the way people interact with objects but I can’t decide which angle I should take: behavioral economics, marketing, consumer psychology?

To be completely honest, I’m taking the GRE out of fear. I applied to a few “safety schools” for my undergraduate education, but I didn’t really fear not getting accepted into a college and I actually think I would have been very happy at any of the institutions. However, the path ahead of me is no longer predetermined–it’s no longer expected that I have to do the next grade of school after the completion of the current one (especially since I’ve already completed 13). That being said, I love learning but I feel like I have a somewhat “old school”/retro-revived mindset and want to learn through experience; I want to learn while working. But I also have the typical unrestrained view of the future for which my generation is so admired and ridiculed. I would ideally like to work like an apprentice of social entrepreneur or great consumer product designer. But because I don’t see the average productive, successful person doing things like this, but rather hiding in the walls of academia for an extra half decade, I feel like I must also hedge my bets and keep open the possibility of gaining a title after my name. And herein is my cyclic internal dilemma of being special without being left behind, different without being socially dejected.

Well, I’ve paid nearly $200 for a potential safety net–one that I may not use and one that may not be able to save me from anything–I should probably try to make it one that is strong.

Walking home in the cold


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…and sort of the dark… (’cause even during a power outage, the city is never dark)

There was a power outage in a large section of Cambridge today around 4:20ish. I was at work in the Community Lab stapling papers (really exciting, I know) when the power went out. Definitely a bit startling. But of course being at a big biotech, the emergency backup lighting came on. I went out in the hall way to see facilities people out on their walkie talkies. I waited a few moments to be sure things were generally safe. Then I finished my stapling and headed out.

When I left, I thought it was just an outage at work and wanted to deposit a check, but then I ran into Sam who had also left work early, and realized that would be a bad idea. So I headed on my way. But as I was walking I quickly realized that traffic was ridiculous –just like the situation–so I decided to be even more ridiculous, and started to walk home and take pictures of MIT in darkness (a sight I never thought I’d see at the the school that never sleeps).

These are some of the pictures I took on my walk home. All iPod photos, but good enough. Had I not been stopping to take photos, I think I would have beat my bus home. Also, it is very difficult to walk against traffic!(I was on a walkway, but I was constantly blinded by headlights.)

Boston on the left; Cambridge on the right. Both are somewhat lit, but in very different ways.

Cambridge on the left and Boston on the right this time. The lights in the sky aren’t stars, but rather helicopters. I saw at least five.

An image after I got to the Boston side of the Charles River. At first glance, this photo probably looks pretty average, until you realize that the row of lights is actually a string of cars along Memorial Drive and the scene looks a lot flatter than it should. Again the light in the sky is a helicopter…

My walk home reminded me that I don’t like hearing the hums of helicopters. Some people know that I struggle with the feelings sirens normally provoke (fear, reassurance, disappointment, defensiveness), but I’m pretty sure that the hum of a helicopter, just induces feelings related to fear. Something is wrong when a helicopter is near, but it doesn’t give me the same reassurance that other emergency vehicles do. I’m not sure I can verbalize why, but I think some of you may understand?

Anyway, that was my afternoon in Cambridge. Just glad I didn’t need to deal with a class of students in panic.

Let’s Dance!


This weekend I had a great time at my boyfriend’s office retreat in Puerto Rico. It was a great weekend with many firsts. However, one thing that this weekend has reminded me is the power of knowing how to dance! I really want to learn how to dance better. I know, I know–a lot of it is confidence. But whether it’s just shakin’ what you’ve got to whatever beat is pumping or salsa-ing to both traditional salsa music and pop songs, being able to show off some moves is impressive! And guys, I’m probably not the first to tell you this, but it sure makes the heart flutter a bit. So I guess this is a post about a goal: learn how to dance with confidence! (Probably a good workout method too…)

Fall Festivals: Highlight #1 Maple Caramels

One of my favorite things to do is to wander random street fairs and festivals–it’s why I like living in cities (though sometimes I wish I lived a little further outside of the city so I can enjoy awesome county and state fairs). It’s just awesome to see the conglomeration of bits of what many people do–a very vague description, but think about food festivals or craft fairs.

On Sunday, I went to the Boston Local Food Festival, which was pretty cool. Lots of stands of different things ranging from local coffee to cooking demos to local restaurants. There I discovered Red Kite Candy‘s maple caramels. So delicious! They had mini samples of their sea salt caramel, chai caramel, and their maple caramel. I tried the maple one first and fell in love. Then of course I had to try the rest, but I was hooked on the maple ones and bought myself a package.

I’m excited for upcoming festivals:

Saturday, October 13th: Food Truck Throwdown: Boston vs. New York

Saturday, October 27th: Boston Book Fest


Today I will learn what it is like to live with only $4.53 cents in my pocket… Silly me left my whole wallet at home, but luckily I had my change purse still in my bag. Makes me really thankful that I have a good job, at least today, to distract me–since I’ll be super busy today–and good friends on top of that. We’ll see what happens… Hopefully, there are lunch leftovers from an event today…