Moving to London: You’ve Arrived! Now What?

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I arrived in London on the 24th and since then, my time here has been a whirlwind. There are some things that you can only do once you’ve landed so the first few days end up being less ‘fun’ and more practical. Here are the things you should do ASAP:

1. Find a Job or Meet with Employer

I arrived at 6am and had an appointment with Prospero, the teaching agency that found me a job, at 2pm. I really wanted to get everything sorted as soon as possible so that I could start working as soon as possible. Although my job is for September, I’m hoping to supply teach in the next few weeks. The Canadian dollar/pound exchange rate is killing me as it’s two dollars to every pound. Also, everything here is on sale and it’s been REALLY HARD. But I digress… You’ll want to find a job asap.

2. Find Somewhere to Stay

If you have friends in London, yay! You can skip this step! You need an address in London when you pass through customs so I would encourage ringing up friends or  booking a hostel for a week before hand. Finding a place to settle in is not as easy as it looks and you’ll need a few days before you find the perfect fit. We’re staying with Ross’s mom but she lives in a one-bedroom with a cat and a massive dog. We’re totally inconveniencing her (though she’d absolutely never say it) and are so grateful that she is letting us stay there.

3. Find Somewhere to Live

I was lucky that Ross arrived here before I did and I forced him suggested that he find us a place to live while he was here doing a bunch of job interviews. I’ll be honest, finding a place to live sucks. Between housing ads that are dishonest, agencies that capitalize on finding people places to live and a small window after people’s work day in which to see these places, it’s not exactly a party.

The jobs we were given are in North London and we wanted to find a place to live that wasn’t far out, close to transport and lively. We were willing to pay a bit more and not live in the ‘burbs. This search led us to Camden, home of the famous market and the best doughnuts you’ll ever eat.

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We used spareroom.co.uk to find a room in a house share. We had originally tried to find an apartment on our own but the rent would’ve cost us a fortune and our bed probably would’ve also been the bathtub. We have a huge room in an old church conversion and we’re sharing the flat with 4 other people. Not ideal, but considering the fact that it’s large, centrally located and affordable, I’m pretty excited about it. Another huge draw is that shared housing usually includes most of the bills in the rent. We don’t have to worry about setting up internet, setting money aside for taxes or worrying about how long our showers are because it’s already been looked after. Here’s to hoping our housemates aren’t weirdos and that it isn’t haunted…

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4. Apply For a Bank Account

You’ll want to get the ball rolling pretty quickly on this one and hopefully your job will help you out. Typically, to open an account here you need a letter of employment and proof that you’re living somewhere in the UK. This is annoying because the only two requirements are probably already stressing you out. Once you’ve got those two things you need to make an appointment with the bank (usually about two weeks away) and then they’ll let you put your money there. I got my account through Lloyds as they tend to be the easiest– all they need to see is your passport.

Some Other Things You’ll Need ASAP:

  • Oyster card- this is your travel card to get around. It is £5 of travel freedom that you need if you’re going to be taking the tube or a bus. Also, figure out whether it’s worth it to get a monthly pass here.
  • Sim card- because who can live without internet on their phones!? We have a £20/month no-contract plan that gives us unlimited data, 5000 text and 2000 local minutes. Don’t mind if I do…
  • Apply for a National Insurance Number here (you do it by phone).

Lastly, make friends! I’m lucky that I came over with a built-in buddy but this is where your hostel, Facebook and Twitter will pay off. There are so many people living in this city, especially expats, that making friends will be easy-peasy. Prospero organizes a bunch of teacher socials so look into what your job or job agency offers in that respect as well.

Once you’ve sorted out the above, get out there and enjoy the city!

If you missed the first two parts in the series you can find them here and here :)

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To

So, today is my 27th birthday and the last day of school and the day I leave for a year-long trip to London with/for a guy who is pretty awesome. So exciting right?!

I’m so excited!!!!!!

I also can’t stop crying.

I knew saying goodbye to my family would be hard (we’re super close) but I don’t think I realized how much I’d fall apart with each and every member. Yesterday I said goodbye to my brother and sister-in-law and lost it and today it was my parents at the airport.

Here’s how I’m sure I looked from behind:

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So cute right? Look at how pretend me walks with such purpose!

Here’s how I looked to the patient people at security:

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I was a mess. Nobody wanted to make eye contact with me. I’m sure I could’ve gotten past security with all the liquid in the world. Nothing causes more fear or awkwardness than a blubbering woman, apparently.

I skyped with Ross and cried some more. At one point he was like “you’ll be seeing me tomorrow!!” with a grin and I could barely muster a smile, lol. I swear I really do love him.

Anyway, I was at a table all to myself for a bit but then made the mistake of smiling at a woman with 3 boys that walked passed. Apparently this was an invitation for her children to join me. It was like a really long game of musical chairs where the chairs were never taken away. There were tears, rage at losing games and movement, so much movement.

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I wish this picture captured sound.

I’m now waiting to board my flight and still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this isn’t vacation– tomorrow I’ll wake up to the beginning of my short London life.

Kevin Keely, you're not wrong

Kevin Kelly, you’re not wrong

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How To Pack Like You’re a Nonna

I come from a family of Italian immigrants and I swear that when they came over from the motherland with all their belongings in a few suitcases, the DNA in all future generations changed.

Every single member of my family is a ninja when it comes to packing. When it comes to unpacking it’s a lot like Mary Poppin’s bag. Like ‘HOW DID YOU FIT A PASTA MAKER IN HERE’ or ‘HOW DID THEY LET YOU THROUGH SECURITY WITH 19 SALAMIS?!’ It really is a great time.

Here is how you can channel your inner Italian immigrant:

Step 1:

Take out a notebook and make a list. This step is also applicable to all first steps in life. You’re welcome.

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Since I am literally fitting my entire life into two suitcases, I went with a weather theme. Suitcase 1 is winter clothes and suitcase 2 is lighter stuff. I like to make my list as I go along– I find that I miss things if I do list first or packing first, then list.

Step 2:

ROLL EVERYTHING.

Rolling is totally the way to go– fold a shirt as you normally would and then you literally roll it like twinkie. You have to roll your clothes nice and tight though, or else it defeats the purpose entirely. The base of my first suitcase is sweaters and jackets.2015-06-16 12.29.34

Step Three:

Add in a layer of non-squishy items. I made a nice layer of books, miscellaneous toiletries that I don’t want to re-purchase, contact lenses and my nail stuff (lime green pouch). The middle is where you would put anything liquid or delicate that you would be traveling with. With my family this is where you would put bottles of wine or homemade cake. I wish I was joking.

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Step 3:

Add more clothes and fill all the little spots. This is where you cram in the most things. I added a layer of t-shirts, shirts and random things like reusable grocery bags, purses and an overnight bag. I also shoved in makeup remover, cream, more contact lenses, a jewelry pouch and a pencil case. You can’t see them but I swear they’re there.

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Step 4:

Add more things. If you look at the previous picture, the things I’ve packed are flush with the edge of a suitcase. This does not mean stop. It actually means ‘OMG SO MUCH ROOM! FIND MORE THINGS!’ So I did. I added 4 dresses and my winter peacoat and then I called it a day.

Before zipper:

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After zipper:

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Ta-da!!! And I didn’t even need to use the expander.

Now, go forth and pack like Nonna!

Teaching in the UK: Words to Know

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So, with the impending move (t-minus 5 sleeps!!!), I thought it might be helpful to go over some important education related buzzwords I’ve encountered so far.

Teaching in the UK seems similar to the education system here in Ontario but it does have some significant differences.

Grades fall under the umbrella of Key Stages and next year, I’ll be teaching Key Stage 3 (see chart below). My main task will be preparing the students with the skills they will need to write their GCSEs in the following years.

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is a set of exams, taken over two years (roughly ages 15 to 16) that determine the education stream that students will fall into. By the end of year 11, students will have figured out what their grades will lead them to– the higher the mark, the more options you are given. In short, they’re kind of a big deal.

The following two years are called Sixth Form which is essentially pre-college. The purpose here is to transition students into the workplace or higher education. Some schools require business dress and it is a way to ease students out of adolescence and into adulthood. Those students that wish to stop their schooling at 18 will have been given practical training in a field that interests them and students that wish to continue their education will write their A Levels.

A-Levels are kind of like SATs but they can also help you get an entry level job as an administrative assistant or an accountant trainee, for example.

Some other words to know:

  • QTS– Qualified teacher status. It’s basically the piece of paper you need to present to show that you actually are a teacher. If you’re a teacher from abroad, you also need to go through them and they decide whether or not to recognize your degree.
  • OfstedOfsted is a government organization that visits all schools every so often (between1-2 years) to evaluate the schools administration, its staff and its teachers. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Once inspected, the school is deemed one of four categories: outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. They also come out with a 10 page-ish indepth report (example in the link). The purpose of this is to ensure that all schools are teaching what they should, that teaching is up to snuff and that students are being served in the best way possible.

Here’s a handy, dandy chart:

School British stage National Curriculum Level (Estimated) British year Age USA/Canada Grade
Infant or Primary Foundation Reception 3-5
Key Stage 1 Year 1 5-6 Kindergarten
2 Year 2 6-7 1
Junior Key Stage 2 Year 3 7-8 2
3 Year 4 8-9 3
Year 5 9-10 4
4 Year 6 10-11 5
Secondary Key Stage 3 Year 7 11-12 6
Year 8 12-13 7
5 or 6 Year 9 13-14 8
Key Stage 4 GCSE Year 1 Year 10 14-15 9
8 GCSE Year 2 Year 11 15-16 10
Secondary or Sixth Form College Key Stage 5 A Levels Year 1 Year 12 16-17 11
A Levels Year 2 Year 13 17-18 12
University or College Undergraduate 1st Year 18-19 1st Year
2nd Year 19-20 2nd Year
3rd Year 20-21 3rd Year

Thinking of moving to the UK to teach? You can find the first part of my journey here and my budget anxiety here.

Mr. Pen: Where Cute Things Happen

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There is a store near Bloor and Christie streets in Toronto that I actively have to put blinders on to walk past. It is a Korean stationary/stuff store and I’m not ashamed to say that when I’m in there, I have no self control. I can’t help it that Koreans have the market cornered on cute. They’re just so good at it.

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The last time I allowed myself to hear it’s siren call, I picked up these goodies:

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Two adorable pens. I have a thing with pens– they need to be fine which is why my ESL students from China often give me pens as gifts. They know me oh so well.

I also purchased two packages of stickers: an agenda stickers pack and a UK themed pack. You guys, this is where the magic happens. The people that translate/design these are AWESOME.

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Standouts:

  • There are two ‘marry me’ stickers, in case you screw up the first time.
  • It’s under my flash, but there are two ‘Don’t eat!’ stickers. There should have been a sheet of these.
  • The ‘I’m crying’ stickers that feature a sad little poop. So accurate.
  • The ‘I’m best’ sticker. Because I am best.

I CAN’T WAIT TO USE THESE.

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If you’re in the area I wold highly recommend having a look around the shop or the area in general. Koreatown has lots to offer by way of tchotchke, bibimbap, and bubble tea. I mean, you can’t really go wrong.

 

Ode To A Perfect Agenda

Allow me to share with you a new purchase that brings me great joy. GREAT joy.

I have had (and used) an agenda since elementary school. You know those kids that never wrote their homework down or used their agenda as a book of paper to make a daily cootie catcher? Ya, that wasn’t me. My agenda was my bff. Seriously, though. I alienated ’nuff kids because they couldn’t help it that I AM was the sticker trading boss.

Aaaaanyway, holidays were stickered and decorated to beyond recognition. I had ribbons hanging from the spiral binding and once I started to read magazines it was game. over. I spent 2000-2006 collaging all the things. Orlando Bloom’s face was on every other page of whatever notebook I had.

The other day I was at the local bookstore and they had their 16-month calendars out and because I have SQUIRREL! moments in stores (especially bookstores), I zombie-walked over to the agendas instead of the card section for which I came.

You guys, I found my dream agenda. Like, I think I’m going to marry it.

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Okay, so it starts with a great cover and a convenient elastic to hold all of the crap I will inevitably stuff into it.

Next, TABS. I LOVE TABS.

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As you continue though the book, there are also stickers. Magical, wonderful stickers.

OMG, those stickers actually are cute!!!

I will dance my ass off!!

Every month has a two page spread of a cute picture and phrase. I like this one:

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The agenda, made by ban.do, manages to blend my adolescent self with the adult that I try to be. Sometimes. In short, this agenda is awesome and you should buy it. Also, I will never stop being fourteen on the inside.

P.S. In researching for this post I found this gem:

THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE OUT THERE LIKE ME.

Summer Reads 2015

It’s the last week of teaching here at school and you know what that means….

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With summer break and lots of traveling (read: airport time) up ahead, I’ll finally have the will to read! Right now all I can muster is the will to lay in bed and stare at my ceiling. Seriously, it’s the most relaxing part of my day.

Here is what I’ll have on my Kobo:

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Adding English by Elizabeth Coelho

  • This is the default text if you want to teach ESL (EAL) in Ontario so I feel like I need to give it a deeper read before I leave for England. I’ll be at a school where many of my students don’t speak English at home.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

  • Mia Thermopolis was my homegirl as a teen so I’m excited to read about her next chapter. Biased review to follow.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  • I have heard that this book changes lives. It opens with the main character deciding whether or not to kill Hitler while he sits at a cafe. I’m in.

Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

  • Follows the story of a man with Aspergers who is looking for love. I’ve started this one and love the voice of the narrator.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • A story about an old curmudgeon and how he deals with the young family that moves in next door. Could have the potential to be really sad, really funny or both. Probably both.

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

  • A retelling of Arabian Nights where the tale spinner actually falls in love with her murdery husband. Retellings are often tricky to take on. This one has the potential to be awesome or awful but so far, readers are leaning towards awesome.

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

  • This book was recommended by Sam Maggs and she described it as a being about a  kick butt lady mercenary who operates out of a spaceship and finds alien love. Sold!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

  • The school where I’ll be teaching next year studies this book to I figured I should probably read it. This is the part where I hang my English teacher head in shame. All of the exposure I’ve has to Dickens had been thanks to the BBC or Disney. I was supposed to read Bleak House in uni but….it’s a doorstop. And Victorian writers capitalized everything. It was Really hard to Focus while Reading because Everything Seemed Very Important

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • I’ve had this on my kobo forever but I’ve been too busy staring at my ceiling.

Reviews of most of these books will follow:)

List O’Things: The Fourth

FRIDAYYYYYYY!!!!! Fridays are great. Here are some other great things from this week:

Suffragette

The trailer for Suffragette came out this week and I. Can’t. Even. There has been a very ‘girl power’ movement happening thanks to people like Amy Schumer, Paul Feig and Sam Maggs and I like it very much (this is the least comprehensive list ever but I want to keep this post short). I’m seeing the results of the objectification and belittling of women in today’s teens and it’s important that males and females remember that there is much more to women than boobs and booty. Also, I NEED to know who sings that cover of Landslide.

This Girl Can

I used to refuse to run outside because I hated that I jiggled. So I used the treadmill instead. Treadmills are human hamster wheels of sadness. What the hell was I thinking?! There is nothing more empowering and motivating than seeing people of different sizes work out. So now I own my jiggle. And I have invested in pants that don’t fall off. Everyone wins!

This Picture

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I belly laugh every time I see it, hahaha. Snapchat, for the win!

Paleo Diet

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My friend Emi sent me a link to this article (link in the picture as well) and I laughed so hard that I cried. Please, please read it. It will be the happiest 10 minutes of your day, promise. She is also my new favourite blogger, so…

Happy Friday, ya'll!

Happy Friday, ya’ll!

Sam Maggs: Making My Inner Fangirl Squee

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This fun little number by Sam Maggs has been very buzzed about recently. In a cultural climate where feminism is confusing to some (read: being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men *eye roll*), this book could not have come at a more appropriate time. Maggs reminds us that the (often male dominated) nerd world is as much for the ladies as it is for the lads.

The book is a how-to guide to being the best fangirl (or fan person, really) that you can be. It walks you through the many different aspects of geekdom and how to find more of it. Basically, it’s full of a whole bunch of awesome.

What I learned

I fit into way too many fangirl categories: Harry Potter, Disney, Game of Thrones, Marvel, YA lit, et cetera, et cetera. I can’t help it that I love pop culture and I’m so glad I’m not alone.

I am a tame to moderate fangirl. Much of what was included was new to me or stuff that I don’t have time for or interest in, sorry cosplay and video games.

There is so much fun stuff out there for geeky girls that I wish was around when I was waving my tiny teenaged freak flag.

Why I liked it

She has a great section near the end on “Heroines You Should Know” and they’re separated by the places in which you would find such fine examples of badassery be it books, video games, movies, etc. I am always recommending books to my budding nerd friends and this book will simplify my life immensely.

There’s a shout-out to Tamora Pierce that made my heart happy. She was the first fantasy author I read as a preteen and I never looked back.

It was like a walk down memory lane. I miss the days of lining up at the bookstore for the newest Harry Potter at midnight with a bunch of other fans, geeking out over a book we would read five times over, back to back.

Who I’d Buy It For

All my nerdy buddies but mostly, I’d buy it for a teen or a preteen who thinks that being the ‘weird one’ at the party is a bad thing or that that party has a cap on the amount of girls that are allowed in (hint: you’re at the wrong party, ain’t nobody got time for that).

If you’re in Toronto this weekend, Maggs will be a the Indigo at Yonge and Eglinton on Saturday for a book signing and a talk. I’ll be there with bells on. And by bells I mean a Huffellpuff scarf and Harry Potter tee. Fangirls need to represent, yo!

I WANT ONE OF THESE

Buffy, Not Bella. Also, HOW DO I GET ONE OF THESE POSTERS?!

New Movie Roundup

For those of you that don’t know me, I LOVE to see movies in theatres. Some people fall under the ‘I only see exciting movies in theatres’ category but I am not one of those people. I will see literally any film in theatres. The darkness, the ambience, surround sound, the smell of popcorn– I can’t get enough of it. Here are three of the movies I’ve seen recently:

Entourage 

This film comes out June 3rd but I was lucky enough to get advance screening tickets to go see it.

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What I Liked

It really was funny. If you’ve ever seen Entourage, it’s basically a season crammed into two hours. The characters are the same, the humour is the same and it plays like an entertaining ‘Where’s Waldo’ game with all of the celebrity cameos.

What I Didn’t

My issues with the movie are issues I had with the show. The female characters are mostly annoying, they all look the same and they’re treated quite poorly. The guys are super-rich douches without much depth. However, I knew that going into the movie and you kind of take it for what it is. Needless to say, there were many eye-rolls but I was’t scandalized or anything.

Verdict

This is a great movie to see with a bunch of friends that can never decide on what to watch. There’s something in it for everyone. Except for your mom. Or your grandma. Or children.

Tomorrowland

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What I Liked

I saw this movie in IMAX (again, for free) and it was visually stunning. The graphics were incredible and the bits of the movie that were in Tomorrowland, I wanted more of.

What I Didn’t

The story was crap. It all centres around the end of the world and how ‘if you believe hard enough you can change anything!’ I mean, I know it’s a Disney film, but still. I don’t really want to give a synopsis because I’m still a bit puzzled about what actually happened. George Clooney plays a grumpy older guy and Brittany Robertson is his Pollyanna counterpart. Really, the whole film plays like an advert for the Disney theme park that shares its name with the title.

Verdict

Overall it was ‘meh’ and I would recommend skipping it in any form (theatre, rent or Netflix), unless you are kid-sitting and are desperate to kill time.

Mad Max: Fury Road

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What I Liked

This move was SO GREAT. I went into it not knowing a lick about the story and I’m so glad I did. Aside from it being incredible to look at, the story was compelling. The director did a good job of spending as much time on the visuals as he did on the story.  It’s in-your-face action the whole time however, you come out of the the theatre being able to retell a story with characters and feeling instead of ‘um it was about things and fights and explosions and there was a girl’ *ahem, Transformers*.

What I Didn’t

Not a whole lot. Though it does take a bit to get used to what is going on and how weird the setting is.

Verdict

See this in theatres. It really feels like you’re in another world for two hours. I didn’t want it to end. Also, if you liked the film, might I recommend Blood Red Road by Moira Young? Similar setting with a kick-ass band of characters.