31 October, 2007

The first post with information useful to others!

Today I began exploring visa options. Thankfully, it looks like it's not too complicated. Complicated, yes, but not obscene.

Studying in the UK - A helpful page. And I mean that with all the understatement my frail human body can contain.

Only the Ottawa consulate deals with visas. To get a visa, I need to have:

  • printed and signed e-application VAF1.
  • the appropriate fee, which is non-refundable (see Fees leaflet)
  • your original valid passport
  • one recent passport size photograph taken in Canada (less than 6 months old). The photo must: show the full face centred in the middle of the photo; be clear and of good quality; be taken against a light background; be printed on normal photographic paper; be 45mm x 35mm in size; and be black and white or colour. Note: Professional digital photographs are acceptable.
  • a letter of unconditional acceptance from the school/college in the UK confirming the duration of your course and course fees
  • evidence of sufficient funds to show you can meet the cost of the course and accommodation and maintain yourself (e.g. recent bank statements, line of credit/bank loan, scholarship/bursary documents)
  • a letter stating your intentions on completion of your course
  • copies of any relevant diplomas or educational certificates which you hold. Please note that if originals are required, we will contact you.

So this means I need to get to the credit union tout de suite and arrange a line of credit. And apply for OSAP (again). Then, with money arranged, contact York to prove I can pay, and get the unconditional offer. With that in hand, and copies of my finances, and my passport, and all the other paperwork, I will apply for a visa.

Visas take 5 days to process, normally, and then they mail everything back to you. I am very, very glad not to have to go to Ottawa to get it. And also very glad about the benefits of this visa:

  • A UK student visa provides validity for the full period of study plus unlimited entries.
  • A UK student visa provides a work entitlement: 20 hours per week and full time during the holidays.
  • A UK student visa provides the opportunity to switch into work permit or highly skilled migrant categories after graduation
  • In addition to all these benefits, the new International Graduates Scheme enables all graduates/postgraduates to remain in the UK for 12 months (2 years in Scotland).

So it's going to be a lot of running around. A lot of red tape. But it's clear and direct and doable.

O, Canada

The anxiety is kicking in big-time. Having the papers and getting the ball rolling makes it all so much more real.

Can I do this? Is my topic viable? What about money? Leaving friends behind? Family?

This blog/diary is helping, and it's very good to know that it's okay to be scared and freaking out. But I still am scared.

I can has cheeseburger?

Writing grant applications is difficult to do when you have a migraine. All of your attempts at coherency end up looking like something out of a lolcats macro. lolsshrcs? Whatever.

In happier news, my formal offer of study arrived in the post, finally. It is contingent upon me proving I have the funds to accept. Crapsticks. Good thing: GBP-CDN exchange rate. Bad thing: I still don't have $35k. OSAP will give me $10k, and I will have about $5-6k of my own (mom being sick this summer really was brutal). I can probably set up a line of credit at the Credit Union.

Funding: Ramen Noodle edition! Why do I want to go to England, again?

Right, I forgot about OSAP. OSAP won't release a funding estimate until they have a letter from York with an expense breakdown. So I have to call York, ask for that, send it to OSAP, wait for OSAP to reply, then I can reply to York that Yes, I have money. And THEN I can apply for housing. Somehow I'm beginning to doubt all this is possible before January. Lessons to Learn: start everything really, really, early.

I will be seeking out the cheapest possible accommodations, while I'm there. Prices range from £3,500-5,300. Guess which one I'll be going for?

It's very strange, looking over these UK residences. We can add "washbasin" to the list of words I'll have to switch over to. I usually think of a laundry sink when I hear "washbasin." That, or a porcelain bowl with a water jug sitting in it, a la Victorian period.

Anyway, the point is that things we take for granted over here, like phone jacks and internet... not so much, over there. My two first-choice residences have limited internet service and no phones in the rooms. My second choice has both. Fortunately, the first-pick residences are also the cheapest of the available housing. Unfortunately, they house a combined 53 students, and all of those spots are very likely already taken, since I'll be arriving in January. Regardless, all of the residences are within biking distance of my academic building, which is nice, and the York website says that the main campus is wireless. Whatever I get, I will deal with, but it has to be cheap, is all.

Ramen noodles.

26 October, 2007

The Impossibility Terror

Yesterday I got my hot little hands on Irina Metzler's excellent "Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking about physical impairment during the high Middle Ages, c. 1100-1400."

I cracked it open this morning, and after ploughing through the first two chapters in mesmerised fascination, I sunk into the black pit of despair. This book is amazing. The methodology is sophisticated. The explanation of the difficulties posed by such an interdisciplinary field is eloquent and concise. I am so far from this bar I see set before me.

After a brief period, sanity returned, and I remembered that I'm not supposed to be at this level yet, and that is what the next 4, 6, 10 years are all about. So I am choosing to be inspired by it, and will probably snag a copy at next year's International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo.*

And in the meantime, I will meditate upon it in hopes of it helping me write my SSHRC application.

At last year's Medieval Academy of America meeting (or was it K'zoo?), I remember a discussion about us lowly students becoming fans of senior scholars. It's sadly, geekishly true. OMG!!1one! You wrote that book about medieval disability, and it was totally teh awesome! Can I have your autograph!?! Hmm. I wonder if that's what the open bars and wine hour are really about. They call it "socialising" and "networking," but really it's just an excuse to get the young'uns drunk enough to act like Japanese fangirls so they can enjoy the adulation.

That presents a disturbing enough mental image that I think it's time for me to quit writing.

* There are no less than three special sessions on disability proposed for the 43rd Congress. "(Ab)normal societies: Disability as a Socio-Cultural Concept in Medieval Society"; "Embodied Identities: Disability and Gender in the Middle Ages"; "Disability in the Middle Ages: a Roundtable Discussion". "The Representation of the Self in Medieval Discourse" also sounds interesting. This is a sub-field that's really starting to gain momentum!

23 October, 2007

I need some cookies, please

As when travelling to any place where there is a notable linguistic difference, moving to England will present some challenges.

I will indulge with biscuits, not cookies.
If I want a biscuit, I'll have to ask for a scone.
Pants are not meant to be publicly visible.
Britain has a bewildering array of crisps. I mean really, hedgehog flavoured?
They also have a large number of ways to refer to pop.

And I'm sure many more will make themselves known. Lifts, lorries, nappies.

Given my general tendency to pick up the accent of whoever is speaking, I have a feeling my trips back to Canada will be comical.

22 October, 2007

Another Work Week Begins

I received my "email acceptance notice" on 03 October. Today is 22 October, two and a half weeks later. I'm still waiting for the post to arrive with my paperwork and the formal offer. Until then, I am still very nervous.

I need to get certain things moving (visa, loans, etc.), and I can't do any of it until I have paperwork. So I'm on edge about having enough time for all that, and also on edge about just plain getting in. It's not certain till I have the hard copy.

In funding news, my SSHRC application in progressing. It is possible to start funding in May, which would be ideal. Still, I can't count on anything. I am very glad of my excellent credit rating and my excellent relationship with my credit union, because it's looking quite possible that I will need a loan from them as well as from the government. David tells me that it is very difficult for overseas students to get legitimate work in England, since (understandably, I suppose) the government wants the jobs to go to English students.

It's rather irritating, because the Canadian government doesn't want to send its money overseas, and the English government wants its money to stay home, too. And since I'm not "home" in either place, I get screwed.

21 October, 2007

Pros and Cons

I'm at work, and I'm stone bored. I'm probably going to end up posting a few posts to get this going.

Pros about the University of York:
* strong interdisciplinary focus
* very pretty campus
* they accepted me
* highest "duck density" of any school in the UK (ducks + chasing = excellent stress relief)
* very cyclist friendly city
* year-round above freezing temperatures
* manuscript libraries nearby

* won't be able to drive at all
* year-round rain
* don't know anyone
* will miss all my friends and family
* very expensive

The friends-and-family bit is going to be the hardest thing for me, but as you can see, there is a lot of good things about the UofYork. Thankfully, the dollar-to-pound exchange is very good right now.

The furnace of doubt

I'm restarting this long-dormant blogger account as a place to recount the terrors and joys of being a grad student.

I am a recently-admitted doctoral candidate at the University of York in England. I'm also a Canadian born and bred, so this blog is not just about grad school, it is about the long-term process of living abroad.

I leave in January, and I'm already getting homesick. I expect it to get worse, but also to get better as I adjust and as it becomes more real. The anticipatory homesickness is making things rough right now. I imagine I will get very distracted when the paperwork starts pouring in and the wheels start turning.

So here things are. You can look forward to humorous stories of linguistic variation, travel tips, government screw-ups, research zaniness, and much, much more!