A little service announcement post today, to let you all know that this year while I'm living in Los Angeles I'm going to be writing a monthly column over at the amazingly funny and informative High Tea Cast website about my American adventures. My columns will be going up the end of every month, so make sure you subscribe to The High Tea Cast (they also have a hilarious podcast I love listening to on the train and I've been stockpiling for my flight out) so you don't miss a single one, or any of their other awesome columns and features.
Usually I'll post a link to my monthly columns in 'Weekly Love', but just to give you a little taster, I've copied my first instalment which went up last week where I chat about some of the more daunting and amusing processes I've had to go though here in the UK to prepare for my move, including finding an apartment online and applying for a Student Visa at the American Embassy in London!
I think now would be a good moment to introduce myself. I’m Rachel. I’m almost 20, and I’m a lifestyle writer pretending to be a university student, because study abroad is a pretty good excuse to up sticks and move half way around the world for 10 months. My destination? Los Angeles, California. A city I have never visited, in a country I’ve only visited briefly skiing with friends. I’ll be keeping you all updated with my LA adventures here at The High Tea Cast - thanks so much to Sam and Lea for having me, and to all of you in advance for putting up with my ramblings!
My flight has not even left Terminal 1 of Heathrow yet and I’ve encountered quite a few life issues that have been both irritating and amusing in equal measure (okay, irritating for me as I’m the one who has to deal with them, and amusing for you all as you’re the ones who get the laugh at me!).
First things first, finding somewhere to live. I am from England, I have just spent 6 months living in London. Therefore, when someone says ‘Craigslist’ to me the first thing that springs to mind are ‘Craigslist Killers’, dodgy personals ads and that hoarder food person found in a sublet in New York, someone blogged about and the post went viral (you know the one, guy had made a man out of stuffing old food into clothes and left him in the apartment?)
Anyway, so you can imagine how freaked out I was when the only suggestion UCLA (my new university) had for where I could find off campus housing in the city was Craigslist, right? It was only a slight comfort to me when my mother pointed out how very ‘New Girl’ the whole finding roommates in Los Angeles on Craigslist thing is. I did talk to some lovely people in my hunt for a home, but as you would expect, I did encounter some curiosities; emails that were hilariously suggestive and some that were downright disgusting. A pair of guys only wanted me to live with them if they were single. Others offered me free rent in turn for ‘favours’ around the house (you can imagine what sort), and others attached photographs, not of their apartments, but of themselves. Way to put a girl off guys.
Also, a slight cultural note. I will be sharing a bedroom. I went to a boarding school for 10 years, so this really does not phase me, but American students share bedrooms with each other to cut costs, guys and girls well into their early twenties. Can you imagine British students doing and being comfortable with that? I found it practically impossible to find an apartment with my own room, so I gave up in the end.
Soon after securing my apartment, I had to obtain my American Visa. It is currently stuck onto one of the first pages of my passport, and I guard it like a mother bear does her new born cub as I basically had to do Olympic standard gymnastics through flaming hoops to get it. The amount of lectures I attended at my university in London about filling in the application forms, they’d made me so terrified of making the tiniest mistake in imputing my details (they told us that our application would get rejected and we might not get a visa, this can’t really be the case, right?) I’m pretty sure I had a mini nervous breakdown sitting in front of the computer screen. My father did look rather worried about me at one point. Also, the website you use for the application is written in American, so they make you freak out about making a mistake, but on some sections there is no right answer in answer to their questions!
When you get your appointment to interview at the American Embassy in London, you have to reschedule if you have even the tiniest cut on your fingers, as first things first after you’ve been through security (if you’re carrying any drinks, they make you drink them to show it is not bomb fluid or something, but would a terrorist bomber really mind about drinking noxious fluids to get them through?) they take your fingerprints.
The thing that really made me laugh about the interview, though, is that they make you fill out all this paperwork, present yourself at the embassy and keep you in a holding room for about 5 hours (without electronic devises, seeing the average student trying to survive that did amuse me somewhat) for an interview that only took about a minute. I was asked my full name, why I wanted a J1 visa to study in the United States (my answer: to spend a year abroad at UCLA) and to be told to have a good trip!
The Department of Homeland Security I think have used every means possible to ensure I’m not a terrorist, a serial killer or even a prostitute, but I have a question about the people I am going to encounter out there (or, with my future roomates excluded, if I were to assume for the sake of argument that everyone in America is like everyone I’ve met on the internet or who works for the American government): please tell me you’re not a Craigslist killer, because you’ve already given me enough to worry about!
I'd love to hear what you all think; this is one type of writing I have not really had published before, but I had a lot of fun writing this and I can't wait to write my September column from Los Angeles!