Study Abroad Update – November 2015

Study Abroad November

Hey everyone, long time no post! Thought it’s about time to check in with ya’ll, as I’ have some great news!

Remember that study abroad program I began telling you about? Well, it’s happening! I have been officially accepted to study at University of Sussex in Brighton, UK! I will be embarking on this fabulous adventure in late January and will study for a whole semester there. Strangely (or not), most of my thoughts are about travelling and seeing England, not studying. Hopefully I’ll remember my 4 classes when I’m there.. ;) I will use this site as a blog space to keep track of all the things happening and posting some photos, so stay tuned!

The process of applying, interviewing and getting some paperwork approved took a while – since about Spring. My choice fell on a full-on university exchange in the UK because I chickened out about the language barrier (second choice was France), and after a summer trip to London I am realizing that I won’t regret this decision. The application process was fairly easy – all it took was an essay and a short, informal personal interview with the Study Abroad director. After that, a couple weeks of waiting and ta-da, I’m in! I was surprised at how easy it was to get in – apparently all it took is a thought-through essay to show that I am serious about going abroad and have done my research. After that, I signed a contract that obligated me to pay whatever fees come and submitted an actual application to University of Sussex. According to Mike, the Study Abroad director, that was just a formality, since UW has an exchange agreement with Sussex and I’ve been accepted already. Phew! After that it was just a long, long wait until I got an official letter of acceptance from Sussex. Now I’m moving on to the next couple of phases – applying for a visa and arranging housing.

Study Abroad Program Options

From what I saw, there were several options to choose from at UW. All study abroad programs broke into three categories: exchanges, faculty-led programs and affiliated programs.

  • Faculty-lead programs are themed and planned out by professors at UW. Basically, you sign up, pay a certain fee and go. The classes are set, you are with the same group of students and professors the whole time and your day schedules are known from the time of application.
  • University Exchanges are much  more liberal. Here universities switch students: 4-5 UW students go to Sussex and Sussex sends 4-5 people to UW for a semester or two, whatever they choose. In my case, we have a group of 4 girls from different majors going for the same amount of time. In this case, I will be studying at Sussex as if I am a Sussex student, taking regular classes and all, all the while getting my usual number of credits from UW. If I take any specialized classes needed for my major, they will get transferred later. I am just going to pay my regular tuition and housing fees, as if I am studying at UW.
  • Affiliated Programs: these are based on independent programs and are usually for a higher fee. As in the case of faculty-lead programs, the schedules are all planned out and you know what your group will be doing, everything is very well structured. You can also choose the programs based on your area of interest. The only downside I saw in this option is the super high fees, but I guess everything pays off in the end because the food and living accommodations are included in that fee.

Visa Info

For most students participating in an exchange, like moi, there is a visa requirement. Since it’s not just a touristy activity, but you’ll actually be living and eating and sleeping and studying in a foreign country, it is required that you have a student visa. I will provide examples based on the UK visa processes, as it’s the one I am most familiar with.

UK Visas

Since I personally will be going only for 5 months, I am applying for a short-term study visa. This type of visa is needed if you are going for up to 6 months and not planning on working while studying. I figured this is the best fit for me, since I want to use all my time soaking in the student life at Sussex instead of working. The Tier 4 visas, both child and general, are for international students studying and living in the UK for more than 6 months. This type of visa gives you the opportunity to work as well. These are the main differences for the UK visas as I understand them, so keep your fingers crossed for my application!

That’s about it for now. Next step is to mail in all my documents to the English consulate in New York and reserve a place to live in at Sussex :)

Thank you for everyone’s patience! Happy Thanksgiving for those living in the States and for those who don’t, stay strong – it’s almost the weekend!


My Summer Travel Plans & Reads

Travel Post

This coming Friday I will embark on a crazy exciting trip to Europe, so this is my last week in the US for a good couple of months. I know I’ve mentioned it a bit in a few posts, so now is as good a time as any to get into the details.

Travel Plans

As many of you know, my family moved to Washington from Moscow, Russia, so we’ve been going back there to visit the rest of the family and friends. So on Friday I’m flying down there to see my grandparents and some old friends. The week after that my lovely boyfriend will arrive to Moscow, and I will show him around there. Hopefully it won’t be too hot! Moscow is such a beautiful city, especially the old town, so I hope he will enjoy it. From my experience I know I’m not a very good guide, as it’s very hard to translate things I’ve known in Russian for years into English on the spot, so it looks like I’ll be using a guide book myself. I’m picking the Top 10 Moscow Mini Travel Guide since we will only have 4 or 5 days in the city, plus my parents gave me some great tips! Stay tuned if you like to see some photos and such :)

After Moscow we will be flying to Munich and traveling between there and Salzburg for the next 6 days. It will be exciting, we’re planning on visiting the Neuschwanstein castle (the real version of Sleeping Beauty’s castle), Dochau concentration camp (dark, but needs to get done I think) and of course The Sound Of Music Tour in Salzburg! I’ve never been in the South of Germany, so hopefully there will be some other treats in the evenings after our day trips as well!

Alright, moving on to Cologne to see my friend and then up to Amsterdam for a couple of days. I bought a Rick Steves’ Pocket Amsterdam Guide, since I’ve had very good luck with it in Paris. I personally don’t care for the tips or hotels since we actually found those on our own, but I do enjoy the way he organizes the book in walking tours. We will pick our three favorite ones for each day and follow the guide/map to see the city.

Next we’re flying from Amsterdam to London through RyanAir. Has anyone ever used this airline in travels? I never have and turns out it’s very limiting in the amount of stuff we can bring with us. Right now my belongings fit into a big backpack but I have a feeling that my bad shopping habits will change that. From London we fly to Dublin for a few days, and then back to London for a day. I don’t have much experience with Irish culture, so this will be all of boyfriends’ planning. Fingers crossed!


Also, I recently received a great book on study tips by Judy Fishel, called “Straight A’s are NOT Enough”. I’m planning on reading it on the long plane flights from the US to Moscow and back. This book includes a lot of tips for studying and explains why learning is much more than just plain memorization. This topic is near and dear to my heart, since for the last few weeks I’ve been just ‘getting by’ in my classes without actually learning. I have big hopes for this book, so stay tuned for a review and a giveaway in the next couple of weeks!

My Trip to Paris and a Gift Idea!

Last (wow, it’s 2015!) summer, my best friend and I went on a trip to Paris. It was a magical experience, and the city was more beautiful than I had expected. Tons of pictures, colorful experiences, meeting people in hostels and of course drinking gallons of coffee in Parisian cafe’s, everything was perfect.

Now I consider myself a pretty good gift giver and maker, hence why I would like to share with you something I’ve made for her birthday. I found a vintage map of Paris, a poster, in my university’s bookstore. I thought this may be a cool background or even wrapping paper for a gift, but didn’t end up thinking of anything clever to wrap it around, so this ended up being a poster. Ugly but precious pictures and my secretly-hidden tickets and flyers make up the frame of the board, little thumb stamps point to all the places we’ve managed to hit in 3 days, and tags have some of our best jokes and memories.

You will notice there are some random pigeon heads sticking out of the photos. What is Paris without pigeons? Unfortunately, this time we had the worst experience with these beauties… I won’t go into details, but there was a time when one pigeon was hitting against the glass window right above our heads for at least 30 seconds. Yuck! Anyways, enjoy some pictures!





Foreign Languages

Things to keep in mind when learning a foreign language.



  • Always read out loud! Focus on pronounciation and accuracy. You may sound better in your head than in real life, and without practice you won’t improve.
  •  Study vocab with flashcards. Take your time to make them.
  • Apply new grammar rules in practice problems.  Without application and practice, there won’t be much use to it.
  • Practice, practice, practice!