Monday, June 30, 2008

Already July? Gotta start packing

I just realized that it's the 30th of June.

I've been in Peru for seven months already and doing pretty much nothing productive (that includes my worthless attempts at prose *grumblegrumble*). I started my application procedure pretty late so the next two months may be hectic. At least I'll know soon whether I'm gonna be in the halls of residence.

I was so worried because I sent my deposit pretty late and I was worried I'd be in the last round of room allocations in which you only find out if you have a room in September! Can you imagine going to a country you've never so much as visited without a clue as to where you're going to live?

I'll also find out if I'm gonna get a scholarship or not. I don't have a good feeling about it. I liked my application essay but I don't think it's what they want to hear. Oh well! Besides, it might be better not to in the end if I decide to get a student loan.

The pre-move stress is officially here. My dad blew a fuse the other day about how I was so lazy and useless and totally not ready to live on my own. A lot of hurtful things were said but then, I know he's just worried. He didn't oppose my going but he does reproach my mother for "pushing me" to go. Really, mom doesn't want me to go either but she knows I have to so she gave me full support. I think my parents are stressing more than I am.

Anyway, yesterday I went to the shops in Jesus Maria to get cheap clothes and new panties. Seriously, people, if you're going to be moving out of home, BUY NEW UNDIES! You do NOT want to be seen in the laundry room washing your shabby panties (trust me on this one).
I also got a cardigan in a color I don't usually wear, it's a little old fashioned but kinda nice and did I mention how cheap the stuff here is? And I got a waterproof winter coat for a very small fraction of the cost in Europe of the same thing. It's a normal, black, feather filled thing, nothing out of the ordinary but it matches with anything. My green pseudo-suede wintercoat from Canada was very nice and warm but it's not waterproof and it's gotten too big for me (woohoo! First time I get to say that since...well...forever).

I also got a very pretty, girly top, dark blue and black that I'm dieing to show off. Soon, I'll go buy some new jeans and maybe get my old ones tightened up (more woohoo!) 'cause they're too large now.

In more shopping trips I'll buy:
- a couple of turtlenecks
- boots (rain and otherwise)
- gloves (lost mine)
- bras (can never have enough)
- some nice tops (mine are lame or too big - oh oh, I think I'm becoming fashion conscious!)
- a baggy for bathroom stuff

I'm thinking of buying the maximum of stuff I'll need anyway here where it is cheap but I also don't want to overload myself with stuff. Still, it's a whole year before I know more or less where I'm gonna settle, I mean to stay in England for a long while at which point I'll have my parents send me my boxed stuff from Canada. I can't live off two jeans, a t-shirt and coat.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Spam comments

I've gotten a couple of comments on my posts that were more or less irrelevant plug's for people's blogs or websites lately. It was pretty clear that they hadn't read the posts but were going simply by tags.

I have no problem with people directing others to posts on their blogs or other websites if it's relevant but I won't publish spam comments. If you want to link outside this blog, go ahead, just leave a little message explaining what it is and how it's relevant so I don't feel used.

I'm saying this for anyone who might have something to contribute in good faith so their comments don't get accidentally deleted.

Hit me like a moving truck

I got my final, unconditional offer letter yesterday (finally!) as well as my booklet, "International Pre-arrival Guide" (which I had already read online). That's when it really hit me: I'm a student again (crap!)! My stomach's all in a knot now and that less than palatable chicken my dad cooked up is not helping.

Then, of course, I realized that I'm leaving for France in a matter of weeks so now it's time to pack up and decide what I need to have on hand both for France AND England. Let the stress race begin.

I think I'll pack the smallest suitcase I have (small enough to be allowed in the cabin of the plane) with the stuff I'll need immediately after arriving at Oxford. I'll also pack a big suitcase with stuff I'll need to survive longer than that (I can't afford to buy everything over there) and leave it at my aunt's in Normandy where I can either come pick it up over the winter holidays or she could send them to me or I could just take two extra train rides under the Channel. The downside to leaving it at her place is that she'll insist I spend the holidays with her and I don't like her much (yes, I can write this because she doesn't understand a word of English).

I made the mistake when I moved into my former university's residences of bringing too much stuff with me. It was easy then because I was already living in town (ten minutes away actually) but getting everything ready to move back out was hard. I had to leave a lot of stuff I would rather have kept because I just couldn't handle the trip to Peru with so much stuff. Also, my room at the residences was a pig-sty! I don't want to live like that anymore.

I asked for a room in Cheney Student Village as first choice because the contract is the longest. It's a little more expensive than some of the others but still, I don't want to have to worry about finding some other place to live in too soon. I dream of my own bathroom, even though I'll have to clean it myself. I considered a catered hall for a short while but I need to keep a close eye on what I eat because I put on weight very easily and lose it very slowly. Also, the catered halls are, for the most part, farther away than I want to be from the main campus.

I even looked into homesharing. That could be fun and free (heheheh), I wouldn't mind helping out an old person or someone with a disability in exchange for a room at their place. You can find information on homesharing at these websites:

Oxfordshire County Council


It sounds like a neat idea to me. We'll see.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This blog needs pictures

I was looking at my blog and aside from all the typos, I noticed that it's just one long wall of text. It's pretty depressing.

This is a picture of the Machu Picchu taken by yours truly. If you bend your head to the right, you'll see it looks like a profile. The guide said it was not likely to be just a coincidence.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Parental Support is Nice

I've been looking around the web to figure out how I can pay for university without using up my parents' savings.

We're lucky to have travelled so much during most of my life (we started moving about when I was 6), especially living mainly in third world countries. The pay is much better than if my mother had taken us to France. There, we would have had a pretty hard time, instead, my sisters and I have been pretty spoiled. I love being an expat's kid.

Canada was a bit expensive but still much better than France so my mom paid for my undergrad degree. The advantage there was that as a French student in Quebec, I was allowed by a treaty to pay like Canadian students. So, I have no undergrad debts to pay off.

Now, my mom wants to pay for my post-grad. Heck, she'd pay my way through a Ph.D. if I asked her to. Let's be realistic though, she's retiring in a year or two and going back to France with a pathetic pension to thank her for over 30 years of working for the government. I also have two sisters, one of which is not out of secondary school yet and my father who takes med for his heart and who get an even lamer pension from France for being the spouse of an expat (which has prevented him from working on his own).

So, I'm considering a student loan. My mom refuses to listen and I'm too far from Europe and I guess ignorant to take one on my own. I guess the downside to following my mom around the world is that I'm not familiar with how things work in Europe. She's terrified of me starting out my life in debt. I don't like the idea much myself but I wouldn't be the first person to do it. I did apply for a scholarship through Brookes, we'll see how that goes next month. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

It's a good thing that one thing you do find online is info on student loans. Everyone is talking about it.

If I do end up letting my mother pay for my master's, I can always pay her back over time and I'll have my aunt spy on her and dad (she'd like that) so I know when they need a little extra help because I know them, they'd never tell me. I won't be making a lot at first, but I don't need a lot either. I like a lot. But I can live well from little. Except books, I need books.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Peru is Hard to Leave

I swear this country is trying to make it harder and harder for me to leave.

I went to the gym yesterday evening because I'm in serious need of a workout. I was feeling a litte dizzy when I was done so I went to the snack bar downstairs. It's more like a little restaurant, really, and they make delicious food (Peruvians are to food what Don Juan was to women). It's all very simple, cheap fare. Anyway, I asked for a glass of milk and some crackers (thereby ruining my diet, but whatever). It took them a while but they brought me a cup of hot milk and...get this...they warmed my crackers and presented them prettily!

Wow! I've never had anyone warm my crackers! I may not have asked for caviar and Champagne but still, I appreciate them going that extra step.

Here's a bit of an embarassing confession:

I love crackers and milk! It's the two things I am not willing to completely give up forever. Anyone who knows me knows that I love fine cuisine, exotic dishes, the more complicated the better. I'll give them up for a lifetime supply of soda crackers and milk. Oh, and the milk here? Really good! Nothing like the cartons of milk in North America. It actually tastes like milk. I'm hoping to find a nice farmer's market or a farm around Oxford that will sell me good, unadulterated-by-the-industry milk.

I'm trying to experience as much of this country as I can before I leave because I don't know for sure that I'll come back to visit. Now, I just have to taste Alpaca and Cuy (guinea pig).

Monday, June 23, 2008

I hate parting with my (mother's) money

I'm still waiting for my final offer letter to come from Brookes. I sent my acceptance letter from Mexico a couple of weeks back through DHL. Yeah, I took a short vacation to Mexico with my mother, I'm so spoilt. I don't know what's up with it because apparently the university only got my deposit a short while ago.

I don't know if it's for all applicants or just those of us who are international but when you recieve your offer letter, you have to send back a letter saying you accept the offer and a 1000 GBP deposit fee. Then they send you the final offer. The money goes into paying part of your tuition of course. Thankfully, my mother is paying but I wish it had been explicitly written on the website. I figure other applicants who have to pay their own way might be surprised by it. City only asked for 500, by the way.

Don't get me wrong, I totally think deposit fees are a good idea. How else can they make sure you really come but by asking for your money? Still, I don't like to be asked for large amounts without good, advance warning. I like money. It's hard to part with it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

For future US undergrads thinking of studying in the UK

I came across an interesting post on a livejournal community about whether it is financially doable to get a bachelor's degree in the UK versus in the US.

Briefly, if you don't want to read the whole thing, some people say that it is more affordable to do an undergrad degree in the US where apparently there is more funding available (for US students) than in the UK. However, once you get to the postgrad level, the the UK becomes a more interesting possibility. The whole LJ community has a lot of good info for it although it is meant primarily for US students.

Read it but beware, there are scary debt amounts.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Choices, so many choices...

So, back to my favorite topic: me.


Once I realized I was going to go for a Master's after all, the decision came down to what was I going to do. It never really entered my mind to go for a more traditional English degree. I mean, I looooove nineteenth century fiction by women and gothic novels. I could totally have done an M.A. in that and enjoyed it a lot.

But where would that have landed me? I can very well study that stuff all on my own, and sure, I won't have a fancy paper after a year or two, but I wouldn't have had to write a bunch of essays for the same pleasure of reading and learning. Also, why go for an M.A. in English when I have a perfectly acceptable M.A. in Publishing which will get me the same job I would have applied to after my M.A. in English much more easily (I hope)?

So, I applied to three places. I don't feel entirely comfortable saying where, actually. It feels rude to the people who accepted me and I had to reject. But, I'll say it anyway because you might as well know.

The first place was City University London, their M.A. in Publishing.

The Times Good Universities Guide had them among the top universities for employability and that was very important to me. I don't particularly like their website but they have a good reputation in journalism and business. I found close to no information on their publishing program though. That was very annoying and no reviews about the M.A itself. The reviews I did find were mainly for journalism and they made me worry. They'd go on and on about how bad the student union is, how the facilities leave a lot to be desired, etc. On the other hand, the reviews were barely literate at times so not very reliable.

On the other hand, they have a decent list of more or less known alumni and of course, that employability score. It also seems to be a very international school. Reviews were from people from all over the globe. Now, I'm French, but I've lived all over the world and I enjoy being around people from cultures vastly different from my own so this was a very big plus for me.

So I followed my gut feeling and applied. Response time was UNBELIEVABLE! I kid you not, the same week I sent my application in (through DHL, I was applying rather late), I got a call from Mary Ann Kernan who interviewed me on the spot and basically offered me a place right there and then. I don't know if it's just that my application and interview skills are that good or if something just resonated with her particularly well (I like to think it's because I'm that awesome). Anyway, I liked her immediately. Very nice and informal and just overall cool. Gave me a good feeling about the place.

Also, the university is in London which is drool-worthy by itself. The problem is it's too expensive for me. NOTE: Even if you're an EU national, you won't get the lower fee if you have not lived at least the three previous years in the EU. I did my B.A. in Canada. Mary Ann tried very hard to try and get me those fees though so extra points.

Information-wise, it was more or less the same for Brookes. Finding reviews was hard but it also rated okay on the Times. They are consistently called the best new university. I did hear a lot of good things about it's student union. I'm not much for socialising but it's a good thing to keep in mind any way. It's in Oxford, which is like student dream-town I guess and still close enough to London to go there and enjoy. Somewhat cheaper, although I don't delude myself. It's not Peru where a taxi will get you anywhere for less than the price of a cup of coffee. The campus looks good and I'm told the facilities are very good too. It also has an international flavor although it seems less so than City. Like City, it's also more professions oriented as a former polytechnic.

I was interviewed by one of the lecturers, Sheila Lambie. Also, very likeable on the phone. I have to say, if everyone in publishing is like Mary Ann, Sheila and Rosalyn Ockwell (the Senior Tutor), I'm gonna like it even more than I thought! It's nice to work with and for good, relaxed people. Internships are apparently very important at Brookes, which is huge for me as I have no professional experience in anything. Sheila really put to rest a lot of the things that were worrying me. I felt a lot more confident after talking to her. I recommend anyone thinking of going to university and who has misgivings to just call them. There were no particular questions I had, but the way she talked about the program and the school did a lot to tip the balance, aside from the lesser cost of the city. I just had a very good gut feeling.

The last place was King's College London but it was an M.A. in Cultural and Creative Industries. It sounded fascinating but I wanted something a little more specific in spite of the College's excellent reputation. I also had a gut feeling I wouldn't be happy there. It sounds a little silly but really, trust your gut. I've never been wrong to follow my instincts, only the times when I did not.

So, although I didn't have as much info about Brookes as I would have wanted, I felt that the scales were well tipped in its favor. I still agonized over whether I had made the right decision for a while. I think I did. I hope I did. We'll see in September, I'll tell you all about it.

There, I hope that made some sense. I'm sorry I don't have anything more specific at the moment. When I was doing my research I didn't think of saving the links. I hadn't planned on starting a blog. In fact, it's only when I started thinking back on all my anguish that I realized I could at least provide some relief by being a guinea pig for other (is it a bad omen that many South Americans eat guinea pigs?). It might not help too much if you needed this info for this year (sorry!) but it might help those who are planning to join the ranks next year. I'll see if I can retrace my cyber steps and come up with some interesting links to post at some point.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Edumacation is goode fer yuu

Note: On the subject of how often I plan on posting, I'm thinking three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) until September when all the fun and interesting stuff should start. I'll post daily then unless I don't.


I figured I'd talk about the different choices I could have made and how I came to decide to go to Oxford Brookes. It's not the most fascinating subject ever (who am I kidding? I'm awesome!) but you can see how my life is ruled by my gut.

I hadn't originally planned to do a Master's degree right after finishing my Bachelor's (in English Studies if you must know). I wanted to take a couple of years off school to get some real world work experience. I also was tired to tears of essays, pocket-busting textbooks and having to get dressed and go out when I really don't feel like it.
I wanted to move to the UK so at least that much of my plan remains. And then I made the mistake of coming to visit my parents in Peru. The moment you're with your folks again in a very affordable country, all your plans will be invariably screwed up. Peru's just so damned comfortable!

Mom, after four months of me not living at home (I live in the halls of residence for my last term) didn't want to let me go and she's the one with the money. The only way I was going to get out of here was by applying to an university, that way she'd feel secure enough (she's the one who needs security?) to let me go all alone into the big bad world.

I figured I wanted to work in publishing anyway so I might as well do an M.A. in that. Plus, internships! I'd applied before for some but didn't get a response. Most likely due to me being in the wrong country and not asking for school credit. I can deal with that. Only fair that those who need credits get the jobs. And to be perfectly honest, I really do like school (all together now: GEEEEEEK!).

I read up on it online A LOT! I was obsessed and the things I read were NOT encouraging. I don't know if they were honest opinions or that whole "oh, education, I don't believe in it" crap I seem to run into regularly. Also, none of the people talking about said university degrees had one. I wanted an opinion from someone who knew what they were talking about. The best I found was from someone working in publishing who basically said "it can't hurt".

Bah! Unhelpful.

I'm a firm believer in education. When someone tells me "A diploma? Yeah, that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee" (which it won't, I only drink expensive luxury lattes), I have a hard time stopping my inner ninja from doing some serious kung-fu damage.
In my experience, it's usually losers without a job OR a diploma who say that or those who wanted one but couldn't get it and were fortunate or persistent enough to make it okay in life but are still bitter that they didn't get their diploma. Diploma-envy, wish Freud had written about that.

But the truth is, most employers do care at least a little that you've studied something. The official take is you don't really need one to get into publishing but unofficially they will tell you "we still notice". All employers do whether in publishing or anything else. Granted, you don't need a single, specific degree to work in publishing, just the ability to read and figure out what needs a little more kung-pow. I can already do that but since I already know what I want to do with my life, getting a degree specifically on publishing is not a "I need a job, train me" decision but a "I'm gonna do this anyway, I might as well know all I can about it beforehand" thing.

Philip Pullman at Brookes


I recently learned that Philip Pullman (author of the "His Dark Materials" series) is going to be hanging around Brookes as a new fellow (still not sure what that means, UK system...) in the M.A. in Creative Writing. You know, I almost went the CW way and now I almost regret not doing it. Almost.

This means I have someone to look forward to meeting and shaking a hand with in a sedate and totally non-fannish and non-threatening way. Yeah.

I love the man's books. He writes like I wish I could but my novel looks like the scribbling of a six year-old next to him. Okay, well, next to almost anyone I admire really. I don't know if being a fellow means he'll be teaching classes, and I know I'll probably be very busy, but if I can, I will take one of his. At least, I'd know for sure he will respect my choice of YA fantasy as my main writing genre.

And you know what I'm thinking? I'll see if I can't interview him for the blog (okay, everybody join me in a fangirl squeal now). Heck, if he accepts to be interviewed, I might even make it into my first podcast ever. Now excuse me while I go buy "Podcasting for Dummies" or maybe that book of Mur Lafferty's...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Publishing Hotties poll


Just read on Nathan Bransford's blog that there is a poll at Gawker about the hottest (straight) guy in book publishing for 2008!

It's tough choice, I mean, yeah Nathan is super cute (I feel I'm going to regret saying this some day) but Brent, he has a kitten. Jason kind of looks like Ethan from ctrl+alt+del and Matt well, he's doing the sexy face.

Hmm, really a very difficult choice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mandatory Intro Post

Oh hai! I want to be an editor.

I'm a wannabe fiction writer (by which I mean I have never been published and have a hard time applying BIC-HOK). I write mainly YA fantasy lately. I also write short-stories for adults (not that kind of adult stuff - SFF and Horror mainly - mind out of the gutter!).

My writing is very important to me though and I am determined to be published some day. In the mean time, I need a job that will keep me clothed and fed. In fact, writing kind of takes second place to survival although some of my writer friends may disagree.

Why, why, why would I want to go to the Dark Side? My fellow writers might ask.

A: I can't imagine doing anything else (not quite true, if they offered me a job on the International Space Station, I'd drop everything and go). I'm sure you other authors out there as well as those of you who come here because you are contemplating going to university to do the same thing understand implicitly why I am attracted to the business. I'm not romantic about it. Being paid breadcrumbs is...well...hard on my Atkins. I've always been crazy about books, I can't walk past a bookstore without stopping in even for just a quick look. What better job than one that allows you to make books? I know, I know... as an editor you don't really have time to read for pleasure... but it's better than nothing and certainly better than most other jobs I'm qualified to do.

There are loads of blogs by writers, editors and agents out there with a huge amount of very good advice. This blog though is mainly about the things I learn that the pros already in the business don't even think about anymore. It is about my ascent into the Mountains of Madness* and subsequent Descent into Evil. It is also for those who like me, had a hard time making their final decision because there isn't as much info about studying publishing as there is for say Medicine. Is it worth it? Will it land you the job you want? Will it make you sexy and help you score with the men (or women)?

I'll find out for you.

* That's from Lovecraft, btw.