Nov 272015

Happ DD

Being 18 and an American Paris in London

Do you remember being 18?  So much promise!  Maybe you started college, or your first *real* job.  Maybe you got a car, or a person to steadily date.  Whatever your personal path, 18 is typically a time of huge growth and maturation.

I think I have mentioned before that we have a tendency to live our lives on Difficulty Level David.  In most video games, you can choose your difficulty level.  These are things like “Novice, Medium, Hard, and Impossible”.  David, always loving a challenge, tends to gravitate toward the top level settings on all his games.  It wasn’t until a few years in that we noticed that our *lives* sort of followed that trend, too.

—“Pfah.  College is too easy, I know, how about facing a life-altering medical condition (juvenile diabetes) as soon as I arrive?”

—“What the heck is this, David’s career is way too easy.  What say you,  let’s jump into the least-well-paying, toughest-to-get-into corner of the tech sphere!?”

— Hey, living in suburban California is boring and we know way too much about the ways of getting things done.  How about we all move to a country where we don’t speak the language (or that other required language, either) and start fresh?”

Not wanting DD to miss out on the trend, we lined up something super special for her on our move to London: No Visa, and no school to sponsor one!  WOot!  That is just how we roll!  So, this was what DD had to deal with at 18….

The Key Points:

  • DD is 18 and cannot be legally allowed into the country based off of David’s visa.
  • Once we arrived, she got a 6 month Visitor’s Visa.  At that point the timer started.
  • If she leaves the country without having her student visa in the works, there is a strong possibility that the Powers That Be would not let her back in the country because the rest of the family is here on David’s Work Visa.  They think she is likely to overstay her welcome.
  • That is why when we all had to go to Berlin, DD had to stay here, in a brand new country in a brand new house all alone for almost 2 weeks.  Like I said, “Difficulty Level David!”
  • DD needs a visa through a program called “Tier 4”, which means she is sponsored by a private educational institution.  She is not allowed to attend a non-private High School because those are government funded and we haven’t earned the right, yet.
  • Oof.
  • DD wants to attend University next year, which makes perfect sense.
  • Private High Schools not only cost 15000-20000 pounds per year, but their pre-university A-Levels programs are 2 years long.  Plus, most students start them when they are 16.  We talked with many of them and the only ones who might consider accepting her all wanted her to take 2 years in their A-Levels programs.
  • For University admissions, you need to have earned a high school diploma and passed certain exams at a certain level.  Since this is Europe, there are charts showing which exams from which countries count for which university programs.
  • Junior Colleges exist, and can often bridge any gaps for people who have had their education interrupted for whatever reason.  BUT, most of them stopped being valid Tier 4 sponsors 2 years ago when regulations were tightened.
  • ugh.
  • DD wants to study Mathematics at University.  None of the schools we found which had a Maths program also had Tier 4 sponsorship.
  • The school we took her out of in Strasbourg has a sister school here in Culham.  They proved useless on all fronts and gave us quite a stern talking to when approached.
  • Her old school in Strasbourg was very kindly willing to bend the rules and let her back in.  But she would have had to literally leave that week and find a place to live, figure out how to get everything set up NOW, figure out what she had missed, and live on her own in Germany/France for the rest of the year.  After some serious deliberation, we all had to admit it just wasn’t going to work.
  • Some universities, including one of DD’s top picks, Bristol, have “Access” programs, designed to bring students up to proper level for University work.  We got them to basically say they would accept her.  BUT, it costs 18,000 Pounds AND doesn’t start until September.  Without a new visa, DD gets deported in April.
  • Oy.
  • Luckily, David had had some positive conversations with one of the closest Community Colleges to our home (still 50 minutes by bus, but closer than most).  They *can* sponsor a Tier 4, but they don’t have a Maths program.  They do have a Science program taught by a Physics professor from Bristol, though.  And he is willing to help prep her for Maths A-Levels (which would flesh out her applications for the Maths programs).  Would that work?
  • YES!  Yes, it will!
  • We hope.
  • She had to pass an interview and a couple of placement exams, but that didn’t prove to be much trouble.
  • Odd things about Tier 4: In addition to the paperwork hoops, there is a pretty dissuasive financial one.  You are expected to have the entire year’s tuition (5k pounds in this case) plus money for the students’ upkeep set aside in an account for a full month before the visa is issued.  For students living on their own in London, upkeep costs are about 1200 pounds per month.  For students living with a “host family” (like us, we hope!) you need about 600 pounds per month (times 9 months).  We have received some assistance on this one from a Purple Fairy Grandmother.  Which is very very appreciated because even for a small Community College all that adds up to over 15000 US! 
  • It took us a full month of dedicated research (literally hours each day) to get this far.  I am starting to think that England itself is Difficulty Level David- at least for those not born here.
DD with her school visitor bag

Wearing her “Visitor” pass for the college.

DD started classes yesterday.  It is mostly folks a bit older than she is- “Returning” students.  But, what the heck.  Actually, some of the students there sound a lot like the people she went to school with in Strasbourg.  For example, people who have traveled so much they don’t really have a “home language” anymore.  But, there are also people returning to school after starting a family.  Or wanting to change careers.  The school seems to have some active clubs and such that DD is curious about, so maybe there are more opportunities there, as well!  It is about an hour bus ride each way to the part of the campus where her classes are.  But, she is handling it all with aplomb.  Very proud of our kiddo!

Random Factoid: Black Friday Weekend is totally a thing here, even though Thanksgiving is not.  The whole mall is plastered with Black Friday sales posters, etc.

Strange Foods Report

CIMG2378Ok, well, one of the more accessible ways to explain cultural differences is to check out the local food scene.  Every country definitely has its own cuisine- and also its Market Quirks.  For instance, I managed to find Cranberry Jelly for Thanksgiving here- but it isn’t in the canned fruits section, nor in the jellies section, or even in the American section- it is in the “Table Sauces” section.  Which, makes sense, but I wouldn’t have thought to look there if I hadn’t been standing right next to it and just happen to notice the jar right next to a jar of Mint Sauce.

So, just as in Germany, I will make an effort to seek out and report back on unusual (or particularly typical) examples of foods we find here.

they are MEGA Dose MarshmallowsMarshmallows: I ordered the Mega pack of marshmallows for delivery from the store.  I had expected a large bag.  I had NOT expected baseball-sized marshmallows!  The can in DS’s other hand, by the way, is breadcrumbs.  I guess they are not used in quantity here.

Chinese DeliveryChinese delivery: Cheap, and delicious.  Way better than any generic “Asian Food” we got in Offenburg.


Pumpkin for the pie proved HARDER to get than pumpkins in Offenburg.  Though, one store claimed they would deliver 2 cans of Libby’s, they swapped out cherry pie filling at the last minutes.  And even though we have markets everywhere, only the one specializing in Caribbean foods carried a pumpkin.  That greenish white one.  I will roast it later.

Lyles logo

Molasses: Almost impossible to find, BUT, Black Treacle is almost the same thing, and that is everywhere.  I will save the technobabble.  Just trust me.  Close enough.  Also, have you ever looked at Lyle’s logo closely?  Take a glance.  “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”…. nice, until you realize it is a swarm of bees on a dead lion.  Ew!


Canned or cartoned stocks and broths aren’t really a thing here.  I have found a can of consommé (for 3 pounds!) but that was it. Instead you are expected to buy these dealies.  Concentrated stock pastes and cubes.  I expected the cubes to be super salty like bullion, but it was actually more rich like stock.

Bonus Weird of the Week: Korean Fish Shaped Cake Snack

David’s work has a tradition of folks bringing in food to share when they make it through their 3 month probationary period.  This was an offering made this week.

Korean Snack Cake Fishy Cake Chocolate filling

The filling was chocolatish, and the cake tasted vaguely almondy.  Not bad, but not a favorite.

  7 Responses to “Effort, Learning, and Progress”

  1. I am so glad DD has a school opportunity. Now for DS!
    Love you

  2. I believe that the bees and lion is part of the story of Samson.

  3. Never heard of bees and lions in Sampson’s story. That’s new.
    Also in your food and other things search don’t forget to blame Canada. The cranberry sauce search put me in mind of this. We tend to forget that they are as connected to England as Australia and New Zealand because they have no Union Jack on their flag, the same steering wheel placement, and almost the same accent as Yanks. In Dresden near the Fraunkirche there is a “Canadian Restaurant” and I always wondered why until it hit me that the designation probably came from before the wall fell. They wanted to avoid Stasi entanglements because it was probably serving American style food, and they might have added poutine to further the conceit.

  4. Regarding Samson, I looked it up – it’s Judges 14. Samson kills a lion and later, he passes that way again and finds that bees have nested in the dead lion. He collects the honey and shares it with his family, and later poses a riddle to his companions, which is usually translated as “Out of the eater came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet.” (None of his companions can figure out the riddle.)

    • Well, duh… who *hasn’t* had the experience of finding bees nesting in the carcass of a lion you killed? Should totally have been a gimme moment for his companions!

  5. I love reading about your adventures. So glad to hear that things worked out for DD, after much challenge, sorry for that.. but you leveled up! As you always seem to do. 😊
    Blessings to you in your new home

    • Thank you Lois! Hope things are well with you guys, too. It feels like both ages and yesterday that we were all together at park days!

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