Driving an Airport Shuttle

In an earlier post I mentioned that I’m not lazy–I hope that this goes to show I’m not. I just picked up a replacement third job. Granted, one of my jobs is about to end, so I suppose this will soon turn into my second job.

I just finished my first week, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, an airport shuttle driver. I work for Easy Airport Parking, which is where people can drop off their car before a trip, and then we shuttle them the whole mile and a half to the airport and drop them off, only to pick them back up when they return. It’s quite a nice job, actually. I wish there were more hours to it, as I seem to cap out at 12, but it’s nice. A different experience any way.

My day starts at 6 in the morning, which is fine by me (aside from the fact that I’ve automatically developed the habit of getting up at 3:30 every morning for some strange reason that my body isn’t communicating to my mind), and usually work no later than ten so far. But it’s nice. I get to hear about where people are traveling to, why they’re traveling, and sometimes I even make a tip.

However, I am swiftly approaching the last day at the Writing Center, which is a post for another time, and am valuing more and more my goat cheese gig (as if I ever thought it less than awesome). Sure I’m currently working three jobs that don’t add up to one full-time job, but they’ve all been such wonderful experiences. I’m worried about my ability to get work once I get to the UK.

I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it though. For now, I am a shuttle driver.

A Small Example of the Importance of Universal Health Care

I’m pretty frustrated. There’s a lot to this frustration, so you’ll have to bear with me.

The Recap

As some of you may remember, in April of 2015, I was in a car wreck. I was fine, the person my car slid into on ice was fine, but after a week or so, my back was so sore I could barely move. I was talked into going to the ER to get myself checked out and make sure everything was alright since I already had/have back problems. I wasn’t worried about it because I was on the Washington Apple Health Care, which had just switched me to a new insurance provider at the beginning of February (who were great, and were sure to call me and let me know all the health care benefits I was able to get through them).

I waited in the waiting room for maybe half an hour to forty minutes before going in. I was met by an interning nurse and another nurse. The intern took my blood pressure while the other one poked and prodded at me, felt around to make sure I was ok, then said I was good to go. They left and appeared with a prescription for some Vicodin which I never fulfilled and that was that.

However, a day or two later I was informed that my insurance had expired at the end of February, and thus I didn’t have any insurence at all. It took me forever to have time to spend the countless minutes on hold to get to the billing department of the hospital, to talk to the people at Washington Apple Health, and then some other people who I had to re-register with–I don’t know, it was over a year ago. Any way, I was told that my insurence wouldn’t cover it, and that I was basically paying out-of-pocket.

It took me a couple of months, but finally I sucked it up and paid for the $400 some odd on my American Express. That was that.

American Express

As many people know, for a long time, American Express was the only credit card that Costco would take. When I got my first Costco membership, I signed up for an American Express card through them. Of course it was a mistake for many reasons, as getting any credit card is a mistake. However, I didn’t expect this to happen:

Costco and American Express went their separate ways.

I of course thought this was no big deal since my membership long since has expired and I was planning on chopping up the card once it was paid off. Except that it did matter. Citibank has now taken over American Express’s Costco accounts, and Citibank and I just don’t get along, and haven’t done since my introduction to their “services” with Best Buy years ago. Again, I tried not to let it bother me since I’m not using the card any more because I’m still trying to pay it off in full.

The Current Problem

Last month I got a bill in the mail from the hospital, stating that I owe them $379 and that I’m on the verge of being taken to collections. I got this on the 4th of July weekend, and was upset. I couldn’t call them, I just had to sit and wait. Instead, I emailed them. I never heard back.

In the mean time, I was wracking my brain, certain that I had paid them, then I wasn’t making it up. Of course, one should follow the trail of credit card statements to be sure. I went to log onto my American Express account, but it wouldn’t let me. I realized that I had to make a Citibank account over the phone so that I could access my statements. I called, got it set up, and requested that they look back through for a purchase of $379.

“Oh sure,” said the very friendly lady on the other end. “I can look that…oh that’s weird. For some reason it has me locked out.” She instructed me that I’d have to set up a request online to see my past statements. I did so, though never heard back .

This month I got another bill from them saying that this was my final notice and that I was going to be taken to collection after this. This was on Friday, another weekend where I had to sit and stress out about it, since I already know they don’t respond to their emails. Again, I tried to get online to find my statements. I was able to access some of my monthly statements of last month, but they only told me the total amount of money I spent each month, and how much interest I was paying as well. There was nothing itemized.

I really began to question myself. Had I actually paid this bill?

Finally, I called them today, waiting the obligatory eternity on hold. I finally got through to another really nice lady who explained that yes, I had in fact paid my hospital bill last summer, but this bill was for the physician.

……

………the physician.

When I asked why I was getting billed a year later, she said that it took a year for them to confirm with my Washington Apple Health Care provider that they wouldn’t cover the bill. Also, there was a glitch in the system which sent out the collections notice/threat along with the first notice. So where as yes, I am getting sent to collections, they sent this later than it should have been…or something to that effect. I stopped listening when I realized it was corporate bull…well, nonsense.

This is why we need universal health care. This is not for lazy people. I am but a small person suffering an extremely annoying hiccup. However, there are people whose lives are destroyed by the medical industry which costs so much for basic care to ensure survival. I am not irresponsible, I am not lazy. I work hard, often two-three jobs at a time. And yet I still cannot afford health care. I was responsible. I paid the bill that was given to me. And then I was billed something completely separate? No, no, good people. This is obscenity.

So here I am, about to MOVE TO THE UK TO GO TO UNIVERSITY in a month (that’s right, we are looking at 31 days), and neither my boyfriend nor I have sufficient funds for this move and now all of a sudden I have to cough up nearly another $400?

I have options. I know I do. But still, the Universe, while it’s been good to me in other areas, is really making me work to get to Durham.

 

Continual troubles with Sallie Mae

I can’t tell if this is on my part or Sallie Mae, or if this is an omen I should be paying very close attention to. 

When I couldn’t get on the website the other day, it was the international partnership of Sallie Mae. So after emailing Durham, asking if I missed the deadline, they suggested an alternative link, which was to the direct, local version of the website. I had to make an account. As soon as I did so, I began getting email after email from Sallie Mae. I got seven emails from them just today. 

However, because I wasn’t able to enter in that I have two jobs, I they declined my application–at least independently. So I had to ask for a co-signer which makes me extremely uncomfortable. After getting through the application for the co-signer, for the most part, it began telling us that she needed to make her own account to finish up her application for a student loan. We went back to double check that she was on track for a co-signing application, which we were. Then it wouldn’t let us continue forward and times out. 

I went to go log back in and it didn’t recognize my username, email (which I know damn well they know how I used after my seven emails from them), my social or anything I used to try and get into my account. In he mean time, I’m now getting text messages  from Sallie Mae to finish my application.

It creeps me out how persistent they have been trying to get me to finish my application. Six of the seven emails I got from them were telling me that I needed to finish my application or to get the co-signer application finished. It makes me wonder why it is that they are so desperate that I get this finished, and wonder what then collecting payments is going to be like. I’m already terrified about taking out a private loan, and this is not making me feel any more comfortable. 

There has to be another way. 

Might Have Missed the Deadline

As it turns out, I didn’t apply correctly for my student loans. Because I’m too independent and under-educated for a PLUS loan, I had to apply for Sallie Mae, which I indicated in the weird spreadsheet Durham’s Financial Aid sent me to fill out. They also sent me a flow chart of directions, telling me to follow it to the letter. I did so. Apparently, what was left out was that I was going to have to apply for Sallie Mae loans separately, on a separate Cost of Attendance spreadsheet as well as on a different website all together.

I set to work on that. As it turns out, because it’s an international school that I’m going to, I have to apply on a special version of their website, or something of that matter. I can only get to it through Durham’s website. I followed the link, clicked the dreaded “Get Started” button, and it took me to a page which had a message pop up reading:

“Invalid Offer

The offer you’re responding to is either invalid or no longer available.

For more information about our current products, go to SallieMae.com. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
I went to the Sallie Mae website, which gave me no information whatsoever regarding what I was after.
I think that I might have actually missed the deadline. I think I missed the cut-off point for the loans. I’ve emailed the contact person for Durhams’ Financial Aid office, and since it’s a little late in the morning, I’ve got to wait until potentially tomorrow for him to get back to me.
Always a waiting game.

A Personal Worry About Brexit

While I sit here and wait for updates regarding the vote count and outcome of the EU Referendum which I wrote on earlier today, I can’t help but consider how this influences my unique situation.

Given that I’m a dual citizen, holding both an American and a British passport, I have the liberty of being able to live an work anywhere in the EU as well as any of the common wealth nations under the Queen’s rule (e.i. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). If the UK succeeds in separating from the EU, then my personal dreams of living in France are done, unless I manage to go to school over there (which is just a passing whimsy since my French just ain’t that good), as well as my hopes to live on a river boat in Holland.

However, my direct situation is greatly influenced by this as well. I’m looking at taking out an extremely hefty loan from Sallie Mae, about which I literally have read pages and pages upon horrific reviews on Consumer Affairs. I’ve been terrified to take out loans with them, but they are literally my only option since they’re the only non-federal student loan company that works with Durham University.

So while I’m sitting here, trying to convince myself to bite the bullet and just send in my FAFSA application already so that I can know that I’m going to school this fall, I am suddenly struck with the horror of how this EU thing is going to possibly screw me, personally, over.

As mentioned in my previous post (which I linked further up), the decision for the UK to leave the EU has an extremely strong possibility of dropping the pound’s value. This could actually work out for me, since it would mean I have to take out less in US Dollar (USD) loans to cover my tuition. However, the bigger picture is that if the pound’s value drops, then that means the economy has dropped, and it has been suggested over and over again that a recession will follow. In 2007, a recession hit the UK, as well as the EU, and on to the US. If one has a recession, then the rest follow. That means that my likelihood of finding a job after college is less, which means I’m very much less likely to be able to pay back my very steeply interest-rated student loans.

So, I wait another day, sitting on my Financial Aid spreadsheet, hoping that I’m not waiting too long before I have the door shut on me for starting this year at Durham University. I feel like I would be silly to apply the day before I find out I’m 100% screwed with debt. This is a huge decision. I’ve never had to deal with this much money before, and the implications of what tomorrow could be like are absolutely terrifying to me.

For information of how this will influence students, I have found the following articles:
The Complete University Guide: EU Referendum – How does the European Union affect universities and students?” This is mostly about how it affects students in the UK and in the EU.
Fortune:Why U.K. Universities Are Really Worried About ‘Brexit’
Student World Online:How Will EU Decision Affect International Students in the UK?

How to Apply to Universities in the United Kingdom (for International Students)

Having just gone through the long process myself, I would be more than happy to share the experience. It does take a little while to gather the resources together, so be prepared. I’m coming at this from an American’s perspective. The application procedure might vary depending on where you’re applying from (those from Canada, Australia and New Zealand might find the process a little easier, for example).

Here’s what you need to know and do:

Application Dates

First thing to keep in mind is that application due dates are going to be a fair amount of time earlier than the University application deadlines in your own country. I’m applying to get into programs that start in the Fall of 2016, and my deadline is October of 2015. To be on the safe side, I set my own deadline of September 30th, and was able to finish a little early.

There’s another thing to consider along these lines as well. If you are applying to schools both in your own country as well as in the UK (or anywhere else other than your own country), you need to keep in mind that you might get accepted at different times. This might seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes down to having deadlines regarding when you need to accept your acceptance, they might conflict.

For example: I don’t need to apply to my US schools until January. While I’m anticipating going to school in the UK, if a particular school in the US accepts me, I’d be an idiot to turn it down (long story, one you can piece together by reviewing past blog entries). However, because I’m applying to my UK schools earlier, I’ll hear back from them earlier, and might have a deadline to accept them which is before I hear back from US schools. This means I have to gamble and make a choice early. If you find yourself in this situation, I don’t have an answer for you – yet. It may come with time.

Where to Apply

Do your homework. Make sure you find the programs that are best suited to you and at which schools. It’s easier if you do this before hand, but you can do this while you’re filling out your application (I’ll get to that next).

The way the application process works in the UK, is fairly brilliant (at least, in comparison to the way US university applications work). You need only go to one website ( www.UCAS.com )  and apply to the programs you’re interested in. there are some stipulations, however.

You can only apply to five programs

Chose your programs wisely. You can apply to one or two universities if you want, or five different ones. However, it counts the programs you apply to. For example, two programs I was interested in were the English Literature program and the Literature and Philosophy program at Durham University. While they’re both at one school, they count as two programs.

You don’t need your letters of recommendation.

As I scrambled to harass my teachers to gather my letters of recommendation to upload to the server, I realized that they didn’t want any files or PDF’s at all. Instead, they want you to chose a person they will interview. For this they require that you firstly get permission from your reference to give out their contact information, as well as ask them when they are not available to take calls of this nature. Then the site asks that you pass along your reference’s email address, phone number, and address. After this is done, you are able to send out an invitation to your reference, to which they agree to, and then “they” (the website? The administrations department of the Universities? I don’t know) contact your reference and get their glowing review.

The Cost of Applying

It is normal for there to be a processing fee for any university you apply to. I happen to know that the university in my hometown of Bellingham – Western Washington University – charges $55, while other schools like Cornell and Columbia Universities, can charge an upwards of $75 processing fee.

With UCAS, there too is a fee. However, unlike applying for schools in the US, you won’t be paying per university. You’ll pay a one time fee of £22 for your application, which translates to (approximately, with the exchange rates current to the date of this post) $33.54 (USD), $44.79 (CAD), $47.92 (AUD), and €29.84 (EUR).

How Long To Expect to Wait

I won’t lie, I don’t have an exact time frame on this. However, many of the answers I have found have estimated between 10-14 working days. And I assure you, they will be the longest 14 business days you’ve ever encountered. But once you know, one way or the other, it’ll be worth it.

Good luck applying!

When The Jobs and Unemployment Run Out

When I file for unemployment on Sunday, it’ll be my last week. I will have run out. This is making me nervous. I of course have backup – I work for the Writing Center at the college and I still work for Gothberg Farms selling goat cheese. Both of these jobs pay once a month, and usually the check is around $350. $700 is totally enough for me to cover my bills and live on (especially since I’m not paying rent and living with my mother – though I do have two credit card bills and a large phone bill that I’m still contracted to carry out). I’m good at budgeting my money, but without that weekly supplement, I’m getting nervous.

And in all actuality, my Gothberg Farms check is about to drop to less than $88 a month – at least until April. As of December 20th, the Farmer’s Market has closed for the winter, now only opening on the third Saturday of the month. I’m currently looking for other work in the mean time, while still trying to find something that isn’t going to stress me out and take my attention away from school. Rhonda has been very supportive, a wonderful, wonderful employer. She has offered to set up in-store demos to get me more hours, which was really kind of her. I encourage anyone that is in the Snowhomish, Skagit, Whatcom counties area to try and work for her. Gothberg Farms is an amazing work environment. However, that being said, seasonal work drives me INSANE. It’s part of the reason why I left Wales when I did. I worked in a tiny little village that was all touristy and I couldn’t handle the ups and downs of the work season. It was too much.

Granted, I do also have the writing center. It’s going to be until February that I get a good check from them. The check due to arrive in January has I believe 4 hours on it. I’m almost inclined to tell them to keep the paper it’s written on. Of course, because the school gave us all a five week break (which has been driving me nuts as well), there was no Writing Center work.

Thankfully, my unemployment is lasting straight through to the last week of my Winter break, which is something. After that I should in theory have a little bit of money after I pay for books and the like from my FAFSA to get me through until I have my next pay check. It’s all something.

Winters are sparse and stressful. But the good news is that the sun is shining, the air is crisp, the year is new, and the days are getting longer.