After spending three weeks together constantly, feeling rather exhausted, slightly hungover from the last Paris night, and deeply in need of some time to myself, we arrived at our London hostel after a long eight hours of travel from Paris. Shelley and I retired to our hostel dorm rooms. From memory I think Shelley had something planned with a friend that night. But I was out like light by the nanna-ish hour of 8pm.
The next day was a slow start. I woke up feeling not the greatest. After all the drinking, and partying, reduced sleep, and stress of the Contiki tour, I felt more than a little bit run down. I had been feeling underlying fatigue for most of the tour but managed to keep it at bay with taking lots of vitamins and healthy eating. But it had finally caught up. My glands were swollen with a head cold and chesty cough. Ick. But I was still keen to enjoy the next few days in London.
A meandering breakfast with Shelley, and then a bit of ‘shit, what should we do?’ During the Contiki tour, Bec the tour manager, would give us a pep talk and history lesson driving into each city and country. This was great as being a slack researcher, I didn’t really know a lot about any of the countries apart from common knowledge stuff that everyone knows. I did buy a lonely planet guidebook for Europe but forgot to even bring it with me! Luckily Mum handily emailed the PDF files to my kindle for me so at least I didn’t stay completely in the dark the whole time (thanks mum). Bec would also give out ‘city sheets’ and maps personalised to each location. These sheets were amazing. Full of ideas and interesting things to do based on Bec’s personal past experience.
But now that the tour was over… there were no city sheets.. or a tour manager to give recommendations and exciting ideas. Plus the sheets would have ways of getting to each attraction along with a logical order to do them in. I had to start thinking for myself and doing my own research :O
The first day we decided to take it easy. Shelley was also feeling the fatigue alongside me and the need for some serious vegging out time. We just went to a couple of attractions starting with one called Chiswick House. This is an English Heritage site set in a lovely park.
I am still addicted to jumping photos as you can see. To be honest Shelley was more excited about the house than me. It had a special meaning to her so it was pretty thrilling for her to come here. I thought it was a nice house with some cool velvet-walled rooms and gold decoration. I liked the garden part more as we strolled through the park after finishing in the house.
That was the first highlight of that day. Afterwards we headed to the Natural History Museum which was also very cool. Regrettably we were both feeling just a little bit too exhausted and hot from the heat to enjoy it as much. However the museum is free entry so I will definitely head back another time. The rest of the day was spent searching for a sim card for my phone and vegging out.
It’s funny how having a UK sim card was quite nice. As soon as it was in my phone, a sense of relief filled me. Finally I could text again! It didn’t matter that I only had one person to text (Shelley), just the fact that I could meant a lot to me. I had a way to function normally as only someone of my generation can understand. Without being able to use my iPhone as usual, a part of me was feeling quite homesick.
Another nanna-ish bedtime, and then the next day was all about meeting my nursing agent at Continental Travelnurse agency. So far I am loving this agency. They have given me massive amounts of help with the UK registration process as well as offering what sounds like a great deal for working with them. The part I like about them is that they specialise in placing nurses for 13 weeks contracts in one place which will be the same speciality as what you used to work in, and then if you happen to love the ward/department you are working in, it is really easy to extend your contract for as long as you want. Otherwise you can have as little or as much time off in-between contracts to go travel somewhere if you want. And the sucker-punch of the deal that got me, accommodation comes at amazing rates with each contract. For example, I’ve been quoted that London accommodation will cost about £75 a week including all bills. From what I hear, that is fantastically cheap, especially for London!
The only minor negative that I have so far is that there have been some communication mix-ups at times. Which is more slightly annoying than a true negative. But my particular agent is so lovely and friendly (with a blonde soul so hence the small mix-ups possibly) that it more than makes up for it. At this stage, I would recommend anyone considering getting UK registration to contact Continental as the hugely helpful advice for the stupidly complex registration process is all completely free. And you are under no obligation to work for them if you change your mind once registered.
Another few words on where I am up to in the registration process. After a long twelve months which included posting in lots of application bits and pieces back and forward, random expenses, and after the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council finished with their decision to review their application process hence putting a three month freeze on all current applications in progress… (yes it is a nightmare-like process). I finally received a decision letter back from them stating I was allowed to have UK registration after completing a required overseas nursing programme though an English university. Once the university course was finished, a few weeks afterwards and I would finally finally be registered as a UK nurse.
In comparison, obtaining my nursing registration for Australia was so much easier. It probably helps that Australia and New Zealand have a Trans-Tasman mutual agreement meaning that NZ nurses only have to fill out one single form, post it away, and bam! Registered and good to go within two weeks. I am not too sure if it is as complex for registration in other countries, but the UK process definitely is a knock-out.
Luckily the uni course is pretty easy. The majority is done through distance learning with a workbook that you complete in your own time. I only have to physically attend the uni itself for three days spread out over a month. The workbook takes about 120 hours to do using internet research. Which is great as I still had plans to do some more travel within the United Kingdom while doing the uni course. My first day of uni was only a couple of days away and located down in South England in a place called Bournemouth.
After meeting my lovely agent, I did some more essential things like opening a bank account and shopping for a laptop. My old laptop was a Toshiba Satellite which was a great computer, but quite heavy and bulky. Back in New Zealand I made the decision that as I was about to start travelling for a reasonable amount of time over the next couple of years, it would be wise to invest in a more travel-friendly laptop. The one I ended up getting that day was a new type of laptop that I don’t believe has been released in NZ yet called a Chromebook.
It weighs only one kilogram with a fourteen inch screen. And I loved the cheap price-tag of £220 (about NZ$420). My thoughts behind choosing this particular laptop were that it was lightweight, small, and cheap enough that if it got stolen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The Chromebook also works in a different way to most computers. It doesn’t actually have a hard-drive or an operating system. When you turn it on, the Google Chrome browser appears. Instead the idea is that you have all your documents and files based on the web. Any programs that you would usually install and use, such as Skype, you instead use an alternative Google app like Hangouts. Unlimited photos can be privately stored on Google Plus, as well as up to 20 thousand of your own music files. Everything is linked to your Google account, so if you logged into another Chromebook or computer with your account, all of your files and photos are there waiting for you. It is perfect for if your laptop is stolen or lost as none of your precious files are lost with it. It’s all about thinking about your laptop in a completely different way. I am still getting used to it even a few weeks later. It takes a while to adjust and learn which alternative apps to use for programs, but I love it. It is perfect for travelling and my lifestyle. Although another thing to do is to discover what happens when I plug in my iPhone as obviously iTunes can’t be installed. But I’ll get around to that sometime.
Fast forward through another lazy evening, another sight-seeing day in London, onto the next morning, and it was time to catch a train down to Bournemouth. For the duration of the course. I decided to go with a home-stay accommodation option recommended by Continental. This was in a family home where the weekly rent included being around adorable pet bunnies and cats, home-cooked meals, a bedroom to myself (such a luxury) and getting to hang out with a really cool English family while doing my course homework. It worked out to be cheaper than staying in the local backpackers which pleased me. On arrival in Bournemouth, the host family mother even personally picked me up from the train station to welcome me into her home. The other neat part was that there also two other American nurses staying there too who were also going to be completing the course with me. Yay new friends!
Tomorrow would be the first day of the course. And the beginning of a butt-load of homework.