Planning What to Move and What to Leave Behind

With Jason’s deferment granted, we spent the fall of 2008 figuring out what we would move, what we would pack, and what we would do about our house.

Late 2008 was a really bad time to think of selling a house. We thought renting our house out would be a better option. We live in an area convenient to at least 5 major universities – Chatham University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Carlow College, and Duquesne University. Also very convenient to our house are the Software Engineering Institute, the Robotics Institute, and a Google office. So we thought renting was a feasible alternative. We hoped for an engineering professional or professor. Research showed us that we could rent our house furnished for about 3/5 of our house payment. So we would have to make up the difference in the house payment and also pay rent for a place in the UK.

We did a little research and discovered that sending our entire house full of stuff would be prohibitively expensive, at least $12,000 USD to ship the household one way, then we would also have to pay to ship it back. We also found that houses in the UK are in general MUCH SMALLER than houses in the USA. So we picked out things we really, really wanted to move with us. A palette about 4 foot x 3 foot x 7 foot high costs about $1100 to ship door-to-door from Pittsburgh, PA to Newport, South Wales.  It takes about 6-8 weeks to send palettes by ship, including picking up the palettes, shipping them to a harbor, getting them scheduled on a ship, the ship to transit the Atlantic, cargo to clear customs in the UK, and the receiving company to schedule the palette for delivery to you.

We looked very carefully at anything electronic. If it did not say 120-240V on the power supply, we planned to do without or buy a replacement in the UK. Fortunately, many electronic devices today run on a large voltage range, so we just picked up a number of adapters for the plugs. We planned to buy replacement power cords for most of the devices once we reached the UK.

Since we wanted to rent to a professional person, we decided to leave the house in Pittsburgh furnished. We thought that would be attractive to people who would be in Pittsburgh for just a year. It meant we would have to buy a bunch of furniture in the UK. But we would be living in a “college town”, so assumed (correctly it turned out) that we could buy a lot of furniture used, then resell it before returning to the USA.

We decided to leave the car in storage in the USA. We thought of selling it and buying a new one on our return, but we just have the one car, so would come home to nothing. We looked into buying a car in the UK and decided that was feasible. We could get a nice car for about $10,000 USD new, and it appeared we would be able to sell it for about $5000 in two years. There is wonderful public transportation, but think about the first time you have to do a major shopping trip and shelpping all that stuff home on the bus. Or maybe it is pouring rain when the bus drops you off 2 blocks from home. So a car would be nice to have, even though we planned on walking and taking busses and trains most of the time.

We still had a lot of personal stuff to pack that would not move and would not be left for renters.  We have a large attic, so decided to store personal stuff there and lock it up, rather than paying for offsite storage.

We did not even consider buying property in the UK. We are renting a house instead. The cost is about $1400 USD a month for a 4 bedroom 2 bath house in a nice neighborhood.

Lessons learned:

  • Plan ahead what you will move
  • Check your electronics carefully to see if you can use them in the UK or if you will have to buy them new or do without them
  • Determine what to do with your house and stuff you will not move
  • Figure out what to do about a car
  • Figure out how much all this is going to cost you (lots)
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Need More Time – Asking for a Deferment

In June 2008, Jason was accepted to start the MFA course in Wales in September.  In January that year, I had just started a contract which was expected to last 15 months or more. We had to decide what to do – should I quit the contract or should Jason move to Wales for the first 8 months without me or was there another option?

I really did not want to quit the contract. It was a very good contract for me professionally, and we would need the money I would earn to pay for the move. Also, Jason could not get a student visa without enough money saved to support him for the first year of school.  We needed me to keep working until the end of the contract.

The next option to consider was Jason moving to Wales without me until my contract was finished. We started looking into what this would involve. I was already away from home most of the time for my contract, so we could pack up the house, rent it, and Jason could move.  This was looking like a huge task to accomplish in a couple of months, especially since I would not be able to help much with the packing. Also, we found that the process for taking cats (or dogs or ferrets) to the UK takes 7-8 months to complete.

So we looked into other options. I suggested Jason ask the school for a one year deferment of admission. This would mean he would start school in September of 2009.  This would allow us to stay together, both of us to work and save money, and have the time to move our household to the UK. Jason asked for the deferment, and explained our situation.

Jason was granted the deferment, which meant we had over a year to research what we needed to do, save money, fill out applications for ourselves and cats, pack the house, find someone to rent the house, and determine what we would do about our company in the USA.

In looking back over the past year, we needed the time.  9 months would have been enough, but 3 months was definitely too short for us.

Lessons learned:

  • At our ages and life situations, it takes a lot more than 3 monthes to move a household!
  • A university might be willing to grant a deferment of admission if you have a good reason

Why We Moved to Wales

In spring of 2008, Jason decided he wanted to go to graduate school in photography.  Since we did not find a course in our local area (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA), we were going to have to move somewhere. I suggested exploring any country with courses in English, since Jason does not understand any other language well enough to take classes, and since we were moving anyway, why not study abroad.  We narrowed our search to the UK for several reasons:

  • Friends of ours had spent 2 years in Ireland and loved the experience
  • We have always enjoyed our visits to the UK
  • The rest of Europe is easy to visit from the UK
  • Some professors of photography that we know had contacts at UK schools

Jason researched various schools, and applied to two. In June 2008, Jason was accepted at the University of Wales, Newport for a 2-year MFA course in Documentary Photography.  We were pleased to discover that the course is taught at the Caerleon campus.  Caerleon is a village on the northern part of Newport. So we would have the advantages of living in a village, with the convenience of living very near to a large city.

I should mention that in 2008, I was 48 years old, Jason was 51 years old, we owned a house in Pittsburgh, PA, a business in California, and had 2 cats.  This blog will document our experiences, in the hopes they will be of value to other people considering moving from the USA to the UK for an extended stay.