Stepping out of my writing world and into my personal life, I have always wanted to do study abroad ever since my older sister went to Spain during one of her years at college. It’s such a great idea! Live in another country for the summer or academic year, learn a language, travel, and be in school! What’s not to love?
So, I started the process in February. I emphasized February on purpose. You would think that applying to a college, then to the specific program would be easy, right?
(Going on a bit of a rant here – sorry in advance)
So, first off, I went to the college website that my sister went through and viewed all of their requirements for the program. I could fulfill all the requirements they had stated on their website, so I applied to the college, got in, and then tried to get in contact with a coordinator of the program. I sent them my application for the program, paid the fee, and crickets. . .
I called a few people (and just to be clear here, I’m the type of person who hates calling people on the phone. Email or text messages would do just fine.) Anyway, I finally got someone who knew about the program and they said that per the college’s requirement, I needed to go to the college first and take a certain amount of credits from them before being able to do the study abroad program.
I was a bit confused, naturally, seeing as how they never mentioned this “requirement” on their website. My parents made some calls and apparently this new “requirement” was established two years ago because apparently a lot of people were going through this college for the study abroad program, and the college was apparently losing money on this.
I asked if I can take the credits during the summer, but the college had a limit on the amount of credits a student could take and their “required” credits from me was more than their summer limit. So, I had two choices here. Take the required credit amount and wait another full year until I was now “qualified” to get into the program, or take my application and money somewhere else.
Just a side note, two years? You would think someone would get the idea that “Oh, hey, we need to mention this on our website!” But nope.
By this time it was the end of April. I withdrew from the college, got my money back, and went on a slightly panic search for another college that offered the same program that would take me, seeing as how they were all out of the state I was living in.
After making more calls, I found another college that would take me, and I specifically asked if they had any “secret requirements.” They did not. So I got accepted into the college in May, sent them my application, received a reply that they got my application in June, and then crickets. . .
I called the coordinator and he said that this college’s “secret requirement” was for me to pay half of the tuition up front. Okay. That I could do. I paid the amount about the last week of June and crickets. . .
I called up the financial office in July and about mid-July, they sent me an email stating they received my payment. Crickets . . .
I got in touch with the coordinator again and he informed me that my application was on it’s way to the study abroad headquarters. End of July hits and crickets . . .
I call again, and apparently my application never left the college. It’s been going from desk-to-desk and just sitting their for the week, until I end up calling and they acknowledge it.
Side note: the application deadline was August 1st. I called the headquarters and asked if they had my application since the deadline was coming up. They informed me that they did not but they knew to look out for it, so that was a bit of relief on my end.
At this point, my parents and I were calling people every day, and not many of them were answering their phones or checking their emails. Except for the coordinator who honestly was doing everything they could to track my application down and see to it that it got in the right hands and I will be forever grateful to them.
About the first week of August, I still didn’t have an acceptance letter from the headquarters, but the coordinator got in contact and told me how to get a student visa.
Now, I’m supposed to be in Italy mid-September. It’s August and I was looking up the appointment options and the only one I could get was for the 24th of September, plus it takes about 7-15 days for them to approve or deny my visa request. So, every day and night I was checking the appointments to see if someone canceled theirs and lo-and-behold, someone does.
Then I learn that there is a consultant in the state that I am in, so I try to get in contact and they give me a much earlier appointment about the third week of August.
The second week of August arrived and still, I had no idea where my application was and did not receive any notice from headquarters or the college on where it was. My parents and I called but no one was answering. We were emailing and no one was responding. If I didn’t get my acceptance letter from headquarters, I couldn’t apply for the visa. And we still needed to book flights but only after getting the visa.
At last, someone answered and informed us that everyone who was working at the program headquarters were gone for the week for a conference but would get back to us next week and I had my visa appointment that same week . . .
At this point, my stress, anxiety, and frustration levels were bubbling over. I had reached my “I don’t give a (f-word)” attitude, combined with gobs of sarcasm. I’ve been stress eating all throughout the summer and gained about 10-15 pounds. I can’t bring myself to exercise – which honestly lowers my stress – because I’m too tired and can’t find the time, and exercise doesn’t take my anxiety or frustration away. Food apparently does.
And then, it happened. August 13th I received an email with my acceptance letter attached to it.
And then, a copy of my application and acceptance package came in the mail. Fast forward to two days later, my dad and I drove to Seattle to meet with the Italy Consulate, and all of my paperwork was sent to another consulate in San Francisco, and then my visa came 11 days later.
So, yes. Bit of a rocky spring and summer, but everything is all cleared, plus, side note, took a hand-to-hand combat class in the summer. You never know when that might be useful.
Though (stepping into my writing life) I have everything on a schedule and I will do everything to stick to it. I’ve booked my editors, the cover is done, it’s just a matter of fixing up the changes and moving this puppy along. I am still aiming to publish later this year and this MS is heading toward it’s final draft. . . It’ll be interesting.
This will be such an amazing and terrifying experience. I have never been outside of the United States, and I will be traveling alone, so of course my brain is swimming in all of my worst nightmares of things that might happen to me as I’m traveling. And then of course I’ve chosen a country where I’m not fluent in the language, but I’m willing to learn. And then there’s the whole not knowing anyone which sends my anxiety bubbling over. . . but it’ll be great. Hopefully.
No, it will. I will probably cherish the experience the rest of my life and I know that I gotta do this now because every adult I have talked with has always told me to travel when I’m young because I won’t have time later in life, so I am taking their advice. Wish me luck!
Any advice for a first time traveler? Has anyone been to Italy? If yes, any specific places I should check out?