The visa process hates me, but it always works out

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Kate Cook
August 15, 2022
Philadelphia to milan plane sunset

IES Abroad has a fool-proof plan for everyone to get their visas to study abroad. Documents are submitted, reviewed, and eventually sent to the consulate for approval through ACCESS. If anything goes wrong, IES Abroad is instantly notified, and the problem is handled before any stress can reach the student. It's an easy and secure process... if you live in America. 

See, I don't live in the U.S., and my visa process was a disaster. 

Initially, the plan was to get my visa from the Philadelphia consulate. I'd make an appointment, take the train, submit my application, and be on my merry way to Italy in no time. Seems simple if you ignore the fact that the consulate only allows for visa applications 90 days ahead of the departure date. 90 days before Italy, I was going to be in Sydney, Australia, where I live, with no way to get to Philly. So I called my advisor. Who called his advisor. Who told me to call IES Abroad. Luckily, the consulate had just announced that applications could be submitted four months before their program. Four months. That meant I was still going to be in the United States and could get my visa!

Everything was once again going according to plan. That was until I noticed that four months out from my program date was April 9th, and I was leaving America three weeks after that. The consulate needed at least five weeks to approve my application. I was screwed. I once again found myself calling IES Abroad and sending dozens of emails to find an answer to my situation. In these conversations, we came up with three new plans: 

1: Ask the Philadelphia Consulate to expedite my application.

2: Ask the Sydney Italian consulate if I can get my visa there. 

3: Beg the Italians to let me in. 

Again, the plan seemed simple. I just needed to make a few calls, and everything would work itself out. I called the Philadelphia consulate twelve times over two weeks. Not once did they answer or get back to me, so I emailed them. Twice. No response. Plan 1 was falling through. Consequently, I gave up and decided that getting my Visa in Australia would be easier. So, I emailed the Sydney consulate and explained my situation. Thankfully, I got a response. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't the response I was hoping for. Long story short, the consulate told me I couldn't get my visa in Australia since I was in the U.S.

At this point, I wasn't even surprised. I'd come to terms with the fact that anything that could go wrong, would go wrong. I was 90% sure I wouldn't be able to go abroad and was practically at rock bottom in terms of getting my visa. However, I couldn't possibly lose any more than I already had, so I ignored the government officials and booked an appointment at the Sydney consulate anyways. I wasn't going to let one email from across the world stop me, especially after all the efforts I had already put into this task. 

A month of scavenging for the correct documents and filling out paperwork finally led to the date of my appointment with the consulate. When I got there, the door to the office was, of course, locked. What else should I have expected? I stood outside the office for 45 minutes before someone finally walked out, and I could sneak in. 

The actual meeting with the Italian official was a further disastrous mess. I had all the needed documents, but they were only appropriate for a U.S. consulate. I needed completely different forms for an Australian Visa. I was on the verge of tears as Sandro told me everything I was missing or needed to redo. In some miracle of kindness, he walked through the entire process and filled out the forms with me for over an hour that day. In the end, all I had left to do was to run down the street to print out my bank statement. Easy. I walked out of the office feeling great. 

As you could probably assume by now, that feeling did not last long. The bank told me they couldn't print out my statement for the correct duration of months. Exhausted, I told them to print the entire year’s worth of information. I returned to the consulate with a 5-inch thick packet of sensitive information and dropped it off. I was drained and sick of this entire process. If I didn't get to go to Italy, then so be it! 

Just a few days ago, I was blessed with an email from the consulate stating that my visa was ready to be picked up. After seven months of disappointment and extreme stress and frustration, it finally all worked out. I was officially going abroad. Holding my visa in one hand and a celebratory gelato in another, I reflected on the painstaking process I had just gone through.

Up until that moment, everything had gone wrong. However, the more I deliberated the last few months, the more I understood that I had caused a lot of my own anxiety and negative mindsets. I've learned that I cannot focus on things I cannot control. My worries had taken over, and it wasted my own time and energy. I had no control over most of what I went through, and worrying didn't do me any good. Of course, it's easier said than done but learning to understand what truly demands our stress and attention is a major lesson in life. Whether you're having an awful time getting your visa, registering for classes, or even planning a trip and stressing about the weather, we all need to learn to acknowledge that some things are just outside our control. I hope that no one has to go through all of the struggles I did to get my visa. But ultimately, everything works out, and you can't let it consume your mind as I did. 

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Kate Cook

Hi!! I'm Kate Cook, a junior at Villanova University Studying Comprehensive Sciences/Computer Science. I grew up in Thailand, and spent most of high school in Fairfax, VA, but have been living in Sydney, Australia for the last 4 years. Evidently, I've got lots of experience with foreign education but I can't wait to see what it's like in Europe! I love to travel, paint, read, play volleyball, and listen to all genres of music. I am beyond excited to be living in Milan for a semester, and can't wait to share all of my stories with you!

2022 Fall
Home University:
Villanova University
Fairfax, VA & Sydney, Australia
Computer Science
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