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Fear and Self-Loathing in the NYC Consulate

Hello to all reading this, and welcome to what I hope will be an exciting and fun blog! IES Abroad has been gracious enough to allow me to share my experiences abroad with you all. Here's a little introduction so you feel like you know me a bit better:

1. I’ve never been to Italy before! I will be seeing Rome and the rest of the amazing country with a fresh pair of eyes.

2. When I'm not in Rome, I attend Tulane University in New Orleans (possibly the greatest city in the world). I’m a Political Science and Social Policy & Practice major as well as an Italian minor- I’m looking forward to gaining a new perspective on these subjects through the classes I take in Rome.

3. I’m a bit nervous about going abroad. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit in Europe, but never for such an extended period of time.

4. In my spare time, I really enjoy reading, watching Parks and Rec with my mom, and learning new ways to cook kale.

Now that we’re acquainted, I’d like to tell the story of applying for my visa. I’m sure many of you (wisely) chose to use the IES Abroad service in which they essentially obtain your visa on your behalf, which is really cool! In hindsight, I might have done this. However, I’d never applied for a visa before, and erroneously thought it might be fun to go to the consulate myself.

I did the same things y'all had to do: pay $14 for two very small pictures of myself, find out what a notary was and how to get them to stamp my application, triple check the list of visa requirements, etc. It was quite a tedious process, but by the time my appointment rolled around, I was ready to go (or so I thought). I was ready to rock the interview portion of the application process. My documents were organized in no less than three separate folders. There were copies of documents, original documents, copies of copies of original documents, etc. I was so sure I had it all. I also carried a wad of cash for the application fee (credit cards are not accepted at the consulate).

I arrived in New York feeling confident. Extremely confident...that I had forgotten something. The prepaid envelope! The photocopy of the prepaid envelope! This was a disaster already. After running around between the post office and a nearby Staples, I was finally certain that I had all of the materials I needed to acquire my visa. After all, I had done my research, right? I was going to get this visa, right? Wrong. Well, not wrong, but not right either.

Thinking I had it all together, I was shown to a door outside of the consulate that I was to wait outside with all of the other visa applicants. About five minutes after my scheduled appointment, a security guard called my name. I was led inside the building, which more closely resembled a dimly-lit basement. I handed my passport over to be scanned, and my phone to be temporarily kept by the security guard. In return, I received a laminated piece of paper outlining the visa requirements and assigning me a number that would be called when the agents were ready to see me (similar to a deli). Surely this paper would mirror the checklist I had read online...?

Once again, the application process had bested me. Clearly listed on the sheet and not present in any of my many folders: flight reservations, two copies. I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry or throw up, so I didn't do either. I sat in the scary basement and waited my turn. Whispers around my revolved around the topic of forgetting key documents. I began to feel a bit better upon hearing that some people had forgotten seemingly more important requirements than I had. This relief dissipated when a girl a few positions ahead of me for her interview was told she had 15 minutes to go find somewhere to print her missing documents or face the daunting task of securing another interview spot at the consulate.

You'll be happy (or indifferent) to know that for some unknown reason, my application was accepted. I received my visa less than a week after that terrifying appointment. These events taught me several lessons:

1. Even when you think you've checked your work enough times, check one more time (for fun).

2. Ask around! Someone might have known I would have run into these annoying situations.

3. Don't throw up at the consulate (it probably won't help you get your visa)

4. Don't believe everything you read on the internet (even if it's on an official-looking website).

Anyway, I hope this post made you laugh (or sigh in relief and lovingly gaze at your own visa). I'll post again soon outlining my less nausea-inducing preparations for studying abroad in Rome.