Yes, yes I did. For good reason. Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 will always go down in history as quite possibly the best day of my life.
This morning I finally received my visa after two agonizing weeks of feeling as if my dreams of becoming a world traveling tycoon were over. To make a short and somewhat pathetic story long I will explain to you every single thing I did to literally ruin my chances of ever leaving Ohio. Don’t make these mistakes, you will stress out and catch a summer cold like I did and your life will suck for four whole days. Yes, I’m exaggerating but I can do that now because I HAVE MY VISA!?!
I DIDN’T DO EXTENSIVE RESEARCH. I would say my biggest mistake was getting a background check when I didn’t have to (If you ever plan on applying for a Belgian visa double check to make sure you don’t need an FBI Identity History Summary check, I still don’t know why I didn’t need one). Basically only students who are a certain age and who are going to certain Universities need background checks. I just saw “Submit Background Check” and didn’t read the fine print. Turns out, background checks are either really expensive or they take five months to clear (hence the time crunch for the visa).
This is the face of a girl who didn’t pass her background check the first time. She has so many secrets.
FINGERPRINTS TOO SMALL. Okay so the reason the visa process was stunted, yet again, was because I somehow didn’t pass my background check. My fingerprints were deemed too tiny and therefore illegible. The FBI couldn’t uncover all my DUI’s and drug charges (JUST KIDDING, my record is squeaky clean) so they just quit and decided to send me a letter telling me about it. Thanks but no thanks. I freaked out and became that crazy chick who called the CIJS Division of the FBI daily asking for the status of my new and improved fingerprints. If I have any advice from that experience, get your fingerprints electronically scanned and then overnight your files to the FBI. They also will not take bribes.
I DIDN’T OVER-PREPARE X3. Oh, I over-prepared. Apparently not to the level that the Belgian Consulate expected me to. I have mentioned this before and I am still super bitter about this, but I will share my knowledge so perhaps someone else does not make the same mistake. The guidelines I used called for one original and two copies of every document. Apparently in Dutch that means every original document should be in a separate file just so the consulate can look at it and smell the ink. And three copies. Easy enough. Just do what they say and they’ll give you a visa eventually.
I ARRIVED TO MY APPOINTMENT EARLY. Okay this is something I did extremely correctly. I rolled into the Belgian Consulate an hour and fifteen minutes early. That gave me enough time for take a lap around the city of New York and copy all the documents that I wasn’t able to provide at the beginning of my appointment and still make it back before they close. I would like to thank the guy who will also be studying in Belgium this semester. He witnessed my elevator freak out and talked me down from a huge panic attack and helped me find a certified doctor in the city.
I BUGGED THE CONSULARS. These are government employees people, and if I know anything about my small time in HR, working with strangers everyday is the worst, they definitely didn’t need me calling them twice a day. In my defense, this is very important to me and my visa was on hold. After I shipped the right documents to New York the next day (I didn’t overnight them, that was a mistake in itself). I decided that it would be a good idea to call the consulate every day to check on the status. BAD IDEA. That will only upset them, they will begin to recognize your voice, and with each call they will give you less and less information.
I ACTED LIKE AN AMERICAN. Honestly, I was out of options. I knew for a fact that there was absolutely no way that my visa would arrive on time. Stressed, bummed, and sick. My parents were also freaking out for good reason. My dad always tells me to be a proactive person, but I thought I was being as proactive as possible. Upon recommendation, I called my advisor from BGSU. Dr. Tim Chambers handles all the kids leaving BGSU on their international adventures and handles all the kids arriving at BGSU. I tell him every time I see him that I’m taking his job. Called Dr. Chambers up and he starts laughing. I want to start crying because this isn’t funny! He explains to me that there are other avenues that we can pursue if, for some reason, my visa doesn’t arrive in time for my flight (nine days). He says that they are simply handling my files like Europeans. I know I’m acting upon stereotypes on both sides but I finally understood why I was freaking out. Americans need things to be done before they are requested. Europeans see their deadlines and then act accordingly. I told the Belgian Consulate that I would be flying out on the sixteen and I was reassured that I would have plenty of time. “Plenty of time” for me was… three months at the earliest. “Plenty of time” for them was probably five or six days. I realized that this is why I am studying abroad. I can’t help that I’m an American and that I usually react like one, what I can do while I’m traveling is understand how others operate.
Dr. Chambers also asked the International Students Advisor at Artevelde, Griet Naeyart, to call the consulate during this process and check up on things. This morning I received an email from her saying that my visa should have been shipped to me on Friday. I then jumped out of bed, tracked the envelope with my passport in it, ran out to my car, drove to the post office, obtained my visa, drove back home, and then looked in the mirror. Hello black and pink Victoria Secret cotton Pajamas. Worth it.
I’ve realized that I have less than double digits until I’m over there and that makes me sad. I’ve decided that I’ll start packing once I begin to freak out for real but for now I want to spend time with friends and family. As I mentioned, I’m spending time with my grandma tomorrow as well as picking up my uncle from the airport tomorrow night. My childhood/high school best friend, Julie, and I are planning on spending 24 hours straight together before I’ll leave. I’m going to miss her dearly.
I’ve been able to experience college a little bit on random weekends. I’m going to miss Bowling Green and my friends there a lot.
Seriously, next post will be the day before I leave. I’ll be in Toronto with my parents. Here’s a little bit about Toronto. It’s my favorite city in the entire world. I’m moving there post-grad, job or no job. I wouldn’t want to say my good byes anywhere else.