My study abroad journey has begun! Sort of.
The good news is, I’m leaving to Austria in less than two weeks, and I am SO excited. I can’t seem to google “life in Austria” and “what to do in Graz” enough. I’m also really looking forward to sharing my experiences on this blog, so if you will be following, welcome! 🙂
The bad news, though, is that I haven’t even started packing, or even thinking about what to pack. I’m overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness, and to top it off, I ran into some problems at the Austrian consulate a couple of days ago.
I’ve prepared almost everything for my exchange semester. I found a place to stay, I’ve planned out the courses I’m going to take, and I’ve even gone to the bank and wire transferred a deposit (it was my first time doing a wire transfer, and it wasn’t that difficult, but I feel like it would have been more convenient to have just given them my PayPal or something). The last step, as far as logistics go, was to get my Visa in order.
That part was a little harder. I had to show up in person at the consulate in Los Angeles, and I was supposed to bring a mountain of completed paperwork with me. I had a whole folder filled with application forms, proof of insurance, proof of housing, proof of income, and proof of a lot of other things. Along with the paperwork, I was required to bring two passport photos and my passport. I also had to make an appointment at the consulate. It had to be no earlier than three months, but no later than 15 days before my departure. Well, the appointments were booked for weeks. When I checked in May, the soonest availability for an appointment wasn’t until the end of June, and my summer was packed. From a short study abroad program, to German summer school, to a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my sister, I had no time to go until August, so I booked my appointment and my round-trip-same-day plane ticket for August 10, exactly 16 days before my departure.
I must have gone over my checklist a dozen times. I flipped through all the papers and made sure I had everything several times the night before, and even the morning of. I visually confirmed that my passport was in my purse, and off to LA I went!
I started my day off walking near the consulate where I saw a cute little Austrian/ German/ Swiss bakery. It was meant to be! I spent the early morning listening to German radio playing in the background and people-watching.
It was a great start to my day. After a tasty breakfast, I needed to walk off the calories and stretch my legs. The sun was shining and the breeze was perfect. I went window shopping at the nearby mall, and then made my way to the embassy thirty minutes early, just to be safe. I went up the elevator to the fifth floor of the building, and checked in with the security guard.
“Go ahead,” he told me. I made my way inside and stood behind the counter where I was greeted by a very friendly woman, who asked for all my paperwork and passport. I slid them under the glass window and she immediately opened the folder and started flipping through the pages.
“Do you have your housing papers? Oh yes, here they are”
I felt so prepared, and then the passport she had opened up and laid out in front of her caught my eye.
My heart flipped and my stomach dropped. Maybe I don’t remember what my picture looks like. Maybe that could be me? It kinda looks like me, I thought. I stared at the passport for a very long few seconds until I confirmed that I was positively 100% certain, that I had accidentally brought my sister’s passport instead of mine. We must have gotten them switched up on our trip returning from the Pacific Northwest a few days prior.
I ran through all the possible scenarios in my head. I thought about not saying anything, but that would definitely have given me problems somewhere further down the road. I even thought about pretending it was me and that I had two different names, but that definitely wouldn’t have worked either. I decided the best thing to do was to just let her know I had made a mistake, and so I did.
I thought she would hand me back all my papers and apologize, but instead, she handled it in what I feel like was the best way possible. I was almost certain there was nothing she could do, but with half a smile she said, “Let’s just make sure you have everything else here.” After thoroughly going through all my paperwork and taking my fingerprints, she told me I would have to expedite my passport to her. Once she received it, she could then process everything and issue my Visa.
“Do you think I’ll have my passport and Visa back before I leave on the 26th?” I asked.
“You should be fine, but I can’t promise anything.”
So that’s where I am now. I called my sister and she immediately expedited my passport to LA. It arrived the next day at 10 am, and I even got a phone call confirming its arrival (I am really impressed by the Austrian consulate’s service!).
And now, I have to wait. I hope my passport gets here in time for me to leave! If not, well, I’ll have to figure that out, I guess. Fingers crossed that my next post will be written from Austria!
Stay tuned 🙂