Wouldn’t you expect that if you plan and plan and plan there are bound to be a few things to go wrong, despite your best intentions. Before we go too far I will say, I got my visa application turned it. Not to worry. But leading up to this…well, I’ll tell you the long story…
Thursday afternoon, around 3pm I drove from State College, PA to Washington DC, this took about 3 hours and 45 minutes. This part went smoothly and I found my airbnb.com place to stay (which I HIGHLY recommend if you are staying in DC)!! Got my bags inside and pretty much directly took my bike from my car and rode to find my choice for dinner and drinks that evening Veritas Wine Bar … why not take part in some French wine and cheeses to prepare for a French visa appointment??? I had a few French wines and some AWESOME cheeses, a little charcuterie and a few conversations with locals. It was very nice. I stayed out WAY later than I meant to. I still had to ride my bike 2 miles (in DC, remember) to the place I was staying. A bit dangerous after about 3 glasses of wine … perhaps more ;-). But I did make it back to the apartment, by 330am…yeah, that wasn’t in the plans.
Then, wouldn’t you know, I was too anxious to sleep. I slept maybe 1.5 hours that “night” and, of course, woke up later than I meant to. This caused me to leave the apartment to head to the embassy in traffic, I was running late and then…my phone died, I didn’t have back up directions…AHH! how do I get there?!? So I stopped at a gas station and asked for them to point me in the right direction until my phone could charge enough in my car to give me specific directions. Thank goodness for this dude that knew the exact location. Sitting in traffic freaking out I finally decided to call the embassy and tell them I would be about 15 minutes late. They were nice and said it should be fine, they asked again when I would arrive, I think they expected me to say 1 or 2 hours late, I said maximum 20 minutes and they seemed okay with it. I rushed, probably not very safely, to make it to the consulate, paid for parking, then ran, in heels to the entrance. The chick took my drivers license and gave me a visa visitors pass told me to go to visa section, door B.
I got into the visa office, my hands were shaking and I silently prayed that I had everything together. I generally give myself plenty of prep time and now I was all flustered and nervous…errrr. I walked in and sat down to wait, there were only two other people in the room (small-ish with clear chairs lining the room for people to wait their turn.) Apparently a visa appointment, early in the morning, in October, isn’t quite as busy as if you wanted to travel to France for school in September…just a thought. So just as I sat down a guy called me forward and began asking me questions:
- You are applying for a long-stay visa? “-yes”
- May I have your passport
- What are your plans in France “-I plan to take French courses”
- Did you apply through campus france “-yes sir, I did”
- May I have your proof of payment through campus france
- Your long stay application form
- When do you plan on arriving in France? “-November 1st is my flight, I enter France on November 2”
- I need a passport photo
- Your airplane reservation
- your OFII form
- your proof of residence in the state of Pennsylvania
- your proof of sufficient funds
- your acceptance letter to the school (the copy)
- Okay, thank you, you may take this number (they give you a little piece of paper with a number) and wait for your number to be called to take pictures and finger prints.
That was it. I prepared so many other documents and a beautiful file to hand to them and he didn’t want anything else but what I put above (I think I haven’t left anything out). Not my insurance documents, not my CV or transcript, nothing else. But I have it all together for the future if they need it…so then I sat down again, for about 5 minutes and I was called to the second window. She took my payment for the visa ($64 via Credit Card) and took all finger prints and a lovely neutral faced picture for the visa.
I then sat back down, waited for about 10 minutes and was called to a third window. This lady asked me a few brief questions, that I am still pondering…
- Are you traveling to study French through a school program? “-No Ma’am, I am going on my own. I am just finishing my Master’s Degree at Penn State and I wanted to spend some time really learning the language”
- Have you taken French before? “-Yes Ma’am, I have taken 1 year of French courses now”
- Do you have Friends in France? “Yes, I do, I know a few people in Paris and some in Annecy and Grenoble but no one in Marseille”
- Are you meeting a Boyfriend or something in France? “Um, no Ma’am, I am not” (WHAT?!? Technically I did not lie, he is not in Marseille, I am not going to France for him, but really, what is this question all about??)
- Okay, well the long stay visa takes 2-3 weeks to process and if you are granted the visa it will be returned to you in your passport in the envelope you have provided.
- “-Merci beaucoup Madam”, De rien.
So that was it. I don’t know what she was wanting to hear and I was so flustered still that I didn’t try to explain to deeply my case, which I somewhat regret now…meh. I hope this works out. I then went back out, got my ID and left the consulate. Feeling a little weird. After all that prep, and all the hectic-ness leading up to the appointment, I left in about 30 minutes…((Sigh))
Then it was back into the car for a VERY sleepy 3.5 hour drive back to State College. Though, I will say it was a BEAUTIFUL drive. Fall is so pretty around here, makes me prematurely home sick!
All in all, I think it was an okay trip. Definitely one I won’t soon forget but wow, I am still exhausted.
So what’s next… I wait for my passport to return to me. Hopefully with a nice shiny new visa intact. I need to begin packing up my life here in State College. My Masters thesis defense is on Tuesday (yeah, I know!) and then there’s a French exam on Thursday. I have successfully installed 8GB of new memory on my macbook pro and upgraded to Mountain Lion, backed everything up and cleaned old useless things off. I have already purchased my european chargers. Today I went to the AT&T store to ask about putting my iphone on hold, they said they can do it for up to 6 months for $10 a month…I think that will work. I am unlocking an old BlackBerry curve I have in order to use it in France (for calls and texts through a prepaid SIM).
By reading blogs I found out that the OFII office will want certified translated copies of my birth certificate, so I need to do that soon. But otherwise…okay, there’s still a lot more to do but I am getting there.
11 more days in State College.
24 Days until I am on a plane headed for Marseille.