(Other possible titles for this post included, "The Visa Story," "The British Consulate: Exposed," "Why I'm Losing Hair at Twenty," and "?!")
I don't know when I decided I was going to be studying abroad in England for an entire school year, but along the way, through growth spurts and weddings and friendships and schools, somehow, in my little pea brain, the idea (copied, of course, from my older brother, Pat) solidified. I chose to come to Bowling Green and stay there, despite my desires for a different type of college experience, because financially, Bowling Green is the only school that I would be able to study abroad for a year without going a million dollars in debt on top of my student loans.
I started this whole process my freshman year, attended this study abroad fair that BG's education abroad team held in the student union and received ten thick books from different study abroad agencies that my mom and I read through during Christmas break, though we never came to a decision then, and my thoughts were not focused so much on the coming future and possibilities in another country, rather, they were centered on getting myself through my freshman year.
As sophomore year arrived, the possibility of my study abroad became very real to me. I like to get things done and early, so I met with the education abroad office within the first two months of being back at BGSU and began my research, ultimately landing on some consortium's program in some town in England, and I began meeting with advisors in and out of the study abroad office to ensure that I could do this program for the whole year and still graduate in May 2016.
To make this already long story short, during the application process, I realized the program I had been working towards all semester wasn't the one for me and was back to square one.
After many tears, a lot of emails, and two recommendation letters, my application was in, accepted, and I was officially set to study abroad by this past May. My welcome letter notified me of the need for a Tier 4 Student Visa and I assumed I'd have my needed CAS number by July.
Lo and behold, the much awaited email arrived MID AUGUST, which only gave me a month and a half to apply. You may not know this about me, but I like to get applications like these out of the way in advance, but after an initial read-through of the application, I was totally lost, and for two weeks sent emails and attempted to fill out the application as best I could and finally, finally, in the very first few days of September, my application was finished and sent in the mail to the UK consulate in New York.
A week and a day later, I got an email from the consulate themselves that I hadn't included a shipping label, immediately I sent the label back and realized I would not be getting my much awaited visa for two full weeks. My hair began to fall out, I became addicted to The Sims 2, I drank 20 cans of Diet Coke a day, I packed my suitcase, cried, doubted my intentions of going abroad, cancelled my flight and finally, three days after I was due to depart, I received my visa and was on my way to England in a day.
The process was extremely dramatic and to any students wishing to study abroad for a year in any country that requires a visa, my advice is get your visa EARLY!!!!!! You will still have hair and will not harass every single power you can, from the US passport agency to the consulate in NYC to the local congress woman's office and you will save yourself some money and emotional turmoil.