Friday, July 15, 2016

Forgive me for these tangents

>>>Hello French Consulate General in Chicago<<<

I *had* to go to Chicago yesterday to *interview* for my French long-stay VISA to study abroad. Asterisks around "had" because a trip to Chicago is always a good time, and around "interview" because that's a misleading word to describe my experience at the French Consulate General.

There's something I do want to say about the Bastille Day attack on Nice, France. I don't know the 84 people who were killed (10 children), the 202 wounded (some still in critical condition(52) including life support(25)), or the intense pain that France is grieving. I do know, however, watching that news on a TV mounted in the corner of the consulate's waiting area will stick with me for a long time. I know that my mom reached for my hand when I read the Snapchat message from my future roommate, Francisca, telling me the news. I know all the love in the world isn't enough to satisfy the  demands of grief for these French people affected, but I am encouraged to see the world share love anyhow. Below is a Rupi Kaur poem  that resonates with me. I actually posted it on my Instagram on Wednesday night... I hope it resonates with you too. 
A selection from her awesome book of poetry "Milk and Honey"

"Rupi is kween" -accurate comment left on my insta post
And now I'm ready to move past that topic. I believe you don't have to accept or be okay with something before you start to move forward... Healing takes time. It shouldn't keep you from living.

Deep breath, exhale (I learned that at yoga)

Getting my VISA was the most cumbersome part of study abroad preparation just because going through CampusFrance is quite the process, and you have to actually go to Chicago to turn in all of your paperwork. It's definitely manageable, though. I would advise myself in the future to stress about this *interview* about ten times less than I did. It's not really an interview. 

        ... check in to the building... go to the Consulate... sit and wait... hand in paperwork... sit and wait again... get your picture taken and fingerprints scanned... say thank you... walk back out....

Be meticulous when compiling your forms; this is essential. If you do the prep work correctly, you'll be in and out in an hour if they're running on time. Today I showed up at 10:55, twenty-five minutes early for my 11:20am appointment, and I was out of the consulate by 12:10am. They didn't ask me for my papers until 11:50, but once they got to me it was a quick process. For my *interview* I wore tan slacks, a nice tank top with a cardigan, and flats. Half of the people there looked extremely casual, and the other half looked business casual-ish. Fingers crossed all goes well, and I just crossed the last item off of my "you have to do this or you don't get to go" list. 

My checklist of to-do's still includes:
  1. Obtain French Long Stay VISA- I have my appointment in Chicago this Friday!  
  2. Pack – for 8 months in a 50lb suitcase, carry-on, and backpack **cringes**
  3. Set up international cell phone, bank account, etc.
  4. Plan where I'll stay when I arrive 8/28 through when I can move into my apartment 9/01
  5. Hang out with my parents a lot because they're great
I have done some footwork to arrange where I'll stay (4 on the list), but nothing is set in stone. Super cool Portuguese future roommate Francisca and I are contacting a couple people about renting their Airbnb listings for those days. If that doesn't work out, there are plenty of options to stay in hostels those first four nights. 

This week I got an email from a student at EM Strasbourg about if I need to be picked up when I arrive in Strasbourg. Super accommodating and awesome offer that I will definitely take advantage of! They have a group of students (Bureau de l'International (BDI)) who make themselves available to pick us up and get us where we need to go when we first arrive in Strasbourg. What a thoughtful gesture because I know when I get off the high-speed train in Strasbourg it will be so nice to see a smiling face to welcome me... Even if they are just there to transport me fifteen minutes and say, "Have a nice day!"

Random thoughts about quick trip to Chicago:
1. Do take the South Shore Lines train into the city. Don't stay in the hotel my mom and I stayed in; we got what we paid for, and I planned the trip pretty inexpensively.

2. Do get to Chicago early in the morning and get the Bean all to yourself (and the nice Ukrainian touristy runners who offer to take your picture with your momma).

3. Do go to PrĂȘt a Manger because it has awesome blueberry muffins, and they definitely gave us free coffee just to be cool. Free coffee is a #1 way to my heart.

4. Do go with your mom because you've done this stuff five times with friends, but she's special.  
The Ukrainians didn't believe we were in Chicago because we had to be for the VISA.
It's getting closer! Every small bit of progress I feel like it's getting more real that I'm actually going... I'm spending this weekend home in Springboro. I have two more weeks at Maumee Valley Habitat after that; I wish time would slow down because I'm going to miss it so much. Then I have just under a month at home to get loose ends tied up, make quick trips to BGSU and the lake, and manage the pool to make a little travel money. It will fly by.

 Love, Julie "Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home"-Tyler Knott Gregson 

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