Exactly a month has gone by since I last posted on Expatlove, and a lot has happened since then. I want to update you on a few of the key developments in my life before moving on to a topic of interest – obtaining a visa for living in France.
I graduated, summa cum laude, and with one recognition, “Outstanding French Senior.” I am not sure whether or not this particular degree will come in handy in the future, but it was a journey, an education, and a mostly positive experience. I have no regrets.
In a way, American university is like a fairy tale compared to the rest of the world’s higher education. Luxurious, manicured lawns, professors who invite students to their townhouses to talk over dinner about philosophy and politics, fully-equipped fitness centers with swimming pools. There are sororities and fraternities and honors societies and pre-professional programs that have little to do with Law School or Medical School or Dental School. It’s the Life of the Mind, and it’s a nice retreat from the real world. A few of my friends would like to spend the rest of their lives in this environment, as college professors. Nothing could be a more apt ending than the iconic American graduation ceremony, where with tassel, cap, and gown we stride across a stage to receive an empty diploma case – it’s all symbolic, of course.
I’ve also been doing a bit of local traveling, such as over Memorial Day weekend when I attended a family reunion at my father’s family’s historic residence for over four generations, in the middle of Northern Missouri. I caught up with cousins and second cousins and first cousins once removed, and I snapped quite a few shots of the family graveyard, which holds the tombstones of my grandfather, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and great-great-great-grandparents, the patriach and matriarch of the family. This man was quite wealthy and made the town into something back in the 1860’s, when he built this big brick house and barn, which are both in sad states of decay. The façade is worth a peek, though.
I met up with my female friends from college in Chicago, Illinois, and Naperville, Illinois this past weekend. Besides touring the city, we also ran like crazy painted fools in the Chicago Color Run, where at every few kilometers volunteers throw colored powder at us. Chicago is one of my absolute favorite cities in the United States, of the few that I have visited. It has fantastic architecture, lakefront promenades, beautiful parks, and plenty of culture without losing its good-natured Midwestern laissez-faire attitude.
Here’s a snapshot of my favorite café in Chicago, Intelligentsia, which is a specialty coffeehouse that rivals, and in some ways surpasses, the one I work for in St. Louis. It was the highlight of a trip full of bad to mediocre coffee experiences, after now four weeks of endless cups of free cappuchinos, side cars, pour overs, and espressos under my belt.
Naperville was truly a paradise for a recently-graduated-from-college shopping trip. Cute little boutiques, bookstores, cafes, William Sonoma (just for ogling), and a nice shady tree for picnicking.
What else have I been doing with my time? Working non-stop mostly, in order to pay for my upcoming Master’s in France. And trying to figure out all the items needed for the difficult process of obtaining a French visa.
- I decided to accept the offer from Amiens, France, to pursue my Master’s in English literature at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne.
- I bought a one-way plane ticket for the end of August to fly from Chicago to Paris.
- I pulled out my hair trying to figure out how to come up with the $820 per month that is required to prove my financial support as an independent student.
Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, you might say. A few clicks of the mouse and I am already on my way to France… not exactly.
This is the third time I have sought a visa to live for more than three months (which is granted “visa-free” to Americans who choose to travel to Europe) in Europe in the last four years, but this is the only time I have felt the stress and anxiety of the whole process.
Unlike other countries’ consulates, the French consulate of Chicago, which represents the greater Midwest, requires that you arrive in person for a pre-arranged visa appointment. If you are missing even a single required item, you must return at a later date and rebook an appointment. Like any great bureaucracy, France requires a multitude of items in order to be granted a visa, and even a student visa is hard to obtain when the student is applying directly to a French university (as opposed to an exchange faciliated by an American program or university). The scariest element of the process is the unexplicably negative response that you might be given, as you are left feeling helpless and must request an appeal to your visa refusal before ever setting foot in France. And the waiting as the verdict is delivered.
Okay, so I am exaggerating a bit, and no, I have not yet received my visa for this Fall. I have an appointment booked for later in the summer. Next post, I will walk you through the steps of applying for a visa along with an explanation of the types of visas that you might encounter if you choose to live in France.
Has anyone else experienced applying for a student visa in France? What was the experience like for you?