Stepping out of the limit: International Student & Study Abroad

Stepping out of the limit: International Student & Study Abroad

Passport color is not the only the appearance; it represents where I can go.

I was probably one of the first International students that ever decided to study abroad during my time at St. Norbert., that was why there were far more challenges that I had to go through, but I believe that someone needs to be the pioneer to open a new door of possibility for others that are similar to me. This trip was an opportunity for me to reflect on my current study-abroad experience and how much I’ve grown in the past four years. Moreover, Prague add a different twist and challenge to it because their primary language is not one that I’ve known. I’ve learned so much about the world and myself in those four months. I want other international students to know that you can do more than you think you can. The sky is the limit.

That was how my dream become true.

It has been very different and challenging for me to decide to study abroad during my college. I had always wanted to do this, but my origin prevents me from getting the same process and treatment as they are of other students. I had to make sure that my U.S. VISA is active for the entire time I was studying in Prague and return to the U.S. for the next semester. And most of the time U.S. student VISA is only valid for one year. I had to manage to go home, renew the VISA, go back, apply for a Schengen VISA and go to Prague. I knew that if the paperwork did not go through it would take me another year or maybe never to study in Prague. I believe that the experience is worth every single struggle.

It definitely takes a lot of time and planning to go through all the steps, but if you are persistent and know your timeline, you can do it too.

Far in advance, I had looked into what class I should take in Prague that would fulfill my core curriculum as well as on track to my two majors. In Summer 2016, I came home for the summer vacation and got my VISA renewed, which is valid one year up to my 21 birthday, ironically. I came back to the US and work with the school advisors to apply for the school and other documents including school’s acceptance and insurance, which were provided by CEA and my college. To apply for a Czech Student VISA, you don’t have to pay any fee, but mailing to their consulate for American passport holders. But if you are an international student like I am, you need to see the consulate for turning in the application. Also, because I am not US citizen, so I had to gather my criminal background from Vietnam as well as the FBI background check, which usually takes months. I was so scared and freaked out about not getting everything done on time. I spent so much time crying and questioning whether if it was the right thing to do with my life. I was under quite a lot of stress waiting for the paperwork.

There was a lot of frustration

I realized that I could not get the FBI background report by the deadline to apply for the VISA by November. During the waiting time, I called the Czech Consulate plenty of time to ask about what to do if I could not get it on time (because it was said to take up to 60 days, and it usually did). So, I knew that I needed to apply by that time. My advisor mentioned something about the WI background check because I had only resided in WI since I got to the States.

It was like the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

I reached out to the Consulate and the Department Of Justice of Wisconsin via phone call and Email. I finally got a confirmation from the Consulate that I could use it as the background check instead of the FBI one. Plus, the DOJ said that it would only take about 1 week to get the response. It was wonderful! I ended up going to Chicago on December 6th and everything I had to do is going to the appointment and turn it into them. It took almost the whole 60 days for my VISA to arrive. The wait was the scariest part. I called them many times to make sure things were on track and they understand that I need to leave by the beginning of February. I almost wanted to give up a few times when my U.S. school started and my VISA had not arrived. I ended up asking my professors to let me sit in their classes even though I was not registered for those. In case my study abroad does not work out, that would be the way for me to avoid skipping a semester or missing several weeks of class. I was always giving up by then, questioning my intention and motivation.

An unexpected incident was that a couple weeks before my departure, they reached out to me and said that they have my VISA ready, but they need 85 CENT because USPS had just raised the price for Priority Mail. >.< “Oh My God!” It was the funniest and most exciting thing I had heard for a while. I knew that I could make it work! I was so happy about it. They needed my $.85 still… So well, I sent it to them via the mail. The mailman must’ve felt pretty weird holding an envelope with only changes inside. Anyway, I finally got my VISA a week before my Prague program started. It was a time crunch because I did not have anything packed, I was not ready to leave because I did not purchase any flight! Luckily, like I mentioned in the other blog that I got $780 couple for travel and for some cosmic reason, the round-trip flights from Green Bay were $680 in total. I could not believe in my eyes that it was that cheap compared to a giant hub like Chicago or Milwaukee (more than $ 600 for 1 round).

I knew that I was meant to do this. I packed my luggage and grabbed my passport. From that one windy day in February at the Green Bay airport, everything changed.

I am glad that I did not give up, I did not back down even in the most challenging time. It was a hard task and I am glad that I make it through. I believe that my bravery and positivity had again proven to me that I can do more than I thought I could. I became more confident and determined in what I believe in thanks to this experience.

I can’t say that that I would inspire or influence anyone’s choice, but I hope to encourage you to step up and do go further, make your dream come true.

Study Abroad takes lots of planning

 

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