It’s All About the Mentality

Something that you will probably not consider too seriously (but totally should) when studying abroad is what you plan to do with yourself afterwards. After being here a few months I’ve realised that there are three main branches to this – the Education First, the Tourist, and the Not Leaving branches. These are of course geared towards non-EU students doing their entire degree abroad and not study abroad, as it’s all much different and sometimes easier if your country is a part of the European Union. It’s important you figure out early on which one you are, especially if you’re on a limited budget, so you know how to make the best of your year. Let me explain through broad, sweeping stereotypes of the groups.

The Education First

The Education First is at this university because it was the best option for their career choices. They can love, hate, or be indifferent towards this new country because they already have a goal workplace in mind (or lined up for them if they’re lucky). This person will go to events and see cultural attractions if it’s reasonable or doesn’t upend their workload, because their priority is first and foremost towards their education. Depending on the situation, they’ll go home for the long holiday periods and may go home for their dissertation if it’s economically feasible. This student will likely be the one with the smallest sum of student loans, because they’ve been planning in the long term what they want to do with their life.

The Tourist

The Tourist is likely planning on going back to their home country after their degree, but they may try for a job in their host country. Regardless, they aren’t entirely sure when they’ll be back in this new country and want to see and do as much as they can with this definite period of time. They will be travelling to see new cities every other weekend and out on the town as much as they can. They’ll likely try to make as many friends (and memories) as possible because this is a liminal year and should be lived to the fullest. This student will want to save up as much money as possible beforehand and be chill about cheap accomodation and odd hours for inexpensive transport options.

The Not Leaving

The Not Leaving is decently versed in visa regulations and is determined to become one of the limited accepted immigrants into their new country when their degree is done. They will likely be jockeying for anything to tack on their CVs that will make them stand out and will (like the Education First) be hesistant to going out on many adventures across the country. It’s not that they don’t want to go, but they see it as something to be visited later when they’ve got jobs and instead save the money for the few months post-degree that they’ll be applying for work before the student visa runs up. These students will want to save up money like the Tourist, but hoard it for the costs that trying to stay inevitably drag up.

When it comes down to it, most people in this experience won’t know for sure what they want to do until they’re already here. I know there are some folks in my programme that definitely started in one group and have migrated to another, and there are others who came here knowing exactly what they intended to do and are sticking to it. And you know what? That’s awesome either way. It’s just something you need to stop and think about when you decide to do your higher education in another country, and something to consider of the friends you make while you’re there. I know I haven’t gone on as many trips and events as some of the people in my group, and I only hope they don’t think I’m horribly antisocial, just maybe taking a different mentality of my time here. Or maybe that I’m just perpetually broke being a student on student loans. :p

— Kate


turns out meeting new people is a lot more complicated than I'd originally thought

Study Abroad

Got another form letter back from the New York embassy yesterday:

UKVI email 4

Not a peep from the VAC about it being posted via SMS, email, or junk mail (I assume physical post?) Don’t have a receipt from the VAC with any number to track either. From what I’ve found, they can take up to 10-15 business days to send it out, so it might be sitting around in New York until August 15th for all I know. Ugh, whatever. As long as it gets here before the start of September. Surely to god it doesn’t take a month to send an already approved visa and passport back?

Anyway, may as well focus on something brighter and more useful, so I thought I’d tell you all about my family and our history of hosting exchange students. We have had exchange students nearly every year since I was 15 – almost a decade now. I have been honored to learn from students from Germany, South Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Thailand, and Mexico while they lived with us for nearly a year. Living with internationals can sometimes be rough at first as you both get a crash-course in cultural differences, but by the end you have a new member of the family. I cannot help but believe that this unique experience has led me in the direction to where I am going now.

I cannot recommend hosting an exchange student enough. You learn so much about their worldview as well as your own (and oh are teenagers brutally honest), and it’s the closest thing to broadening your mind with travel if you cannot afford to travel yourself. You will be wiser on current events around the world and start to see the US from a foreign perspective. You get to try delicious food they cook and occasional sweets when family back home sends care packages. (Germany has excellent chocolate, and Finland’s cloudberries are amazing!) You will learn that language alone can greatly dictate a worldview and get an idea for a culture by the language they speak. (You will also learn the useful skill of defining abstract concepts in English to students that don’t understand the words.) You realize that other people in the world are different – not weird, not wrong, not right – just different.

If you’ve ever considered hosting an exchange student, let me recommend the programs we went through – Youth For Understanding (YFU)  and Education First (EF). Hosting a student is not nearly so expensive as many people think. At the bare minimum you are only required to provide a separate bed, suitable study area and three meals per day. However, they quickly become another member of the family and you’ll end up treating them just the same. People do the programs for many reasons – to just enjoy the experience, to expand the minds of their own family, to pay it forward, to stave off empty nest syndrome, or even for the chance of a scholarship to be exchange students too! And an important point – you aren’t just given a kid with no warning. You get a list of potential students to pick from with all kinds of important criteria you can sort through like age, religion, home country, gender and hobbies.

So consider an exchange student for a year. You’ll come out a changed and better person for it. 🙂

— Kate

If not now, when?

Fourth of July has come and gone, cousins have visited and gone home, and now with an approved visa I’m left to contemplate the fact that I am definitely going to do this. There was a brief hiccup this week as my pre-paid return envelope seems to have disappeared from my application packet that I sent to New York, but I sent them what they needed via email today so it should hopefully all be sorted out. Visa should be in my hands by next week!

I am rapidly vacillating between excited and terrified, but I think that both the emotions are to be expected really. With everything now in place short of a packed suitcase, it’s become much more realistic than the original abstract idea of doing this, but I don’t regret a bit of it. Like everyone keeps saying, this is a chance of a lifetime and I intend to make the absolute best of it. 🙂

— Kate

Biometrics in, Application Out

Double and tripled-checked my application paperwork and trotted over to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office here in town this afternoon to get fingerprinted and have yet ANOTHER photo taken. I am really glad we have an office here in town, because some people have to drive across their states to get to one. Ouch.

It was completely empty besides myself and the staff at the desk, and I was told that it’s usually that way with only one person an hour or so. They seemed a little surprised that I was applying for a student visa, as most of their applicants for visas are the LDS missionaries (I live in a predominantly LDS/Mormon region of the United States) or people doing international adoptions.

I showed up 20 minutes early thinking it’d be like any other governmental procedure and was actually in and out the door before my appointment time of 1 ever came around. For the UK visas at least, you have to bring an email printout of confirmation that you did the online application. I had printed the emails they sent me, but apparently they weren’t the right ones. :O However, the guy in charge told me that recently everyone but the Kuwaitis have been bringing in the wrong print out and just wrote down the missing info on the paper before stamping it. Gotta love online applications.

The whole ordeal only takes like 15 minutes and at least here, they’re really nice about it. After they see and stamp your paperwork and government ID, you get taken over to a machine and have your fingerprints digitally scanned instead of the old school ink and paper method. I was warned to drink a ton of water last night and did, but my hands are naturally dry all the time, so the woman scanning my fingers had to keep moisturizing them with a wet wipe. After they get both still and rolled fingerprints from both hands, you’re sat down and have what may be your third official photograph taken if you just got your passport. Again, you can’t smile (well, you can’t show teeth, but the closed mouth smiles are never that great), so I have another hilarious evilly-plotting Kate photo on my official record. After that, they sign and date some papers for you and you’re out the door!

Being the mildly neurotic person that I am, I promptly took the completed paperwork pile I’ve been amassing to the post office to overnight to New York City. Of course it would be a federal holiday tomorrow, and the 3rd was the only time open for the biometrics appointment, so even overnighting wouldn’t get there until Saturday and they probably won’t even be in the office until Monday. I went ahead and sent it with a tracking code and after some help from the handy and nice (a rarity!) postal worker, everything is now out of my hands again until I hear back from the UK agency. I didn’t pay the additional $170 to fast-track my application, so I probably won’t hear back until the end of the month. Looks like I just need to sit back and enjoy what’s probably my last free summer until I retire. :p

— Kate


So Close to DONE

So with much appreciated help and translation from British English into American English legalese, as well as a miracle from Mom in finding my old passport, my Tier 4 General Student visa has been filled out and paid for. For the record, visas don’t come cheap. Ouch.

I’m beginning to think that I need to get a bigger envelope for all these papers to send to the New York office. I have a biometrics appointment here in town on Thursday for fingerprinting and I think yet another photograph. I may as well get my new driver’s license too while I’m out on Thursday all dolled up. After that, it’s back to the old sit on my hands and wait routine. Here’s to hoping the visa is processed quickly, as I’m opting not to pay the $170 on top of everything else to have it fast-tracked. There is some serious money in international life, and this week it all seems to be hemorrhaging from me. Yikes. Now to find a good price on plane flights!

— Kate




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