Twenty-Three. Application Frustration and Stress (Exchange prep three)

After months of waiting (the application to Carleton was due in December), I got an email in early February that said: We would like to inform you that it is very likely that you will be nominated for the exchange program.  Details regarding your host institution and term of study will be confirmed in late February.
Then “the week of February 25th” or “late February” meant the last day of the month. The wait was so hard.

FINALLY when I was officially accepted into Carleton’s Exchange Program and offered a place at ULB, I had to apply there to make sure they’d accept me.

**Just before I found out about Carleton’s decision I also had the opportunity to apply for a grant from the French department to go on my exchange. The necessary qualifications were that I’d applied to a primarily French institution and I had to be registered as a French major or double major. I qualified, so I applied – I encourage anyone thinking of going on an exchange to look for grants/scholarships as well. I just had to write a short letter about my goals and how the exchange would benefit my studies. Eventually I was given $800 so I’m glad I applied.

To apply to ULB I had to fill out yet another form, and this one was in broken English because it must have been translated directly. I had to include my résumé which I thought was a little strange. *Pro-tip: Always have your résumé up-to-date and easily accessible.

I had to write another motivation letter about my goals and the benefits an exchange would give me. These were getting kind of tedious at this point because even though they were all closely related, the focus had to be on something slightly different each time so I couldn’t keep reusing the same one. Also different languages impede reusing an answer.

I had to get a transcript from Carleton, a photocopy of my passport and the exchange program coordinator forwarded my letters of recommendation on my behalf. Thankfully those could be reused 🙂

I also had to provide a list of courses I planned to take at ULB. This was a little complicated because I was told to use the form for major or minor course transfers and equivalencies. For that, I had to meet with undergraduate coordinators from two departments (French and Political Science) to have them sign off on some approved courses. Of course I was incredibly rushed through all of this.

When I handed in all my documents to Chau (the Carleton Exchange Program Coordinator) I thought everything would go smoothly. Then she called me and said I gave her the wrong list of courses.

Apparently the major/minor course transfers thing (I don’t remember what it was officially called) are only for the registrar’s office so they can transfer the credits and ULB just wanted a simple list of courses I planned on taking. At least this was easy to correct.

The other slight complication was that ULB wouldn’t release its 2013-2014 courses until the end of June.

That’s what’s causing me a bit of distress right now – but way less than some of the other things I have to do.

The registrar’s office asked us to have our course transfer sheets in awhile ago. But as I mentioned, mine will be completely useless to them because none of these courses exist for the year I’ll be gone. Can I wait until the end of June, or even July to hand in the papers? I don’t even know about that yet. Oh well. *Pro-tip: KEEP ALL YOUR PAPERS SAFE AND ORGANIZED! I had a little panic attack when I thought I misplaced two papers I needed so I highly recommend a special folder for ALL papers concerning your plans.

So now I have to apply for my visa since I’ll be a student in Belgium, living there for ten months.

THIS IS THE BIGGEST HEADACHE OF ALL!

For anyone who knows me, you already know I have a bit of a problem with my head – I have chronic migraines and daily head pain. So I really didn’t need all this stress. The checklist of documents I need to provide to apply for this visa is ridiculous!

Some things make sense, my passport (plus a photocopy), the acceptance letter from ULB (took a long time coming but it’s finally here), some pictures, and the visa application form itself. I’m not happy about it, but they require proof of travel insurance as well. But the other requirements are silly.

A criminal record check ($45)

A medical certificate indicating that I don’t have any “infectious diseases” and this has to done by one of three doctors in Ontario (only one in Ottawa), or, if I choose to ask my family doctor, the certificate would have to be legalized by the CPSO (Ontario College of Physicians)… as if my doctor isn’t just as good as the one they listed? Plus, the only things they care about are HIV and Tuberculosis (and maybe if I have a genetic disease like heart disease or something).

They need me to prove financial solvency (I can’t.) So I need to lean on my parents.

I need a  sponsor (my dad) who will have to prove his financial solvency by providing way too many documents of a personal nature. I only hope they will accept his proof to fulfill both requirements. He needs to sign an affidavit as well, which they have to legalize at the consulate (an extra $19.50).

The visa itself costs $234. And the only place to get this done is at the consulate in Montreal. So I can either drive there (inconvenient) or mail everything (extra cost) and include my own photocopies of almost all the documents plus a pre-paid return envelope.

There’s a lot to do and sometimes it can be frustrating.

I take care of the children who come to the OMF on Friday nights and it’s mostly an informal time to chat with them, see what God’s been doing in their lives and share with them something God had taught me. A few weeks ago I was complaining about the frustration of my visa application and I realized, I hadn’t been praying about.

I made sure God was very involved in the other application processes but I forgot to include Him in my visa application too.

Today, I went to a doctor’s appointment to see if my family doctor could help me with the medical stuff. On my way home I was fairly pleased with what she could tell me and I thanked God for her. I also prayed that the official acceptance letter from ULB would come soon because without it, I couldn’t proceed. As soon as I got home and checked my email, there it was!

Prayer really is incredibly powerful. God is such a loving provider. He knows our needs, He knows all the timing and He is the power to count on in all things!

Anyway, as is my usual style, this post is probably too long. All I can do for now is keep ticking requirements off my visa application checklist and I need to keep praying. I’ll apply for my visa soon, go to Carleton to deal with the registrar’s office and pick up my French grant and maybe then everything will calm down…

Just kidding, I still have to think about my life once I actually get to Brussels, living arrangements, transportation, work – possibly, other financial considerations – banks, credit cards, etc… There’s plenty to think – and pray – about!

Thanks for reading, God Bless!

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