“Your passport and visa are ready to be picked up in Los Angeles. See you soon”.
I sat in my New York city apartment listening to the voicemail in disbelief, as I vividly remembered requesting for my visa to be shipped to New York. What do they mean my passport is on the opposite end of the country?
I checked the date.
Hurriedly, I went to redial, only to realize the visa center used a blocked phone number. No worries, I thought, as I quickly called on the trusty internet for their contact information. To my surprise, after scouring multiple sites, the only contacts I could find were email addresses with empty promises of “responding within 2 business days” - and let me tell you, I DID NOT HAVE TWO DAYS TO SPARE. With no way to contact the visa center to request my passport to be shipped, and two days until my non refundable flight to London, I was left with no option.
What was about to commence was quite literally mission impossible.
This was the plan: fly to LA today, obtain the passport tomorrow, fly home to NY at noon, and get on my flight to London the next morning.
For some context, I applied for my visa in early May. Because the normal processing time was only expected to be about three weeks, I thought I was in the clear. Spoiler alert - that was not the case. Walking into the visa application center, I was immediately greeted with the line, “you are not going to make your June 10th flight”. As a result of the current Ukrainian refugee crisis, delays were now expected to take up to six weeks. This was a setback I definitely did not anticipate. And after receiving no word on my visa for weeks after I applied, I was convinced I would, in fact, not be making the June 10th flight, just as the center had warned. However, as I was getting ready to mourn the loss of my unused, non-refundable ticket and my living abroad dreams, I received THE call. By some miracle, I was able to obtain my passport, my visa, and make my flight - although, with some unexpected complications (refer to previous passage).
Some advice to prospective interns - start early. Always account for possible surprises when planning ahead, and always assume processing times will take the maximum amount of time, because they likely will. And even talking with other interns, most I had met also just barely received their documents before the program start date. There are also about 20 more students that have not even arrived yet, as they are still waiting. As a result, I would definitely recommend waiting until you have your documents in hand before booking your flight.
Aside from my visa hiccup, the rest of my pre-departure and arrival went very smoothly. I am lucky enough to have had program advisors that were extremely responsive and helpful, guiding me along this rather stressful process. Our cultural advisor, Gregg, especially ensured all students had a very seamless transition to our new environment, detailing all possible information and resources we would be using in our time abroad. This included everything from teaching us how to use the metro, or tube as they call it, familiarizing us with the surrounding area, and just being a helping hand ready to answer any questions and concerns.
As for housing, AIFS provided accommodations for all students on the program. We are located in Whitechapel, just a few steps away from the Tower of London, one of the most famed historical sites in the city. And with grocery stores, department stores, restaurants, pubs, the tube, and even a waterfront right around the corner, the housing could not be in a better place for a London newcomer. To top it off, each student in the accommodation has a single apartment with an en-suite bathroom, definitely making up one of the best parts of the program.
I am so excited for what is to come in the next two months living in my temporary home!
Who knows - maybe by the end of the summer, I may or may not come back with a British accent! Just kidding…I can only dream.