Part 1: Calm before the Storm
Almost the first thing we young whippersnappers are told when we go to our very first information briefing about exchange is that we need to start organising our visas as early as possible. Apparently, it is ideal to know the visa requirements of the country you will be visiting at least three years before you first thought about going on exchange, and preferably before your grandmother was born. But, given the impossibility of this, as soon as you receive an offer from the ANU, you should start looking into the visa requirements of that country.
This anecdote is a horror story. It should not be read before bed. It will be told to young children for generations to come, by overprotective mothers who want to frighten their children out of ever leaving home to go on exchange. Its message is clear: no matter what you do, no matter how many precautions you take, the terrors of bureaucracy will still conspire to prevent you from ever reaching your dream exchange destination.
(Spoiler alert: happy ending.)
The moment that a much younger, more naïve version of myself learnt that I would be going to Austria, I started looking into visa requirements. There was a long and daunting list of documents I needed: letter of acceptance from host university (UniWien), proof of financial means, proof of accommodation, academic transcript, travel itinerary, plane tickets, passport, and more. At this stage, the University of Vienna hadn’t yet formally offered me a place and wasn’t due to do so until the middle of November. Before I had this official confirmation, I couldn’t start looking for accommodation or booking my travel plans. I got together all the documents that I could and waited for November. This was a happier time. All I had to worry about was the ANU exam period. Ah, to be young and free again, as I was in those days.
Smack-bang in the middle of November (on the 15th, to be precise) I received the official acceptance letter from my host university. I received the email at 9pm and by midnight I had already submitted applications for several accommodation options in Vienna. I booked tickets, contacted my bank, and followed the links on the letter from the university in Vienna to the website that told me how to go about getting a visa. Now, all I could do was wait until I received an offer of accommodation. Still not realising that the universe was conspiring against me, I happily idled away the time by doing what I love most: exams.
What will befell our heroine next? Tune in next time to the ANU Global Programs Blog to find out!