How to battle the Italian consulate … and win!
Approximately ten minutes after I published my last post, I was doing my thing eating a Lean Cuisine (Chicken Parm, hello Italy!) and probably watching the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Take a look at the trailer if you don’t believe me; it’s a fine snippet of the types of adventures I plan to have impersonating Italian popstars when I get to Italy. I think my best friend Maddy who will be in Bologna this Fall goes to sleep with it on every night, it’s that good. But today’s post is to update you on a much bigger deal than American cinematic interpretation of Italian lifestyle. Today’s post is about why my passport crossed the continental United States 6 times to obtain a visa for this international threat of a study abroad student I seem to be …
Well, it all started, as I said, while eating my Lean Cuisine watching Lizzie. I got an unknown call on phone and picked it up to hear the most cheerful voice, but one I would come to fear from now on each time her name came up on my caller ID or her email address dropped into my inbox. I’m going to change her name in this blog mostly because it’s still too terrifying for me to hear, and maybe detrimental to Tom’s health.
Let me take an aside to introduce Tom who should be a regular player in this blog. Tom is my best friend who will be accompanying me to Apicius in Florence, and has played this same game with “Petunia” in the last couple weeks. Here is a photo of Tom and Maddy back in the pre-Pretunia times.
Look how happy they are. That’s their typical dress and not detrimental to this portion of the blog. The news that Petunia had to bring me that day on the phone came as quite a surprise.
“Alexandra, do you have a moment to talk about your visa?”
Well of course, Petunia. What seems to be the problem?
“Well, your visa application was rejected.”
Say what?! At this moment, I was frozen. How could this have happened? I sent all of my visa materials to the study abroad program in May and never had another thought about them until now. Apparently, the New York City Italian Consulate had placed a quota on the number of students it was allowing to study at Apicius (I guess it’s just too dangerous these days to have too many food and wine experts running wild all over the world). We, meaning Tom and myself and two other Cornellians, had been robbed of our chances to become cultured, learned young scholars. This was war.
1. Consult a U.S. map for alternative states of residence.
Because Cornell is in New York State, we applied through the New York City Consulate, a procedure that has never been a problem for a Cornell student ever before – way to go CU Abroad! My next option was to find another consulate to apply through. So, remembering the fact that I am indeed a resident of the state of Pennsylvania, Petunia became even jollier. I would now resubmit my application to the Philadelphia Italian Consulate.
2. Be a legal citizen of the state you are claiming to be from.
Not saying I was illegally roaming the streets of suburban Scranton for twenty years, but I ran into some snags during this reapplication process. A few months back, my cell phone was stolen at a Dunkin Donuts along with my PA driver’s license. Never really leaving Ithaca this summer, I admit I was irresponsible (hear that Mom and Dad?), and never got a new license. This caused quite a problem as I now needed to hang up on Petunia and drive home to get a new license and new forms notarized in PA.
3. Be jealous that your passport has been more places than you.
Since the study abroad program was acting as a liasion between myself and the consulate and was located in California, by the time my passport and application finally got back into my hands, it had crossed the United States six times from coast to coast. I took the liberty of drawing this map of my passport’s journey.
4. Cause everyone around you extreme stress.
Besides being stressed out myself about possibly not going to Italy, and begging anyone I knew to let me sublet their floors in the fall, my family, the good people at Cornell Abroad, my co-workers at Cornell Catering, and the general Facebook community were also feeling the heat.
This morning, two terrifying weeks later, I received a jolly email from Petunia. She told me my that my visa and passport were in an express mail envelope on the way back to me! Everyone at work was high fiving and hugging. It was magical. My boss Brandon took this video of me dancing after I got the news:
So now that I won’t be living on the floor of a fraternity this Fall, I can reflect on what I have learned from this experience. I learned that when snags like this happen in your life, its easy to cast blame on others and pass off your stress to various outlets. I also learned that truly no one is perfect and that sometimes as inconvenient or difficult things are to deal with, you just have to keep your cool, and “suck it up,” and do what you have to get done. This goes for being a respectful guest in a foreign country. Patience will be my greatest virtue. I want to take the time to assimilate myself into Italian culture. I expect to be frustrated when my Italian doesn’t get me anywhere, and I expect Italians to be frustrated with me. But it’s all about keeping your cool, being patient, and knowing good things happen to good people.