Eleven months and countless piles of paperwork later, I finally have my little 3-inch by 4-inch sticker that is the culmination of all my efforts: my Tier-4 General Student Visa. It’s a small thing, but it is the only piece of physical proof I have that this is actually happening, that I will be spending my junior year studying in the oldest English-speaking university in the world.
Getting approval to study abroad is a long process, especially if you want to study at Oxford. Before anything else, I had to have an interview with Dr. Kristen Grace, the Associate Director of Cornell Abroad, who would tell me whether or not I should even bother applying to study at Oxford—although of course she phrased it far more tactfully than that. After a surprisingly casual interview with her, I was told I could go ahead with my application. Thus began the first mountain of paperwork. Before I could submit my application to Cornell Abroad, I had to get a copy of my transcript, approval from my advisor, approval from my major, approval from my college (Arts and Sciences), two letters of recommendation, and two pieces of graded work, all for a November 5th deadline. At the same time, I was collecting signatures of approval for my second choice, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for my second-choice college. As you can imagine, the month of October was hectic and had me running all over campus collecting signatures and begging professors for letters of recommendation.
A long winter vacation followed, waiting for an email from Cornell Abroad with either a yes or a no. It was probably for the best that I had dial-up internet at home, otherwise I would have been constantly on my computer, staring at my email waiting for a notification. As it happened, it wasn’t until I was back on campus that I finally got the email. Cornell Abroad approved my application, and I now had to apply directly to St. Catherine’s College, whom Cornell Abroad and Dr. Grace thought would be the best fit for me. Following that application were more months of waiting and hoping. In late April, I got an email from Helen Alexander, the woman in charge of St. Catherine’s Visiting Student Programme, confirming my acceptance; I let out a yell of triumph that was heard all through my dorm (which concerned a couple residents, since I was their RA).
In the remaining month of school, I attended a couple mandatory pre-departure meetings to prepare me for my year abroad, including everything I needed to know about my visa. I had to wait for an email (again) from St. Catherine’s with my CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Study) number before I could apply for my visa. It came in early August. Once again, I had another mountain of paperwork to fill out. This time, I also had to drive about an hour to Syracuse, NY, to get finger-printed and to get my face scanned. I then mailed a gargantuan packet, including my passport and a picture of myself, to the British Consulate in NYC, hoping and praying that I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Surprisingly, it only took a week before I found my passport in my mailbox with a new sticker in it: my visa. Almost immediately, my family went to AAA to book my flight. Now, after almost a year of work to get here, all that remains is for me to pack, say my goodbyes, and wait until 12:05pm October 6th, when my Oxonian adventure will begin.