I was preparing to go down to Houston for my Consular Visit. Houston is where the Office of the General of France is, which means that it where I had to go to get my visa approved.
This process was nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing. I only enjoyed the process insofar as I knew that it was just one more hurdle I had to clear until I could go to France. That’s the goal I had to cling to through frantic calls from my parents, frantic calls to my parents, gathering materials, making a list, checking the list, printing so much that I probably have the destruction of an entire forest on my conscience. I hated everything about this process–everything except for the fact that it was going to get me closer to studying abroad.
Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to travel and see everything and everyone there is to see. Maybe if I had travelled outside of the country before, I wouldn’t have been so nervous. But as it is, I have never been outside the United States, though not for lack of trying.
I planned my consular visit to take place during Thanksgiving Break. I took the train to Dallas, my hometown. My mother picked me up, I had a brief moment to say hello to my brother and sister before my dad came home. We were rushing around (and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘me’) trying to find the last few official documents that I’d need for the visit. I had two different versions of a checklist in my hands, and I’d check them and the folder with all my documents in it several times, every few minutes. Even once we had gotten into the car and were already driving down to Houston.
We spent the night in town, five minutes from the consulate, so that we wouldn’t miss my 9:30 appointment. Despite my meticulous checking, we’d forgotten the prepaid envelope which was required for the appointment (I later learned it was to mail all my important documentation back to me, like my passport). So, at the crack of dawn, we drove around looking for a post office and a bank which was open before 9 am, because one of the documents needed to be notarized. We found a post office, but all the banks were still closed, it was too early in the morning. I was nervous, because I am the type of person who just waits for something small to derail something big and important. But my mother had a great idea to see if the French Consulate had a notary that we could use when we got there. We called the consulate, and the secretary assured us that it was no big deal, so long as we had identification for everyone who signed the documents.
I was still a ball of nerves when we parked at the consulate. By the time I walked in and sat down it felt like someone had lit a campfire in my stomach, and every so often my anxiety would force me to involuntarily contract my stomach muscles, like it was trying to put the fire out.
I walked up to the window and she asked for proof of my appointment. I knew I had gotten an email but I didn’t think to print it. All my meticulous planning, printing and list checking and this was the thing that was going to derail everything. But no, she checked my email confirmation and everything went smoothly from there. In fact I had forms and printouts in my folder the man behind the counter just handed back to me.
By the end of it all, I got my visa, valid from January 8 to June 8.I plan to leave on January 14 (since my sister’s birthday is on January 11, and she has insisted I stay for it) and I will return on June 13.Even though this process was and still is nerve-wracking, I am more excited than I am afraid.