Phoebe McPherson is a student at the University of New Hampshire and an ISA Featured Blogger. Phoebe is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile.
¡Viva Chile! Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I don’t leave for beautiful South America until the end of February. In the meantime, there is a lot to be done. I need to pack. I need to double-check documents, and most importantly, I need to continue living my life!In my opinion, one thing that a lot of study abroad students do is over think things before going abroad. A foreign country isn’t an alien planet; it’s just another piece of land with different boundaries. One of the most exciting things about going to a new country is learning from the locals. Diving in head first, for me, is the way to go; worst comes to worst, I’ll just doggy paddle and smile.
However, there is one preparation that I cannot ignore before going abroad. I need to get my visa.
Note: Don’t wait to get your visa. Get it as early as possible.
Thankfully, I went to the Embassy of Chile today and am here to recount what is oftentimes a nerve-wracking experience. Please keep in mind that this is my experience and that others’ experiences obtaining visas for Chile or for different countries could be completely different, so be sure to check with your specific consulate’s requirements before starting the process of getting your visa.
First off, make sure to sign all of your documents before hand and double-check for correctness.
“Lesson number one,” The person at the consulate said to me. “In Chile, we put the day before the month.”
I smiled and blushed. I had obviously overlooked this while typing my visa forms. The man looked over each of my forms carefully, feeling over and holding a few papers up to the light.
“Are you going anywhere before Chile?”
“No, solamente Chile. Pero, primero Santiago y luego Valparaíso y Viña del Mar.”
He smiled at my use of Spanish. He told me that he was born in Valpo and that it’s the most beautiful city in the world. We realized I was missing a form, but out of the kindness of his heart, he assured me that everything would be sorted out.
We bonded over missing packages that never arrived over the holidays — my FBI forms and his holiday gift for his niece.
He laughed a few times at some Spanish phrases I used. My mother, standing next to me, kept elbowing me to stop speaking. If not now, when will I practice?
He handed me back my passport and a business card.
“Buenas suerte, Phoebe,” he said. That’s good luck in Spanish. He waved.
I told him to have a great day and thanked him for his help. When you apply for your visa, take a deep breath and let it out. While it is definitely a serious process and should not be taken lightly, it’s not as scary as you think.
I returned two weeks later to receive my visa, and the same consul was there. He took my fingerprints, and explained to me the different paperwork I would need to keep track of for customs upon entry into the Chilean airport. He pulled out a magazine of Valparaíso and flipped through several pages to show me how beautiful his city was. He pointed. “That’s where I grew up. It’s been 50 years since I’ve returned. Go there and take a photo for me, would you?”
Before I left, he gave me a small Chilean flag for my enthusiasm. I gave him a hug and thanked him for his kindness.
Although getting your visa can be a bit daunting, this turned into a memorable and rewarding experience. Chileans, I am learning, are wonderful people.
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I wan’t to thank you for this useful share PHOEBE. You have out in a lot of efforts. I loved reading your experience. Thank you so much for such a wonderful blog. Thanks and regards.