The General Consulate of Spain, Los Angeles

The General Consulate of Spain, Los Angeles

A little over a week ago, I submitted all the paperwork for my visa.

That’s right!  My nights of staying up, poring over the checklist and getting tangled up in bureaucratic red tape is over.  I’m still knocking on wood, because I know (heaven forbid) there’s still a chance I may be denied the visa or it could get lost in the mail or eaten by a crocodile or run away to seek its fortune in Las Vegas.  But let’s not think about any of that right now.

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I won’t be able to sleep properly until I’m holding my passport in my own two hands.

The appointment itself was a lot easier than I thought.  However, I’d give yourself plenty of time to get there especially if you’re unfamiliar with Los Angeles.  I arrived with twenty minutes to spare, but it still took me nearly all of that time to navigate the building.  The biggest problem I had was (don’t judge me) finding the door.  First, I walked right past the building because there are no signs or evidence that the consulate is located inside.  Then, I walked around the whole place twice because I didn’t know which door led to the consulate.  Finally, in desperation, I asked the guy working the little yellow arm that lifts up to let cars out of the parking garage.  He said I was in the right place and so I entered through the garage.

Keep in mind that I was running on zero sleep and I’d just walked two miles to get to the consulate because I was afraid I might get on the wrong bus if I tried to use public transportation.  You’d probably have better luck than me.

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My struggles with Google Maps weren’t quite this bad but it sure felt like it at the time.

Anyways, I walked in and was directed upstairs by a grumpy man who simply gestured to a small sign on the front desk when I asked where to go for my visa.  A boy who was also looking for the consulate wandered around the hallway with me for a while until we found the right room.  He was just as lost as I was, which made me feel a little better.

The waiting room was packed, and since I couldn’t find a sign in sheet or anything of that nature and my appointment was scheduled in 5 minutes, I went up to one of the windows and asked the man sitting behind the glass what to do.  He wasn’t much older than I was, and after squinting at his computer for a moment, told me to take a seat.

The windows were like the ones they have at movie theater ticket booths and some banks: a sheet of glass with a metal grate where your mouth is and a slot in the bottom.

6x8 Ticket Booth
Something like this, except not outside of course.  Taken from guardhousesonline.com

I’m not really sure why the people working there needed glass in between them and the applicants, but maybe it had something to do with money?  Even though I believe all money paid to the consulate is in the form of money orders, which would be useless to someone who wanted to rob the place.

But back to the appointment.  I was nervous and sweaty and nearly dropped my thick stack of papers all over the floor.  The boy behind the glass just told me to give him everything at once if it was in order.  He shuffled through them, plucked out all the copies except for my passport and license, and slid those back to me.  (I was a little bit salty about that part; I’d agonized over all these stupid copies when the whole time they weren’t even going to use them?!)  The only question he asked was which date I’d be arriving in Spain and when I’d be leaving.  After scribbling that down on my application, he took my money order and said I was good to go.

“Thank you, it takes about four weeks.”

In a sleep-deprived daze, I gathered up my sea of photocopies and headed for the door.  The whole exchange took about two minutes.  I felt empty as I stepped back into the elevator.  While the floors ticked by on the screen above my head, I wondered distantly if everything had gone as well as it could have.  There wasn’t a clear answer to that particular question.

Once I stepped outside and returned to the sunny streets of Los Angeles, I was able to let out a breath I’d been holding for who knows how long.  I was free!  Free and in one of my favorite cities in the world!

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Taken from indietravel.net

You really can’t have a bad day when you’re in LA.

Hasta la vista,

V

Side Note:  So over a year ago I went to Venice Beach and I got the greatest shirt that I’ve ever owned.  It was a long-sleeved pink t shirt that had “Venice Beach” across the shoulders in big white letters, and it was amazing because you could wear it in the sun and not be hot, you could wear it when it was cold and stay warm, and you could wear it inside and just be super comfy.  I loved this shirt.  It looked good with leggings or jeans or shorts, it was over-sized but it still made you look skinny, it was pure magic.

But then one fateful day, someone stole it out of the dryer in the community laundry room while I was working for Disney.  (Which only serves to reinforce my belief that everything goes lost or missing in Florida; it’s the state equivalent of that one backpack or purse or center console that eats all of your valuables.)

While in LA, I made the trek back to Venice Beach, and by “trek” I mean that I got off the bus at Santa Monica and walked all the way over to the boardwalk which was not easy when you’re so tired that you could curl up on the hot sand and be asleep in five seconds.  And, I’d also walked two miles earlier in the day to the consulate.

But it was worth it because my efforts paid off.  I know probably no one cares but I found the same exact shirt again and I bought it and now I am content with all of my earthly possessions.  I only want peace and love for my fellow man at this point because I have found my own source of peace in the form of a pink sweatshirt.

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The Visa Process

So, one of the first steps you have to take when preparing to study abroad is get a student visa.  This process is, in a word, terrible.  There’s so much bureaucracy and the road to a visa is riddled with minor to major inconveniences.  And, every consulate is different.  It varies country to country, and it also varies within the consulates of one particular country.  The visa process is a minefield.  I’ve had a constant feeling of dread in the back of my mind that something will go wrong ever since day one.

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Taken from passportinfoguide.com

Even so, I’m going to relate my experiences to you guys so that you know what you’re in for.  If my struggles can make the road a bit smoother for you, then it’ll all be worth it.  If anything isn’t completely accurate, feel free to correct me in the comments.  (Note:  This post is US-specific – I have no idea what the visa process entails for countries outside of the US.)

1. Identify the type of visa that you need.

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An example of a Spanish visa.  Taken from this blog, check it out!

The first thing you need to figure out after choosing to study abroad is what kind of visa you want.  How long will you be studying in your host country?  My program is one semester, so I needed to get a short-term visa.  For Spain and other countries in the Schengan territories (check out a list of all the countries here) any program less than 90 days may not require a visa if you have a valid US passport, but always check with the country first.  For students at Northern Arizona University studying in Spain, a visa is not required for less than 90 days.  For one semester (between 90 days and 180 days), Spain requires a short-term visa, and for a year (longer than 180 days), a long-term visa.

For a short-term visa, there’s a laundry list of things you need for your visa appointment.  This is assuming that your consulate requires an in-person appointment; though some may not.  It all depends.  You might be able to get your visa through the mail, but that seems to be more common for tourism visas if you’re simply visiting a country that requires one of these for leisure and not for school.  But, I’m going to continue under the assumption that you are preparing to go in person.

2. Identify your designated consulate and make an appointment.

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The Consulate General of Spain, Los Angeles.  Taken from virtualglobetrotting.com

Make the appointment way in advance, because spots tend to fill up quickly.  Make sure you’re making the appointment with the correct consulate as well.  For Spain, I was directed to go to the Consulate General of Los Angeles based on the address of my permanent residence.  I’m not sure why I can’t go to the consulate in Phoenix, Arizona, but that’s just the way it goes I guess.  Check on the country’s consulate website to find the one nearest to you.

3. Find a list of the paperwork needed for your visa.

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Actual photo of me right now.  Taken from tibco.com.

Visa regulations are always changing, so I wouldn’t gather your materials based solely on this list.  However, as of right now, this is what my short-term, Spanish visa requires:

  • The visa application form.
  • One passport photo.
  • A valid passport that doesn’t expire within six months of your return to the US.
  • A valid ID that proves your permanent residence is within your consulate’s jurisdiction.
  • An acceptance letter from the foreign learning institution confirming your participation in a study abroad program.
  • Evidence of funds.  This one’s a little tricky, and I’d say the easiest way to prove you’re not hella broke is to get a notarized statement from your parents, along with their bank statements.  Basically, you need a notarized letter from mom and dad saying “We will support our child’s broke ass while they’re having the time of their life over in Europe/China/Australia/Wherever it is that you’re going” along with three recent bank statements proving that your parents aren’t broke either.
  • Proof of medical travel insurance.  This should be taken care of by your home university.
  • Visa fees.  The Spanish visa is $160.
  • Prepaid express mail envelope addressed to yourself so that your visa can be shipped back to you.
  • A signed disclaimer.

4. Wear out that copier.

Photo copy everything.  Just do it.  You will need ten million copies and that won’t even be enough.  Photocopy your passport, your ID card, every letter you receive, photocopy your face so the workers at the consulate can see how much you cried over this visa, I don’t care.  Just photocopy everything and then photocopy it all over again.

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Just photocopy the whole damn computer while you’re at it.

The long-term visa process is similar to the short-term visa process, just with a few extra steps.  I know for a long-term visas you need to get a physical from your doctor confirming that you’re in a good health, and you also have to complete an apostilled FBI background check which is usually completed by a third party service for a fee, of course.  But, I don’t have to worry about that, so I can’t give you much information.

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Here’s what an apostilled background check looks like, at least.  Taken from SpainGuru.com.

This is really all the tips I can give you guys right now, seeing as I haven’t successfully gotten my visa yet.  My appointment is soon, though, so I’ll be sure to give an update on how my appointment went!

Have a lovely weekend,

V

A Few Months Later…

Okay, I definitely, 100% did not keep anyone updated throughout my adventures at Disney.  I know.  I’m terrible.  I was stretched so incredibly thin I got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep a night (and my schedule was an enviable one; I didn’t have nearly as many hours as some of my coworkers) and I was also constantly terrified of being fired for something I’d say on this blog.  It was so easy to get termed at Disney.  I knew people that had gotten termed for less than a disgruntled blog post.

Yeah, at the time I didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about Disney.

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I had an awful cold here and was dying from working through the holiday season, but at least I got a cute pic.

 

I think my main issue with the Disney College Program (though there were plenty) didn’t come from Disney at all – it came from requirements put in place by my university.  In order to get the internship credit offered by my college (and, if I didn’t complete the internship I would lose my scholarship) I had to complete 540 total work hours, take and pass a collegiate course offered by Disney, and take one additional online class offered through my university.

This was too much.  Oh my god, it was too much.

If you do the program, make sure that’s your main focus.  My peers were having fun going to clubs, exploring the state, and taking advantage of our free access to all Disney Parks while I was stressing about homework and dragging my tired ass out of bed at 6 am in order to make it to my morning class.

I took the Creativity and Innovation class that was offered by Disney, and in my opinion?  It wasn’t worth it.  I felt like I didn’t learn very much and I nearly failed due to attendance absences because I ditched class so often.

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe?  I hated this work location.  The leaders there were angels, and most of my coworkers were also angels, but I just despised the incredibly repetitive tasks that I would be assigned to for hours.  Once I bussed tables for 6 hours before finally (mercifully) getting my break.  You could be in charge of changing trash cans for a whole day.  That’s it.  Just trash.  You’d wheel around your trash cart, stopping at all your assigned trash cans, change the ones that were full, and repeat this process for hours and hours and hours.  My coworkers were the ones who made it bearable.  I love them all to death and I’m still in contact with quite a few.

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The Pecos crew in our iconic Christmas uniforms, taken after hours in the iconic Pecos lobby.

I also worked in the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and I liked this location much more.  The work was hard and hot, but I felt like the time went by more quickly and I made a lot of friends through the festival that I was sad to leave when it ended and we all returned to our original work locations.  There’s a reason they call it Tragic Kingdom.  The smell of the tunnels underneath the park will haunt me for a very long time.

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One of the only pictures I have in the hideous but functional Epcot flag shirt, taken backstage in the Epcot cafeteria.

My roommates also ended up becoming a huge reason why I was able to do so well in this program.  I became very close with my french roommates and I’m currently planning to visit them in France.  Who would’ve thought, right?  Disney will definitely introduce you to incredible people from all walks of life.

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My roommates and me in the Chatham stairwell before a night of clubbing in downtown Orlando.

In short, I struggled with the Disney College Program, but now that I’m gone I do miss the constant excitement that the Disney culture provided.  I’d recommend the DCP if you don’t have to worry about any classes in addition to work and if you’re looking to push yourself to your limit, both mentally and physically.  You will cry, and you’ll probably cry a lot, and it’s likely that you’ll cry in front of guests.  So just make sure you have tissues.  I’ll probably work for the Mouse again after I graduate, and tissues will be my first purchase in Orlando.

You might be wondering why I decided to resurrect this blog 10 months after abandoning it.  Well, I’m going to be studying abroad in Spain this fall, and one of the requirements of a scholarship I was able to get is to keep a blog.  So, this time you can rest assured that I won’t drop off the face of the planet and you’ll be able to read tons of new super interesting, not-garbage posts created by yours truly.

Thanks for stopping by,

V