4 weeks to go…

It’s now just 4 weeks today that I’m due to leave for Boston so I thought this an appropriate time to leave my first post and fill you in on all that I’ve been doing up until now.

It all began early in the first semester of second year when I attended the study abroad fair. I had been considering a year abroad for a some time but the fair allowed an opportunity to view many of the universities available and gain information about the exchange from people who had been abroad for the year before. I would very much recommendattending the fair for anyone considering the programme both internationally or within Europe. Since then the its been a rapid fire journey applying for the exchange, choosing a university to apply to, organising flights and obtaining a visa which has taken me to here 4 weeks away from actually leaving and it’s hard for me to believe! 

The main things I have done recently were booking flights and getting a visa (I was no exception, it was a horribly taxing process!). Flights to Boston were fairly expensive, although I didn’t actually book them until the exam results were published, just to be sure, and that maybe resulted in prices being a little higher than they would have been had I booked earlier. Anyway a one way flight is about £340 but I just booked a return to come back for Christmas which cost just over £500 which I thought was better than getting two singles!  I leave on the 18th of August which gives me around 3 weeks before the start of term to acclimatise and get myself settled etc.

The visa process, as expected, was very arduous. Firstly you have to wait for the exchange university to send you an I-20 which allows you to apply for an F-1 student visa (some universities provide DS-2019 forms for M-1 student visas). Once I had this I had to fill in three other separate forms on line (DS-156,DS-157 (guys only) and DS-158) which were rather repetitive and sometimes amusing with some of the outrageous questions they ask. Once you have all these forms you have to pay a compulsory $200 SEVIS fee for one reason or another. After you do all this you are ready to apply for interview. You can only do this in Belfast or London for US visas. I went to London because the waiting time for an appointment date was much shorter. Of course there is another $130 appointment fee that has to be paid first. You are also required an American sized passport photo, I piked these up relatively easily in a wee shop in London on the day. When you arrive at the embassy (without any electronic items and hopefully no cuts on your fingers as they take fingerprints) you get given a ticket for interview. I was surprised to be called so quickly after about 10 minutes of arriving but this was just the pre-interview checks. I was told to take a seat and wait for my interview which was over 2 hours later, and even then I think that was pretty quick compared to some other people! Once that was all finished the visa actually came through within the week which was very good but I can tell you that it’s not a process I wish to have to go through again.

As yet I do not have any accommodation for next year as I was told that on-campus accommodation was very rare for international students and so I chose to live off-campus. The university has a useful website listing people who are looking for students to rent accommodation in Boston. It provides information on rates, housing descriptions and a little bit about the people you will be sharing with which is all very useful. I’m hoping to get a couple of viewings set up soon for when I go over there.

That’s been my journey up until now and I’m very excited for next year. Not really had any major worries up until now but maybe all the worrying is getting saved for the final few days before departure! Hopefully by then I will have a little more idea of my housing arrangements and what to expect when I’m over there.

Talk soon

Craig

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