Thursday, December 16, 2010

Being in New Mexico is starting to get pretty lonely. Everyone talks about what they're doing next semester--indoor soccer, school, snowboarding, getting jobs. And I smile and open my mouth to tell them what I'm doing. And then I remember that nobody really wants to hear about it. They'll complain that I'm abandoning them, or they'll tell me how much more fun I'll be having in Portugal.

But on a happier note, my visa will clear on January 1st! I talked to my host mom, and she said that the whole family will pick me up from orientation in Lisbon on Jan. 16th (Sunday). I'm supposed to start school the next day, but she said if I'm too tired then I might not have to. I think I'm going to like this woman. (:
We have yet to actually buy my plane tickets from ABQ to JFK, but it looks like I will leave at 6 or 7 am on January 12th, have a layover in Dallas or Los Angeles, and get to New York by 3:30 or 4 pm. From there I will have to take a shuttle to the hotel for the gateway orientation. I will spend the night there with the other US semester exchangers, and we leave the next night at 10:45 pm for London. We'll take another flight to Lisbon, and have our next orientation there.
But before all that, I have to finish my BYU course, take 2 finals, learn how to drive in snow, figure out everything with packing and shipping and medication, talk to my principal about my other class, and buy presents for about 20 people.
But words cannot express how insanely excited I am to leave!! I'm a bit apprehensive too, though. I have 26 days left. But hey, who's counting?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trials of Obtaining a Visa...

This has been such a long visa application process. I had to get SO much stuff together--

  • Cover letter/declaration of intent
  • Color passport photo
  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Shengen visa application form (notarized)
  • Parental consent form (also notarized)
  • Police clearance
  • Medical certificate
  • Requerimento form
  • AFS-USA letter of responsibility
  • AFS-Portugal letter of responsibility
  • School enrollment letter
  • AFS insurance letter
  • $27.35 money order
  • Pre-paid Fed-Ex overnight envelope
A lot of things were easy, like my passport because I already had it. But other things like the medical certificate, police clearance, and notarizations were rather hard to come by. I went to the police department in downtown Albuquerque last week to get the police clearance. At first, I went to the department in Tijeras, but they said they couldn't give me one. So I took my brother with me, and we drove into town. When we got there (I parallel parked! This is a new achievement for me :), the person at the front desk showed me where to go to get a background check. I had to fill out a form, and when the officer that checked my records gave it back to me, it was stamped in red ink, signed by the officer, and said "NO RECORDS ON FILE". I know this isn't exactly what AFS specified, which was a statement on official police letterhead, but the officer I talked to said that this was what they did for visa applicants, so I hope it works out!
For the medical certificate, my mom and I dropped off the forms, but the doctor wouldn't fill them out unless I made an appointment. So on Wednesday I went in and had a check-up-type thing. By the time my appointment was over (in which they had only filled out the medical form addendum thing, not anything for my visa), they were getting ready to close and the receptionist told me I would have to come back tomorrow to pick up the visa statement. I live 45 minutes away from the doctor's office, so, understandably, I was a little upset about that. But luckily, at the last minute they decided to type it up really fast. So, by 5:00 Wednesday afternoon, I was ready to send in my visa application! My mom had to leave me at the doctor's office to go get my brother from his soccer practice, so my boyfriend and I had to go mail the application at the Fed-Ex place. The thing was, I had never been to this Fed-Ex office, and the GPS we used was taking us to the wrong place. So, after 30 minutes of driving in rush-hour traffic, 6 u-turns, and a lot of unnecessary stress, we finally arrived. We met my mom there and then went in, and when we asked for a pre-paid overnight envelope to put inside the one we were sending to the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco, they said they couldn't do that. One way we could sort of "pre-pay" was to give them my mom's credit card number and they would charge the cost to that when my passport was actually shipped back to me. However, my mom didn't want to give out her credit card number, so we left.
It was such a stressful night, and I was (and still am) very stressed out about school, online classes, exchange in general, my visa, the upcoming ACT's and SAT's, and I just broke down crying outside the Fed-Ex office. But, we are going to go to UPS today and see if they will let us send the consulate a pre-paid envelope.

On a happier note, I found out what school I'm going to! It's called Centro de Estudos de Fátima (CEF). Here's the website. It's all in Portuguese, but Google Translate will translate whole websites for you. It has over 1000 students! That will be a change from my high school here, which has about 350.
I only have about 6 weeks left in the United States! I am getting more and more excited about this!
6 WEEKS!!! :D

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Hey, guys. This is my blog for when, starting in January 2011, I become a foreign exchange student. I will be living in Minde, Santarém, Portugal from January to June 2011, as a part of AFS Intercultural Programs. Most of my friends that I tell about going on exchange say something along the lines of "6 months in a foreign country without your parents? That's awesome!" I am surprised when they say this, because that's not what exchange is about. I'm going because I want to discover myself. I want to let go of my misconceptions and stereotypes, and change my mind. I want to know that all humans are the same, and also somewhat connected--whether we live in the U.S. or Portugal. I want to go outside my comfort zone and be uncomfortable for once; something most people have no desire to do. I want to gain independence, but also a realization of how much we rely on one another. I want to understand the human condition, and myself. And I only have six months. Not only that, but it's going to be hard. I will be leaving everything I know in New Mexico, and that is never easy.
Right now I'm working on getting all my visa documents together. I have to get a few things notarized, and a certificate of good conduct from the local police station, which hasn't had a receptionist this week so I haven't been able to get it. I also need a certificate of good health from my doctor. What a pain. But it's all worth it!
I got my host family about 2 weeks ago -- there's the mother, Elsa, the father, João Paulo, and three kids: João, 14, Rita, 12, and Pedro, 9. This is a picture of them at Pedro's first communion. They live in Minde, which is north of the capital city Lisbon, and about 20 miles away from the coast. I was supposed to Skype with them today, but that didn't end up happening. We've IMed quite a bit this week, though. They speak English to me because it takes me forever to write anything in Portuguese, and I imagine it's very hard for them to figure out what I'm trying to say.