Wednesday, February 23, 2011

something true

This is a poem I found a few years ago that I stumbled upon again.
Since it's so beautiful and relevant, I thought I'd share...

"After A While"
by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
That kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child
And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers
And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why getting an Italian visa will give you an ulcer...

Italian bureaucracy is a mess. It just is. I vaguely recall this mess from my time at the University of Bologna back in 2007-08, from signing up for classes (um, you don't) to applying for a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay) that I never actually received because, though only valid for a year, takes a full year to process.

Yet here I am again, only this time it's worse because I'm actually applying directly to an Italian university and don't have the lovely University of California folks doing all the bureaucratic work for me.

My first challenge (and part of the reason why I came home from Turkey) was to get what is called a Dichiarazione di Valore (Declaration of Value) for my undergrad university degree so that I could apply to this master program at the University of Bologna. You see, the Italian university system requires that you jump through a bunch of hoops to prove to the consulate that your degree is a "valid" equivalent to an Italian degree. HAHA wtf, right? Because my degree from a university that actually ranks higher than any Italian university on the international rankings might actually not measure up to a treannale degree from UniBo. Okay Italy, fine, I'll jump through your hoops...

But in order to get my university degree "validated", turns out I must also get my HIGH SCHOOL degree validated. To do that, I must bring them a notarized and translated copy of my diploma (mine was lost and my high school wouldn't give me a new one) and my transcript. Oh, and not only do these have to be notarized by school officials, they must also have a California state Apostile to say that the state says they are valid. (Um, I went to a PUBLIC school, yes I think the state agrees that my diploma is valid...). So I do all this stuff for my high school and college diplomas/transcripts and then go to the Italian Consulate in San Francisco only to find that the SF consulate can only validate my high school diploma because it is in the Bay Area....I must go to the Los Angeles consulate to validate my UCSD diploma because it is from a school in southern California.....WTF

So I wait a week for the SF consulate to validate my high school diploma and then I take off to LA to turn in my UCSD undergrad paperwork. (Luckily I was just about to start a new job, so I was able to just drive down to socal for a week without worries). I show up at the LA consulate with all my papers and am told rudely "You need an appointment" so I'm like okay, fine, I'm down here for a few days, give me an appointment. The lady says "well, I'll allow you to do it now, but you should have made an appointment." and I was like okay, fine, whatever lady.

2 weeks later, I actually get my final Dichiarazione di Valore in the mail all set to apply. But I must apply THROUGH the consulate! So back to the SF consulate I go only to find that they don't understand why I have to apply through them and have no idea what they are supposed to do with my application. Hahahahaha. The consulate sticks their seal on the envelope and sends it off to Bologna.

So now that I've been accepted, it's time to get the visa. One would think this would be a simple process: University accepts me, sends me letter right away to get visa, I bring paperwork in, and BAM I have visa.

Wrong. OH so wrong.

I was accepted in mid-January. Enrollment and letters don't happen until February 8. School starts March 14 and my flight is on March 9.

Documents required for a study visa for application to Italian universities:
  1. visa application form (click here)
  2. recent passport-style photo
  3. passport or travel document valid for at least three months after visa expiry date
  4. proof of means of support in Italy of not less than €350.57 for each month of the academic year (Bank letter with at least $500 per month in your account)
  1. declaration of the availability in Italy of appropriate lodgings. (must provide copy of the lease/sublease contract OR provide proof of hotel reservation for first days in Italy + letter from program promising to help with finding housing)

Luckily, I found housing pretty conveniently through my undergrad study abroad program office (I'm subleasing from a UC girl who is leaving early) and was able to obtain the appropriate lease documents. Funny thing is, the lease does not have my name on it at all. The least only says that that this girl is leasing the apartment until July and she has the right to sublease. (How this actually proves that I myself have appropriate lodgings, I have no idea.)
I also luckily already have enough money in the bank, so the bank letter on bank letterhead is pretty easy to get. (Though technically, if I didn't have enough money, I could just get someone to put $5000 in my bank account for a day so I can get the bank letter and then the money could be taken out right after and Italy would never know...)

But for proof of Italian university enrollment, I have to wait until online enrollment starts on Feb 8. I guess. I don't even know because the UniBo program advisor is telling me different things than the visa officer at the SF consulate, so it's one big confusing mess. The university seems to think that I need a fancy invitation letter, but the consulate just wants my proof of enrollment. So I'll enroll online next week and bring a scanned copy of the UniBo letter too (since I won't receive the real letter for probably another 2 weeks since Italian mail takes FOREVER to arrive...) and all my other documents and hope for the best.

Oh, and it's not possible to "rush" a study visa and the processing time is 2 full weeks. HA. Ahhh. So I suppose as long as I can turn in my paperwork in the next 2 weeks, I will just barely be able to pick up my visa in time to leave on March 9.

And that is it, I think. Well, that will be it until I arrive in Bologna. Immediately upon arrival (within a week) I must
1. Get Italian student health insurance from a post office (ha, yes, you buy it at the post office)
They will probably give me trouble because they'll want me to have a Permesso di Soggiorno to get the health insurance, but I actually need the health insurance to get the Permesso di hopefully that works out okay.
2. Apply for the illusive Permesso di Soggiorno, which is annoying as hell with confusing paperwork.
3. Officially enroll at the University master office by bringing them proof of steps #1 and #2 as well as some other papers (and my picture)

Oh, and I arrive on a Thursday night and start class on Monday. CRAZINESS. So basically I'm not allowed to be jetlagged because on Friday I have a whole lot of shit to do. hahahaha.

And this is all so I can live in Italy for a mere 5 months (and of course get a sort of Master degree in a field that I'm dying to pursue)

Is it worth it?

Ask me in 6 weeks when I'm chilling in Piazza Santo Stefano with my gelato from Gelateria Castiglione after eating a meal of fresh tagliatelle al ragu and wine as cheap as water.
I think the answer is YES. :)