Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to Go to France

THIS BLOG ENTRY HAS BEEN EDITED so that it is more useful to incoming students!

Just like my experience thus far with going through the mess of registering for college and applying for my visa, at least, assuming it will all be worth it in the end. In this post I will tell you the steps you need to take in getting to France, and what the Universite de Caen will tell you once you have pre-registered for their school, and tell you what you do and don't need. If the links are dead by the time you read this, I'm terribly sorry! Let me know and I will see what I can do.

Firstly, you'll need to do the following in order to set foot in the country and have it show up on your transcript that you were there:

1. Passport: Apply for your passport as soon as you possibly can.

2. UK's Stuff: Turn in the study abroad form. Most of this is fairly self-explanatory. For Academic Approval forms, see the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For the Faculty Nomination form, I asked a TA. Faculty? No, but the only faculty members I had classes with were in the math and science departments, in huge lecture halls, so needless to say I did not know them very well. My TA was quite friendly and returned my form very promptly. My letter of reference also came from a TA, and no one raised a fuss.

3. Pre-register: Pre-register on Caen's foreign student website. After you do, you will receive an e-mail that will tell you what you need in order to complete registration. I will tell you what you really need:
  • Copy of your passport-- Need
  • Copy of your last and/or higher diploma translated into French or English-- Need
  • 1 ID picture-- Need
  • 1 birth certificate translated intoFrench or English-- Need
  • Results of a TCF, TEF or DELF/DALF-- You take the test online.
  • French transcripts if you were already registered in a French institution
  • 60 euros of pre-registration fees-- This is paid for by the Twinning Committee if you're on the Caen Scholarship.
4. Campus France: Apply for Campus France. This is necessary in order to submit a Visa application. If you haven't cried yet in this whole process, this is where you'll probably start. Campus France is expensive and obnoxious, it hates you, and if it doesn't demand your first born in order to complete the application process, consider yourself a very, very lucky person. Read this before applying.

5. Ticket: Purchase your plane ticket as soon as you know when you're supposed to arrive in France. There are many student discount websites for plane tickets, like statravel.com.

6. Copies: Make. Copies. Of. Everything. Of flight itineraries, of every single application, every form you fill out (especially your academic approval form), your birth certificate, your great-grandfather's immigration forms, your passport, and have lots of copies of your passport photo--anything to prove that you are, indeed, American and not looking for a job. Keep them all in a folder to be used when you need them, and take this folder complete with copies of everything with you to France. Maybe you should also have some copies stashed in a geocache somewhere in the Alpines, just to be sure. Also, bring lots of passport pictures. I've needed about ten since I've been here.

7. Visa: Once you have your application complete from Campus France (this can take a couple of weeks), proof that you have a scholarship/way of supporting yourself in France (obtain this as early in the process as you possibly can), the address of your dormitory, and the name and address of someone on the Twinning Committee to be a "sponsor," you have everything you need to fill out the visa form. The school will take care of sending what you need in order to fill it out. Find this here. Make an appointment and obtain your visa as soon as you can. It's unfortunately necessary that you visit the French Consulate in either Washington, D.C. or Chicago to apply for the visa in person. Convenient? No, but at least once it's done it's done. I have not yet been through this process, but those who have braved this journey before me have said that it's relatively painless, especially compared to the rest of what you had to go through to get to this point.

Chicago is about a six hour drive from Lexington, and there are cheap youth hostels to stay in if you don't know anyone there. If you can get someone to drop you off in Cincinnati, the Mega Bus runs between there and Chicago every day and you can get a bus ticket for a very low price, and arrive in Chicago in about six hours, certainly no more than seven. That's about as much time you'd spend in airports if you flew there, anyway! The Mega Bus stop is less than two miles from the French consulate, right next to the Sear's Tower and Millenium Park. I'm pretty sure there is a youth hostel around that area as well. Take a friend. Make a fourth of July weekend out of it or something.

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