29 July, 2013

Road to France as an Exchange Student

I've always wanted to live in France. I've always wanted to become an exchange student. 

I never expected either of those to happen. But I guess dreams really can come true (you may cringe at the cliché), because both of those things will be my reality, at the same time (September to December 2013 to be exact)!!

Here's a timeline of my (ongoing) (I'm using way too many parentheses!!) road to studying in France:

January '11: Decided to go back to the Philippines and study college in Manila (I studied high school in the States). Told my parents I was going to study in my dream school, Ateneo de Manila University, because they have this program called Junior Term Abroad, or JTA, where third year students can study for a semester abroad. I found this out thanks to Chris Tiu, my basketball player crush, who joined this program and studied in Lille, France. 

June '11: Arrived in Manila. Found out Ateneo couldn't accept me for the '11-'12 school year because I was too late :( My brother told me to just study in De La Salle University (DLSU) because they accept new students every trimester. 

September '11-July '12: Lived my life believing I could never ever study abroad because DLSU doesn't have a student exchange program.

August '12: Found out DLSU actually has exchange opportunities to schools abroad--including France!! Went to the DLSU's International Center and asked about exchange programs to France. Sir Masilungan at the International Center said to check my school email (which no DLSU student uses) for announcements regarding application dates. I then checked my student email religiously for a month, lost hope, and just stopped checking for updates.

March '13: Friday night. A friend sent a link about an an exchange program of La Salle with Uiversité Catholique de Lille in France. Deadline for application was Tuesday. School was closed until Monday. Do you understand the situation, dear reader? So, naturally, I went to PANIC MODE!!!! Monday morning, went to the International Center, talked to Sir Masilungan. He said I might not be able to send my application and other requirements on time since the deadline was one day away, but he still sent me an application form. In less than 1 day, I was THANKFULLY able to come up with all the requirements which entailed a lot of running around campus, talking to various school admins, and writing 3 essays. 

The announcement that started it all
April '13: I hadn't heard from Sir Masilungan for over a month and I thought my application was just trashed (my friend who got accepted as an exchange student to Japan received his acceptance email just two weeks after the application deadline).  But an email did eventually come! It said I was in the shortlist for one of the slots in the program! I just had to send in another application form and wait for the results.

June '13: Three months passed and no word from the International Center. I almost forgot I even applied, so when I got an email telling me to get my acceptance letter, I had one of the biggest shocks of my life! I told myself not to get too excited, though, because I still had to get a student visa from the French Embassy (I always get extremely nervous when applying for visas).

July '13: Went to the French Embassy with the five other exchange students to have the required pre-consular interview with Camille Dulor, the Attaché for higher education. I stressed about this, but turns out it was more of a chill orientation about life in France. Miss Dulor "interviewed" three students at a time, and we later found out that this was because she had more things to tell my group--the three of us were granted scholarships by the French government!! Our airfares (roundtrip) and all required insurance were going to be free!!! I think I was the happiest about this--I almost cried!

A week after, I had my visa interview. The fee for a long stay visa application is 100 euros, but I didn't have to pay because I'm a scholar! Yay!! I stressed so much about the interview, I only slept for like 3 hours the night before the big day. The man that interviewed me was Filipino and seemed eternally pissed. I was very polite with him and very respectful, but he still had a frown on his face the entire time he talked to me. I guess that doesn't really matter though...because I got my long stay visa! 

Time to partay!!!

...not really, because now I have to prepare all the things I will be needing while I'm in France AND negotiate my allowance with my parents.

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