Step 2: Spanish Consulate
Trip Start Dec 29, 2008
27Trip End May 30, 2009
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Where I stayed
I am not sure how many of you have or will study abroad, but if you do and choose Spain, be prepared for a hassle. Government agencies are notoriously slow and difficult to work with, but my experience in Miami was above and beyond anything I might have expected.
Preface: I received an e-mail from ISA after I was accepted to the Madrid program detailing the visa application process. They noted that a Spanish student visa might take a while to get, so we should start early. The Spanish government requires students to apply in person, meaning I had to present the documents at their office in Miami during the week. I started researching airline tickets to South Florida until my mother informed me that she would be in town for a conference at the beginning of November. I set up a Power of Attorney so she could apply on my behalf and sent the materials to her. Unfortunately, I forgot to sign one of the forms and also forgot to include a copy of my driver's license. Needless to say she was angry, but they accepted the application and processed it anyway.
For the next month, I called them about three times a week to check whether it was ready (I didn't realize that they had included a receipt with a pick-up date). Each time it sent me to the automated messaging system, at which point I would dial '0' for the operator. I must have called 25 times and not once did anyone answer. I imagine that the phone designated as the operator is in some back room that none of the workers ever enter. Anyway, I finally had to call the Orlando representative for the Consulate and she gave me some extensions. For the next three weeks, I called the numbers every single day until someone finally picked up. It took my about 10 voicemails, 15 e-mails, 60 phone calls, and my sanity, but a gentleman from the consulate finally answered. I asked him (in Spanish) whether my visa was ready and he informed me that it was and that I could show up at any point during the week to retrieve it.
I drove down to Pompano Beach on Wednesday morning to stay with Uncle Steve and Aunt Beth overnight. The consulate is only open from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM from Monday to Friday, so I planned on driving down to Miami on Thursday morning. I left Pompano at around 8:15, but my GPS still could not triangulate my position, so I had to use the directions Uncle Steve gave me. I took the scenic route on Palmetto Parkway and finally reached the consulate. Not to be anticlimactic, but it took my 5 minutes to get the visa. Since it was still early, I drove to University of Miami to give myself a self-guided tour and then drove to downtown Miami to snap some pictures and check out the new construction.
Since my GPS was still not working, I had to find I-95 on my own. Long story short, it took me about one hour and countless miles through Little Haiti, Liberty City, and Carroll City (the ghettos of Miami) to find Palmetto Parkway again and I left to go home. I definitely saw the more colorful side of the city, so I was more than happy to go home. As I sit here admiring my Visado Estudiantil, I hope that all of this effort is rewarded with an amazing experience over the next 5 months.