I’m fast starting to think that the Champ de Mars is going to become a spot that I go to quite often. It’s just so cool with the Eiffel Tower looming down a pretty view of green lawns. Once the flowers and trees start to bloom, it will be even more gorgeous. Today I had actually set out to go to Les Invalides, Nook in hand, to find a spot to read. Halfway into my journey, I noticed I’d forgotten my super sweet Paris Moleskin that has maps printed in the first half of a discreet black journal. Not wanting to get too too lost, because really I could just jump on the metro and be back where I needed to be, I headed toward the top of the Eiffel tower that I saw in the very near distance. A couple minutes later and I was there, phew, I knew where I was.
I perched myself on a bench on an off shoot of the park not realizing that I was in a prime location for watching the cute little French kids walk home with their parents and nannies. Too cute! A little while later an older couple ambled up to sit on the bench next to me despite several others being open. I think they wanted to discuss my Nook but realized fairly quickly with a blank smile from me that unfortunately I did not speak French. A couple points and a discussion between the husband and wife and confirmation! “Le lee!” Oui! I could feel the bench rumble when the old man spoke. Some quick pantomiming from the older lady when their dog walked up meant- don’t touch! She’ll bite. haha A couple Au revoirs and they were gone several minutes later.
I visited the Cordon Bleu today!! It’s a 20 minute walk from my apartment past lots of grumpy teens that were on their lunch break. I might look for another route that sidesteps the schools depending on my class time. haha The school was so cool! Garbine (another pastry student I met there) and I were greeted by the nicest British guy named Allan. We confirmed our orientation time which I’m glad we did because in the mail it said 9:30am and an email had said 2pm. Allan showed us the “Winter Garden” where there’s lots of tables to hang out in between classes. I commented that it wasn’t very chilly in the “winter garden” tehe but I don’t think Allan heard my awesome joke.
Camembert sandwich for lunch that seemed to be made out of an entire baguette. Garbine had one half, I had the other. Well shoot I should have taken a picture. I ate about half of the half. Appreciated the cheese (excuse me “French” cheese as told to us by the waiter) but had had my fill of bread for the day. haha. The waiter was great! So very nice and so was the manager. Off to a grocery store- fast becoming one of my favorite past times because of the interesting finds, including American sauce? Made of tomatoes, onions, basil (I think), and some other things? I’m thinking mayo too? hmm. weird.
Then to the Louvre! I appreciated it even more than the first time I went in 2007. And guess what??? Free entrance for people under 26 attending a European school. I didn’t have proof yet so I had to pay this time. But awesome!!
Conquered the metro with threeee changes- holler. And stopped by the grocery store on the way home where I did not follow the appropriate protocol but was helped by not one but two different people translating an annoyed clerk’s French. No. 1- I didn’t empty my basket onto the moving conveyor belt before they scanned it. No. deux- Forgot to get stickers for the produce I’d picked up, punched in and printed out by a person who I guess has all these codes memorized in the produce section. I had to pick up just the two items, scurry back against the flow of the line, head to the produce section and get the stickers while everyone waited, but they didn’t seem to mind. No. 3- um not answering what sized reusable bag I wanted? Fortunately the ridiculously nice lady in line behind me translated. The really cool thing was the people that stepped up to help- all so nice and the older lady who helped with the last question said not to worry, there were a lot of foreigners in the area with a big smile. The most expensive item I bought? Crunchy M&Ms…. my favorite which they haven’t had in the states in about 6 years. yess!!
I was asked four times where I was from today, all of which I told Texas. haha yeehaw. I must look foreign or something.
Second day in Paris and I was feeling the jetlag! Woke up at 2am took some Tylenol PM and then back to sleep till around noon or 6am Central time. I missed the market down the street from me, but I did go on a super long walk! A massive circle took me down the Champs de Mars to the Eiffel Tower, where I stopped to snack on a Nutella and Banana Crepe (sooo yummy). Banana in French is spelled the same but with different accents. De nananas is pineapple! That’s a fun one to say. I kept walking north till I got to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs Elysees where I got a cute sweater at Zara (it’s cold!!). Then back south to the Champs de Mars where I people watched for a bit, then to the apartment picking up a baguette along the way. tehe How very French of me! (evil French laugh) I had a big grin smacked on my face all day and kept thinking- oh my gosh, I’m in Paris!!
It took about one crazy year and eight packing attempts but I’m here!!!! Bonjour Paris! The flight went well besides the sniff sniff is that the French person in front of me? I wasn’t able to sleep – fail! So I’m in a little bit of a daze right now but absolutely determined to go to bed around 10pm tonight to beat the jet lag!
Customs was crazy easy- I walked right up, waiting maybe two minutes for the couple in front of me to finish then it was my turn. A quick glance at me and my passport and stamp! I was good to go! Bienvenue! Not even a look at my visa. You get your bags after going through customs (thank goodness) and mine were gosh what seemed like the last bags to come through. Both had “heavy” tags attached. I loaded those puppies on a luggage cart and met Alex right outside the baggage claim to catch out shuttle. I wish I had taken a picture when we were driving in! The driver took us down a long boulevard with the best view of the Eiffel tower!
The apartment is SO cute! Pics coming after I’m fully unpacked. The landlady’s friend met us in the staircase area and showed us around the tiny apartment. She was so glad Alex was there because she had been worried about speaking English with me despite here French to English dictionary which she giggled then showed to me. She’d even stocked the kitchen a bit with a fresh baguette, a bowl of fruit, jam, butter, and juice!
A quick visit to the market where we were so glad the jar of olive oil we dropped was plastic, not glass! And ogled the liver in the meat section and fancy foie gras packaging. Lunch at Les Piquets – a burger for Alex and chorizo stuffed chicken for me (ok maybe more Spanish then French but there’s plenty more times for French food!).
Now I’m just trying not to fall asleep with the soft pitter patter of rain in the background and French jazz on the radio. Must not give in!
Se fini!!! I got my Student Visa today!! I can now go to France legally for one year!!! hurrah!!!
Getting it has been quite the process. Check out Part 1 for the full scoop. The full process (minus getting my acceptance letter from Le Cordon Bleu has taken about a month). A lot of the time was spent gathering paperwork or waiting. Not too bad but you definitely have to be organized!
Step #4: Wait for your confirmation email from Campus France. It says congratulations! in the email and you’ll only see it come through in your Campus France email. They said to allow a 2-3 week turn around from sending in your information. Mine only took a week!
Step #5: Sign up for an interview at your closest French consulate. Mine’s in Houston a 3.5 hour drive from Dallas. yeehaw! haha There was actually a TON of availability. I was so worried that I would have to schedule it several weeks out. I’m sure this as well as the time for Campus France to review your paperwork is dependent on the season.
Paperwork you’ll need to bring depends on your consulate. For the Houston French consulate I’ll need to bring:
- My Passport w/ at least 2 Visa pages blank and issued less than 10 years ago and valid for more than 3 months from when I get back.
- Processing Fee. For a long term student visa the fee is only 50 euros. I was totally expecting 100-300 euros. It can be paid in dollars, with a credit card or cash.
- An Application Form
- Residency Form (This actually isn’t saying where I’ll be living when I get to France, but rather a precursor to the final validation step I’ll have to do once I’m in France).
- Attestion from Campus France (this is the “congratulations” email)
- Proof of registration or enrollment into a university. (Original + 1 photocopy)
- Financial Guarantor. Either a note from your parents saying they will be sending $820/month or proof of income while abroad.
- A Green Card (Only if you’re not a not a US citizen)
- Self-Addressed Prepaid envelope to send your passport/visa back to you!
Two things they didn’t list on the site that they required:
- Proof of Health Insurance for the length of your stay- I went with HCCMIS
- 6 Month Apartment Lease
What was the interview like you ask? Well the two things above should give you an idea. I was SUPER nervous the night before because getting my visa makes or breaks this whole thing! I had read to look nice so I was fretting over what to wear till midnight- and the fact that it was going to be about 50 degrees didn’t make it any easier to decide. I got up at 5:30am and was out the door by 6- brutal.. The drive was brutal. I got there about 45 minutes before my appointment and figured out which office building it was in and settled down in the Starbucks across the street to wait.
15 minutes before I headed to my car- off to find a parking spot and get to the office right on time. Well parking is a little tricky- It’s around back in a parking garage. Not bad but added a little extra time. I took the elevator up, again shaking in my boots with all my paperwork. Stepped through the door indicating Visas and it looked like the DMV. Why had I stayed up so late to pick out what to wear?! The ladies behind the glass were helping someone so I put my appointment slip under the glass and took a seat (as indicated by the sign). 40 minutes later… quite a while after the person they were helping had left, and they still hadn’t called my name. The glass was see through (I checked!) and they saw me come in! I’m not one to mess with the process especially if it’s something as super official as this so I waited. and waited. Another person came in and walked straight to the window. Then they happened to see that someone was sitting in the waiting area. About 15 minutes later I was ushered over.
The ladies running the show were very French. One was wearing a Cowboy belt buckle and ties though. :-) If you speak French, now would be the time to pull it out. I was only able to muster a “Bonjour” without getting intimidated. They do speak English but it’s not as well understood as if you were speaking French. The “interview” consisted of passing through the appropriate documents. I thought I was good until- “Where’s your apartment lease?” uh I don’t have it with me? “Well we’ll need your apartment lease” ok. I can send it to you. “How long is your lease for?” 3 months I think? “Well it has to be for 6 months.” I booked it online and we want to find our next apartment when we get there so we can check the location and such. “I still need a lease for 6 months.” Can I get the landlady to write a letter saying I could extend it to 6 months? “That might work..” ugh. Then the next question. “Do you have your Health insurance?” No… “You are not covered by the national system if you’re going to the Cordon Bleu. If you were going to a university you would be.” ok I can get it to you.
oh brother. But totally expecting something like that to happen. haha
I was able to fax both forms thankfully, so another trip down to Houston wasn’t required. Fingerprints and a headshot were.
I emailed my landlady to ask about the letter and she offered right away but said three Dutch people had rented the apartment and it was not available during that time. dilemma! I went ahead and faxed my lease over without the letter to see what would happen. My landlady emailed again, saying she wouldn’t mind writing it to say if it were free we could extend the lease. I said sure! why not! best to have a back up. She got it to me within a day! I sent it over to the consulate and gave them a call- my visa was already in the mail! Ends up they didn’t look too closely at the lease. haha Hurrahhhhh.
Visa Appt Tips:
- Required documents vary by consulate (even though you’re going to the same country…)
- Call ahead to confirm what you’ll need
- Make sure to hand every form to them. They didn’t ask me for the residency form which I’ll need when I get to France. They had to stamp it for it to work.
- Make a effort to speak a little French.
- Ask about the Schnegen region and visiting it (haven’t quite worked that out but I did forget to ask when I was there) I think you have to have a special sticker to visit countries outside of it which includes England?
It wasn’t too too bad but definitely nerve racking!