Hayden – France


September 8, 2023

I don’t really know how to start a blog so I guess I will say hi. My name is Hayden I’m in my 4th year at ECU studying political science and security studies, and I will be going to study at the University of Tours in Tours, France. I chose Tours because of their political science program which has many great class options. I also appreciated that while it is not a major town, it has all the same benefits. Now I have not left for Tours yet and all these are assumptions, but I am so excited to get there.

It is very important to know that I do not speak any french, zero, zilch, nada, zéro (i hope you get the point). I talked to Rose in the study abroad office and she told me she is excited to see me excel in Tours and learn French as I go. I will say the language barrier has been difficult. From the first day I got accepted, I had to put contracts into Google Translate to understand that I got accepted. I have to translate every email I write into French so the Tours office will understand better. Google Translate has quickly become my best friend.

From the beginning, I knew that the transition process would be a challenge. I just didn’t think it would be as much of a challenge as it became. The easiest part of the process was getting a list of classes approved by my advisor that would be able to be transferred back to ECU. The next challenging task to complete was obtaining a VISA; that process was awful.

The VISA application is very detailed and asks for a lot of different vital information, including the address of where I will be staying, the address of the study abroad office, the director’s name and phone number, source of funds, proof of funds, name of family members and their address, etc., etc. There was just a lot of information needed from the Tours study abroad office. An issue that I faced early on was communication with the Tours office, firstly because of the time zone difference. They are 6 hours ahead, so if they send an email that needs to be responded to urgently, it has to be sent back before 11 a.m. or it will take a day for them to respond. The main issue I faced with that was having time-sensitive questions about my visa, but having to wait a day or two for a response due to the time difference.

The second issue I faced was with the apartment. To apply to stay on campus with Tours, they have a separate application that requires different basic information, but also a guarantor. The guarantor has to be someone in France, but they made it easy with a website that can get you a French guarantor if you are a study abroad student. The issue I faced was to get the guarantor, I needed to provide proof of my visa, but at the time, my visa was not yet completed. For the visa, I needed to give proof of accommodation, but could not get proof of accommodation without the guarantor. So I emailed the apartment company. It took a little time, but they helped me fix the situation by giving me a letter of acceptance which was enough to get my VISA.

Getting my VISA became another great adventure. I elected to go in person to the visa office instead of having the information and materials mailed to me and then ultimately mailed to the French embassy. I made an appointment in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the closest office to Greenville. I put the address in the GPS and got there 20 minutes early. I walk in and tell the security guard I am here for my visa appointment. He gives me a weird look and informs me I am at the wrong office for a visa. Panic started to set in. I asked where I needed to get my visa, and he said about 20 minutes across town and gave me the correct address. I race across town, and if you know anything about Atlanta, there’s one thing that is always true: traffic. I was stuck in traffic for 15 minutes, making me about 10 minutes late to my appointment. I park in between two buildings that weirdly have the same address and start spinning in circles, attempting to figure out where the entrance is. It takes me another 5 minutes until I find a back entrance and find my way to the elevators. I got to the office and explained my case to the security guard, and she informed me she was in a good mood so I could go ahead and go to the waiting room. I made it, and I was able to get my visa. As I worked through the process to get my photo and fingerprints, I started to cool off and destress. Then the rep informed me, “This could take around 3 months on average!” The panic, the stress, and the anxiety all set back in. I was leaving in a month, so that would not work, but I just had to wait it out and hope. Less than 2 days later, my passport came back with my visa inside. Insane turnaround, so all the stress, worry, and anxiety left my body again.

As I have been writing this blog I have been packing, practicing the little French I know, and spending time with my family and friends before I leave for the semester. I am feeling nervous about what will come that I don’t know about, what I will learn while over there, what I will miss at ECU, and what if ECU has a winning football season, but I know in the end, this will all be worth it. All the late-night stress, early mornings emailing Tours, and random language apps I downloaded to learn French will pay off for a great semester. I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a blog, I know when I am in Tours I will have a lot more to write about and many more photos to share, so please come back and read the next one, or don’t, up to you. Thanks, I don’t know how to end a blog. Do I give a formal sign-off? Do I need to come up with a catchphrase I end them each with? All important questions I will find out soon. Okay bye.