Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Concerning Visas

Perhaps I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but I thought I'd be prepared and look at what would be entailed in applying for a visa.

It's complicated. My God, is it complicated.

Firstly, there's a visa fee of about £60 I need to pay at Barclays Bank. But before I pay that, I have to make a mysterious payment of $100 as a SEVIS fee online. Oh, and did I mention the fact that I have to go to London for an interview at US Embassy? Even the phone number you have to call to book an appointment costs £1.30 a minute.

I'm beginning to see why America is the richest country in the world.

This is all before getting onto the forms themselves. I have to fill out three, and they're not particularly simple either. The questions are somewhat strange to my British eyes as well, and perhaps slightly paranoid. Case in point:

Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?


That particular question is from the DS-156 form, which can be viewed here, if you're so inclined. Needless to say, the interview, any related correspondence and whatever goes on at the airport will be a totally humour free zone. I don't want this to happen to me. Not that I'm that stupid, but you know.

Right. Back to the personal statement. Thank you to those that have given me suggestions; I'll post the second draft soon. I hope for it to be complete on the third version.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

RSS Feed

Just to say, if you have one of those nifty RSS feed viewer type things, like Sage, then the feed for this blog can be found here:

http://markdoesamerica.blogspot.com/atom.xml

EDIT: Many thanks to Natali for assisting me with this. I've also linked it on the sidebar to the left.

It's all very new and shiny. And allows you to keep up with all the details of this blog. Should you want to.

EDIT #2: I've made a number of changes to my sidebar, links and all that jazz. The next step is publicising this blog.


Personal Statement, Version 1.0

Right. So here's my first shot. Any ideas, comments, or merely pointing out grammatical errors appreciated.
Learning is not a one-way experience. Merely attending lectures and seminars is not enough; it is the personal development and individual learning that gives value to a University degree. Spending a semester in America would be a unique opportunity to expand my horizons, to learn in a new environment, and to experience first-hand the issues discussed in my American Studies course.

By living in America for four months, I would become a part very same American culture that I have been studying in my first year at University College Winchester. Aside from the unequalled opportunity to become immersed in this culture by studying at an American university, on return to England the experience would stay with me. Having never visited America, a semester in America would aid my studies of the country invaluably. Ideally, I would prefer to go to University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, because of the Native American history of the state, and the beauty of the countryside.

In preparation for the experience of applying for the exchange, I have created an online journal (published at http://markdoesamerica.blogspot.com) where I am currently detailing the process of applying. Should I be successful in applying for the exchange, I will update this journal on a regular basis to chronicle my experiences in America, and discuss my opinions with readers. I am aware of the cost of the exchange, and already have £1,000 saved in preparation. I have discussed the exchange with my employer, and will be able to take a break from work for the duration of the exchange.

Gaining a place on the American Exchange would not only benefit me both academically and personally, but would facilitate the exchange of British and American culture. Through this, I would make an excellent ambassador for University College Winchester in all my actions.
In other news, I really need to get some passport photos done. Someone remind me to do that before the year is out.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Change Is Afoot

From now on, this blog will be known as 'Mark Does America' rather than 'Mark Does Wisconsin'. It's a bit broader, mainly, especially seeing as I might not be going to Wisconsin. Plus, wherever I go, I'll be writing about America in general rather than just college life. So look forward to that. Oh, and I fiddled with the layout etc to make it look better. More.... learned.

EDIT: I also should note here that I half-inched the new layout for this blog from Natali, who in fact gave me the idea for creating a blog here. Ta!

In other news, I'm currently working on my personal statement to actually get on the Exchange. Some people would call it presumptous creating a blog about a trip I haven't been accepted on yet; I call it initiative. All I have so far (of the three hundred words I need) is:

"Learning is not a one-way experience."

I haven't really thought about it too much yet, to be honest. The deadline's January 21. Any help would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

American Exchange Fair

So, the first meeting got underway today. The process starts here.

We registered (not sure why), picked up the handbook for the whole thing – ‘American Exchange Student Handbook 2005/06’. It’s full of very confusing and complicated stuff which I’m sure I’ll look very hard at over the coming weeks. Rather marvellously, there weren’t that many people there. Thirty people, tops. Which bodes well for my chances of getting a place.

Let’s see here. What did I learn that was important? Err, it’s going to cost me about as much as I thought. I need a new passport as mine expires next year (totally applied for a replacement online already). Going to Wisconsin isn’t definite for me, though it’s very likely. Which is nice. I need to fill in a form to hand in by the 21st of January, complete with 300 word statement of why I’ll ‘make a good ambassador for the College and how you would benefit from the exchange, both academically and personally’. Not a problem – I’ll knock something suitably awesome off over Christmas. I’m getting on this exchange, no matter what.

At some point, I need to work out what modules I need to take when I’m in Eau Claire. All the information’s on the website, so I’ll look into that. I want a good spread of stuff that I’ll enjoy, and that won’t be too taxing for me. Also, applying for a Visa is a long, drawn out and expensive process. I have to go to the American Embassy in London and everything. A lot of administration needs to be done, but I’ll get on top of it.

Next stage: writing my statement. I’ll post drafts on here as and when I do them. Any comments gratefully received.