So when the professor I will now be working with said he would love to have me join the team of researchers that are going head into the jungle this spring, as you can imagine, I was stoked. (To be completely honest I cried I was so happy!) I knew that this was going to be a harder experience than any I had encountered. Not only because I will be living away from friends and family for 7 months, and not only because I will be in a country where it is rare to find someone speaking English, and of course not only because I will be working from sun up to sundown walking all day through the jungle, but-- I did not anticipate that before even leaving I would face (what I assume will be one) of the hardest parts of this whole process…getting a visa. You may be saying to yourself, “I know people who have gotten visa’s, I don’t think it was so hard for them” or you may have even gotten one yourself but what I have discovered is that no two visa experiences are exactly alike!
So I’ll take it from the top, I consulted with the professor I will be working with and since he hails from France he had to contact the Indonesian embassy in France to obtain a letter of recommendation to send to the research permit granting agency (RISTEK) in Indonesia. Then he told me he had to include the letter from the embassy with the following documents to upload to the permit agency’s website: a letter of recommendation from a senior scientist in the specific field of research, a letter of rec from a scientist at the university he works at, a letter guaranteeing enough funds to complete the research, a letter from a doctor expressing physical and mental health, a passport sized photo with a red background, a copy of the passport, a document containing all equipment and it’s worth, and his CV. So because this was a weighty list I took to trying to collect all of these required documents, which as you can guess took some time.
So finally when I got ready to upload these documents to the permit agency I found out they all had to be resized and turned into Jpeg files, which proved to be not very easy with my computer, so I sent them to my boyfriend’s computer and he helped me do this in Photoshop. Then finally I uploaded all the documents except the letter from the Indonesian Embassy here in the U.S. The reason I did not have this letter to upload was because after many (I mean MANY) calls and messages left at the embassy, and don’t let me forget emails, I never heard back from them! The permit agency accepted my application and emailed me saying that sometimes they do not receive these letters from the embassy.
So then while I was waiting and worrying about my application a wonderful professor at my school told me about Consulate Generals, these people are in many large cities around the country and they are the go betweens between people in their regions seeking visas and the embassy. I contacted them (again and again) and finally talked to someone (on the same day I got the good news that my permit had been granted). I thought that since my permit was granted I was golden…this is not the case. I had to tell the permit agency where I wanted them to send my information so that I could get my temporary visa (required to step off the plane in Indonesia) so I told them the Consulate General in Chicago as I am in their region. I thought I had to send them my passport and they stamp it and send it back. Nope. The big hurdle I thought I had cleared--the numerous documents I had to acquire and confusing instructions I had to decipher to upload those documents, was not cleared—I merely left the ground. I found out the hurdle is the next set of documents (of course different from the first set) that I must now submit to the Consulate General to get approval for the visa. And before this process when I was consulting with the professor and a graduate student who has been to Indonesia (but comes from a different part of Europe) I thought they would have it all figured out, but getting a visa in the U.S. is not the same, not even close.
But what I have learned is that I am not going to let this taxing visa business stop me from getting to Indonesia to live a dream come true. I know that if I can get through this next part of the process I can probably handle any Ph.D. applications; they will be a piece of cake!