How to Apply for a Spanish Student Visa at the Chicago Consulate

The first lesson I learnt while applying for a Spanish visa – so I could spend my Winter quarter studying at IE Business School in Spain – was this: you don’t want to apply for a Spanish student visa! The process can be complicated, and you may not get multiple entry visas that allow you to visit other countries within Europe. What I did instead was apply for a Schengen tourist visa, with Spain as my main destination. This option allows me to study for a period of up to 90 days in Spain, and to visit any of the European countries in the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

The process for applying for a Schengen visa is pretty straightforward; all the requirements are listed here. A couple of pointers on the application:

1. Original Local Police Invitation or Hotel Reservation: Your host school is likely to provide you with a letter stating that your accommodation will be taken care of when you arrive, and that letter should fulfill this document requirement.

2. Round Trip Flight Reservations: You can do a search flights on on Expedia, and then save the detailed information of a specific flight as a PDF. You don’t need to pay for the flight before saving as a PDF.

3. Health/Travel Accident Insurance: Kellogg has an international insurance offering that all students making international trips are required to purchase, and this was good enough for this requirement.

 Please feel free to post any questions you might have about the application process and I’ll do my best to answer.

I’d advise scheduling your visa interview about a month before your trip as Schengen visas are sent out about 2 weeks after the visa interview. From my experience, visa interview appointments at the Chicago consulate are pretty easy to get, and the atmosphere at the consulate is pretty laid back compared to other consulates I’ve been to. The US consulate is definitely the most hard core… 🙂

 

 

Illinois Rules of the Road… For Immigrants!

When I moved to Austin a few years ago to start my new job, I immediately wanted a driver’s license, but faced two obstacles. First, I needed to find someone willing to lend me his/her car so I could take the driving test. I had just arrived in the city and didn’t really know anyone, but I was able to connect with a fellow Texas A&M University alum (go Aggies!) who was gracious enough to lend me her car. The second obstacle was passing the driving test itself. Now I had driven for a while in Nigeria before coming to the US, but I never really had to do parallel parking (it still isn’t my cup of tea) and I knew I was going to be asked to parallel park as part of my test. Thankfully, I got lucky and did a pretty good parallel park on my second attempt, passed my test and got my driver’s license. Life was good, and I no longer had to take the driving test again… until I came to Chicago.

My Texas driver’s license was set to expire by October 31st this year, so once I got back from my summer internship, I went to the DMV in Chicago to renew my license. The lady I met at the counter took my Texas driver’s license and my Nigerian passport and told me that I had to take a written test and a road test before I could get the Illinois driver’s license. This didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t have some of the other documents with me at the time and so I decided to go home and not argue. When I returned a few days later with all my documents, I was told again that irrespective of the fact that I had a valid driver’s license from Texas, my foreign citizenship meant that I had to take a written test and a road test before I could get the Illinois driver’s license.

Just to be clear, Chicago Illinois is part of the United States, and Austin, Texas is also part of the United States. Furthermore, US citizens and permanent residents who moved from Texas to Illinois are not subject to this ridiculous law, and can exchange a valid version of their Texas driver’s license for an Illinois driver’s license. I have been trying to figure out if there is something immigrants drink that makes them lose their driving ability once they cross state lines.

Seeing that I wasn’t gaining any traction with my protests, I decided to take the written test and the driving test. As I didn’t bring my car to Illinois, I once again had to find a friend who was willing to let me use his car. I also had to practice parallel parking again just in case! (I wasn’t asked to do one though) I think it would have been really embarrassing if I failed the driving test after making so much noise about my driving record. 🙂

So now I have my Illinois driver’s license, and I’m hoping I never have to take the driving test again. It seems like I’ll be fine when I move to Seattle. Apparently the state of Washington is yet to understand that immigrants lose their driving skills once they cross state lines; they still exchange our valid out of state driver’s licenses for a Washington driver’s license.

Image by cyberdriveillinois.com

My Days Off in Chicago

ferris_buellers_day_off

While most of my peers had 10-week internships, I had 12. This meant that I had just one week between the end of my internship and the beginning of the Fall quarter, and I had to return to Chicago two days after the end of my internship. Definitely not ideal but hey I got 2 week’s worth of additional pay so I can’t complain much.

So what did I do with my free week? See Chicago! It sounds crazy when I think about it, but I’d been in this iconic city for over 9 months and still hadn’t taken the time to explore it. I still haven’t visited the Bean, which is a popular spot for tourists, but I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not going. Like any history and science buff, I wanted to see museums, and I wanted to hear about Chicago’s history.

Museum of Science and Industry

A few years ago I read about a live U-boat (German submarine) that was captured by the United States during the second World War, and is currently housed in a museum in Chicago. I promised myself that I’d visit this submarine,but it’s crazy to think that I only got to do so after living in Chicago for a whole year!

The Museum of Science and Industry is probably the best museum I’ve been to in my life. There’s so much to do that I spent an entire day there and still couldn’t cover all of it. I saw a live Boeing 727 plane (which you can interact with), a live coal mine, space artifacts from Apollo missions, and – the best part for me at least – this awesome U-boat. The experience really brought my inner geek to life, and got me wondering about what would’ve happened if I’d visited this place as a kid. I’d probably be at MIT right now studying for my PhD in Astrophysics instead of getting an MBA at Kellogg. #LostOpportunities

Gangster Tour

 Something else I wanted to do with my free time was learn more about Chicago’s history. A typical tour could definitely help in this regard, but it felt too predictable so I decided to do a gangster tour instead. My tour guides (shown above) were named Shoulders and Slippery Sloop, and they were a great double act. They did drive us around Chicago, but rather than talk about the city in broad strokes, they focused on the prohibition laws and the rise and fall of gangsters like Al Capone. Great but blood curdling stories of fame, fortune and violence.

I’m not sure if hanging out with Shoulders and Slippery Sloop is your thing (they do have other guides called Johnny Rocco and Johnny Three Knives if that’s better) but I’d definitely recommend the Museum of Science and Industry to anyone visiting Chicago. It’s really awesome.

Winter Quarter Blues @ Kellogg

Kellogg Winter

While this is only my second quarter at Kellogg, I can confidently state that it’s going to be my worst. Why? The Chicago winter and internship recruiting.

Having lived in Nigeria and the Great State of Texas before Kellogg, cold geographies have never being my thing, but Kellogg was a big enough draw to get me to move to Chicago. Notwithstanding, my first winter in Chicago has been particularly brutal, and is considered by many to be one of the coldest in a really long time. I still remember the Polar Vortex in January,and how some students threw boiling water outside to see how fast it would freeze in temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure if the water actually froze though; all I saw was a lot of steam… The really challenging part of the winter for me is that it really tanks my productivity by making a ‘sleepaholic’ like me to sleep even more. In addition, when I do become awake, I don’t feel motivated to go out or get a whole lot done.

The second and even more ‘sucky’ part of the winter quarter is internship recruiting. Now truth be told, this affects everyone differently. Some students, through pre-MBA recruiting, already had internship offers on the first day they walked into Kellogg. Also, offers from on-campus internship recruiting have started pouring in since early January. Nonetheless, not everyone gets an internship this quickly, and this can create stressful situations for ALL students. On one hand, students with offers are keeping their fingers crossed for those still recruiting, but sometimes feel like they’re walking on eggshells as they try to figure out the best way to support their peers. For those still recruiting, feelings of anxiety coupled with the ‘rough and tumble’ of recruiting may create distractions in class and reduce attendance at both academic and social meetups. These different dynamics come together to create what can be described as an undesirable experience during the winter quarter.

For most students, finding a job is really important and one of the main reasons why we came to business school. However, the process of doing so is really stressful and takes a lot of shine away from the vibrant Kellogg experience. I can’t wait to get to Spring quarter when, following historical data, more than 90% of us will have found cool summer gigs, it’ll be a little warmer, and school can become fun again!