Lesson One

After spending one month back home in China for Chinese New Year and bit of unexpected adventure, I arrived in Paris at 5:30 am, Feb. 9th. It was already two days late than our program had started due to an urgent visa issue: French Consulate had made a mistake on the dates from which my visa becomes valid: 12-30-2012, exactly one year ahead than it was supposed to be. I did not see it until 10:00 pm, Feb 6th at baggage check-in for my flight to Paris three hours later.

After some 800 km travel between the PVG airport, home and French Consulate in Shanghai, I was finally able to leave for Paris on Feb. 9th. However unfortunate, I am amazed to see things being tackled within 48 hours, considering bureaucratic inefficiency and long queues in China, thanks to my Dad, his company, smart decisions, speeding car, portable wifi devices, and also the long distant help from Anna through emails, our program advisor back in Madison. The Lesson from my experience is to check carefully the dates and spellings of your visa when you get it!

Although such things are not likely to happen very often, here’s some advice you might find it helpful in similar situations:

  1. Don’t panic and stay calm, you have great resource.
  2. Having at hand contact information of you home country’s embassy if you’re abroad or the consulate of the country you are leaving for is always helpful.
  3. Contact IAP advisors immediately back in Madison before you leave or the host institutions while abroad, they are experts in dealing with urgent visa issues and they have better resource to get in touch the consulate and embassy if needed.
  4. Remember the time difference between the place you are in and Chicago so that you can call in if it is office hour and email or fax early in the morning or late at night.
  5. Concerning visa issues and in urgent situations, when you hand in materials to Consulate, ask them things like when it will be ready, whether you should wait for their calls to come, whether you should be around, where to copy things, where to take visa photo. It is a bit pushy, but in times of urgency, you will not let go any chance to get things done quickly. Think ahead and be straightforward.

Great expectations of going to Paris leave no room for mumbling about this hazard. Here I am, after visiting la Musee Carnavalet, sitting in my room in Madame Randon’s apartment, 16th arrondissement, Paris, France, in a overcast Sunday afternoon.