By Olivier Johnson, Human Resource and Business Management
International Year at Umea University, Sweden and St. Norbert College, USA
Anyone interested in a split year? This post might be useful to you, because I’m going to describe my experience of applying to an American university whilst I was in Sweden. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might have to complete my application while I was abroad, so hopefully this information will not be
a shock to you now, as it was to me! I applied to my second destination, which was St Norbert College in Wisconsin (shout out) during my semester in Umea, Sweden, so I had to travel to the US Embassy in Stockholm for an ‘interview’. As it turned out, the interview was just a few questions while I presented the officer with my completed paperwork (some of which I got wrong and I’ll talk about later).
The embassy appointment was an obstacle in my semester because I had a few assignment deadlines approaching, so I got the process moving as quickly as possible. The official paperwork and the threat of making a mistake can be quite stressful so it’s tempting to leave things to the last minute, but this
might cause problems with your application and might mean you don’t get your visa in time! I would absolutely recommend moving through the application for your second destination efficiently and as soon as you can because the actual ‘work’ is straight forward. Most of the paperwork is filling out forms (providing your signature etc), but you will need to pay for some parts of the American VISA application, but Keele and your chosen university will provide you with more information on that.
I was asked to take a passport photo with a very specific measurement to the US embassy for my interview, but I couldn’t get the photo to fit the exact measurements on the special photo paper that was asked of me. I started to panic a little bit and was anxious that my eight-hour train journey to Stockholm would be for nothing! Thankfully, the
receptionist just asked ‘is your photo the same as your passport photo’ (which it was), and never requested to see it. I dithered for too long with the photo, and I ought not have. I mention this anecdote to show you it is much better to get everything in order, so you don’t hold on to any anxiety during the process, even over something that appears trivial. That photo caused me unnecessary stress and I took great pleasure throwing it away as I left the embassy.
I also made the mistake of bringing a photocopied version of a form that had to be the original (which was posted to my home in England from the US). I was in a foreign country and the only way to get the document was by post and the post office is unreliable because in the North Pole the snow is so thick!
However, on speaking to one of the officers, I was told to have the form forwarded to my new address and sent to the US embassy with my passport attached. No problem. It was processed in a week. Please read all instructions carefully, though, so as to not make a mistake that will cost you time.
What I learned from this experience is that being organized is all you need. Once the information or documents come through, you will be perfectly able to complete everything first time, and with minimal disruption to the amazing experience you are having! Should you have any issues, you just need to contact Global Opportunities or the international team at your host university who are on hand to support and guide you. The team at St. Norbert team was a fantastic resource for me, so I thoroughly recommend SNC as a destination for you to consider.