12 January 2010

UGH! Everything I HATE about Study Abroad Wrapped-up in One Hellish Week

First off, let me apologize to all my devoted readers (if there are any)-- I haven't written in a while, and here is why:

It all started last December.  Remember that application I needed to send?  Well, I finished it and took it to the study abroad office to have the proper signatures and what-not on it.  Then, since it was pushing the deadline and the university needed the information ASAP in order to start processing my application, I took the documents and scanned them for an email.  After I sent the email, I returned to the study abroad office with my application. I spoke with a woman at the reception and was assured my application would be sent to Brazil through FedEx (the carrier didn't matter so much to me, but she insisted it was FedEx). 

This is where my story gets frustrating.

Later that week I left Muncie and returned home to my family for an enjoyable holiday break; however, coming back to Muncie on the 1st of the year I was surprised to find my application waiting for me in my mailbox.  *Someone* in the study abroad office had dropped my application in the mail without postage

Confused, and admittedly quite angry, I called the study abroad office to find out what happened and to figure out the best course of action to fix the problem.  I figured I could send the letter myself, but based on precedence I wanted to be sure the study abroad office knew what I was up to.  The woman who answered the phone cut me off before I could explain to her my problem and patched me through to the wrong person, who then returned me to the front desk.  Then the front desk woman, speaking to me in a way that made me think I was the largest inconvenience in the world to her, put me through to a voicemail.  Needing to handle the situation immediately, I hung-up the phone and redialed.  The same woman answered.  As calmly as I could muster, I explained that I needed to speak with someone now and that a voicemail wouldn't do.  After being treated very rudely again over the phone, I decided to just make an appearance in the office and have face-to-face conversations.

I received a less-than-warm welcome when I arrived. I entered and the two ladies at the reception almost immediately left the desk, leaving me alone and wondering if one of them was going to get the person I needed to talk to.  As I waited, a wonderfully nice woman approached me and asked if I was being helped.  I confessed I wasn't sure, explained my problem, and she cheerfully said she'd go find who I was looking for.  True to her word, the woman I needed came out to meet me shortly after that.

I had never met this person before, so I was especially surprised when she treated me just as rudely as the reception had.  She talked down to me as if I were stupid, informed me that the study abroad office "never" sent applications, and that as far as she and the office were concerned, I wasn't even going abroad.  They had "no file" on me and wanted nothing to do with me.  At this point I can barely describe how I felt.  I explained to her that I had studied abroad every year since coming to college, that I had always gone through the study abroad office, and that if the office didn't send applications, they should NEVER have taken mine and told me they would send it.  Even if someone had made a mistake, they should have called me instead of dropping it in the mail if there was a problem.  All the same, the woman held her ground and tried to make it all out to be my fault.  I left the office and sent the application myself, and it arrived a day late.  Thank goodness the people I've been working with in Brazil are incredibly forgiving and were able to pull a few strings for me.

Even with the strings pulled, this fiasco has caused me a GREAT DEAL of trouble.  First, I couldn't sign up for classes until my application arrived in Brazil, and without Brazilian classes I have no Ball State classes since they substitute for each other.  That means it was January and I had no spring semester schedule.  Next, I can't get my grant money without my acceptance letter from the university, which won't send an acceptance letter without an application from me.  SO, I had to buy plane tickets with money I'm borrowing until my grant comes through, AND I had to buy them at a higher price since I was foolishly waiting all through December to receive my acceptance letter and didn't know I wouldn't be able to receive my grant money in time (in fact, I still don't have my money!).  FINALLY, I can't apply for my visa until I have my acceptance letter since that letter is part of my visa application.  And again, I don't get accepted until I apply.

Now, here's my perspective of the situation:  I've studied abroad every year of college in various programs for various lengths of time.  In EACH SITUATION I've had to go through the study abroad office in some way for some reason.  In short, I think it's safe to say I know what I'm doing in this particular situation.  In the other instance when I've studied for a semester on an almost identical program I had to file paperwork through the study abroad office for things like insurance and medical records.  My grades were sent to the study abroad office, and nearly all "official" communication was through this office.  I know for a FACT the study abroad office sent my application last year to Mexico.  And again, even if they have stopped providing this service, dropping an unstamped envelope in the mail was absolutely irresponsible on their part.  Here I am, weeks later, and I still don't have my grant or my visa, and I've only recently been able to work out my class schedule.  My only consolation is that I am going to leave the country in a month, with or without my visa.

11 January 2010

er⋅i⋅na⋅ceous [er-uh-NEY-shuhs] (adjective) : of the hedgehog kind or family

Now that the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" is finally drifting from memory, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the last few weeks of 2009. 

After my finals week (which for architecture majors is the week before finals since our professors need time to grade all our projects), my life got better quickly.  For one thing, I had time to relax.  And let me tell you, after a week of getting about two hours of sleep a night, relaxing is like taking a vacation to Hawaii and spending the day in a beach spa with "Jorge" the cute masseur rubbing your shoulders.   It felt amazing.  I also had time to see some of my friends who I'd been neglecting because of my busy schedule.  I went a few places, did a few things, and saw the biggest Christmas tree in Muncie.  :)

Yeah, it was THAT good

My friend and I went to Minnetrista (which is this really neat cultural center near campus) for it's annual Christmas shindig.  They had the Ball brothers' mansions open to the public.  They were fully decorated for the season with places for crafts and such.

making an ornament for my mommy

playing with colorful blocks

my friend and I posing in front of a plastic cow. . . with a random child who jumped in our photo

All the paths and streets were lined with candles, which needed to be extinguished at the end of the night.  As it turns out, they use leaf-blowers for the task.  Way cool.

blowin' out the candles

Afterward, my friend took me back to his fraternity house to show me their awesome Christmas tree.  I don't know if you can tell, but they hung a bunch of plastic army men from it.  teehee.

and topped it with an owl. . .

To finish the holiday celebration before I traveled home, my roommate and I did this:

Lord Watson

(Don't worry, he loved it!)  :-)

 I also had time to attend a white elephant exchange at another friend's house, and while I don't have photos from that event, I DO have the glitter lip gloss from the gift I chose.  We had a great time together.

Home was equally refreshing.  Usually I like to keep my time at home to a minimum since I tend to have so many things to do here in Muncie, but this break was fabulous.  My classes in Brazil don't start until March, so I'm basically on summer break with few things to do.  I'll still be working in the scholarships office, but other than that my time is my own, which is quite rare and exciting.  It made for a realatively stress-free break.  I still had family to see and friends to catch up with, but that was it.  I got some reading done and did some more work on my travel plans. 

Now I'm back in Muncie, classes have started for my roommates, and I'm whiling away the hours preparing for my next adventure.  But more on that later.