Seems this place’s been abandoned for a long time. Come on guys! Write something! Share your stories! I know you’re all pretty busy doing your internships and changing the world but a few sentences every now and then doesn’t hurt. I can already feel spider webs all over this blog.
My internship has not started yet but I have a very long story of getting visas to enter Austria. You may find it surprising, or possibly not that fun, but when you’re going to a country that is not really in friendly terms with your government, getting visa is not as trivial as it should be. Here are some entries from my journal.
I well remember the day when an email arrived, from Uli of course, inviting me to visit the IST campus for an interview. It made me so happy. I was going to experience the weird institute outside Vienna on my 20th birthday. Great! But to tell the truth, I was thinking of it only as a free trip to Vienna and I was so happy because the wanderlust inside me was getting satisfied. Who likes to study in Austria, a country where people speak a language you don’t know, anyway? And studying in an institute which is created just in 2007? Are you kidding me? Why should one turn down the option of studying in big universities with big names and settle for a small institute in the middle of central Europe? I was wrong and I am happy that I found out how wrong I was, but this post is not about that. I am going to write another post, sooner or later, to answer the question “Why IST?”. For now I am going to write about a very different thing, and my writings all happen to be too long.
Let’s see. I’m in the train station. That’s south of Tehran. The embassy is in Tajrish, the northernmost and most luxurious part of the capital city. I should take the red subway to its final station. This takes around two hours.
During this proces I kept writing to Vlad COZAC about it and he kindly tolerated my long emails, that were almost as long as this post cut in five, and guided and motivated me. If it wasn’t for Vlad’s kind words and good remarks I would have reversed my decision about going to Austria. The visa process was too hard and needed so much effort that I was being tempted to forget about the free trip to Vienna and go for my other graduate school offers, a decision that I am happy I did not make. So a big THANK YOU goes to Vlad.
I went to the embassy this morning, ready for the same sort of treatment that unlike kind and nice people in IST, gives a very bad image of Austria to anyone who visits it. The queue was there but the weather was great thanks to the lovely spring of northern Iran. The queue was short this time but I made some Afghan friends while waiting for my turn. They were totally agreeable people, not at all like how the media portrays them.
I entered and faced a completely different scenario. The staff spoke to me respectfully and handled my case fast. They even processed the visa request free-of-charge because I was assumed to be a researcher. When I told them that I wanted to go to Morocco and needed my passport, they agreed to issue the visa several days sooner so that I can make it to my African trip. It was a shock to me. I have an unsatisfiable desire to travel and have been to many countries, applying for many visas, but Austria is the country that provided me with both the worst and the best visa experience. I came out of the embassy, happy and surprised! What could have changed everything so much?