I finally got my US student visa approved yesterday. (YAY!) The tension is over. Such a big relief. It is done. Finished. Now I can focus on my University preparations without apprehension. I am going for my Masters of Science degree in Computer Science to New York University in Fall 2017. My school is Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU and I am so excited to be going there!
(Did you know the New York Public Library, one of the world’s largest libraries is only 15 minutes away.. I finally get to see it.. If that doesn’t make you giddy, what will! 😉 )
This blog post is about my Student Visa experience on the interview day. I was ravenously reading up other people’s interviews before my own and so I thought this might help someone else who’s going through the same set of nerves. I will start from the beginning, but if you are only interested in reading the interview please skip down to that passage way below.
I went to the Mumbai Consulate at Bandra Kurla Complex. My interview time was 11 am but I reached there at 9:50 am and the security guards allowed me to join the queue outside the consulate building. It’s best to get a very early morning slot like 7:30 or 8:30 am because (a) there will be less waiting due to less backlog of students whose interviews were schedule before yours and (b) lesser heat to cripple your energy. But that slot wasn’t available when I booked my interview so I ended up with the 11 am slot. Second piece of advice is do reach one hour early to the interview, they will take you in.
Moving on, I joined the queue outside the embassy and luckily for me, it was still early enough to be relatively short. They checked my passport in the queue and made sure the stickers stamped on it during the biometric process the day before were present and correct. Towards the end of the queue, they again checked my passport by swiping it across some machine. Then they allowed us inside. Oh an additional tip, do wear formal shirt and pants- I am not sure it makes much of a difference but its best to appear serious about your further education.
There was a security checking inside the door much like the one you encounter in the airports for your luggage. I put my passport and folder in a tray which was passed through a screening machine. I was frisked methodically and then allowed to go on. The security guard had taken my tray aside, he made me open my folder and show him the tablets I had with me. My stomach was misbehaving that very day and I was carrying Digene tablets. He inspected them for two minutes and after that let me carry them. Please do not carry any electronic appliances, mobile phones, watches, metallic substances (even pens), absolutely nothing except your document folder and a handkerchief. You are also allowed to carry an umbrella (smaller than 14 inches).
Then I opened the door and walked out to a big courtyard where there were long rows of metal chairs, filled with people waiting. Don’t break the queue and try to sit somewhere else even if some other foolish person does. Sit where you are instructed to sit and relax. It’s going to be a long wait. If you want to go to the washroom, you can do so at this time. I spent this time chatting and joking with the people sitting next to me. It calmed all my nerves and we were trying to guess whether each of the student coming out of the door at the far side of courtyard and walking past us had been issued a visa or rejected. That was fun.
After a long wait, our row was called inside to the room at the far end of the courtyard. Due to the large number of people in the room, it was stuffy and made me sweat soon enough (handkerchief ahoy!). As soon as you enter the room, you will see a large number of counters on the opposite side. Each counter is assigned a number and an interviewer is sitting behind a glass pane typing away on their computer screen. There is a small desk protruding from the counter where you can put your folder. You’ll start hearing bits and pieces of all the different interviews going on simultaneously. A lady came and collected my passport. After that, they verified my fingerprints and gave back the passport to me. This was followed by a really really long serpentine line at which point, I was alternately listening to other people’s interviews and grumbling to myself about the endless waiting.
Finally, I was at the head of the queue and my heart was basically pounding hard enough to pop right off. I was assigned counter number 35 so I went to it and stood at a yellow circle marked 35. A little distance ahead of me, the person who’s interview was being conducted was standing. Do not glare at the interviewer when you are standing on the yellow spot and just take this time, to breathe and calm your nerves and tell yourself that once you go to that spot, you are going to ACE this!
The fellow who was being interviewed in front of me got his visa approval and perhaps in his frenzy of happiness, he trotted off forgetting one of his documents behind. So the interviewer did not ask me to come forward right away. That’s another tip: do not go forward unless your interviewer asks you to. She called up a security guard and asked him to run behind the fellow and return the document to him. Then she called me forward and.. here comes the part you’ve all been waiting for.
Me: *mumbled Good Morning but she did not hear*
VO: Please pass your I-20 and Passport.
VO: *glances at the I-20* How many universities did you apply to?
Me: 10 Universities.
VO: How many did you receive an admit from?
Me: 7 of them.
VO: What was your second choice among these admits?
Me: *took a moment to think* University of California, Santa Cruz. (Not strictly true but this is what came to my head among the 7).
VO: What is your highest level of education?
Me: I finished my Bachelors of Technology in Information and Communication Technology last year, in May.
VO: Who is going to pay for your studies?
Me: My father is my primary sponsor. He is–
VO: What does he do? *she saw that I had continued and nodded at me to carry on*
Me: He is a xx at xx Ltd. (VO was nodding so I just continued). He has a savings of xx Rs. and in addition to that, we have liquid family funds of xx Rs. So these will be sufficient to cover the costs of my education. (VO was nodding and agreeing to it).
VO: Where are you going to stay?
Me: I am considering staying at Journal Square, Jersey City in New Jersey since it is significantly cheaper than Manhattan.
VO: *nodding and smiling very broad now* Yes, I know how expensive NYU can be. I studied there as well.
Me: *shocked and smiling very broad as well* that’s great!
VO: Your VISA is approved. Please collect your passport from your delivery location.
Me: Thank You!
Then I walked out, trying unsuccessfully to conceal my delight. My face kept betraying the neutral expression I tried hard to put on and breaking into smiles. 😛
The whole waiting and processing took two hours (I came out of the consulate at 11:50 am having gone in at 9:50 am). And the actual interview, only one minute.
Overall the interviewers were pretty lenient and approved the Visas’ of most other students as well. As long as you are calm, confident and don’t give absolutely rubbish answers, you will do fine. Prepare well, keep the key points in mind but don’t blandly regurgitate memorized answers! Best of luck to everyone.
Let me add another exciting bit of news here. This book was in the package waiting for me when I came home. A vintage edition of Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. It is an account of Lee’s childhood soon after the First World War, when the traditional village life started bring uprooted by the advent of new developments such as the coming of a motorcar. Lee relates the experiences of childhood seen from many years later.
I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this book. I can’t wait to read it. I am tempted to pick it up every now and then during the day but I want to to wait till I get a few hours of continuous free time and then curl up with it and a nice hot cup of coffee.
I am currently reading Goodbye Mr.Chips on my kindle and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in Paperback. I am (surprisingly) enjoying My. Chips’s story more than Tom Sawyer’s at the moment. Let’s see if that changes!
To see other books that I’ve read this year – you can click on this link.
Cheers! Happy Reading everyone.