A year in Russia
Time left until departure: 5 weeks. Progress on visa: nil. Stress levels: moderate/high.
I’m going to start off by taking full responsibility for my lacklustre organisational skills thus far. On a brighter note, things can only get better.
While there was a slight delay on receiving our приглашения (invitations) from Voronezh, when they arrived last week I should have been more prepared. You know, got the basics done such as my HIV test, return flights booked and travel insurance- the essentials for applying for a student visa. Now, I could blame my poor prep on the fact I’m currently working three jobs but my visa and year abroad are important enough that I should be more on the ball and actually know that I need to have a return flight booked.
Mistakes made so far:
1. I was a bit overly enthusiastic in May when I discovered that we need HIV certificates and went to the doctors immediately thinking ‘here’s something I can get done now!’. No no, Jenny, hold your horses. Post-bloodsucking and discovering (surprise,surprise) that I do not have HIV, I was then informed about a month later that actually…the HIV test has to have been done within the three months preceding your arrival in Russia and the start date of your visa. I’m arriving in Voronezh on the 6th of September. Ergh. So I told myself I would get another done in July when I had a bit of loose change (HIV tests for visa purposes aren’t done on the NHS and cost about £30). Obviously I then forgot/immersed myself in finding a summer job. Now it’s August, I have my invitation but have to wait two weeks for my second HIV test to return from the lab and tell me that, lo and behold, I am a-ok. That leaves me three weeks to send off for my visa…Note: £30 at University Medical Centre in Bath, a friend of mine went to have hers done at her home surgery and was informed it would cost £150- I would suggest you head elsewhere if they try to pull that figure on you.
2. Lack of decisiveness regarding when I want to come home for Christmas. I was completely unaware that a return flight is required to get a visa and booked a single flight out to Russia thinking ‘oh I’ll see how it goes and book my return when I’m out there’. Obviously this was an easy mistake to remedy, a quick trip to Easyjet and Polet Air and all is fixed.
3. Yeah yeah, I know, how did I manage to get on my degree when I can’t even read the requirements for a visa. Issue three: travel insurance. I had been procrastinating on this issue for a while, unsure whether I should go for two lots of insurance for the two terms, or one lot for the whole year. Plus, which company?? Most now offer long-term or backpacker insurance for people who are going travelling for a year but they seem to limit you to one trip home for two weeks. Not that this would be an issue if my Mother hadn’t demanded I not only come home for Christmas but stay until my birthday (15th January, take note guys). Also a lot of travel insurance (by a lot I mean the Post Office and the AA) limit baggage replacement to £300 per item and approx. £1500 in total. Hands up who has a phone/laptop that would only cost £300 to replace. So when I went to organise my travel insurance yesterday I realised I’m going to have to phone up rather than sort it all out online. Guess when my dear old Mum decided to have a three hour catch up with her sister…tomorrow, I will get this sorted tomorrow. Nb. you do need this before applying for your visa- on the application form it asks for your policy number.For more on insurance, see The Insurance Quandry.
4. On the visa application form, it asks for the address that you’ll be staying at in Russia. As yet, I am unsure which landlady I have been placed with, so what do I enter? Nifty phone call to my year abroad tutor required.Update: Pascal emailed Katya, our contact at Voronezh State Uni, who said to put the university’s halls of residence address (Voronezh, Ulitsa Fridrikha Engelsa, dom 8a) and the department phone number 🙂
All in all, this isn’t too big a deal. It is possible to get a student visa sent off and processed in three weeks, but it’s not ideal and I might have to pay more for the privilege. This is all just a lesson learnt in organisation and could have gone a lot more smoothly with a bit of planning.
For those of you studying two languages and starting your year abroad in the summer, you might need to organise your visa while abroad. Remember to allow a little more time and to get your HIV certificate in the language of the country the Russian consulate you are applying to is in. No good having a certificate in English when the consulate staff speak Russian and German in Berlin.
Official information and online application form here.