Hello again! Major developments over the course of the last month: I received my long-term residential visa for the Czech Republic and booked my flight to Prague!
The Czech Fulbright Commission has been holding monthly webinars over Zoom, covering topics varying from community engagement project ideas to cultural immersion concerns. In these webinars, I got to hear from past Fulbright alumni as they shared their experiences, and meet some of the other ETAs for this year! At the end of each webinar, we received a checklist of tasks that we should be tackling that month.
Submitting my visa application was at the top of my list for the month of June. The process was fairly long, as is standard for obtaining a long-term visa to a foreign country, but it was further complicated by COVID-19 concerns as well. There were questions about how long it would take for the embassies to process our applications, and as a result, we were encouraged to get them in as soon as possible.
The Czech Fulbright Commission mailed us via DHL the necessary documents that we would need to provide alongside our visa applications. These included proof of employment, income, and housing, all in Czech. Because, oh yeah, the visa application also had to be filled out in Czech. To help with this, the Commission sent a detailed 8-page document on how to fill out the application, what supplementary materials needed to be provided, and which embassy to send the application to.
There are four Czech embassies/consulates in the United States. There are specific stipulations regarding where visa applications are processed so since I live in Texas, my application was sent to and processed by the Czech Embassy in Washington D.C.
First step: going to get some passport photos taken. I didn’t have a recent one on hand, and I also had to make sure that the size of the pictures were consistent with the EU standard. Fun fact: the EU standard for visas is different from the American passport size! Little details like this definitely scared me, because I knew that having a discrepancy like this could derail the process, and I absolutely needed my visa application to be approved to be able to start my Fulbright grant on time in the Czech Republic.
I sent my application in via UPS on June 9 and received my visa on my doorstep on July 20. During those 41 days, I passed the time scouring the Internet for flights to Prague. We had been told to wait till mid-July before booking our tickets, because the COVID-19 restrictions on incoming travelers were still up in the air. For the entirety of June, we believed that all travelers would have to quarantine for five days in the Czech Republic after arriving, which would require us to enter the country on an earlier date.
However, this guidance was soon reversed for vaccinated individuals from the United States, and we were given the green light to book flights. The Fulbright Commission provided us with a travel stipend that covered the round-trip flight to and from Prague. I decided to go with a flight through Dutch airline, KLM, because I have had some positive experiences with them in the past.
We had a lot of freedom and flexibility in booking through any airline on any date. As long as we reached the Czech Republic in time for our in-country orientation on August 22, we were golden. This is definitely a far cry from my experience traveling on an organized study abroad trip, in which everyone meets at the same airport and has the same itinerary. Naturally, that would not be feasible with Fulbrighters living in all different parts of the United States. In some ways, it is exciting to be embarking on this journey in solo fashion, my first international trip by myself.
As my departure date nears, reality is starting to kick in. There is still tons of packing left to do as I have yet to fully figure out what it means to pack for a ten month stay, but I got some good tips from our last Fulbright webinar. I am super excited for what lies ahead, and I am looking forward to sharing with all of you how the packing process goes in the run up to my flight. See you in the next one!