Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Stress of Preparing to Travel Abroad

Visto. Consulado. Estrangeiro. Visa. Consulate. Foreigner. These are words that have unfortunately become very familiar for me over the past few weeks.

It all started when I returned home to California for the summer and realized with horror that I had misplaced my passport. I immediately launched myself and my loved ones into a thorough search of the three bags that I had brought back with me and retraced every step I had taken since pulling into the driveway two days before. No passport. I was told to think hard about the last 24 hours that I had spent on campus and to try to remember where exactly I had placed that crucial document.

The truth is, the last day that I spent on campus is all a blur. I spent most of it trying to cram the majority of my worldly possessions into five cardboard boxes, an endeavor made no easier by my small stature and general clumsiness, as the bruises all over my shins could attest. I didn’t sleep at all during that time, as I tried to make sense of the fact that my first year of college had somehow come to an end and that I had to say goodbye to the places and people that I had come to consider home.

A little dramatic? Perhaps. But all that serves to emphasize that, no, I could not remember what I did with my passport. It could be in one of those boxes. I could have lost it on the plane. I seemed to recall putting it in several different places.

Eventually, I admitted defeat and set about applying for a replacement passport, a process which involved an expediting agency, six hours in line at the post office, and the sum total of a semester working at minimum wage. Carelessness and bitterness aside though, I now have a passport.

On to the visa, which all American citizens are required to hold in order to enter Brazil. Simple enough. However, the Consulate General of Brazil processes a dozen different types of visas, and I was told by three different people that I would have to apply for three different ones. Awesome. When I finally settled on a certain student visa, I found out that its required documents included a copy of my high school diploma, an entrance exam to my intended institution and an FBI background check. I found the diploma after a few hours in the attic and a couple of new bruises, but quickly realized that the other two documents would be physically impossible to attain in time. So, plan B became to go with a simple tourist visa, which I applied for yesterday and which I will mercifully be able to pick up next Thursday. Visa, check.

I’m still a few weeks away from departure but I’ve already learned quite a few important life lessons. Do not lose essential documents. Research at least two back-up plans. Have patience when dealing with bureaucracy, foreign and domestic. Now that I have both passport and visa, and know I will be able to continue with my trip as planned, I’ve started to check off other items on my programa de ação — my to-do list, or literally, my action plan. I bought a guide book, mosquito repellant, and a dual voltage curling iron. I’ve contacted my host family and mapped my route to school.

I’ve also been capitalizing on the advice of others — whether or not it’s expressly solicited. I’ve compared notes with other students on the trip and even begun to forge friendships born from mutual stress over airfare and unexpected symptoms of the yellow fever vaccine. As for the adults here at home, opinions on my summer plans include everything from the obligatory warning not to walk alone at night to a detailed explanation of which types of food I should or should not fear. One lady even suggested that I dye my hair dark in order to avoid “unwanted male attention.” All important stuff to ponder. Hopefully the rest of the prep will go according to plan because June 21st is coming, whether I’m ready for it or not.

Allison Hillsbery is a rising sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Ready for Rio appears every other Monday at

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