Throwback Thursday: Two Days Ago.

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Applying For A French Au Pair Visa 101

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Since applying for a French Visa (Au Pair) was one of the most stressful events of my life, I thought I would share some insight, so those of you thinking about doing the same might have an easier time. There are a lot of outdated resources out there that are way less than helpful, because they have you running around getting paperwork that you don’t even need. Here’s an updated list of paperwork you WILL NEED for the French Consulate  (in San Francisco as of August 2014)

Things you NEED to apply for an Au Pair Visa: 

1. Visa Application Form: First things first, make sure you print out and fill out the application form and attach a passport style (color) photo to the top right corner. Make a copy.

2. Your Passport: Sounds like a no brainer, but you will need to bring your passport and a copy of the identification pages when you go to apply. Make a copy.

3. Contract: Make sure you have an approved contract signed by you, the family you’ll be working with, and validated by the local DIRRECTE where you plan on moving (in France). Make a copy.

4. Flight/Travel Plans: You’ll need to have proof of plane ticket purchases, OR written plans of when you’ll be traveling with a signed statement that says you won’t leave the country before you receive your visa. Make a copy. 

5. Letter of acceptance from a French Institution: As an au pair you will be required to be enrolled in language/culture classes while you are working in France. I decided to enroll in a 1 year program at a language institute at the University near where I’m going to be living. Make a copy. 

6. OCII form: Once you actually get to France, you will need to get this form validated within 3 months of getting there. When you apply, make sure to bring it with the top part filled out.

6. Self addressed prepaid express mail envelope: You’ll need this for getting your passport and visa back (unless you decide to go back to the embassy and pick it up). Make sure this is from USPS (not FedEx or UPS) and does NOT have the mailing label stuck on it (this way they can give you your tracking number).

7. Processing Fee: The easiest way to pay this is by Visa, but they also take personal checks. For me this fee was $136.

Things you WON’T NEED: 

Certificat Médical: Some Au Pair websites told me that I would need to get a signed document of health for applying for my visa (within three months of applying) but they never even asked me for this when I was applying, so don’t worry about it (unless you really feel like going to the doctor for a physical).

Extra Passport photos: Other than the photos in the top right corner of your application, you shouldn’t need any other passport photos.

Bank Statements/Guaranteer: This was my ALL TIME stress because some websites stated that I needed to have the total amount of $820 x 12 months I’m living there in my bank account before leaving, OR someone to notarize a statement saying they would be available to provide that amount given the need. NOT NEEDED.

CampusFrance: This is NOT FOR AU PAIRS. And it is a stress and four week waiting + $100 dollar waste of your time. I cannot believe I waited so long for this paperwork, just to find out that it wasn’t needed.

Diploma: Some sites stated that I would need a printed copy of my last diploma (so, University) when applying. NOT NEEDED.

Might want to bring (BUT DON’T NEED) if you’re OCD, like me:

Receipt of Booking: You don’t really have to have this, but I brought mine just in case (for some reason) they tried to say that I hadn’t made an appointment. Proof on paper is generally a good rule of thumb.

Proof Of Residence: I didn’t need this when I was applying because my passport has my Washington State address on it, already. BUT if you’re from a different state originally, and are applying for a visa within the district of where you’re living now, you’ll need to provide proof that you live there. This can include a copy of your drivers license or state ID (refer to consulate website for more examples).

A Pen: Just in case you’re sitting in the waiting area and realize you forgot to fill something out. Which may or may not have happened to me.

For more information visit your Consulate’s webpage (or email them). Here’s the link for mine (San Francisco): CLICK HERE

REMEMBER: This is a list based off my personal experience at the San Francisco French Consulate, consult your local consulate before making an appointment to double check you have everything you need!

Apply For Visa: Done.

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Last night consisted of Cup Of Noodle, nervousness, triple checking that I had everything for my visa appointment,
excitement and hours of giggling, with the girls in my hostel, over how cute German guys are. Needless to say, sleep was not high on the list of priorities. Even when I did manage to fall asleep, I kept being jolted awake by the construction happening outside and the light streaming in through the curtains.

In short, I ended up sprawled out on my bed with a striped wool sock over my eyes, dreaming about not waking up in time for my appointment (I set 3 alarms). After worrying all night, I had this feeling that I should double check my 10am appointment time, so this morning I did – it wasn’t 10am, it was 9:30am.

Thankfully, I checked early enough that this wasn’t an issue, but I was reminded of how fragile this whole process is. Missing that appointment would have meant having to reschedule…in September. I would have missed my flight, school registration (September 8th) and I don’t know where I would have lived (in the US or France). Thank God I double checked – and I mean that in the absolute most literal way.

Even up until I was being checked in I was thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I half expected not to be on the check in list. But I was. And I had to mentally pinch myself as I sat in the chair. I was sitting at the French Consulate. I was applying to move to France. Was this real life? Yes. Yes, it was.

Everything went smoothly with the application process until the clerk noticed that my phone case had the French flag on it. She was so surprised, and I mentioned that my tattoo was also in French. She wanted to know why, but all I could say, as I started to cry, was, ” I’ve wanted this since I was 9 years old.”
For some perspective (for those of you who don’t know me well) I NEVER cry. Not at sad movies, not at funerals and not in front of strangers at the French consulate. But, combine lack of sleep and the realization of how close I am to making my dream a reality, and the result hit me all at once. Cue water works.

The good news was that the lady at the office told me there shouldn’t be any problem getting me my visa in time. She told me to email them in 10 days to double check with them, if I had not heard back. Apparently there’s been a running joke in the office because I’ve been emailing and talking with the San Francisco and Washington DC consulates so much. In fact, when I walked up to the window, the other clerk said, “Is that Emily Morehouse?!” I’m kinda a big deal, guys. When an embassy knows you by name, I count it as a good sign.

Now that the application has been turned in, the waiting begins… But I feel such a huge weight lifted. I applied to live in France – that’s insane.

I really hope that if any of you guys are feeling intimidated by travel you’ll be encouraged by my story, here. There’s nothing magical about me, nothing that makes this more possible for me than it would be for you. The only thing I’m equipped with is an ungodly amount of stubbornness. I’m such a strong advocate for being able go do anything you REALLY set your mind to. Because, if it’s something you really want, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

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Life Is Like A Mop

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA

Hello beautiful people!

It’s been a while since I’ve written and there are a few reasons why.

1. I’ve been running around like a mad person trying to get things ready for moving (pretty unsuccessfully) and in between jumping up and down in excitement, and weeping for hours, I’ve haven’t had a lot of time to write.

2. I’ve been hosting Couchsurfers! My roommates have been gone for the last couple of weeks so I decided to take in some lovely Couchsurfers so they had a place to stay. We’ve had some pretty awesome adventures, and I’m so happy that I got to meet some other amazing people who love traveling as much as I do.

3. I’ve been arts-ing a lot. I’m trying to do this #100daysofhappy, inspired by one of my friends (it’s bumpy, but I’m determined to stick with it) and so I’ve been creating some watercolor beauties to share on my Instagram.

4. I’ve been/will be taking classes. I was taking an online “Lettering” class, which was fantastic. I use the website, Skillshare.com which has online tutorials, “classmates” and instructor videos for only $10/month (which is amazing). I loved taking the class so much and I can’t wait to practice more with all of my favorite quotes etc.

Whew! A lot has been going on. I’m still trying to get one last piece of paperwork processed before my visa application appointment on August 1st. CampusFrance is a French agency that all incoming students have to go through before getting a visa to France. I don’t really even know what they do, but I had to send in my paperwork weeks ago, and they still haven’t got back to me. I’m going to be harassing them this coming week to get my confirmation email, so I can be all set for my visa appointment.

This whole process has, honestly, been the most stressful process of my life (more than four years of college put together). I can’t even believe that I’ve made it this far, and worked this hard. But every time I hit a road block (which is happening A LOT) I just really have to view it as life asking me, “How bad do you want this?”

The resounding answer, of course, is A LOT.

Videos like this one have been keeping me on my toes:

At this point, I think it might just be my Irish stubbornness that’s keeping me going, but I feel like once I get to France I’ll be able to let out a huge sigh of relief.

Oh, and did I mention that I’ll be living in France in LESS THAN A MONTH! Let the hyperventilating commence. I can’t even believe how fast the past months have gone. I feel like every time I look at the calendar two weeks have passed and all I’ve done to “get ready” is stared at the things I probably will need to get rid of at some point, in my room.

But “c’est la vie“. I have no idea how this is all going to come together in the end, but I know that it will and that I’m getting ready to embark on a pretty amazing adventure. Updates should be coming pretty regularly now that life has slowed down a bit. The things remaining are:

1. Flying down to San Francisco AGAIN for my visa appointment (August 1st)

2. Getting approved from Campus France before being able to go to my appointment

3. Getting rid of pretty much everything I own (except my very favorites).

4. FORCING myself to keep practicing French even though I’m not “in the mood”

5. Not having a panic attack every day.

Shout out to all of my beautiful friends who have been keeping me sane over the past months, only one more to go! 

People you should be following, because they’re doing awesome things: 

Human Rights Activist: Mexico
Human Rights Activist: Mexico
Anti-Human Trafficking Activist: Texas
Anti-Human Trafficking Activist: Texas
American Au Pair: Australia
American Au Pair: Australia
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Two French travelers adventuring around the US

Ciao!

San Fran Bound

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I’m going to San Francisco!

This week I found out that the only way to get a French Visa is to apply in person in San Francisco, so I’m going to be taking an impromptu trip this July to get all of my Visa stuff cleared. As random as this trip is, and as much as financially it’s really not helping my whole “budget” plan, I’m actually looking forward to the vacation. I’ve been so incredibly stressed  during this whole process, and having four days to explore a beautiful city I love will be a perfect respite before go-time in August. July 7th is the magic day for applying for my visa! Wish me luck! I honestly will weep if it doesn’t go through, at this point.

This whole week has been a bit mad, honestly. I’ve jumped through so many hoops to make this happen, and now a new hidden hoop! Hurray. I’m not saying the French government doesn’t want people to move there, but I’m not exactly feeling like they do.

That being said, there are some pretty awesome things that have happened this week, too! First off, I got my official hard copy of my acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, yesterday! It was so cool to get something in my mailbox from where I’m moving! The packet included my letter, and then some other info, such as a campus maps and some info about the city. I CANNOT wait.

Today I FINALLY got ahold of a copy of French Vogue! I’ve been trying to get it from the newspaper stand near my house, but they’re always sold out! Sixth time’s a charm, I guess. This morning I sat, facing Puget Sound, eating my favorite Pike Place bakery treats, and reading vogue in the sunshine – it was magical (and so needed!).

Postcards!
Postcards!

Also, Postcrossing is blowing my mind. If you haven’t signed up, and have an interest in sending/receiving postcards from around the world, sign up! I’ve already had postcards from Prague, Poland, South Africa, Germany, China and five other places I don’t even remember. It’s so much fun to open my mailbox and find a postcard from someone thousands of miles away!

And that’s all for now. Life is crazy right now, but I’m doing my best to soak up every minute, because I know it’s only for a little while before I won’t be able to. France 2014, or bust! (preferably not busting, though)

P.s. Next time you meet someone who’s successfully moved to France – give them a high five.

I got my acceptance letter last night!
I got my acceptance letter last night!

France Checklist

My mother and me exploring the Washington beaches, once upon a time ago.
My mother and me exploring the Washington beaches, once upon a time ago.

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve posted on here! Life has been crazy hectic, per usual. But I think the real culprit is me having my head up in the clouds too much. So, since my mind has decided to ground itself for this slice of the evening, I’ve decided to catch you all up on what’s happened this week.

Medical Certificate

This week I went and had my “I’m not dying or trying to carry the plague to your country” checkup, which is required before you can apply for your French Visa. I’m happy to say the diagnosis was that I’m normal – physically, anyway.

Awaiting DIRECCTE Approval:

All of my paperwork is officially in! Now, all I have is to do is wait for the DIRECCTE (the local government in the French city I’ll be living in) to approve it and I’ll be ready to apply for my Visa. I’m so excited, and I can’t believe how much work it’s been to get to this point. Here’s to working your butt off just to be able to APPLY to live in France.

SIFF: French movies

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The Seattle International Film Festival is happening right now – my favorite time of the year! I saw this film last weekend with two of my friends and we absolutely loved it! It was witty, well written and the actors were phenomenal. There was one part of the movie when everyone in the theater was laughing so hard you couldn’t even hear anything on the screen. Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year – a must see.

Mood Indigo

This film I’m going to go see next week and I can’t wait. Not only are Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris some of my favorites, I love the overall whimsy of this storytelling style. I can’t wait!

Official Acceptance Letter

Last week I got accepted into The University of Orleans and this week I got my official acceptance letter, which was so exciting! I can’t believe I’m going back to college. I know it’s going to be a challenge but (if I’m totally honest) I’m so excited to be a student, again!

Anthony Bourdoin: Parts Unknown

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This series has been my absolute favorite this past week. It’s produced by CNN and is as much a series about culture and global perspective as it is about food. I’ve loved watching it and getting whisked away to different parts of the globe. My favorite episode is about Quebec, mainly because that’s where my French obsession began when I was there for my 9th birthday. Two seasons are on Netflix now, so if you have access I would highly recommend watching a couple of episodes. My only warning is: Have a healthy snack nearby, because you’re going to want to eat your entire kitchen after each episode.

Belle et Le Bete

I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. And, weirdly enough, it has nothing really to do with the movie itself. I’m just so excited to see the cinematography, costumes and sets that I’m about ready to cry. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I AM really excited.

Checklist for France!

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Glasgow, Scotland

This week, for some reason, it’s been really tough for me to feel like I’m accomplishing anything. Although I’ve been plugging away for months to get everything for France pulled together, it’s still hard to envision my work paying off, since that won’t be for a few months.

With that being said, here are some of the things I’ve finished up lately/I’m working on to get ready for France!

1. Doctor’s appointment: There are several steps in the process of applying for a French Visa. I had no idea how complicated this process would be, but I’m slowly finding out that you have to really WANT to go to France in order to move there. There are a million hoops to jump through before you can even think about applying.

One of these necessary steps is getting a  doctor’s note (aka Medical Evaluation) that states that you aren’t dying. This visit also has to be within three months of you leaving for France so it wasn’t until this week that I was finally able to make the appointment! Yay!

2.  Birth Certificate: Somehow I lost my birth certificate. I have no idea where it is and I need an official one to copy before I move, sooooo I ordered a new one this week. It’s surprisingly easy to get.

3. DuoLingo-ing the world: I know that’s not a word, but it is now. Every day I spend about 1 hour(ish) on Duolingo practicing my French. I used to dream of the day when I’d be at more than 20% word knowledge, and then I looked at my screen yesterday! I’m satisfied.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 10.29.44 AM 4. I’ve been kind of obsessed with French Romantic Comedies lately. They’re just so much better. If you haven’t watched any I highly suggest these:

5. French Magazines are my new favorite thing to read! I can’ t seem to get a copy of a French Vogue, but I’ve been going through French Elle and Marie France

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ELLE-France-28-Mars-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. I finally started to actually go through my belongings and get rid of stuff: I’m trying to get rid of probably somewhere around 60ish% of my belongings so I’ll only be keeping essentials here in storage (20%) and taking the other 20% with me to France. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

7. I’m loaning out my fish to my little sister while I’m gone: My two goldfish, Octavius and Pyro, have been with me for about 5 years, now. But, since I can’t take them with me, they’re going to go live with my little sister until further notice. She better not kill them like she killed my bamboo I had her “take care of” last time I moved.

8. Dentist: Because I don’t know what the situation will be in France, I went to the dentist this week to get my mouth at 100% before leaving. Four shots of anesthetic later, and we’re good.

9. College application: I sent in my college application last weekend so I’m waiting to hear back from them! Hopefully I’ll be able to take classes there over the next year. I really hope I get in, but who knows?? Fingers crossed!

10. Growing out my f^$&^@! hair: Anyone who knows about curly hair knows that it is a beast that doesn’t want to be tamed. Anyone who has tried to regrow out a mowhawk knows it’s just awkward. Add the two together, and you have a recipe for disaster. Which is pretty much where I’m at right now. I almost get my hair re-shaved pretty much every day. But luckily, I have a hefty dose of Irish/Scottish stubbornness in my blood and if I said I’m growing it out – I’m damn well going to.

11. I bought a tablet! With layovers etc. I’m going to be traveling for like 30 hours when I go to France, so I bought a tablet so I can take it with me, to read/watch movies, when I travel. It’s coming in the mail today, hopefully, so I’m super excited!

12. I’m emailing a church in France to try to get connected with one near where I’m living.   Being able to keep connected with people who share my faith is so important to me, and I’m really hoping that I can connect with some fun people in France. One of my way too awesome friends was in Paris, and he found some people to connect me with at the Hillsong plant in Paris. I’m excited to see what connections I can make 🙂 (This had been high on my list, so I’m so glad to have some kind of lead finally)

And that’s “all” for now! Ah! Only 3 months!

Also, one of my friends left yesterday for his Au Pair-ship in Australia. Check out his awesomeness on his blog! 

Checklist Until Takeoff

Snoqualmie, WA
Snoqualmie, WA

This weeks list of things to get ready for France:

1. Credit card: I got my first credit card this week as part of a “life hack”.  I’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how it works out, but after meeting with the lovely people at Chase bank, I got set up with an account that allows you to get $500 toward air travel if you spend $2,000 within your first few months of having the card. As a nanny, I already know I’m going to have to pay a pretty hefty chunk of taxes in the next couple of weeks (since I don’t take them out per check during the year). So with that amount and all of my other bills put on the card I should be able to reach the $2000 pretty easily. And, I actually benefit from paying bills, since that will take a pretty big chunk off my plane ticket to France! Yay! The key, of course, it to pay the expenses off as soon as they are charged so there isn’t any kind of interest accruement. Here’s to trying new things!

2. Twitter: I used to be a Twitter junkie back in the day, but I stopped using it a couple years ago. I don’t actually remember why, but I’M BACK! I decided that one of the best ways I can brush up on my French is by changing all of my social media over slowly, and Twitter is the first to start. TweetMe @darkkhorsetweet or click the Follow button on the side panel of this blog ——>

3. French TV: Last night I discovered that there are full episodes of “The Voice” France on YouTube. This is one of my absolute favorite shows on TV, and I’m so excited to watch en français !

4. Transcripts: There’s a lot of paperwork involved in becoming an Au Pair, so this week I’m going to be working on some of the pieces I can (a lot of it can’t be sent over until three months before I leave, so not until May). Yesterday I requested my transcripts from college to “prove” that I graduated for the French government. Looking over my transcripts was kind of fun. I’d forgot how much work I had put into my education until I was looking over all the classes and grades. Magna Cum Laude, woot!

5. Writing a letter of intent: Again, this is for my Visa application. I have to write a letter that states my intentions of why I want to come live in France. If anyone has written one of these before, I would love advice! I’m pretty good at filling paper with words, but I’ve heard the French government is pretty picky, so any friendly advice would be much appreciated!

6. Tattoo: I’m getting a tattoo this week and I’m so excited! Just a couple of lines on my arm, (no soaring eagles holding the American Flag – bummer, I know) but I’m excited none the less.

Je ferai face à ma peur. [I will face my fear.]

Il ne restera que moi. [Only I will remain.]

Checklist Until Takeoff

Flying over my beautiful Washington Mountains on my way to California
Flying over my beautiful Washington Mountains on my way to California

Getting ready to move halfway across the world is a process. In a perfect world, I would be able to pack up everything tomorrow and be ready to go, but that’s just not a reality. So, there are some basics that I’ve started putting together in order to get ready for my big move. This will be an ongoing list, but here’s where I’m at so far:

1. Phone upgrade: I haven’t upgraded my phone in a while, so when I went to the UK I wasn’t able to communicate with my family while I was gone ( iPhone 4 doesn’t have a slot for a simcard). Well, glory, glory hallelujah because I upgraded my phone and now will have communication via cell phone while I’m gone (INSTAGRAM!)!

2. Bilingual bible: As a Christian, the Bible is a pretty important book to me. And I love to read. So, it was pretty high on my list for me to get a bible that I would be able to start using now, and be able to take with me when I went to France. Obviously, I could have stuck with an English translation, but I think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world to see both of my favorite languages side by side.

3. Dentist: This one is kind of weird, but really important nonetheless. I have no idea what my insurance/medical situation will be once I actually get to where I’m moving (and I won’t have my dentist whom I LOVE), so it’s really important for me to get everything in tip-top shape in case I don’t have access to one while I’m living there (or at least, at the beginning).

4. Postcards: Communication with my Au Pair family is so incredibly important to me. I really want to be able to build relationships even right now so that I’ll be able to make my transition that much smoother when I get there. My French family and I email fairly regularly, and this week I got a postcard which made me so incredibly excited! I love snail mail more than anything, so it was so fun to get it from Switzerland, where they were staying.

5. Getting rid of stuff: Even though I’m not leaving for a while, I’ve already started to go through my things and start donating/getting rid of things. I am going to be getting a storage unit (which is another “to do” on my list) but it’s still really important for me to get rid of all the random junk I own prior to that. Goodwill here I come!

6. Guitar lessons: I don’t play any instruments as of now, since I mostly focused on vocal stuff while I was growing up, but I’m moving to an EXTREMELY musical family. As such, it’s important for me to be able to contribute, and I’ve had a guitar sitting around for a bit, so I’ve been taking guitar lessons. I’m no Jimmy Hendrix, yet, but I am learning and I love it.

7. French lessons: Every week I get extremely embarrassed as I attempt to speak French in front of my French tutor. It’s hard work and sometimes SO FRUSTRATING, but I know that putting in the work now will be so worth it once I’m there. I just wish I could fast forward 3 months so I could see some real progress happening. Ha.

8. Drivers License: My license is going to expire while I’m over in France, so it’s on my “To Do” list to get it renewed and all set up so I don’t have to worry about being able to drive while I’m there, or when I get back.

I used to live footsteps away from the beach. (Newport Beach, California)
I used to live footsteps away from the beach. (Newport Beach, California)