F1 Student Visa

Around the end of April 2008, my classmates and I were getting ready to apply for our F1 student visas. For many international students, this is a pivotal moment, because the outcome of our visa interviews would be key to determining our future. Several of us were biting our finger nails, scavenging to get our documents together and hoping for the best. In my case, I didn't even want to go to the interview. 

"I'm not going to this. What's the point? I don't want to go to America," I said to my mother. 

"Keep your options open and just go. You don't have to go, but it's good to have your visa ready. You never know what could happen," she replied.

Finally, the day had arrived for me to head to my interview at 8:30 AM. I crawled out of bed at 6:20 AM on a Saturday and walked miserably to the bathroom. 

"I can't believe I'm doin' this on a Saturday when I could be sleeping in and chillin' and doing nothin' and livin' in peace and why are we doin' this in the twenty-first century and why is it such a process and why do I have to wake up so early on a Saturday? I just want to go back to bed," rambled seventeen-year-old Shikha.  

Outside the bathroom, I could hear my father say, "Hurry up Sona, I have to drop you to the embassy. Your mom is busy. I have to give you these documents, and you need to eat breakfast before you go. Hello, tu toilet ke upar so gayi (Translation: Did you fall asleep on the toilet)?"

"That's not funny," I responded as I walked back to my bedroom. 

"Your mom said to make sure that you don't fall asleep in the bathroom or that you don't go back to bed. She said that you have the tendency to do such things." 

In reality, I felt pretty anxious, because I didn't know what to expect or even how I would respond to any of the questions they would ask me. At that point, everything felt too real yet uncertain. Soon, I was going to venture out of my home into another country. The future seemed frightening and uncomfortable. 

As I ate my breakfast, wondering what would happen in the next few hours, my father dropped a stack of folders on our dining table. 

"Make sure you take all of these folders with you. These are all of our business documents and bank statements. You never know what could happen."

"How old are some of these documents?" I asked as I stared at the dust caught in between the folders. 

"Maybe as old as you?" 

I sighed, "Papa, do I need to take all of them?" 

"I told you, you never know what could happen. Where is your backpack?" 

I watched my father precisely put the set of dusty folders in my backpack as I continued munching on my toast. I tried to tame my anxiety in my mind:

It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK.It's OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.OK. OK. OK. OK.OK. OK. OK. OK. You're OK. You're OK. You're OK. You're OK. You're OK. You can do this. You're OK. You're OK. You're OK. You can do this. 

"Shikha, take my business cards."

"Papa, why do I need to take your business cards?" 

"You never know what could happen. You could network while you're sitting."

My father dropped five of his business cards in my backpack without waiting for my acknowledgement. 

"Ok, Shikha, jaldi kar (hurry up)." 

All of a sudden, my mother appeared out of nowhere, and announced, "Shikha, jaldi kar! Why are you still eating your toast? We have to go!" 

Ten minutes later, the three of us were sitting in the car without uttering a word to each other. 

I decided to break the silence. 

"How long is this interview going to take?" I asked my parents.

"However long they want to take," replied my father. 

"By the way, did you guys decide to turn this into a group activity at the last minute?" 

"Very funny Shikha," responded my mother. 

"I told your Mom that I can drop you, but she wanted to come." 

"I wasn't going to let you go there by yourself," she said. 

My mother made there sound like a battlefield. 

As we reached the embassy, my parents began to wish me luck.

"Ok, Shikha, good luck beta (child). Text me if anything happens," said my father. 

"What do you want to eat for lunch? You'll be back for lunch, no? Ok, who knows, but when you are done send me a text message or call me. Ok, call me if anything happens. Anything happens, you make sure to call me. Understood? And, what do you want to eat?" said my mother. 

I murmured, "I'll eat anything," and I began to walk towards the embassy's security line (Basically, I was entering the battlefield).

In the background, I could hear my mother say, "Shikha, make sure you call me! Don't just send me a text message. Sometimes, I can't hear it. Shikha, you didn't want to tell me what you want to eat."

"Mom, I said anything."  

To be continued.