Months ago, I started the long and tedious process of applying for a visa. By "started" what I really mean is "researched slowly while assuring myself that I had months and wasn't supposed to apply until June anyway." There is a list of about 80 things you have to do before you actually have your visa appointment in one of six appointed cities across the country. These fun tasks include background checks, being fingerprinted, letters and paperwork in español, doctor's notes, money orders, and purchasing expensive express mail envelopes. ACA did a good job of preparing me for my "interview" (which also means walking up to a window like at the movie theater, and then handing over your paperwork and discussing it for a few minutes) which I realized when I actually got to the consulate for my appointment.
It was very busy, with over a dozen other students—mostly girls—my age excitedly chattering about the coming year abroad. One nice girl came up to me and started asking me questions, so I told her we could compare info to make sure we both had all our paperwork in order. Boy did Odette and the other workers at ACA make sure I had my info! All this girl had was her passport and letter of acceptance. She said her program didn't give her any further information and told her to just go to the appointment. Yikes. It was not good news since she'd driven all day just like I had to make it to the silly ten-minute time slot. So I did my best to help her and she went on her way.
When I was finally called up to the window after nearly an hour of waiting, the only thing I didn't have was a photo copy of my driver's license. The man behind the glass told me that it was OK and I shouldn't have any problems. They seriously need a photocopier behind the desk and just charge people ten cents for whatever they forgot to photocopy. Because there is SO MUCH paperwork and you are supposed to have two copies of everything.
At last we were done (I'll spare you the boring details of the tedious two months prior to the appointment) and much to my surprise, my passport came back in the mail exactly one week later! I couldn't even believe it. I was sure it would take at least a month with all those people who had been there getting the same visa the day I was there. In the end I was pretty impressed with how smooth everything did go considering all the factors. But I don't ever want to have to do it again. But I'd love to help other people who are interested. In fact, I was talking to my friend Rachel who's going with me and is in the thick of the process right now, and we're going to write up a VERY detailed checklist for humanities students interested in ACA. The program did a great job of informing us but the requirements are constantly changing and the consulate website isn't kept up.
Here's to never going through this process again and the next year in España!