Thursday, February 07, 2008

Grad School and Visa Pictures

Tonight we finished up Andrew's application for The American University in Cairo. I say "we" because really, once you're a couple, there is no "I" anymore. He'll be doing all the studying, it's true but Rachel and I will be going along with him, wherever he ends up going, so it definitely involves "us."

I took his visa pictures (because we're too cheap to get them done professionally). I proofread his essays (over and over and over again). I wrote on his application so that it would be legible (his hand writing is so bad that he really should consider becoming a doctor). He did everything else: Wrote the essays, revised the essays, told me what to write on the application, got letters of recommendation and transcripts, got an HIV test, etc., etc., etc.

There are actually a lot of hoops to jump through in order to apply for grad school, especially if you're going foreign. But we're finally ready to send it off through the trusty USPS (Andrew's going to mail it tomorrow morning).

Now all we have to do is anxiously await our letter, which will hopefully be one of acceptance. We really hope to get in even though we have no idea how we're going to pay for this whole adventure. We applied for three scholarships and will probably have to take out a Stafford Loan--anyone who has any experience with such things (loans) is welcome to share because we have no clue what we're doing!

We're just due for an adventure, I think. We haven't used our passports in quite a while and they keep calling out to me. Since we'll have to get Rachel a passport we tried taking some passport pictures of her after we took Andrew's visa pictures. Have you ever tried to get a six month old baby to sit still and look directly into the camera without shoving her hands in her mouth? It's pretty tricky, let me tell you, but I think that a few of them turned out alright.

Looking at our passports and thinking about visas reminded me of some experiences we had getting ID and visa pictures abroad.

When I lived in Russia we had to renew our visas at the embassy in Latvia. Since we (all the girls traveling with me) had used our remaining passport pictures for the student IDs issued at the university sponsoring us we had to get new pictures taken for our visa applications. We went in small groups to a studio and took turns having our pictures taken with a rather forward photographer. He only promised to take mine and Emily's pictures if we gave him Esther's phone number. I don't actually remember if we gave him the real number or if we thought to give him a fake number (did he ever call you, Es?).

Our photographer kept prompting us to "look normal," which we kept insisting we did. Finally he asked us to look a little more sad. Apparently you aren't supposed to look happy that your visa is getting renewed or something.

Anyway, when we got our pictures back they looked pretty dreadful--airbrushed and saturated and gross. The black and white one on the left is my visa picture from Russia.

(L to R: Nancy's Russia visa, Andrew's Jordan ID, Andrew's Egypt visa, Nancy's passport, Nancy's Jordan ID, Rachel's passport)

The ones in the middle were the pictures we had taken for our student ID cards at the University of Jordan. The photographers treated us like artwork and kept asking us to tilt our heads up, down, left, right; step forward, step back, smile a little more, a little less, a little more, perfect... I think they took a little more time composing my shot. And you will notice that, while Andrew's picture looks like a mere snapshot, mine is softened and all my blemishes have disappeared. If I'm not mistaken my cheeks are even a little rosier than usual. They gave me twice as many wallet-size photos as Andrew, as well as a bigger one in a cute little cardboard frame--for the same price that Andrew got four pictures. I'm not sure that either of my foreign pictures would be accepted in the United States as a passport photo.

I am hoping, however, that they accept Rachel's passport photo. It's always a gamble, taking the picture by yourself, and I'm worried that the dimensions aren't right because her head is so big compared to the rest of her body that it seemed more difficult to achieve the same result than when working with an adult subject. She squirmed more, she looked everywhere but at the camera, she kept trying to eat her hands, and her smile was either too big or non-existent. I think that she turned out looking really cute, though!


  1. Stafford Loans: Step 1. File your taxes. That has to be done or in process before you can completely fill out the application. It can all be done online (the fafsa, I mean) at, if I remember correctly. Step 2. Get in touch with the person who's in charge of the finances dealing with overseas student loans at your university to find out what you have to do for them. Sometimes they require their own application, and ultimately, they are responsible for getting the loan cheques into your hands.
    Step 3. Apply! The cycles for the years usually run from the end of June to the next end of June, if I remember rightly. You'll want to get things going as soon as you can, though, because as you probably already know from Jordan, you'll need proof that you can pay for yourself before they'll give you a student visa. :) Mostly, it's pretty easy after that. You just have to decide if you want the subsidized and unsubsidized portions, and all that jazz. They make it fairly basic: they want your money later.

  2. Stafford Loans are surprisingly easy, and Heidi seems to have outlined the process pretty well. The education you'll get will be well worth it!

    (Right? I mean, I am going to be smarter once I finish grad school, yes? *panicked*)


  3. The last time I got passport photos (I can't remember if it was for Canada or the US) I wasn't allowed to smile. No teeth showing, just a "natural expression." I think I'm smiling or talking or laughing most of the time, so really, how natural is "no teeth showing"? It looks like a mugshot. I guess I should practise pleasant expressions with my mouth closed...

  4. Heidi--that's the part we're worried about...paying them back at the end. :) We're going to miss the good ol' pell grant days.

  5. I love Rachel's passport picture. I think it is adorable.

  6. The brethren have made it pretty clear that education is one thing for which you can take loans out and not feel bad. if you get scholarships, that will help. You might also think about looking into the Fulbright, if you haven't already. VERY hard to get. I sure didn't manage! If the Stafford loans won't cover it all, and there's a chance they won't, since I dont' know what the tuition for the cairo school will be for international students, there's another loan company that operates specifically for internation student stuff call the IEFC - international education finance corporation. the website it'll take you to is An option for getting the last couple of thousand or for having something to fall back on just in case. As for paying it back, don't worry: You will NEVER have as much to worry about as I will! lol

  7. I was also going to mention a Fulbright - but you'll have to check the application deadlines because it's either already passed or coming up soon. Jeremy got one in 2004-2005 (that's what paid for our year in Syria).

    I have a GREAT Russian driver's license photo. I'll have to post it sometime. I guess all photographers there use the same methods :).

  8. Yeah, unfortunately the deadline for that was back in October--before Andrew decided he wanted to do this. Maybe for next year? I don't know if they let you do that though.

    And, really, you drove in Russia?!? I don't think I would have dared. Of course, I don't even drive here, so...

  9. Nancy that is hilarious - I forgot about that story with those crazy guys... it was at that little store we'd go to, by Dimitrova bus stop. So funny! Pretty sure you did not give him my real number... and I remember how they like photoshopped all of our pictures... they looked like mug shots....

    Rachel's photo is too cute! We got one for Robby to go to St. Thomas - his picture is so funny!

  10. And ps - have you read all the Twilight books? Aren't they awesome!?!?!

  11. Good times :) You know, I've only read Twilight, but I'll be borrowing the other two from a friend of a friend...hopefully soon!