Controlled Chaos

I (finally) officially accepted my offer of admission to the University of Kent last night. I will be completing my extended Master of Arts in The International Political Economy over the course of two years, and hoping to supplement my studies with an internship or several with some of the leading government and international organizations in Brussels. Slowly, but steadily, we are progressing on the path to Belgium.

Some major notes of the past weeks:

I gathered the courage to review the recommended reading list for students prior to beginning courses at BSIS, and Toto, we’re not in high school any more. This is a little different than the summer readings I bemoaned all those years ago. If only I’d known then what I know now.

The list is 13 books long and comprised entirely of fairly dense academic text books. To purchase them all will require something in the neighborhood of $200, assuming I’m ok with the used/poor condition filter that Amazon offers. Now is when I’m sure many out there are ready to begin badgering me for the overwhelming hardship that I have identified: reading, but the point I was really trying to make is how much more real this experience and life choice becomes with each passing day. Thanks in large part to the Marine Corps, I have come to understand the importance of preparation so I am doing my best to attack the reading now and learn a thing or two.

Alex trying to make sense of the plan.

Alex trying to make sense of the plan.

Tracy and I also ceremoniously began the arduous process of becoming legal residents in Belgium. We rolled our sleeves up and decided to get organized and make a plan. A few (7-8) emails from ISB and a cursory review of the Belgian consulate’s website later and we were sufficiently exhausted, overwhelmed, and confused. The whole make a schedule/plan thing is on temporary hiatus.

Tracy putting the plan away.

Tracy putting the plan away.

We did decide that our first priority was getting Tracy’s work permit because it only requires a half dozen pre-requisite steps and the permit itself is a pre-requisite for our visas and housing applications and rental agreements.

First step for getting a work permit- get an FBI background check on yourself. Easy enough, a good American bureaucratic institution like the FBI should be no problem to work with. Well, they are no problem to work with, once you send them your fingerprints and some money.

I had no idea what an ordeal getting yourself fingerprinted could be. I contacted 4 police stations and 4 sheriff’s offices in search of a location that would (1) fingerprint us after 3 pm, (2) not require a North Carolina driver’s license, and (3) do it for less than $50. Thank goodness for Craven County!

I left work and swerved through the inbound school bus traffic to pick up Tracy at the high school. We headed straight for the sheriff’s office (45 minute drive) to arrive before 4:00. We made it at 3:18 ready to go except five dollars short (yes, cash only). 20 minutes and an ATM stop later and we were finally able to sit down for fingerprinting with a very nice, surprisingly worldly, and very talkative finger printer. He did his best to keep us entertained and ultimately gave us what we needed. With the addition of an envelope, 36 dollars, and postage our fingerprints are off to the FBI and we are waiting the average 26 1/2 days it takes to get the results back. I certainly hope neither of us are felons!

One ordeal down, and can anyone tell me how many more to go before Brussels? Guesses will be accepted through April and results will be published in August. The closest guess gets the first Belgian souvenir sent stateside by us.