Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The day has come. I finally have my Italian permit to stay (permesso) that lives in my passport cover. It only took nearly a year! The process of obtaining a study abroad visa and permit to stay in Italy started last summer. I clearly remember frantically gathering all required materials after careful hours at Staples (copies of identification documents, acceptance letters, financial statements) by myself; it was stressful then, and it was stressful here. I’ve sat at the immigration office in Florence for more than eight hours total, and we have had several appointments at locations throughout the city for the initial meeting, fingerprints, etc… I am certainly happy it is over!
Although the process was lengthy, time consuming, and frustrating at points, it has positively added to my study abroad experience. Every time I was in the immigration office, I felt like I had yet another glimpse of the world. This glimpse didn’t require a plane ticket or visa. Within a ten-minute walk, I was surrounded by people of different skin colors, languages, and stories. We were united in one office all for similar reasons. As gray and dull as the interior is, there is still warmth. There are always joyful children, making friends with each other, running around the wide hallway with their light up shoes, irritating the heck out of their parents. The peaceful babies in their strollers remind me of the days when I heavily depended on others to care for me. I especially admire the young Chinese girls laughing without a care in the world.
The immigration office also is a reminder of how grateful I am to be an American. A navy blue passport symbolizes a whole lot of significance—freedom, equality, democracy. It takes somewhere like an immigration office in Florence to acknowledge how so many people would do anything for an American passport. There’s no doubt the United States is currently faced with political struggles and the consequences of those struggles; however, Americans should never forget how lucky they are to be holders of those navy passports. Unfortunately, there are many who aren’t as lucky. xo ~ e.