I thought that after two years of living abroad in Norway, I would be an expert in preparing for long-term travel, and nothing could stress me anymore. Little did I know that there is quite a difference between preparing for travels in another European country and going to a completely different climate, continent and culture.
To give you an insight into my journey to Ecuador, which, was I soon realised, would start long before I would ever set foot on a plane to San Francisco, I’ll take you to some of the places I went to during my preparations for my Global Citizen Year.
Institute of Tropical Medicine, Munich
Naive as I was, I thought that I could just take my long list of required vaccinations and let my GP handle it. This soon turned out to be a little more complicated than I thought, as in Germany, the yellow fever vaccination can only be administered at a certified yellow fever vaccination site. I didn’t even know that my city had an Institute of Tropical Medicine, but now it was the first new place I got to know on my journey towards completing my travel medical form. The process of getting the vaccination was fairly easy, I just had to show up during the opening times, sign my name on a list and wait to be called in. The price I had to pay afterwards hurt a little more than the needle, but thankfully I was able to get it reimbursed by my health insurance. During the next few months, I would learn to appreciate my insurance more than anything else, as it covered almost all my vaccinations, as well as malaria prophylaxis tablets.
Notary & District Court of Munich
Even though I spent two years living in another country, I never had to get a visa before. In Norway, I was lucky enough to be an EU-citizen, which meant I just had to register on their online immigration platform, and there was no fee or difficult process involved. It was the journey to get my Ecuador visa that introduced me to the beautiful world of German/Ecuadorian bureaucracy. When I first took a look at the list of required documents that my local consulate had sent to me, I was a little overwhelmed. However, a big portion of the papers were sent to us by Global Citizen Year, which made things a lot easier.
The two documents that took the most effort for me were my extended police clearance certificate and my law sworn statement of my voluntary and gratuitous work in Ecuador.
I had to request the police clearance certificate from my municipality, but since I was still living in Norway, I was able to give my mother the authority to request it for me. Furthermore, I needed an apostille on that certificate, but thankfully I could just order it with the document itself. So far so easy. Now, however, I had to get that document translated to Spanish by a certified translator. A quick google search later I found two translators which seemed reliable, and sent them an e-mail to ask for possible prices. Quick tip to future fellows: always!! look at multiple offers/companies! The first translator sent me an offer for 75€ for a two page document. Since I had no clue what the normal price range was and I needed the document soon, I almost accepted that offer, but then the second translator replied to my e-mail with their price: 35€.
The second document was a signed affidavit stating that I would work for free and as a volunteer in Ecuador, which Global Citizen Year had already prepared for us. However, I needed to get my signature on that affidavit witnessed by a notary, and also translated to Spanish again. Since I didn’t want to spend extra money on a translator again, I found a Spanish-speaking notary in my city and made an appointment. That all went smoothly, but now I had to get another apostille on that document. This time, it had to go to my district court, which thankfully also was located in my city. (I also really learned to appreciate living in the capital of my state during this period…). I had never been there either and first got lost in the giant old building, but eventually found the right room. 20 minutes and 25€ later I walked out with my document and apostille! German bureaucracy really surprised me here with its efficiency. 😉
Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador, Berlin
After successfully having acquired all my documents, I thought that I was now ready to apply for my visa. I called the local consulate in my city to make an appointment, only to be informed that one week prior, Ecuador had changed its visa process for Germany. This meant that from now on, I wasn’t able to apply through a consulate anymore, all applications had to go through the embassy in Berlin. A little disheartened, I called the embassy, hoping that I could just mail my documents to them now. However, this wasn’t the case – I was told I had to come to the embassy in person. Since I live in Munich, Berlin is pretty much the other end of the country, I had just been there on my post-grad travels and my summer plans didn’t really include going there again. But plans change, and so I found myself on a flixbus headed to the capital in the beginning of August. Even though that trip was kind of involuntary, I ended up having a great time. I stayed with a friend from UWC and spontaneously got to meet another friend from back home. The appointment at the embassy itself was very uncomplicated, the staff was really kind and I also met another volunteer while waiting for my documents. After a long and tiring process through German/Ecuadorian bureaucracy, I finally left Berlin with my visa, incredibly relieved and happy.
My flight to San Francisco is now less than two weeks away, and my preparations have moved from formalities to very practical things, like putting together a first-aid kit and looking for the perfect gift for my host family.
On this blog I will keep you updated on my journey to Ecuador and of course my new life when I finally get there! If you want to follow me along, please make sure you subscribe to this blog! It’s free, super easy and you’ll always know when there’s a new post!
I am also still raising money for the Global Citizen Year scholarship fund! My goal is to raise a total of $ 2000, which will be used to fund scholarships for the next generation of fellows. You can help me with my goal by making a donation to my fundraiser or simply sharing the link with your community! I am incredibly thankful for your support!