Almost a year ago, in January 2010, we received notification that my husband, Bill, had been selected as a Fulbright Scholar for 2011. Destination: Graz, Austria. Almost everyone has heard of Vienna and Salzburg, but Graz? Well, we’re going to become intimately acquainted with that city of almost 300,000. Actually the second-biggest of Austria’s many cities, Graz is located on the south-easterly side of the country and close to the borders of Croatia, Hungary and also Slovenia.
Now it’s a year later and preparations for our sojourn have swung into high gear. Not the least of which was obtaining VISAs so we could spend the ‘summer’ semester (summer = March – June) between the Technical University of Graz and the Karl Franz University about a kilometer away.
Living in the rural inter-mountain west has some advantages but proximity to the edifices of foreign diplomacy is not one of them. We were first told by the ‘contact on behalf of the Austrian Embassy’ that we would have to appear at the Consulate in Los Angeles to meet with someone there on a Monday – Friday between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM, but that no appointments are scheduled. Fortunately, a phone call to that Consulate steered us to an Honorary Consul, who happens to live in Salt Lake City! And fortunately, we just happened to be going to Salt Lake to visit family over the Christmas holidays. We were able to arrange a meeting with him, so he could certify our signatures on the Visa applications.
Herr Kolb could not have been more gracious or helpful! He showed us the flag (and explained the significance of the coat of arms) of the state of Steiermark, where Graz is located, gave us names of people to contact, tips on things to say and not say, checked over our applications to make sure we had dotted all the i‘s and crossed the t‘s, and verified our signatures. He even knew all about Missoula, having run the Missoula Marathon this past summer! He agreed it was superbly organized! I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him again. If he is typical of Austrians, we are in for a delightful stay!
Our visa applications were sent that very day to Los Angeles and returned to us, approved, within a week! Do you suppose the US government works as quickly for visitors coming here?
Now it’s time to get back to the German studies. There’s more to say about that, but it’ll have to wait until another post!
Thanks for reading!