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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The road to Tucson

    I was alone in D.C. with just my luggage, a Turkish exchange student whose visa was about to run out.

    I’d just completed a leadership program in New York City and needed to get to Tucson for the UA orientation. My visa’s expiration date posed a major problem, because without a visa, I wouldn’t be able to spend the semester studying in Tucson. I discovered I needed to go to Washington, D.C., to renew my visa. When I got there, the personnel at the U.S. Department of State told me everything was going to be all right.

    Although I didn’t hear from anyone right away, I assumed the state department was working diligently to fix my problem. But to be safe, I decided to apply for a Canadian visa. As many international students know, it’s suggested that we leave the U.S. and re-enter with a tourist visa or wait until our U.S. visas are renewed before returning to the U.S.

    I also got a call from someone at the state department telling me it was OK to buy a plane ticket to Phoenix. I should have been worried when she mentioned she was not 100 percent sure I could go to Arizona but told me to buy the ticket anyway.

    I spent my third day in D.C. having a picnic with some local Turks and struggling to find a cheap flight ticket from D.C. to Phoenix and a bus ride from there to Tucson.

    By the end of that third day, I got a phone call saying the state department couldn’t sort out my visa problem. They said they’d spoken to someone at the UA and couldn’t change my status because my first visa, which had now expired, listed me as a government visitor-not as a student.

    They told me I needed to return to Turkey and resolve the matter there. I neither cried nor yelled, just tried to adapt and resolve the problem. I was upset for 30 minutes, and decided nothing was abnormal. I was determined to endure, whatever happened.

    But I hesitated about what to do next. Should I pursue my education in Turkey or should I put up with the ticket price and go to the UA? It was a big dilemma because of the money.

    That same evening, the Canadian embassy told me my Canadian visa was ready to use, so I purchased a bus ticket to Niagara Falls. I arrived at the border at 4 p.m. the next day, completed the visa process and bought a bus ticket to Toronto. I was completely relieved.

    “”This time, everything is going to be all right,”” I thought.

    I was sure I’d done everything I could. After all, I am in a country I don’t know and it’s my first time abroad.

    About 10 minutes after I crossed into the northernmost English-speaking country, a border policeman stopped the bus and asked for Zeyni Artik.

    “”That’s me,”” I said.

    They told me I had to get off the bus and immediately go back to Turkey because my American visa had expired and I was required to return home as soon as that happened. I tried explaining I was going to Canada so I could renew my American visa, but they wouldn’t listen.

    Imagine you build a skyscraper. It takes a huge amount of effort to finish the project in a short amount of time. Then someone burns it down by just using a match. I felt something like that.

    I tried to find another way to explain my situation to the police, to convince them to do me a favor and just let me go. But rather than questioning their authority, I decided to just let them do their job. This left me again wondering whether I should just pursue my education in Europe, or go to the UA.

    I was upset for a little while, but I didn’t have much time to worry about my problems. Instead, I tried to focus on making this a successful experience.

    I left D.C. at 6 p.m. that evening, and 15 hours later I was in Istanbul. As soon as the plane landed I tried to find a Wi-Fi connection. I discovered that the state department had actually done the favor I’d asked for, and coordinated with the embassy in Istanbul to schedule an appointment for me the day after I landed.

    After researching the documents I needed, dragging my luggage around on the metro, finding a bank to pay the visa fee, and printing and filling out paperwork, I was able to rest at my aunt’s house.

    The only thing that cheered me up was her cooking. I still miss Turkish food.

    The next day, at the U.S. embassy in Istanbul, we sorted out the paperwork and I got a new visa. Immediately, I booked a plane from Istanbul to Tucson. It was expensive as hell.

    Three days later, I arrived in the Old Pueblo.

    Now, after a week, I feel like I’m at home. Tucson looks unbelievably like my home city, Mardin because of the mountains, drought, diverse people and friendly locals. The only differences are the cacti here and Mardin’s famed silver works.

    I’m glad I decided to come to the UA rather than staying in Europe to study. I will have a great education at the UA and meet valuable professors and teachers. I’ve already started building strong friendships, especially with other international students.

    I don’t know why, but my whole life is full of adventures like this-the more I try to resist them, the harsher they become. But I did not quail and I followed my passion, to become part of the UA community, and that is a victory-even though I did have to pay a considerable amount of money to get here. When I look back, I think to myself, “”It was worth it.””

    Zeyni Artik is a systems and industrial engineering senior.

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