Friday, September 27, 2013

And I thought England was a Better Place

Living in the Arab world, many of us were brought up to critique ourselves and our nation. I am not in any way implying that our people are the best or that we are flawless, but all nations have flaws and sometimes we forget that. We believe that Western nations are the best, and that to be the best we must receive from the best. They are 10 steps ahead of us at the moment in many things, but we are 10 steps ahead of them in others. The major problem is that we have become content with being followers. This is beginning digress from the subject which is to be discussed. Going back to our subject; there are mistakes made everywhere in the world, so do not be surprised when the 'utopia' you dreamed about slaps you back to reality.

I was so naive. That is an understatement. To be precise, I was extremely naive. I was an extremely happy and overjoyed young lady in her early twenties who wanted to complete her studies in a reputable university in the "developed" Western world. In the world where the only problems were natural disasters and drunk driving.

Now, I am still a young lady in her early twenties that wants to complete her studies where she can get experience and become a better person. This Arab lady no longer looks at the West with awe. She sees it as it really is; a place with faults of its own.

Having a majority of unprofessional administrative staff in my previous university (staff which have been employed on the basis of their political party and nothing else), I was so happy to speak to the administration and staff at the University of Birmingham. They were very helpful, and never left any question unanswered. Then it all changed and this perfect image shattered...

Applying for a Tier 4 General Student visa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is not the greatest experience. You cannot apply directly through the embassy, and must apply through their partner the VFS office which is just horrible. The staff do not even check if your papers are all correct, they just want to get it over with. Anyways, we are digressing again. The VFS will have their own blog entry. They have left me traumatized for life.

So my first visa application was denied as the bank statement I submitted was not my guardian's personal bank account. Rather a bank account of the company he owns (which is obviously not good enough for them and which the employees at VFS did not take the time to check). No problem. Let us apply again. So I paid all my tuition fees and paid a down payment for my accommodation; the rest of the finance needed shown by a bank statement in my personal bank account, and YES the money had been there for more than 28 days as required. I applied VIP and priority and paid about 250 USD for that service. All my papers were submitted, I had a CAS which amounts to 30 points and my maintenance was covered so that is another 10 points. I was very confident that I would get all the 40 points and be issued a visa. BUT NO!

It turns out that the University had some kind of technical problem and when they updated my CAS to show that I have paid my fees, it did not show up on the UKBA system. Although, I gave in an original of the bank transfer I made to the university, it was not satisfactory for the UKBA.

Ever since my visa refusal, I have been trying to contact the ISAS (International Student Affairs), but all their staff is busy with the Welcome Week. It is funny, that they do not have enough staff to take calls of students who may be having problems getting to the UK on time to pursue their study course.

Other than that, the university told me they will issue me with a new CAS statement, so that I could reapply. They also made clear that I will have to be at the university on the 14th of October at the latest. Even when I applied priority, my visa application took about 15 working days to process (better than no priority which took 6 weeks!). I told them that I might need about 4 additional days as the visa takes some time to be processed, and I had calculated when it would be ready. They said that is not possible. What I do not understand is that it is their system which has caused me this problem. They should at least make it up to me by allowing me 4 extra days so I can begin my studies this year without having to defer.

This is one way in which the West and the East are the same. And I thought England was a better place...