I’m going to Brazil (or at least trying, you’ll find out why in a second). The biggest problem with traveling abroad is the various forms of documentation needed to get anywhere. The last time I got my passport I was a minor, and this is my first time traveling abroad in a couple of years so I needed to get a new one. Well, lets just say this hasn’t been my best experience.
First and foremost I want to say that the Passport office at Arizona State and the El Sol Travel Agent I’ve been working with have done everything in their power to make this as easy as possible. CIBT, the visa/passport assistance company, have not. The representative I’ve dealt with over the past couple of weeks (who I honestly have no idea what her name actually is) has been rude and condescending in my few short interactions with her.
I’ve had my application returned to me twice, both times of which the Passport Agency has told me are unnecessary returns. The first time they returned it to me was because they requested copies of everything inside the sealed envelope, the envelope that contains my birth certificate and social security information. Sorry but I dont exactly keep copies of that lying around. When I asked her why, the CIBT representative didn’t give me a straight answer, but instead redirected the questions to why I didn’t give her my personal information that only state and federal governments should be entitled to. I finally told her to either help me get this process done or let me get back to work.
She hung up.
I went back and reluctantly got copies of all this information for her, because I didn’t have much of a choice, and sent the application again. And again, my agent receives an email saying the application has been rejected (not from the State Department, CIBT) because the authorization letter required for a voucher agency to file my passport, wasn’t on their letterhead. They refused to file this application because I didn’t use the piece of paper with their logo in the corner. So I get it back again, and the Passport Agency tells me again that this is not something that should require a return.
But again, I hauled ass and got it back to them.
Well as I write this today, I’ve been hung up on again. I received a call from CIBT regarding a confirmation of the information inside my envelope (remember, they have copies of everything). I called back as soon as possible and after being left on hold for ten minutes, I was told I’d receive a call back shortly.
Two hours later, I decided to try again.
I called the representatives direct line, and I heard the receiver pick up, background noise, a click and then dial tone. She picked up the phone and hung up on me. I called back not 30 seconds later, and I get “CIBT is currently closed, please call back again.”
I understand that I am an inexperienced international traveler and that the litigation behind passports and visas can be so swamped down with red tape that it seems impossible to get anything done. But as a relatively experienced consumer, and someone interested in business, I can tell you that this is one of the worst displays of customer service I’ve been involved with. There is not a snowball’s chance in Hell I would ever voluntarily use this company for any sort of paperwork again.
I’m planning on attending a study abroad program through the university to go study international business journalism in the flourishing country of Brazil. Over the next 4 years, the largest South American country will host 3 major sporting events, the Confederation Cup, World Cup and the Olympics. On top of that, major technology companies and other businesses are putting head quarters in Brazil to anchor their South American projects. The country is quickly becoming an international economic staple. I want to see it first hand.
My goal of this trip is simple. To help broaden my perspective on the way a global economy works. We no longer can simply focus on the United States technology development and expect everyone else to follow. Our technology companies have paved the way towards a bigger picture, one that creates relationships from Rio De Janeiro to New York to London. I want to see that first hand.
I’m raising money through a kick-starter website, gofundme.com, where you can donate a $1 or $1,000 to my trip (anything will help!). My promise to you is simple, if you donate I will blog/provide photo and video content of my trip, a first hand account of what I’ve learned in Brazil. You can follow my whole journey on this website. Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy my experience!