Preparations

2013-03-17

Introduction

This is the start of a weblog about my travel to the USA. For those who do not know me, I start with a short introduction about what brought me here. This first post will then talk about the preparation. Future posts will be about events as they happen.

History

My history should start with my health: I have a chronical illness, Cystic Fibrosis. This is quite serious; when I was diagnosed, they said I'd probably die at the age of 15 or so. But science has seen a lot of progress, and I am now 36. Still, during the preparation this is troublesome, and during my stay it will be expensive.

I've studied physics and teacher education. I've been a teacher at high schools for several years. In my spare time, I have been interested in 3D printers ever since I saw Adrian Bowyer present the RapRap at Fosdem. Last year I decided to try and find a PhD related to the RepRap 3D printers. I found a position at Michigan Technological University (MTU) to print solar cells with a RepRap. I applied and after some tests (GRE and TOEFL) and lots of red tape, I was accepted.

So then I could go and prepare things. This project will take about 4 years, so I will leave my house and store a few things at my father's place.

Visa

I had heard stories that applying for a visa might take up to three months. Luckily, it wasn't that bad. However, while searching for information I did find a post saying the visa system was a money making machine. That is certainly true. $200 because I'm an international student. $180 to actually apply for the visa. €15(!) for a phone call to make an appointment for an interview. Only rich people are allowed to go there, it seems. So much for the American dream.

Anyway, filling in their forms and waiting for MTU to send me the code I needed to apply for the visa took some time, but it's not hard. And as long as you try to tell the truth and pay all the fees, everything will be fine.

Health insurance

For the health insurance, things are different. Healthy people will get an insurance from a company specialized in expat insurances. But they aren't required to accept people, and for me they will not cover my lungs. Which means I can just as well not have it at all. MTU has arranged an insurance plan for their students, but I need to pay a big part of the costs myself. So I tried to find a way to remain insured in the Netherlands. This seemed to be possible, if I would have a job there as well. But then it wasn't. And then it was. And then it wasn't. In the end, it seems I will be insured by the Americans. The biggest problem of this is that they have a maximum of $100.000. If the costs are higher than that, they will stop paying. And medical costs in the US are extremely high.

But there is another thing. In the US, doctors are (rightfully) always worried about legal claims. For that reason, they will make sure that they will never do too little. It's called defensive health care. I don't want to take more medicines than I need. With doctors in the US, that's going to be a problem.

This means I will come back to the Netherlands twice a year for hospital visits.

Anyway, that's how it looks now. But things are changing almost daily, so I'll see how it will work out in the end.

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