Life, Studying at the Kodaly Institute
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To-Do List for moving abroad to Kecskemét, Hungary for First-Time Parents Part 1

Studying at the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music is a beautiful dream come true. It can also potentially be a logistical and emotional nightmare for first-time parents like Annica and I who are chugging along our 14-month baby Athena along for the ride.

Here are some quick ideas to help future students at the Institute who are coming with families feel more at ease.

DISCLAIMER: Information in this blogpost are merely personal experiences and suggestions – governmental procedures & requirements can vary from place to place.

ADMINISTRATION AT HOME

RESIDENCE PERMITS
The most painful process of all. Please do check the requirements of applying for residence permit for ‘studies’ (for yourself) and ‘family reunification’ (for accompanying families) with the Hungarian Consulate in or near your country. Note that the consulates may not necessarily operate by the standard office hours in your country and may have a very specific opening times for the public. Some generic advice:

  1. Email and CALL if you don’t receive a reply within corporation standards of 72hrs. Calling will save you truckloads of emails or wasted trips.
  2. State your purpose and needs clearly.
  3. Ask for the name of the person you’re speaking to and follow up with emails to necessary persons for record keeping.

The following list are just suggestions… please use it in consultation with the consulate from your country:

  • Air ticket booking (they seem to want to know your return flight so that your visa ends on the day you fly home).
  • Hungarian Accommodation Address (just say you’re staying at the KI, might save you a lot of trouble).
  • Your marriage certificate and baby’s birth certificate.
  • Admission letter, certification you’re staying @ KI or anything your consulate demands.
  • Passports
  • Health Insurance (probably need guarantee that you’re able to pay for any hospitalisation fees)
  • Bring lots of Euros/Money for admin payments.
  • Passport size photos

BRING ALONG ORIGINAL COPIES OF DOCUMENTS but also prepare a stack of photocopies of all originals for good measure.

SAVE A COPY OF ALL CORRESPONDENCE that transpire between you and the consulate/KI/your Hungarian landlord. These came in handy when the local consulate asked for ‘a document from the Kodaly Institute or the place where you will be put up that they have no objection/and or/are aware that your family will be staying with you during the course of your studies in Budapest (sic.)’. With my usual ruthless administrative efficiency, I simply cut and paste the truckload of emails and happily clicked ‘send’.

BRING MONEY. I was asked to get a certified true copy of my marriage certificate and baby’s birth certificate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (S$10 for a chop on EACH photocopy…), then pay 120 Euros for ‘translation (95 euros) and administrative (25 euros) services rendered’ for Hungarian versions of the certificates (I suspect this one’s not necessary as we didn’t need it at all when filing for residence papers in Hungary… but well…). This is on top of the 60 Euros for each application I sent in (myself, wife and 1-year old Athena so that’s 180 Euros in total…). By the way, all these transactions were paid for in EURO and not Singapore dollar. I think it is cheaper to do the visa in Hungary but you might get into trouble with the airlines (a friend at the institute ran into huge, unreasonable problems with British Airways because of the lack of visa but that’s another story)…

CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE and ensure you’re not travelling anywhere else while the consulate is holding on to your passports for visa application. Give 1-1.5 months for visa application in case of complications.

When it is all over, be glad that everything went as smoothly as it did – ultimately, any problem that money can solve is not a real problem.

Upon successful application, you should receive:

  • passports with visa in them (check visa validity dates, chops, passport no. details etc.etc.etc.)
  • passport size photos with the consulate chop and signature behind (bring these to Hungary and don’t lose them!! I think they’re needed for application for resident’s card in Hungary after which you will then be allowed to subscribe to internet at home for the missus in need of catching up with those Korean/Japanese dramas)

PACKING
If you own an apartment like Annica and I and are renting it out whilst away, I cannot possibly overemphasise the need to start packing as early as is possible, preferably AT LEAST a month ahead of time. If you’re a music nerd and bookworm like me with bookshelves and boxes chockfull of scores, textbooks, research blah blah blah, good luck! Get over the inertia by buying those solid Japanese Toyogo plastic boxes so that you can steal time in between work to pack.

TEANANTS
Start sourcing for tenants for your flat at 3 months before. If you have a real estate agent in the family like us, good for you. If not, it might be wise to start shopping at 3-4 months before leaving for a suitable realtor, give them and yourselves time for advertising and screening of potential tenants (to quote a funny friend, you wouldn’t want savages ‘raping’ your nicely renovated apartment).

BANKING, BILLS AND OTHER BULL
It is advisable that you make convert all hardcopy statements to e-statements at least 2 months in advance (so that there’s room for error rectification for the administratively handicapped companies), get security OTP tokens if cancelling or putting on hold your local number:

  • Credit cards
  • Banking statements
  • Mobile phone

I highly recommend using Citibank where I got fantastic and efficient service and its outreach is truly global and worldwide (do check on google maps and/or Citibank websites for your Hungarian address and nearest ATM locations). Withdrawals from Citibank ATMs do not require admin fee (I think)… if you’re going to get ripped off either way by other banks that also use similar or worse exchange rates to capitalise on currency conversion, you might as well use Citibank and save the c.a. S$5 admin fee per withdrawal from an ATM.

If you have compulsory military conscription in your country like Singapore, do remember to apply for deferment from your military responsibilities and let them know of your impending studies. It would be really terrible to get charged in military court upon returning home just after a fun year of studying at KI.

If you freelance like me, keep harassment from the tax people to the minimum by faithfully doing up your tax things BEFORE flying off so that when the time comes for submission, you do not have to juggle balancing accounts, family and school work – it would be like managing 3 part-canons with yourself which one is potentially able to achieve by the end of the course I’m sure. Do let your government tax body know you’re going to be away and have them send the mails to your Power of Attorney (POA) and/or dependable relatives who can help you read mails and do the necessary.

Getting stressed and having loud discussions with your spouse during this very difficult time is perfectly normal especially even where very organised musicians are concerned. What is important is that communication channels remain open all the time and one retain composure and wisdom to not say anything insanely stupid that will lead to a costly divorce.

Amen.

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