It was the late morning of Wednesday, April 13, 2016. I was getting out of my 11am class at Tech and checking my phone when I saw the email notification.
Subject line: Proposal application decision
‘Welp. Here it is. So… do I have something to do for this summer?’
I crossed my fingers and opened the email:
Dear Eugene Park,
The Undergraduate Research Grant Committee (URGC) has completed its review of proposals for the current grant competition. As chair of the Committee, I am pleased to inform you that your proposal … has been awarded a Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant in the amount of $3500 (U.S. Dollars).
I GOT THE URG
(To everyone who happened to be at Tech first floor lobby during that time, that Asian dude walking out of the building constantly yelling “YES” while staring at his smartphone screen was me. Hi.)
As a student in McCormick, however, there was now a slight complication. McCormick also has its own summer research grant program in the amount of $5,000, and its application was due before the URG result came out. Because the result for that wasn’t going to be released for another week or two, accepting the URG right away would automatically disqualify me from receiving the grant from McCormick, due to the URG rule.
And it gives me more money But I also had to formally accept the URG soon so that I can get all the paperwork done on time. And the clause “Please accept the award as soon as you are able” in the above email scared me a bit tbh
As it turns out, the dean of McCormick already knew that I received the URG.
Maybe I was too loud at the Tech lobby that day About two weeks later, I received from McCormick grant committee one of the few rejection emails that I was able to brush off really quickly.
Because hey, you know what — I GOT THE URG.
Once I was ready to formally accept the URG, I initiated the paperwork process right away. Because I am an international student (i.e., holding a visa), I had to keep the most up-to-date information in something called Foreign National Information System (FNIS). As a “non-resident alien” (as US Customs and Immigration Service calls me), this is but one of the many bureaucratic measures international students face. The following quote from the FNIS Request form summarizes it well:
FNIS must be updated EVERY time you extend your status or change status while being paid by Northwestern. You must also always bring your original immigration document, I-94, and passport in PERSON to the Payroll Office to extend your work eligibility. … Failure to complete these requirements may result in incorrect taxation and termination of employment.
So I took my I-20 (the “original immigration document”), printout of I-94, and passport directly to the Payroll office. (This was actually NOT what I was supposed to do; more on that below.) A lady at the front desk kindly looked up my former NU employment record (from when I was a Northwestern employee 1.5 years ago) and told me to go ahead and start a new I-9 eVerify (the electronic process for all new employees and returning employees after 6 months of inactivity) right at that spot. She also checked the validities of Form W-4 (employment form; federal and state level separate) and my direct deposit form.
I then went back to the Office of Undergraduate Research and notified them that all paperworks have been done, only to realize like a minute later that the IL Department of Children & Family Services Form was missing. I ended up successfully giving them the completed form, completing everything within the span of two hours. And I thought that was it for me to be able to receive the $$$.
When I met Dr. Peter Civetta at the URG recipient reception event, it was revealed that I was not supposed to process the W-4 forms, IL Department of Children & Family Services form, and the FNIS Request Form (with the other documentations) directly with the Payroll Office, but rather to bring them to the Office of Undergradute Research so that they can work with the Payroll Office and ensure everything has been processed.
Damnit just show me the money So I explained everything to Dr. Civetta or should I call him Peter?, and he got back to me on the next day confirming that all matters have been sorted out, and everything is well.
Except that it still wasn’t. A few days later, I received another email from
Peter Dr. Civetta that I had to redo the I-9 eVerify process to get paid. Confused, I went straight into his office, telling him that I thought everything was fine. When I went to Payroll Office to see what was happening (as he kindly told me to), I learned why they notified that I had to redo the process.
They didn’t know that Eugene Park and Jaesuk Park were the same person.
Sucks to have two names, huh?
By the way, the lady at the Payroll office front desk was truly the best. As I was being paranoid (read: freaking out) about paperworks slipping through the crack and the USCIS somehow coming to get me deported and %#U#*U(&##, she calmly assured me that everything is fine, and I am good to go. God bless her.
Fortunately, once that was sorted out, everything else went smoothly. And on Friday, May 27, 2016, I saw on my online bank statement a clearly printed green text, ‘$3,500.00’.
In the next couple blog posts, I will recount the first three weeks of summer research.