The first problem was that, apparently, I had been told to apply for the wrong visa. I was applying for a tourist visa, and the people at the consulate told me that I didn't need one since Americans apparently are allowed to be in the Schengen states for up to 90 days without a visa. They told me I needed to apply for a student visa (which I thought was kind of confusing since it wasn't a school program at all), gave me the forms and a sticker that said I'd already been to the consulate and was allowed to mail the forms in, and sent me on my way.
I had to get more information from my IFYE contact, so I had to wait on that, and then I was swamped with exams, so I wasn't able to mail my application in until the first week of May. I figured that would be okay, though, since it states very clearly on the website that it can take up to three weeks to process the application, and I wasn't leaving until June 22 - that's about seven weeks, surely enough time to get things straightened out. It should be noted that my passport was being sent along with this application, since that was one of the requirements.
Cut to five weeks later - no visa, no passport, no notifications of any kind. My plane's taking off in less than two weeks, and mom and I are pretty worried since, y'know, they have my passport and I kind of can't fly without it. I can't call them, because they only number they have on both their website and all the official letterheads is just an automated phone system, and I can't get to a person on either the German or the English option. Finally I get a package from the consulate, and they did approve my visa - except they gave me a visa for 90 days and said that if I wanted to stay longer, I needed to apply for a residence permit once I entered the country - which was basically going to cost me an extra 100 Euros (about $160), after I'd already paid $75 for the original visa.
Well, we suck it up, figuring it's really too late to do anything about it when I'm going to be out of the country in a few days, and my mom gives me some extra money for my birthday to cover the cost of the visa. When I get to Germany I'm told that the consulate in Chicago can't give me a visa for anything longer than 90 days, and that they should have told me that instead of leading me to believe I could get it all taken care of at home. So they either lied to me, or they were poorly managed (or just didn't care). Either way, I got cheated out of $75 that I could have used for other trip expenses.
On the plus side, I got my visa - the one I really needed - with almost no problem, and they gave it to me free because I'm a student.
On an unrelated note, and more of a pet peeve than bad service - what the hell is it with telemarketers hanging up on me when I tell them something they don't want to hear? I swear, the minute they ask if I'd like to sign up for whatever, and I say, "No, I'm sorry, I'm not interested/unable to do so/not the homeowner/not old enough to own a credit card/whatever," I barely get the first word out before I hear a *CLICK*. If you're trying to sell something, shouldn't you be polite to people, even if they don't want your product? Word of mouth is a pretty powerful thing, y'know.