I definitely experienced a lot of emotions in the days leading up to my departure for Spain. To be honest, I mostly had feelings of stress. I know that plenty of students have been in similar situations as I found myself, but I couldn’t really help but worry that I would be some crazy exception that couldn’t survive outside of the States. I was also stressed because I am very happy with how everything is going right now in the U.S. in all aspects of my life (namely my family, Laura, work, school) and I couldn’t help but worry that things may change while I’m gone.
As my Mom got home late afternoon and I loaded my 43 lb. bag, filled to the brim with my belongings for the next three months, in the Suburban and couldn’t help but feel anxious about what was in store for me this spring semester. On the way through downtown Atlanta to the airport we made a quick little detour to pick up my Dad so both my parents could send me off. While having flown countless times before, I definitely felt like a new kindergartener off to his first day of school. I was so thankful to have them both there.
My mom and I checked in with Lufthansa. While at the ticket counter, an employee gave me my first test in my Spanish proficiency. He asked if I knew the most famous church in all of Spain. I regrettably answered, “No se.” He told me he was going to quiz me when I returned and expected me to know it. I replied that I would have plenty of pictures for him. After I checked my bag, I went out curbside and said my final goodbyes to my parents. I’m so grateful to them for giving me this opportunity to experience the world like this.
After my final hugs and kisses, I took a deep breath and started toward my gate. Security was a breeze. I walked right up, emptied the contents of my pocket and pulled my laptop from my book bag for it to be checked. Smooth sailing. The one thing I can’t stand is the rushed feeling everyone has to gather all of their belongings as the stream of other passenger’s bags follow endlessly behind you. Nothing seemed to fit like it had the night before when I packed. As I frantically tried to piece together my belongings, the zipper on my book bag broke. Great. Was this going to be a theme for the trip? I called my parents as I headed toward my gate and they suggested I just go ahead and buy a new one before I got on the flight. Luckily with some fidgeting on the train to my concourse, I was able to get the zipper fully functional again.
When I got to the gate, everyone on my trip had kind of already congregated in seats close to each other. I guess we all just looked for other nervous looking students when we arrived at our gate. Everyone was so nice. I enjoyed having a couple hours before the flight to kind of size up everyone. I didn’t have a set seat in the waiting area, partly because Dr. Baker (the head of the trip) put his three carry-on bags where I had been sitting, which luckily gave me the opportunity to meet most everyone. I was reassured by plenty that I wasn’t the only one that wasn’t on their “A game” in Spanish proficiency.
6:00 p.m. rolled around and we started boarding. It was a crazy feeling walking down the on-ramp toward the entrance of the plane, I remember thinking how crazy it was going to be to not live in the United States for these next three months. The airplane was very nice. It was completely new and decked out with personal touch screen televisions in the headrest in front of us. After finding my aisle seat, I sat down and anxiously anticipated who was going to be sitting next to me. I couldn’t help but say a little prayer that the person next to me wasn’t an older man that was slightly overweight with a snoring problem.
Then Bill came to my seat. As he jammed his carry on in the stowing area above, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. My prayers had been answered: an older man that was slightly overweight with a mustache (snoring problems). In all fairness, he was a very nice man. I found out that he works for the U.S. Justice Department and is on his way back to Bosnia, where he has been working for three years. As the plane boarded and started its departure, I noticed the plane was only about half full. As soon as the fasten seat belt sign came off I quickly told him I was going to find a seat where I could lay out. I could tell he thought that was a good idea. I moved to the middle row and sat an empty seat over from a kid from Florida named Ryan who is on the Valencia trip with me.
We had a long but good conversation about our families, sports we played in high school, places we wanted to see while we were in Europe, etc. We both laughed to each other as we heard Bill’s first series of snoring. Dinner was very good. I decided to go with the pasta option, which turned out to be baked ziti. After dinner I plugged in my airline issued headphones and searched for a station that could help put me to sleep. I landed on a station with a hypnotic sounding male voice describing a relaxing journey through a small town in the alps country side. It was kind of crazy but actually very relaxing. I didn’t have much trouble falling asleep.
I was woken up every forty-five minutes or so by a crying baby in the back section of the plane which was pretty annoying. After four hours of off and on sleep I decided to open my computer and start my first entry for my blog. Right now we are about an hour and a half away from Frankfurt and are just passing over the British Isles. Its 7:08 a.m. in Frankfurt right now. I cannot wait to get to Madrid and to start this incredible experience.