What started off as a joke with a friend about eating gelato and pasta everyday soon became an attainable reality as we started a six-week study abroad in Verona, Italy.
As the plane landed at the Frankfurt Airport, I was brimming with excitement. The longest of my flights was now over, and within a few short hours, I’d be in Italy, eating delicious food, exploring cities with centuries of history, and immersing myself in a new and welcoming culture. NOTHING could bring me down.
As we were loaded onto the buses that would take us from the plane to the airport terminal, my friend and I were separated from the rest of the group who managed to get on an earlier wave of buses. A bit irksome, but we’ll just meet back up with them at the gate before the next flight. After several minutes of walking and asking for directions, we finally made it to Customs and Immigration. Just as we were able to finally inch up to the front of the line, the booth closed, and we were directed to join another line instead. Annoying, but we probably still have enough time to make it to the next flight, right? Once we got through customs, we speed-walked our way to security, our group still nowhere in sight. The line moved at a snail’s pace, and as more and more time ticked by, my anxiety continued to build. We were quickly running out of time, and the people in front of us decided to argue with the security personnel about what they had to remove from their bags. Finally through, we sprinted to our gate and between gasping breaths asked whether our flight was still boarding. It was not. We missed it.
Dread set in. While the rest of our group had made it, we were stuck in a foreign airport with no flight and no international phone plan. We were on our own. The worker at the gate could not help us book another flight and instead directed us to the Lufthansa help desk, who also could not help us because of a technicality and instead directed us to the United help desk which was outside of security. Thankfully, they were able to help and arranged for us to get on a later flight to Verona.
After once again going through security and finding the new gate, we could finally sit down and let out a sigh of relief. And yet, a part of me remained worried. After all, if this whole mess could happen within less than 24 hours since I’d left the US, how much more could go wrong in the upcoming six weeks? My confidence faltered for a moment before bolstering again. Perhaps more things would end up going wrong on the trip, but so what? I got through and handled this, and when the next issue comes, I will get through and handle that too.
Now, whenever I’m faced with challenges and unpleasant surprises, I think about my study abroad experience. I think about rebooking a flight in foreign country, about using a combination of charades and offline Google Translate to buy bus tickets, about navigating the maze of canals and alleys of Venice with nothing but a buggy, downloaded map. And I realize: there really is nothing that can bring me down.
-Anna Evers, Non-affiliated Program in Italy, Summer 2019