“My fear of flying starts as soon as I buckle myself in and then the guy up front mumbles a few unintelligible words then before I know it I'm thrust into the back of my seat by acceleration that seems way too fast and the rest of the trip is an endless nightmare of turbulence, of near misses. And then the cabbie drops me off at the airport.” ~ Dennis Miller
My seat was in the back of the plane. Only two rows in from of the bathroom. Having both seats helped me get away with my messiness. It also allowed for much comfier napping.
I flew with American Airlines, directly from JFK, New York to Charles de Gaulle, Paris. I believe it cost a bit under $800 for my round trip airfare. I sat towards the back of the plane and it was a great seven hour flight! The plane was emptier than normal and my neighbor didn’t show up so I got two seats to myself.
American Airlines provided a pillow and light blanket for naps as well. They were really helpful in turning the empty chair into a makeshift bed. It was really bright throughout my flight, which was great in allowing me to take a photo without using the flash but horrible for napping. The couple sitting on my left kept their lights on the whole time. The eye mask is a must.
I was near to the bathroom (convenient due to the number of drinks they served) and I remembered to bring my eyemask so I was able to take a solid nap. I also brought snacks because airplane food is never the best. The flight attendants were extremely friendly and I had no problems boarding or getting off of the plane.
The man ahead of me in the line for TSA dressed in an incredible looking suit and I thought to myself, I bet he's on the same flight as me going to the city of fashion. He was!
Because the flight was from New York, everything, from the safety speech to the movies shown, was in English.
Everything in the plane was English, only a few announcements translating the French to English. We had nice weather the whole way and the flight was smooth. There was not much turbulence. The flight was a quiet one.
The reality of being in Paris hadn’t settled in for me quite yet. I was in a “calm before the storm” mood.
The time difference between America and France was really confusing for me on my trip to Paris. The plane took off at 5:10 in the afternoon. About an hour into the flight, they served a snack and a beverage and soon after that, dinner.
American Airlines' dinner consisted of a salad, a roll, some fried rice, chicken, a pack of crackers, some butter, some Swiss cheese, and a pack of dried cranberries. The crackers were my favorite part. Having bread and cheese automatically prepared me for the many French meals to come.
After eating, I took a three hour nap and woke up to the flight attendants serving breakfast.
American Airline's continental breakfast came in a cute box. It included yogurt, granola, the top of an orange cranberry muffin, and a cranberry mix.
When breakfast was cleaned up, I heard the pilot announcing, “Good morning! It is fifteen minutes after five and we will be landing in approximately one hour.” First of all, good morning? At five am? Also, technically, in New York time, it was only eleven at night. Living an entire night in one afternoon boggled my mind. I got off the plane super excited but not completely on guard because of the time difference. My brain wasn’t totally there. This is probably why things started to go wrong.
In my sleepy stupor, I followed the crowd of my fellow flight members around the airport after exiting the plane. We went up and down elevators, through multiple hallways, and a long line to get our passports stamped.
My first passport stamp! It's really tiny. This also reminds me to mention that French dates are date/month/year. It got really confusing when forms would ask me to fill in a date with their example as xx/xx/xxxx because I was never sure which format was needed.
After I got my passport stamped, I went back to shuffling along with the crowd to find the baggage claim area. I somehow followed the wrong crowd and ended up in a different baggage claim area. Even as I stared at the sign saying “Flight: Hong Kong,” I could figure out why I couldn’t recognize anyone in this new crowd and why my bag wasn’t showing up on the luggage belt for the longest time. When I heard a couple sigh, I turned around and felt relieved to see the familiar faces of the couple that sat in the row next to me on the plane. They mumbled about baggage claim and started walking so I followed suit because two heads are better than one, especially the one being my confused one. They stopped at a baggage claim in different room where the signs said “Flight: New York”. Success!
Having both of my suitcases together, in one piece, right next to me was a huge relief. The red stood out and it made baggage claim much easier. Also, both suitcases have hard shells so they survived being tossed around a lot. I could tell that the red checked in bad had been thrown around because it had dents and dirty splotches everywhere when I claimed it.
Lesson: When in doubt, follow the crowd.
Example: In the metro station, if an announcement is made and you have no clue what the conductor mumbled in French, do what the rest of the commuters do. If they ignore it, don’t worry about it. If they leave the subway car, go with them.
Having a red checked in luggage was genius. I spotted it right away and fortunately for me, I got all my luggage rounded up quickly without any problems. (During orientation, I learned that not all of my fellow IES Abroad - BIA classmates were that lucky.)
IES Abroad mailed me a luggage tag and I always travel with my Hawaiian pig tag in case it does get lost or taken by mistake. All of my information is on the tags for the person to locate me and return me bag. I locked the zippers on both of my suitcases so that nothing could be stolen.
After rounding up my luggage, I spotted my college friend, Marvin, who was coming to the program as well and just so happened to be on the same flight as me so I went over to greet him and ask about the flight.
That's Marvin and me! We both attend Babson College which is right outside of Boston. We actually lived in the same dorm during the fall semester before going abroad. What are the odds? He's a junior and I'm a sophomore. He is a fantastic human being.
I had lost him in the midst of exiting the plane because he sat in the middle of the plane whereas I was at the end. He quickly spotted his luggage as well and pulled it off the belt. We then followed the crowd through more hallways looking out for signs that said “sortie” French exit.
Observation: Exit signs in France are green unlike the red exit signs in America.
Paris, here we come!
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<p>Salut! Je m'appelle Gwen. I am a sophomore at Babson College and currently about 11% fluent in French. I hope to remedy that while wining and dining in the beautiful city of Paris. I am majoring in Business with a focus in Marketing. Follow along my stories to experience the ups and downs of studying abroad à Paris!</p>