I've been wanting to make this post since I first arrived in Salamanca, but I wasn't sure how to tell the story in the way I want to. Obviously, this happened a while ago, but I would like to tell the story of how I arrived in Salamanca. As I mentioned in my first blog post, before this, I had never flown alone before, so I was more than a bit nervous. With 3 different flights (alone) and a bus ride (at least this would be with the rest of my IES Abroad program), I was ready for 17 hours of stress.
However, once I got to the airport I was feeling a lot more confident. By the time I landed in Boston after my first flight, my nerves were gone and I spent my 6-hour layover in peace, and even reached out to another girl in my program who was going to be on my third flight--from Lisbon to Madrid.
And then the flight from Boston left later than anticipated. This was where things started to go awry. Seeing as I only had about an hour and 30 minutes to get off my flight and to the gate for my next, I was starting to get worried again. I'm also a horrible navigator, and was sure I'd get lost trying to find my gate. Trying to relax, I double-checked with my new friend where we were going to meet, settled down under my cheaply-made airport blanket, and tried to get at least a little bit of sleep. When we finally landed, the stress was back in full force. It seemed as if everyone was moving in slow motion when I had an hour before my next flight and wasn't even off the plane yet. Luckily, I met up with the girl from my program soon after I got off, and we speedwalked towards where we were supposed to go, following signs down long empty hallways where the click of my suitcase wheels seemed to echo louder than realistically possible. After what seemed like forever, we turned a corner and came face-to-face with absolute chaos.
It seemed that every plane in the airport had landed at the same time. Throngs of people filed into misshapen lines waiting for one thing or another, and we somehow stumbled into the line for passport checks. Our luck seemed to shift when we were pulled to the front, but our hope was short-lived as we rounded the corner to see, impressively, an even bigger crowd waiting to go through security. Maybe it was because I had barely slept, but I felt every sound pierce my eardrums. Babies crying, airport staff trying to create order, and people speaking in every language I could imagine. I felt helpless, knowing that I would miss my flight and there was nothing I could do about it. Passengers en route to certain cities were pulled to the front of the line, but despite our pleas to the security guard and his reassurance that we would make it on time, Madrid was never called. We were eventually told we would have to reschedule our flight and were directed to a somewhat short line leading to 3 sad-looking employees sitting at desks. We stood in that "short" line for an hour and a half, missing not only our original flight but the next Madrid-bound flight out. Eventually, bleary-eyed with 16€ meal vouchers in hand, we sat down at a table in the cafeteria to sleep, eat, and wait out the 6 hours until we could finally leave for Madrid.
However, landing in Madrid brought its own slew of problems. The whole experience, due to sleep-deprivation and stress-induced adrenaline, was a blur for me. Nobody’s phone worked, so we were on our own. We missed the IES bus by a long shot. We needed a new bus. What bus? Where do we get tickets? When does the it leave? Where does it leave from? Needless to say, my friend and I were both glad we had met up with each other so we didn’t have to face this alone. To make a long story short: After asking several employees and running around the airport following contradicting instructions for almost an hour, we finally settled onto a bus to Salamanca, and then a taxi to our homestays, which happened to be a block away from each other. It was raining when I arrived, which seemed fitting. A short elevator ride later and I knocked on my host mom's door for the first time. I had finally made it.
Moral of the story? To anyone worried about having the problems I did: you WILL make it. Everything went wrong, and you know what? It wasn’t so bad. I had never flown alone, bought a bus ticket, ridden in a taxi, or even been in a foreign country without being in a large group at all times. In fact, I have a horrible sense of navigation and sometimes get lost on my OWN college campus. I knew the study abroad experience would present challenges and help me to grow as a person, but I didn’t know it would start right away. Yeah, it was stressful, when everything was all over it really gave me confidence that I could handle whatever was thrown my way. I went to bed that night feeling accomplished (albeit exhausted)—and ready for what the next day would bring.
Thanks for reading!
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<p>Hi, my name is Haley and I'm super excited to be studying in Spain this semester! I've been speaking Spanish since kindergarten, but this is one of the first times I will get to test how good I really am at communicating in a different language... wish me luck! I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis and have only left the US once, so I can only imagine what new and exciting experiences I will have during my time in Salamanca.</p>