I’d like to think I’ve learned a few solid lessons throughout my life. Don’t sit on top of an air-conditioning vent with your phone in your back pocket. Don’t put your wallet on top of the car while gassing it, promptly forget, and drive away. Don’t put lip balm through the dryer. You get the idea. Life’s about making mistakes, but only if you’re able to learn from them, and I’ve discovered that I seem to repeatedly attract disaster as I awkwardly fumble through this life. Allow me to elaborate: here is the story of how I got to Freiburg.
My journey began once my mother dropped me off at Newark airport Friday afternoon. I was supposed to fly from Newark to London to catch a connecting flight to Stuttgart, where I’d spend the night with family friends, before finally heading to Freiburg. I checked in, managed to get through security without setting off any alarms or forgetting something in the bins, and settled in with a book at my gate, ignoring the ever-growing knot in my stomach. The plane ride went smoother than I expected, save for a few bumps here and there. My body begged for sleep, but the anticipation for the next four months wouldn’t let me, and the limited legroom meant that some limb was bound to fall asleep once I found a position I could sit in. Luckily, I landed in one piece and geared myself up to run to catch my connecting flight. I slugged through the crowds, following bright purple signs that led me to security, and after handing the woman my ticket and my passport, she squinted at it, paused, and apologetically told me the flight had just closed. I’d missed it by minutes. She directed me to the booking agents to whom I ambled over, where I’m told the good news is that I have a window seat on the next flight; the bad is that it’s in nine hours. Upon settling in a chair I'd soon become very acquainted with, I reached out to friends and family, hoping to pass at least part of the time chatting with them, but I’d forgotten that the time difference meant they were fast asleep. The next nine hours felt as slow as time had ever felt. My grand plan was to stay awake for as long as possible in an attempt to fend off the inevitable jet lag, but once I collapsed into my chair for the seventh time after wandering around aimlessly, I gave into sleep. Now here’s where the story gets interesting.
After what felt like three lifetimes, they finally announced my gate, and I was on my merry way. Reaching into my pocket, my hand found it empty, and with a horrible twist in my stomach, I realized my wallet was gone. With exactly 15 minutes until boarding, I sprinted back up the stairs, retracing every step, revisiting every store and bathroom stall I’d been in. Nothing. I gave security my information, wishing with all of my might that I’d dropped it somewhere and some compassionate stranger would turn it in. I spent the next hour-and-a-half flight wracking my brain, trying to think how I could’ve possibly lost something so necessary. At least I had my passport, but now I had no money. I admonished myself for being so negligent. Why wasn’t I keeping close track of it? Why didn’t I take the safe route and just zipper it up in my bag while I sat and waited? Could someone have swiped it from me while I dozed? Once I landed in Stuttgart, I was able to nab some wifi and texted my parents that I’d gotten there okay but was now penniless (read: “your daughter just arrived in a foreign country with absolutely no money to her name!”). Then, I saw the tiny red number one on my phone, indicating a new email. Security from Heathrow had contacted me, letting me know they’d found my wallet minutes after my flight had taken off. They’d be able to send it, but it could take up to two weeks. The rush of relief was immense. I counted my lucky stars, feeling unbelievably fortunate that not only had they found it, but they also were willing to send it to me. I was preparing to plunge myself into a new world of new people, and the thought of blindly navigating myself was daunting. I’d been falling at the speed of light, but that email scooped me out of the air before I hit the ground. I was going to be okay. The incredible generosity of my family friends guaranteed me funds until I’d get my wallet back.
I recognize the tale of losing a wallet en route is neither an anomaly nor the most devastating thing that could happen. Everyone I spoke to reminded me I had my health and a roof over my head, and I need to keep my privilege in check. The point of this whole story is to show that no matter what, things will happen that will completely derail you, and it seems as though nothing will go right. But, it’s going to be okay. I want to think I’m more than just an idealist, but if you reach out, people are always going to take care of you. Once I actually got to Freiburg and met the (utterly awesome) people on my program, they were buying me lunch and offering to get me school supplies the first day, and I was incredibly humbled. I walked away from this experience moved by people’s willingness to help, but also with the lesson learned that you really need to put the stupid wallet away.
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<p>Hi! My name is Manuela Tauscher, an environmental studies major always on the hunt for good food and good friends. When I'm not outside, you can find me curled up with my cat, sleeping in, or cooking. Follow my travels as I study abroad in Freiburg, Germany, the Jewel of the Black Forest!</p>