Sam Gilbert is a journalism junior and Mustang News study abroad columnist.
The best part about studying abroad is learning things about yourself you never knew before. An inevitable change occurs, and suddenly you find yourself becoming more independent, enjoying the little things in life and strengthening skills you lacked prior to this incredible journey.
I can honestly say I’ve grown exponentially these past few months. However, some things never change, and one of those is my inability to use navigation correctly.
Please keep in mind that I got lost in a random city my first day roaming from Madrid to San Sebastian. It would seem logical to make “become less directionally challenged” a priority, but I guess it’s just not in the cards for me.
This past weekend I traveled with animal science junior Brittany Leavitt and journalism junior Emily Kucera to one of the most magical cities: London, England.
I’m not going to lie — I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to explore to a variety of different countries and cities in my time abroad. That being said, I have absolutely no excuse for still not grasping the concept of how to plan accordingly for a trip and how to figure out how an airport works.
Our trio landed in the London Stantsted airport at approximately 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Although this normally wouldn’t be a problem, we planned on staying with our good friend, business junior Scott Heath, who has been studying abroad in London for the past semester in a town called Kingston.
Are we the only ones who didn’t know London is huge and to get from Stansted to Kingston takes approximately an hour and a half?
Are we also the only ones who didn’t know the underground trains close at 1 a.m.?
Long story short, the next few hours of our lives were a blur of rushing from bus to bus, attempting to find WiFi, befriending a nice British lad who felt bad for us and let us use his phone and trudging around in the 2 degree Celsius cold cursing public transportation.
I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we ended up at a hostel that just happened to have three beds left in the entire building. Hallelujah.
Hey, at least we got a good story out of it and it would be smooth sailing from here. Right? Good one.
You would think after three and a half months of traveling the world we would understand the ins and outs of airports and how to get from terminal A to B.
Clearly, we should have taken a class on it beforehand because the story of our endeavor continues.
The good news is the day we finally did meet up with Heath, it was quite possibly one of the most incredible days of my life.
Not only did I get to satisfy my childhood dream of visiting Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾, but I got to experience Starbucks twice in one weekend, drink mulled wine at the Christmas market, visit every tourist stop in the book such as Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the Big Ben and witness the entire city lit up and looking like the North Pole.
If that’s not living the dream, I don’t know what is.
Little did we know, however, Disaster: Stage Two was about to commence.
The morning of our travels started off smoothly. We made it through security, had our Ryanair boarding passes previously printed and stamped and were waiting for our flight to be called over the loudspeaker.
If we had just waited a little longer in the terminal to check where we board, it would have all been fine. Instead, we felt the need to beat the system and travel via metro to the farthest terminal possible where we assumed all Ryanair flights were boarding.
Wrong. So wrong. The only way to describe the scene in front of us was that of a scary movie. Not one person was in the entire terminal except for us and we were literally trapped with no way back to where we came from.
With 15 minutes until our plane began boarding, we suddenly found ourselves running up escalators, running down up-escalators, calling security and being personally delivered by a man on a golf cart to our gate with two minutes to spare.
Hopefully we figure out how to travel correctly by the time we leave, and we don’t miss our international flight like someone we may know by the name of business junior Nick Lench.
See you soon, America!