I made it!
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 19, 2014..
by: Erin Kelligher, Dublin Intern
As a relatively new traveler, the thought of flying alone internationally was just another obstacle I had to overcome to live in Limerick, Ireland for four months, first with a weekend detour in Dublin. Family and friends asked if I was nervous, which I was, but I would typically respond that if I worried about everything there was to worry about I would never do it. I continually set my growing fears to the back of my head, but they rapidly resurfaced as soon as I made my goodbyes and set off through airport security alone. To my relief, there are a lot more student travelers in late August and early September than I expected so it wasn’t hard to find people in similar situations as me, leaving home for four months without knowing anyone, albeit with similar terrified looks we couldn’t wipe from our faces if we tried. Leaving home alone is intimidating, but you are not alone for long.
Try to meet people at your gate, on your flight, your seatmates if you can, within limits; we’ve all had the Chatty Kathy seatmates who just won’t quit or contrary the seatmate who pretends you aren’t there despite your common courtesy small talk. It’s amazing whom you have the opportunity to meet even if you just introduce yourself, have a quick chat, and then immediately plug into whatever device you’re going to binge watch Breaking Bad on for six hours straight. Many of the international students I met at my university have a friend they still hang out with because they met on the plane here, so take that extra step and be the extravert, even just for a little while.
If you get lost: on my connection, there was no gate written on my boarding pass and I was in a huge airport in a foreign country. Petrifying. I initially walked circles around the place because I was too proud or stubborn to ask. Just ask. You aren’t expected to know everything all the time, and people are very likely to be sympathetic and helpful. When you get to your gate, or ‘I think this is my gate,’ I ended up talking to an older gentleman from Illinois who was touring Ireland for two weeks. When I sat down near him, granted nearly perspiring and completely overwhelmed, he turned and asked me, “Headed to Dublin?” I can assure my reaction was similar to that of a lottery winner to find I was in the right place.
If you’re not so much into talking to strangers, go with the flow. I have adopted a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude or a “best-self” persona who I become when I don’t know what I’m doing; it generally applies to life but is very helpful for traveling. Pretending like you’ve flown a million times can actually get you pretty far until you find baggage or your gate. Or you can casually follow behind someone. My seatmate on my international flight was a girl about my age who was traveling with her dad. Though we didn’t get to know each other a whole lot except over a cold, minimalist airplane breakfast due to flying overnight, I was lost and overcome (and sleepy) once I reached my destination so I kept an eye on where they were going in a totally nonchalant and non-creepy way and ended up where I needed to be. Eventually, they waved, and I exited to start my journey. I made it.
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