Having traveled internationally more than once and having had my share of interesting experiences while travelling, the beginning of my travels to Scotland began a bit rocky and challenged my travel experience. I decided to depart approximately a week before the program start date in order to insure that I’d arrive in Scotland on time. My mom, who has never left the country, and I decided to travel to Europe for the holidays. My flight was cancelled/delayed for about 5 hours. That was okay because I found out about it before leaving for the airport; unfortunately, the new route had a layover of 23 hours in Russia. I’ve done long layovers before but I really didn’t want to do that; especially because the 23-hour layover would be on Christmas day. Airports are not a conventional Christmas destination and also not particularly fun. Go figure. Upon arriving at the airport, I asked about our airline rerouting us onto the quickest flight to my destination, or at least something that didn’t have me stranded at an airport. Luckily, they found something that would have a short layover and have us arriving on Christmas day. We arrive at the airport to check in with our rerouted airline… who then tells us they do not have a ticket under our names. Of course, I begin to panic because the original cancelled flight had departed hours before. Neither our original airline or our new airline knew who we were supposed to fly with. Thankfully, everything was eventually situated, although we are still not quite sure what happened. All that mattered was that it was fixed.

After the holidays, I flew to Scotland and arrived at 1am, exhausted from travelling. The flight attendants began passing around visa forms that needed to be filled out before arriving at the visa stations. After exiting the plane, I rushed to the front of the line. My nice, warm hotel bed was calling my name. I got to the passport control officer, handed all the documents to him. He then asked, “Where’s your acceptance letter from the university?”. I pointed to the document I printed out and he said, “No, that isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t have the start and end dates of your semester program.” I then apologized because I didn’t realize it had to have the dates. He proceeded to tell me that all the other documents I had brought to him didn’t matter. I was thoroughly confused and starting to worry; what happens when you fly to a country and they don’t let you in?? Luckily, I didn’t have to find out. He let me through with a warning and my visa for Scotland perfectly stamped into my passport. I have been preparing for this trip for months. Prior to Scotland, I was studying abroad in Senegal. I thought I knew what to expect and all the things I needed for a smooth arrival. But, even in my plethora of lists, I still wasn’t fully prepared. Travelling is a finicky trickster, and it’s necessary to be flexible throughout the journey. Eventually, everything works out.

Traveling can be a scary thing, but it can also create the most interesting stories that tests your patience and flexibility. This may be a stretch, but the traveling to point A to B really adds to your character and teaches you a lot about yourself and interactions with other people. Although going to the airport and flying internationally can be stressful, I always look back at the downside and find that all the stress and worry I possessed at that moment turned out okay, sometimes even wonderfully.

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinbugh, Scotland, in Spring 2018: