Hello everyone! It’s been over three months since I returned and I’m finally getting around to my last post. It’s been a busy summer and I’m itching to go exploring somewhere else! But first – back to school. One thing my time abroad has made me realize is that I want to capture pictures of all the places I love and think are beautiful. I don’t have “touristy” pictures of my favorite places on campus, and I’m going to change that this year. Maybe I’ll take a few early morning strolls and try to capture the places I love best.
In writing these posts and looking through pictures, I’m reminded of how much I miss the friends I made abroad and how much I hope we’ll take a reunion trip together someday – even if it’s just meeting up somewhere in the US. One of my first friends from Italy, Rachel, wrote a great blog post about her time abroad. You can find it here. I especially like it because she writes about staying up late talking on Sunday nights – we never went to the same place on the weekends, so when we returned on Sunday nights we’d get together and laugh while we told each other all about the crazy things that happened to us. Sometimes I’ll randomly remember something hilarious that happened and I get a little pang of love and longing for my pals. It was a little rough for me at CIMBA for a while, mostly because I found it hard to make friends at first (too bad there was no band preseason there?) but I’m so thankful that I got to meet some great ladies, even if it means I miss them a lot now that we’re apart!
Now – the eventful day long process of getting home! As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, there was a tube strike during my last three days in London. Without the strike, I would’ve been able to get on the Piccadilly line of the tube at the station near my hostel and ride it all the way to Heathrow. Because of the strike, Piccadilly line wasn’t even operating until Acton Town, so I had to change trains three times. And there were some confusing changes. I took Victoria line from King’s Cross to Victoria, District line to Earl’s Court, a different District branch (almost lost it here because each platform served multiple branches) to Acton Town, and then finally Piccadilly to Heathrow. Luckily, I had a Cadbury Creme Egg from Meghan to keep my energy up on this long journey.
My flight left at 3 pm and I left my camp at Starbucks around 11:30 – thank goodness, too, because all of the confusion and crowding on the tube really extended my journey. I got to Heathrow and picked up and paid for the suitcase I left there the week before (also glad I didn’t have that with me on the tube!) and checked in about fifteen minutes before check-in was supposed to close.
I’ve gone through many security checkpoints in my travels, but I have never experienced a more invasive search than the one I went through at Heathrow. Usually, one of the workers will tell you if you need to take your shoes off, and no one told me I needed to take mine off, so I didn’t. This was my big mistake. The metal detector beeped. A guard came over to feel me up. After making sure the underwire in my bra wasn’t suspicious, she discovered that I left my one ounce of lip vaseline in my pocket – shame on me!! I had to put it through the machine to ensure I wasn’t hiding anything in the little tube.
After that scarring event, I bought some food with my remaining pounds and pence and donated the few coins I was unable to use to a little charity bucket. In my haste to buy food and get to my gate, I was distracted by the promise of jarlsberg cheese in a sandwich and failed to notice that there was no meat in it. This might seem like a minor detail, but it was a very sad moment when I took a bite into it and realized that it was just full of soggy cheese and lettuce.
I chose my seat the day before when I checked in online, but I ended up playing musical chairs with all of the people in my row so that two guys could sit with each other. My original seatmate protested that her new one wasn’t as cute as me, so that made up for the jarlsberg sandwich. This was an Air Canada to Montreal, and the guy who originally asked to switch asked me in French – of course since I was in Italian mode for a few months, I responded with “si.” In the two rows in front of my new seat, there were some adorable babies becoming friends. Their moms were lifting them up so they could see each other. It was so cute.
I landed in Montreal at 5:25 pm. I went to the desk for connecting flights to the US. I said I had a flight to Hartford and the woman at the desk addressed me as Ms. Rogan. I filled out a customs declaration form (not a landing card, like I had to do when I passed through Toronto – weird). I was the first one at the desk from the London flight and I was irrationally proud to win this nonexistent race. A man at the desk escorted me to the security area downstairs.
I went through security (no one in front of or behind me, yes!) and then showed my passport to a worker, who asked me how many bags I had. I took a seat until I saw my name blinking on the screen, which meant that my bags had entered the airport and were on the next step to getting to Hartford. Once my name started blinking, I got in line to go through customs. I talked to the agent about Italy and London, verified a picture of my bags, and went through. The agent said “welcome back” as he waved me through. I was surprised that this happened in Canada and not the US. I thought it would be cool to go through customs and then exit and see my parents.
I got on the wi-fi and chatted with my mom. We were both excited for our impending reunion. I went downstairs to my gate. At this point I was getting very tired since it was basically midnight in London. Boarding was supposed to happen around 7:30. The pilots came in and I’m pretty sure they laughed at me as they passed since I was curled up around my bag on the chairs, trying to sleep. The gate agent told us that the pilots told her to tell us to go to the bathroom before boarding because there weren’t any bathrooms on the plane. When I chose my seat the day before, I knew the plane was small (eighteen seats), but I still wasn’t prepared for how small it was. There were no overhead baggage areas, no flight attendants, and no bathrooms. One of the pilots gave us the safety speech. It was cool because they didn’t close the door/curtain to the cockpit, so I could see the pilots and all the buttons.
I heard a guy talking about how this was only his second time out of the country, and how the first time it was for a band trip in high school. As he continued to tell the woman next to him his life story, I heard him mention college marching band at UConn and Dr. Mills. Obviously, I had to turn around and ask, “You’re a UCMB alum?” and he said he played saxophone from 2002-2004. He was also in the co-ed service sorority that I am a part of. He joined in spring 2002 and I joined in spring 2012. What a small world…
I’m not usually nervous on flights, but this plane was small and it was dark and rainy. I napped as much as I could and was glad when we landed – I darted across the puddles on the tarmac and dashed into the airport. I walked through the mostly empty, quiet terminal and entered arrivals, where I saw my parents. My mom had a “Welcome Home Britt” sign. I hugged her and of course we both got teary-eyed, as I, and I’m sure she, was expecting. I got my bags and we took some pictures. It was so nice to leave the airport in a car and not some form of public transportation.
Acclimating to life at home wasn’t too hard. My post-school travels were nice because they were broken up into three distinct parts: traveling with friends, staying with Meghan, and traveling on my own. By the time I left, I was ready to stop spending money everyday and relax a bit in a comfortable place, with no surprises. Traveling alone is awesome and so exhilarating, but you always have to be aware of what’s around you. (Great post about solo travel by new friend Moorea here.) I also found that the little differences between Europe and America could be exhausting. Do I pay at the table or at the “till” (register)? Do I seat myself or wait to be seated? Is this plastic bag at the grocery store free or will I get yelled at because I didn’t pay ten cents for it? Are there assigned seats in this movie theater or can I sit wherever I want? Is this bread on the table free or are they trying to trick me into paying for something I didn’t order? I guess it’s great that these were the most of my worries!
I still have a few things left to do in order to keep the adventure alive: scrapbook my trip (a winter break undertaking I am greatly looking forward to), printing my blog into book form for my biggest fan (hi Mom), cataloging my souvenirs (the accountant in me), and continuing to journal the random, funny moments that pop into my head. I had an amazing time abroad and I’ve loved writing about it here without worrying that I’m talking too much about “when I was abroad.” Thank you to everyone who read, and especially to those who commented! Ciao e grazie mille!