By Lauren Cherry, Special to The Carolinian
Published in print Mar. 4, 2015
I don’t think I’ve fully realized that I’m in France yet. I know that I took a flight from Charlotte to Philadelphia, and from there to Paris but it still hits me at random times. It shouldn’t be that hard for me to understand that I’m here seeing as how I do have to speak some amount of French every day but for some reason I think it’ll hit me harder on the way back like the first time that I accidentally order my food in French instead of English. I guess that means I’m feeling pretty integrated into the culture. I definitely realize that whenever I eat the bread. Oh là là, the bread!
I had my first ‘OMG I’m in another country’ freak-out moment the day of my arrival. When I arrived to Rennes, France I had to buy a metro ticket to get to my dorm. My travel buddy and I saw a card slot in the ticket machine and just assumed we could use our American Visa cards–wrong.
Her card got stuck in the machine and then decided it was out of order. While my friend was freaking out, I remained calm and went to find help. I ran into two security guards who I assumed spoke English–wrong again.
I was beyond exhausted from having traveled all day, but I still managed explain our situation in French after not speaking the language over winter break. They kindly explained to us that the metro ticket machines only accepted French bank-cards (with the chip) or cash, and then managed to yank the card from the machine and point us to a cash-only machine. It’s a good thing we had cash.
Here’s another lesson I learned while traveling, set multiple alarms! So here’s the story on that.
My friends and I had almost two weeks to kill before classes started so we decided to split a week between London and Dublin.
After spending three nights in London, we had to catch our next flight to Dublin at 10 a.m. So one out of three girls set an alarm for 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., neither of which I recall hearing. After waking up late, we ended up not leaving the hostel until almost 9 a.m. and arrived at the check in desk at exactly 10 a.m., apparently too late to catch our flight.
‘Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to pay a small fee to switch our flight over’, I thought, which was also wrong. We had to pay 110 British pounds for the next flight, 20 £ more than we had paid for our missed flight, and about $169 in US dollars. It still hurts.
Aside from setting alarms to wake up in time, just be realistic about what hour you’re willing to be awake and functioning enough to travel. Our issue could have easily been prevented if we had just purchased the later flight from the start.
But I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not having the time of my life, because I absolutely am. I took some killer selfies featuring Big Ben, a telephone booth and an amazingly realistic wax statue of David Beckham in London. I also tried whiskey for the first time at the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin, Ireland.
My advice for traveling to other places during your time abroad would be to give yourself time to really take in your surroundings.
My five-day trip to London and Dublin was cool, but the cities deserved at least a week on their own to really see them. For my two-week Spring break, I think I’m going to spend one week in Italy and one week in Spain.