Study Abroad Tour: Detroit Airport

February 28, 2011 at 5:13 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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After months of planning, my study abroad experience is finally about to begin. As I begin to write this third entry in my study abroad articles, I’m sitting in a terminal of the Detroit Airport, nervously waiting for my flight to Seoul, the capital of South Korea to arrive.

After numerous failed attempts, I’ve decided that the “Free Public Wi-Fi” hotspot that is available simply isn’t going to comply with my laptop.

I arrived at the Tri-Cities sometime before 10 a.m. on the Feb. 25 with my mother, my brother and my 2-year-old niece. I can’t say I felt scared or nervous, but something was definitely off about me. I was almost having this out-of-body experience.

I felt like I should be acting fine, but something instinctive kicked in and I almost just shut down. It could have been because I didn’t catch a wink of sleep the night before, but I think the truth is that I was realizing what is going to happen.

For almost a year now, I’ve known this study abroad experience could be a reality, but having it inching closer and closer, I began to see two sides to this decision; almost like “optimism” sitting on one shoulder, and “pessimism” sitting on the other.

When fear would take over, I could hear, “What have you gotten yourself into, David? You’re not going to know anyone. You can’t speak Korean. Not everyone speaks English over there – you’re going to be completely lost in translation. You’re leaving a good life behind. Get out of this while you still can!”

The most frightening aspect was that I felt like I was being much more negative than positive – at least at that time.

When hope would kick in, it was a much quieter voice, but it was much easier to listen to. “Come on, David. This is what you wanted. You’ve never been anywhere, and in this one huge trip, you’re going to experience so much of the world. You may have good moments and bad moments, but think of the story you’ll be able to tell.”

I boarded the flight, barely speaking a word to anyone. I wasn’t nervous, but just not knowing what to expect and “diving in” seemed less and less exciting than it once did. I was able to mumble a few words now and then. “Is this where I sit?” “No thanks, I’m not hungry.” “You don’t think this luggage will fit here?”

I slept for what seemed like a few minutes and then I arrived in Detroit around 1:50 p.m., their time. My first priority was getting my luggage back. Forgive me for making what is “normal” to some sound so adventurous, but walking through an airport like Detroit can be pretty crazy for someone who isn’t an airport expert. I blended in pretty well, following the signs to my destination.

I arrived at what I’m perceiving was closer to the “main entrance” of the airport. My checked baggage was supposed to be there, but I didn’t see it at first glance. I wandered mindlessly for a moment, looking and looking. Finally, I saw a large black bag with two lime green stickers in the back of it, a small decoration I had put on to help me identify it. I pulled it off the rotating conveyor-belt as if I was gripping the hand of my best friend who was falling to his death.

I knew my flight to South Korea wouldn’t be until the next day. Thankfully, I had already made a reservation at a hotel inside the airport called The Westin. Without a doubt, it was the most high-class hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I’m not sure what you would call it, but as I came down the escalator into the hotel lobby, I saw this large body of water with pebbles in the center. Slightly to my right was an exquisite restaurant with a fireplace against the wall. I looked up, and there had to be at least five floors, all circling around this center room, with hotel rooms.

I think the woman at the counter was somewhat to surprised to see a 22-year-old college student staying in a place like this, or I at least imagine she would be. Everyone in front of me who was checking had these large personalities, talking about their busy jobs and all the trouble they run into with how much traveling they do. I was sporting a shirt and tie, but next to these ladies and gentlemen, I felt really out of place.

After sleeping in the softest bed of my entire life, I left early the next morning to get through security and wait patiently for my flight – and here I am, typing all this out.

For me, the most amazing part of this trip so far wasn’t seeing the ground descend under me as I looked out of the plane window. It wasn’t getting yelled at by a security guard in front of a crowd of nearly 50 people. It wasn’t staying a hotel fit for high-class lawyers. It’s been seeing all the different kinds of people and personalities I’ve encountered. Some elements of my journey have been not-so-pleasant so far, but it’s all been amazing to experience. I’m proud of myself for how well I’ve done.

I’ll be boarding the plane soon and landing in Seoul sometime around 4 p.m. their time. I’m sure the experience I have there will be something really worth talking about.

Wish me luck!

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