I always knew that waving goodbye to my parents for nine months at the airport would be hard and as much as I prepared myself for that moment, a spell of tears felt inevitable. I guess those of us that have had an emotional airport encounter are very lucky to be in a position where we have loved ones that are so hard to be apart from. Whilst I was busy wiping my eyes, my Mum said, ‘No more tears once you’re through there,’ as she gestured to the security entrance, ‘that’s when you get into adventure mode and have the time of your life’. That was my cue to drag my crammed full hand luggage behind me, turn around once more for a final wave, and then for the adventure to begin.
The journey itself was filled with lots of little lovely tales; the security woman who had to search my hand luggage (it really was too full) whose eldest studied abroad in the US and ‘had the time of his life’, the steward on the plane who gave the biggest smile each time he passed after noticing that I was flying alone, the surprisingly not-so-disastrous airplane food, and the sixteen-year-old behind me in the security queue at JFK who, at the end of our discussion, claimed that she was now inspired to looking into studying abroad.
On arrival I had pre-arranged to get on a shuttle bus to take me directly from my terminal to my accommodation, since the idea of trailing my suitcases around a humid and dark New York on a subway system that I wasn’t familiar with wasn’t particularly appealing. What I had not realised was that I was the only person being collected from my terminal for this specific route, and so I clambered on to an already full mini bus to perch in the one vacant seat located in the back corner, greeted my a chorus of ‘hello!’’s from a German school group and an elderly Mexican couple as I got in. I was tired, apprehensive, jet-lagged, and yet that bus trip turned into the most incredible journey.
Just a few minutes after departing the airport we saw signs for the US Open tennis, and although it might not be exciting to everyone, attending all of the Grand Slams has been on my bucket list ever since I can remember. Wow. After a little longer on the road, the far-stretching New York skyline in all its nighttime glory became clearer as we drove towards it. Goosebumps. Before approaching my accommodation the bus stopped to drop off the German group whose hotel was located just a block away from Times Square, and so my view became an abundance of colourful billboards. Wow (again).
Fast forward nearly a month and that feeling is yet to go away. This experience is something pretty special.
(And, for anyone wondering, I did make it to the US Open – twice!)
Katie is studying abroad at Hunter College, New York City on the International Exchange Programme.