Photos taken by Madison Russell
Part 1 to my time studying abroad and arriving in Ireland
I have been preparing to jet off to Cork for the better part of a year, yet somehow it still doesn’t seem real. I have been checking and triple–checking all of my documents, printing doubles and completing far too many to-do lists–but before I left, a gnawing fear crept into my bones almost as if I were mere seconds away from having all of my diligent work taken away from me.
But–I soon got on the plane.
Something to know about me is this: I hate flying. Like really hate flying. If there is one surefire way to give Madison a devastating panic attack, it's by putting her on a plane. So, boarding this 8.5 transatlantic flight to London, after which I would have to board another plane to reach my final destination, was an experience I was not looking forward to.
But–I got on the plane.
Luckily, I had a window seat and somehow, I experienced something wholly new to me, something I have never done before: I fell asleep on the plane. Making 8 hours feel more like eight minutes!
In London, local time was 12 p.m. and the sun was shining high, seemingly smug to how harshly its rays permeated my eyes. Heathrow is ginormous, more akin to a city than an airport and walking to my departure terminal would take about a half of an hour.
But it was in Heathrow security that the real fun would begin.
I need you to imagine yourself, dear reader, incredibly groggy, horribly hungover (allegedly) and extremely stressed, all in a country you’d only ever seen through a screen. Add some fear about missing your connecting flight and you can picture the state I found myself in as I headed to security.
It was loud, made even more shocking by the fact that the rest of the airport was calmly quiet. I stepped into line and began the familiar routine of entering an airport in a post 9-11 world. So far, incredibly normal, the normalcy that made apathy at a situation easy.
Once I reached the end of the “que” only a few of my bags had made it through. One was being held by a frazzled englishwoman, struggling to call her supervisor over to whatever situation had unraveled. They dragged a different security device over my suitcase which began to beep incessantly.
I racked my brain: did I accidentally pack cocaine, a gun or did I actually have a bomb?
Of course, all of these scenarios seem ludicrous now, but I had no idea what was causing my bag, of all of the others, to cause so many problems. Finally, a more senior agent approached; he explained (in a thick British accent) that an item in my bag had consistently tested positive for dynamite.
My 1983 Polaroid 600 proved to be the culprit, which confused me, as I knew for sure that I hadn’t added any dynamite inside. I was sure there were only seconds until a group of burly British security officers tackled me to the ground and into custody. Flashes of “Locked up Abroad” played in my head and I expected a long sentence, damp cells and an infestation of rats inside a British prison–perhaps even the tower.
But, my terror did not last for much longer and after two more full body pat-downs and accusing inquiries, my time as a detainee of the British government became no more than a source of pride to brag about to my Irish relatives.
The second flight and subsequent taxi ride were made boring by extreme jet lag and soon all I could think about was sleeping and eating.
The rest of the week I had no obligations, leading to lots of meandering and wandering around my new home. A highlight was trying fish and chips for the first time, and while I still prefer chicken (I am from Nashville, TN after all, I was pleasantly surprised by the food.
So, here I am now, settled in and enjoying the beautiful Emerald Isle; the pints and the company is fun, and even the air itself is refreshing. I feel as if I’ve been here for months, not simply a week and as cheesy as it is, I cannot wait to discover what more Ireland has to offer.