My Study Abroad Experience: Chapter 1 – How Amy Poehler Saved Me

In 2016, I studied abroad. Truthfully, I was in a rush. In high-school, I missed out on the Spanish trip offered by Señora Chichester. The trip was a rarity in my small Northern-New York central school. (I graduated in a class of 44 students.) I was impatient to see the world – but my Mom assured me I would get the chance to see it once I got to college.

So there I was – at the first interest meeting to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain the Summer of 2016. I was a freshman.

The first meeting was in February. Information was handed out by none other than Dr. Alva Cellini, one of our instructors for the courses we were about to take while abroad and a vital character in this story. I can not say enough about Dr. Cellini. She has a certain zest for life that’s contagious and an earnest aim to educate with compassion and poise while puncturing (and oftentimes confusing) us with her sarcasm. Cellini is Italian and if you heard her speak, you’d know it. While we all grew to love and understand Dr. Cellini, I’ll have to admit, she was a bit of a hard-ass at first. She needed the passports, the deposits, and the enthusiasm – and she needed them NOW.

We were all assigned a Spanish city or region to give presentations on (I was assigned Toledo) and at the following meetings, each of us presented to the group. Each meeting the group grew, but really, I knew no one. I did recognize one girl, though. So, naturally, I approached her while shit-faced at a party one weekend. Molly still tells the story of how I came up to her and frantically asked her to be my roommate. “Yeah, that’s how we met,” she goes, Bambi eyes wide. I can hear her saying it.

Classes ended and I went home to prepare for the trip. I had two weeks to gather everything I needed and to mentally prepare.

We were responsible for finding our own flight – the end destination being Madrid, Spain where we would all meet up in the airport. I, OF COURSE, had the worst flying experience of my life.

I am not a nervous flyer by any means. I love to fly. In fact, if I have a window seat, I look out of the window the whole flight. I love flying. It wasn’t the actual flying that got me rattled.

I’ll start from the beginning. I was flying out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. My uncle and his girlfriend live in Montreal, so my Dad and I went up a day before my flight to spend time with them. We walked through beautiful Old Montreal and had a delicious meal at The Keg Steakhouse + Bar. Next thing you know, my uncle’s girlfriend is dragging us out for drinks and we get back to their apartment pretty late. My flight is at 10:00AM the next morning.

I wake up, have everything prepared, and we’re on our way to the airport. I say goodbye to my Dad. Almost cry. But I have to stay strong. Because… I’m hungover. And crying will make it worse.

My flight to JFK in New York wasn’t awful – but it really was not pleasant. I was still recovering and it was an uncomfortable hour in the air. Once I arrived at JFK, I got some food in my system and calmed down a little. I found my gate and patiently waited – and I found a friend! Another girl going on the trip was on the same flight. What a relief. We waited and chatted.

She boarded. I was waiting in line. I went up with my passport and ticket – and my ticket didn’t scan. Apparently, it said that I had canceled the flight. While this is happening, people are zooming by me to board the flight while I wait for someone to tell me something. I’m sweating from nervousness, my face is beat red, and I’m practically in tears. I wanted so badly to cry. The baggage assistant is reassuring me and he’s really the only one who seems to notice that I am about to freak out – or the only one who cares.

Finally, everyone is boarded. I explain my situation. I need to get on this flight. I need to. Fortunately, there’s one seat left. In the back middle of the giant 300-person plane – right next to a couple with a 6-month-old baby, and you guessed it! Right next to the bathroom. GRRrreaaat. I did cry a little.

Our flight from JFK to Madrid was 7 and a half hours long. After that ordeal, there was no way I could sleep. My adrenaline was through the roof and it was freezing. However scary, though, I just have to tell myself that I survived and I could take care of myself. God bless the people who got me on that plane. I can’t even imagine what kind of shape I’d be in if I had to fly the next day.

Luckily, I had a book with me. I bought it in the airport and it was by one of my favorite people on earth, Amy Poehler. Funny enough, there’s a section in “Yes Please” titled

Reasons We Cry on an Airplane:

  1. We are a little drunk.
  2. We are a little scared.
  3. We feel lonely, which is different than being alone.
  4. We are missing someone or have just left someone.
  5. We are headed toward our family and can’t stand our cousins.
  6. We feel like time is suspended and therefore we can feel real emotion without consequence.
  7. We look out the windows and see the sky and are reminded how amazing it is to get in a giant steel bird and not have to die on the trail like our forefathers.
  8. We have just watched a movie. ANY MOVIE. Recent movies I have cried to include 21 Jump Street, That’s My Boy, The Taking of Pelham 123 and Jackass 2.
  9. The pressure.
  10. The pressure! (different)

I love her and this made me laugh on one of the worst days of my young adult life! Really, stuff like this is funny to me now, but at the time it was traumatic. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Laugh it off and keep going. Trust me, there will be a few more horrific incidents like this one in the next few chapters. For now, let this one sit with you – and maybe read Amy’s book while you’re at it.




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