After months of waiting, the adventure finally all began at 3:30 am Wednesday morning. My family awoke to the way too loud alarm clock and after groggily getting put together we set off for the Gulfport airport en route to Europe!
Now would be the proper time to inform you of our Cantrell luck. No matter WHAT there will always be a disaster when the Cantrell’s are travelling, or really doing anything for that matter. So…as always this time was no different disaster #1 occurred when we missed our first flight to Atlanta. And by missed I don’t mean we were late or anything, I mean that my mother works for Delta so we fly free, but on standby and OF COURSE this particular flight decided to be FULL! Apparently the day after Mardi Gras everyone decides to fly…who knew?! Anyhow with that being our only chance at getting to Atlanta from Gulfport, we had to quickly go to plan B. Mama and I decided to drive to Jackson where we the flights to Atlanta were wide open, but we had to move fast!
After a hasty goodbye to my dad and brother, we began the 2.5 hour drive to the home of Millsaps. While it would have certainly been more convenient to just fly out of Gulfport, I liked the idea that I was leaving the city Millsaps is in, it was almost as if Mother Millsaps didn’t want to send me off without seeing her one more time! (cheesy I know but…oh well!)
Alright so…long story short we made it to Atlanta via Jackson, and after a four hour layover, we received our standby tickets for the flight to Zurich, and I only
have three words….FREE FIRST CLASS! Now having been to Europe once before, I can assure you my family NEVER flys first class. This was an experience in and of itself! We were greeted on the plane with orange juice and champagne, down comforters, full size pillows, and headphones that were pretty much Bose! As if this wasn’t enough the lovely flight attendant delivered a menu form which we to choose our entree because of course the first, second, and fourth course were chosen for us!! (I am not kidding a four course meal on an airplane!!!) But wait it doesn’t end there! We sat in seats that by simply pushing the “sleep” button would recline to a position comparable to sleeping in a bed, we had our own personal tvs, we were also given breakfast, and warm towels before each meal!!
(Oh and I guess now would be the part to mention that Mama did indeed travel over with me to get me settled and get an idea of where and with whom I would be living with…I mean its a free flight so can you blame her?!)
After a divine flight we landed in Zurich very much rested, and began the 3 hour wait near baggage claim for Jennifer’s flight to arrive. There aren’t exactly seats in the baggage claim area so we located ourselves near the money exchange counter, and I am sure they thought “What are those sketchy Americans doing sitting there so long” but we didn’t have a way to tell Jennifer where we were so there we sat!
Jennifer finally arrived around 11 am (keep in mind we are now 7 hours ahead of ya’ll at home) and with our 11 bags (total) we set off for the train station. We had been given directions to take a train from Zurich to St. Gallen (a small Swiss town) switch trains to Buchs and then a bus to the University stop. Well we had interpreted these directions as the school being a hop skip and a jump away…it wasn’t. The total journey took us a little over 3 hours and was certainly a learning experience. I don’t know if you have ever tried, but lugging 6 bags (ALL of which are 50 lbs or more) on and off 2 trains and a bus in less than 3 minutes is no easy task.
As if this ridiculous amount of strenuous activity were not enough, when we finally arrived at the University’s bus stop we were greeted with an entirely new challenge…the hill. Of course when we first arrived we had no actual idea where we were actually supposed to go so we had not yet noticed the hill. After two empty stores we finally found a woman on the street that gave us some vague directions to the University which is when we first took note of the hill.
Now this wasn’t some Mississippi hill that you can see while driving Highway 49. No, this was a hill that was stealthy and one only really noticed how much of a hill it was once walking up it. About ¼ of the way to the top Jennifer was the first to give. Suggesting the idea that it was an impossible feat, and we try another option. Mama and I insisted that we could do it, and we just had to reach the “white house” (which the lady had pointed to turn at) that was only half way up. Well, we reached this “white house” and it was not in fact where we needed to turn. The correct turn was at the top of the hill which at this point we were not reaching anytime soon!
Mama and I finally admitted defeat and Jennifer ran off while we watched the bags in search of the University and people who could offer help. She returned a few minutes later with the cavalry of buddy students eager to meet the Americans whose bags were too heavy to carry up the hill! Each person grabbed a bag, and embarrassingly enough we FINALLY made it to the dormitory.
I have never met such friendly welcoming people, and after the fitful travels from the airport this was exactly what we all needed. They were so interested in our arrival and offered to help in any way they could and it became a world wind of signing paperwork and unloading backs to make ourselves comfortable. The rooms here are quite interesting, and very mod and organized.
We discovered there was a chart for each student’s refrigerator space, pantry space, and bathroom. The window blinds were an adventure to discover how to work, and there were only three clothes hangers….three. For those that now me three hangers is literally a joke. I mean three clothes hangers wouldn’t even fit all of my cardigans! (and no judging I buy everything on sale!) We added clothes hangers to our grocery list for the next day along with food (which at this point we were starving!), laundry detergent, soap, and more essentials. (I will detail our grocery shopping adventures in a later post.)
Dinnertime was around 7:00 pm, or 19:00 as I will soon learn to tell time, and this was our first opportunity to meet some of the fellow international students. There are students here from Ireland, Latvia, Slovenia, Egypt, Tawain, Poland, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, and those are only the ones that we have met thus far! And they had ALL already heard about us before we had met them. Apparently word got around that we were the American girls with all the really heavy bags that had to get help on the hill…good first impression eh?
Anyhow dinner and introductions was over potato soup and followed by much-needed sleep for Jennifer, Mama, and myself. Yesterday was the day for grocery shopping, but since I am running late for our first Liechtensteina (as I was told you call those that live in Liechtenstein) barbecue I will have to save that for later!
Here is my soppy bit about missing home and my family and friends and especially Millsaps. Up until I actually got to the Atlanta airport, I guess I hadn’t actually thought about the fact that I was leaving everything I had ever known behind. Things aren’t incredibly different here, but not speaking a word of German certainly doesn’t help! I will be having the time of my life and of course will keep you up to date, but I can predict in a few months when I return there really will be “No place like home.”