Traveling to Derry was quite an adventure, to say the least. Physically getting myself from within the United States past the borders of the UK and finally to my flat in Derry took much longer than was originally expected. The trip from my driveway to the doorway of my apartment took a “wee bit” under 24 hours. I won’t bore you with the extraneous details, but here’s a short recap of my trip:
I arrived at Richmond International Airport with plenty of time to make my first flight out to Newark. See my photo below of New York from the air! There, it took about 45 minutes to find an open gate before we were allowed to exit the plane. So, once I was finally able to get off the plane, I basically sprinted to my next gate, only to find that the flight had been delayed and passengers were not yet boarding.
And then I arrived in London. Here is where all the fun begins. See, Heathrow Airport is separated into different “terminals” which are essentially mini-airports connected only by a 10 minute bus ride. I had 2 hours to get from one terminal to another to catch my final flight to Belfast. Little did I know, transferring terminals requires you to go through customs and security. I made it through and to the ticket counter (to receive my last boarding “card”) with 30 minutes to get to the gate. However, according the the airline rep, my bags hadn’t made it to the airplane yet. I was on time, but my bags were not. Apparently, if your luggage hasn’t made it to the plane, you can’t be checked in. So, I needed to catch the next flight out. Which, conveniently, happened to be 4 hours later. Here’s a picture of London from the air – also pretty impressive!
I finally made it to Belfast (the capital city of Northern Ireland). But, guess what… my 2 bags weren’t with me. How, I must ask, was I checked into the next flight if my bags weren’t on it? This whole story is very contradictory. The baggage claim lady at the Belfast Airport finally told me that because I switched airlines at London (from Continental to Aer Lingus), I should have grabbed my bags at Continental’s luggage carousel and then transport them to the next airline. Who knew?!
Finally, I met a University of Ulster representative at the airport who arranged for some other international students and myself to catch the 2 hour bus ride to Derry. Although exhausted, slightly homesick, and minus 2 bags, I was definitely excited to step into my new room.
Okay, that explanation of my travels was not very brief, but such a lengthy journey deserves a full paragraph or two. I arrived on Monday night. It is now Wednesday afternoon and my bags have been delivered. Other than my baggage debacle, transitioning into this new culture has been quite smooth. I haven’t been to the center of town yet, but I’ve gone to some shops and have taken a few taxis. So far, the Irish people have been extremely nice and helpful. My first week here is all about orientation and getting prepared to register for classes (which will not be as difficult as I originally thought!). Next week all of the Irish students will return to campus, and classes start. There are definitely more adventures to come and I am ready.
Fun Fact #2: Irish people refer to ATM machines as “cash points” or “holes in the wall”. They also call plastic page protectors “poly pockets”.