About Leah S.

I am studying Economics and Political Science at UofL. Currently I am in Lille, France and will be here for a month studying at the Universite Catholique de Lille. This blog is here to serve as a weekly account of my travels and adventures in France, as well as the rest of Europe, this summer.

Flying in Europe

This past weekend was the last weekend I would be in Europe. So naturally, my friends and I made plans to travel one last time. This trip was a bit different than any of our other trips because we decided to take a plane. In hindsight, I realize that probably wasn’t the best idea.

We left Friday night for Lisbon, Portugal. We caught a train to the airport and from there waited around for 4 hours due to so many delays. When we finally boarded our plane and were on the way, it was the worst flight I have ever been through. Everyone was loud and screaming and the flight attendants wouldn’t turn the cabin lights off even though it was a 10 pm flight.
Once we finally landed it was already 12:30 in the morning. We decided to take the metro from the airport to our hostel. We had to switch to a different line after about a 20 minute ride on the first line. When we got off the first line to switch to the other we realized the platform was completely empty. Apparently the metros stop running at 1 in the morning and we had gotten to the next platform right at that time. So, we were stuck somewhere in the middle of Lisbon with no way to get to our hostel.
Eventually my friend decided to turn on her cell phone data and call an uber to get us back. We finally made it and everything ended up fine. We spent a lot of time on the beaches and walking through the hilly streets to try and see as much as we could before we had to leave Sunday night.
Sunday rolled around and we made it through security and were waiting at our gate without a care in the world. Until all hell broke lose.
Our flight was delayed about 3 different times until they canceled it all together. We were about to be forced to spend the night in the airport and had no idea how to even book a new flight for the next morning. After many hours of passengers yelling at the airport officials, we were told we would be given a hotel voucher and be rescheduled for a flight the next morning at 7. At the time we were very happy to hear that we would be getting a hotel, however by this point we were going to miss our morning class the next day.
After even more waiting, we were taken to a bus which brought all 90+ passengers to a nearby hotel. By this point it was midnight. Once we got to the hotel and finally checked in, we only had about 3.5 hours to sleep before we had to get up and catch the bus back to the airport for our new flight.
4 am came around and we all crammed back on the bus, even more exhausted and more annoyed. We got to the airport and had to check in but were given no information about where to go or where the new flight would be.
After a lot of misunderstandings with the other Portuguese natives we found out that we had special passes to get through security. However, as if we didn’t have enough problems already, our flight was not assigned a gate number. A large group of us sat/slept in the food court area of the airport waiting for someone to give us information.
7 o’clock rolled around and we were still not given a flight or gate. Finally, at 8 o’clock a new gate number popped up and we all ran there out of pure joy that we might be finally getting home.
We made the flight and got back to Brussels after spending over 12 hours stressing over ridiculous travel arrangements that we had no control over. Apparently our first flight was delayed due to strikes.
After all of this madness, I missed both of my classes on Monday and am still currently sitting in the airport waiting for the train to come and bring us back to our town.
Needless to say, I will not be flying through Europe unless I have to. I think I’ll stick to trains and buses from now on.

Walking around Europe

I’ve been in Europe for only two weeks now and I have never walked so much in my life. We walk to and from school, to the grocery store, to restaurants. Anywhere you could imagine. There is a sufficient public transport system, yet we all decide walking is a better way to explore.

Maybe my surprise is due to the fact that I come from a smaller town and go to school in a relatively small city as well. But before arrival, I was expecting Lille to be a city similar to the size of Louisville. After all, not many people have even heard of Lille, France. You can see my shock when I arrived and realized that this is practically the only city in the northern part of the country and it is the fourth largest in France.

Needless to say, with all of the walking that I have been doing with the friends I have met here has not dismayed us from traveling to other cities and walking around there as well. This week we took a train to Brussels to see all of the sites that everyone talks about. Then, we took another train to Bruges, a small Belgium town that looks like it is straight out of a fairytale book. At the end of the day, the fitness app on my phone had logged 13 miles. That’s 13 miles of walking around cities and seeing things from the beautiful gold trimmed Town Hall in Brussels to the swans swimming through the canals in Bruges.

Everyone studies abroad for different reasons. I’ve realized the main reason I came to Europe was to travel and see more of Europe. I’m very grateful to be able to have this opportunity and to have already walked around such beautiful cities like Brussels, Bruges, Amiens, Roubaix, and of course Lille.

I’m on my way to Paris this morning and will no doubt be doing more walking. Maybe I’ll log another 13 miles.

Living without mobile technology

June 2, 2016

Before I left for France I had decided not to purchase an international cell phone plan and to just live off of the free wifi when available.  I never thought of myself as the kind of person who has her phone attached to her hand permanently so I really didn’t think it would be a problem.

When I arrived in Lille I couldn’t have been more excited to explore the city and meet new people.  As the day progressed and the jet lag really set in I started to panic thinking that this trip would not go as well as planned.

I was in the Brussels airport waiting for the shuttle and had no way to communicate with anyone at home.  All I wanted to do was text my parents and let them know that I had landed safe and sound and, it being my first time abroad, my anxiety started to climb.

Once I finally arrived at my apartment, I was sad to realize that there was no wifi available in my apartment either.  At this point, I was becoming nervous that I would not be able to contact anyone for the entire time I was abroad.  After what seemed like forever I was told that there was wifi available in the lobby of the apartment building.  Glad that I had finally found a way to contact my friends and family, things started looking a lot better.

I developed a system where I only get on my phone once in the morning and once in the evening.  It took some getting used to, not talking to my family or friends all day, but I have come to realize that it is a blessing not having wifi and not being able to be on my phone.  I am forced to truly interact and bond with the other students who came abroad with me and because of this I am realizing that there is so much more time in the day to spend exploring and having fun.

I am very glad and thankful that I can experience as much as I can and not have my eyes glued to my phone screen.  The fact that there is no service has actually inspired me to make better friends and explore/get lost in the city.  I’m even more excited for this month ahead.