Meeting over one hundred people, living in an entirely new country, speaking little to no Italian, and having three new roommates were the least of my worries when it came to studying abroad in Italy. When I was getting ready to leave the US, the part of my semester abroad that rattled my brain the most was navigating the airport on my own. I wish someone would have just sat me down and helped me through the entire process, so here is my attempt of doing that for you. I would like to present to you the do’s and don’ts of airports:
DON’T: Wing it
DO: Know the order of what you have to do at the airport
- Check in: Check in around three hours early. During check in, you will need your passport to be easily accessible. Your main luggage will be weighed, and then they will take it from you to put it on the plane. They will then give you your boarding passes, be sure not to lose them!
- Security: This step can take a while depending on how long the line is at that point in time. In the US, you will need to take your shoes off and put them in a bin. Then go through your carry-ons and get out any big pieces of technology and your bag of liquids and then put them in the bins.
- Special note: Put your laptop in a separate bin from everything else (I learned that the hard way)
- Find your Gate: In most airports, the gate number is on your boarding pass; however, in some airports, you need to check your gate number on a sign that lists all of the flights. Once you find your gate, you can relax, shop around the terminal, or grab a bite to eat.
Don’t: Be Shy.
Do: Chat with people
During each aspect of the airport process, I talked to random people around me (And I mean EVERY aspect). Check in? Asked someone if it was their first time going abroad. Security? Bonded with someone because we both were yelled at about not putting our laptops in a separate bin. At my gate? Yup, I talked with a woman for almost three hours about our lives. For me, this is not out of the ordinary. Anyone who knows me understands that I am quite the talker. It did not have to be about anything serious: small talk worked well enough. By talking to other people, I was able to hear a lot of interesting stories, and it helped calm my overwhelming nerves. Many of the people that I met had previous traveling experience and gave me priceless tips and tricks about various countries that I wanted to visit.
Don’t: Be reluctant to seek help
Do: Ask questions
The airport can be extremely daunting and confusing. One way to make it a little less mystifying is to ask people questions. Ask where terminal 5, gate A10 is located. Ask if the bathrooms are to the left or the right. Ask if you need to take out your earrings to go through the metal detector. A lot of frequent travelers will know the answers, but you can also ask someone who works there—they know practically everything about the place.
There are hundreds of do’s and don’ts that I could go over, but I would say that those three would probably be the most helpful. Hopefully they can calm the nerves of all you future travelers!