Thoughts From the Road – The Airport as a Destination

By: Chelsea K., University Relations Coordinator, API Texas

(former API France/Rome/Syracuse Program Manager, and former API student in Grenoble, France: French Language & Culture Semester Program)

I love airports. Everyone is rushing somewhere, full of mission and purpose. This enclosed space that bustles with a diverse cross section of society that completely contrasts the great expanse of concrete runways and clear airspace outside. Airports are an easy subject for an extended metaphor- people leaving to arrive, opportunities taking flight, dreams powered by the jet engines of determination and perseverance. Instead of dwelling on these, I often find myself imagining our students at the airport– imagining the regional airports with 3 gates and one terminal; the tiny jet that whisks them to the larger city, the frantic flight change, and then the suspended time of a trans-Atlantic flight. I imagine parental words of encouragement, and of caution; hugs from friends and siblings; carry on luggage carefully packed and boarding passes crumpled in fists. I imagine the tapping feet as the plane loads, the intake of breath as the plane leaves the ground, and the eyes searching the clouds. I imagine the whispered good-byes through the windows and the silent personal vows made during that moment when the plane takes flight and suddenly anything is possible.

I spend a lot of time in airports these days. As I traverse the country speaking with interested students, I am invigorated. I remember my heart swelling and my stomach tightening as I paced through the airport to board my Paris-bound plane. This memory ignites a flood of others- falling dominoes of moments that hit each other noisily, filling all of my senses. My decision to put forth the effort to study abroad, to challenge myself daily in another culture has been the best I’ve made yet. I’ve frequently wondered what my life would be like now, without those moments and without the whir of a jet engine, propelling me forward. I imagine it would be quiet- lacking the hustle and bustle of a busy airport, lacking the diversity of other cultures, and ultimately, just grounded.

I look forward to the group of students I meet this week, and the next, and the next- because it is now their time to board the plane, and of course, to take off on a most extraordinary flight.

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