Tales of a Seasoned Traveler

Something is going on in Greece?

Today’s guest author is Rachel Cowan Jacobs, Associate Director of Admissions and coordinator of our International Admissions and Recruiting efforts. Rachel guest authored back in November 2009 with an entry dedicated to international applicants: So you are an International Student applying to JHU … read this! and also in March 2009 when she shared her Top 10 Things to do in Baltimore on a Freshman’s Budget. Today Rachel shares some tales of her fall travels both in the South and abroad.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I hit the road September 10, 2011; my first recruiting trip since November 2009.  I didn’t feel rusty but was mindful not to assume anything. Things were different though:

  • I experienced my first full-body X-ray machine at the airport (I hadn’t flown in 14 months either) and had a brief “ah ha, so this is what the fuss is all about” moment.
  • I had a moment of confusion when I approached the rental car center at the Atlanta airport. I didn’t remember having taken a train to the center the last time I was in Atlanta in September 2009.
  • Two of the schools I went to for college fairs had us set up or served us a meal in a completely new or renovated buildings.

Some brief moments of confusion as I took in these new surroundings, but the many changes were exciting!  Alas, what did not change was the pleasure in meeting so many interesting and friendly students (and parents) at my college fairs and Explore Hopkins presentation.  The theme of my first trip was surely that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  (I do have a celebrity story too, in that I chit chatted with Mark Turgeon, basketball coach of University of Maryland, in the Atlanta airport.)

The amazing food on the road never changes.
The amazing food on the road never changes.

My two cents on a two-year absence from international travel.
Scanners at the United Airlines counter at Dulles International Airport made check-in for my morning flight to London Heathrow ridiculously fast. (Yay, United, for adding a morning flight to the UK.)  No need to even speak to a ticket agent.  I just scanned my passport myself and waited about five seconds for my boarding pass to pop-out.  Wow, so fast. With this new technology (at least, it’s new to me), is it really necessary to get to the airport two hours before an international flight?  I was practically the only person checking in at the counter.  Even the security line was pretty short (boy did Dulles improve its reputation exponentially when it moved its security line downstairs).  Maybe the other passengers were savvier than I in this regard and managed to sleep in later.  The train at Dulles to reach terminal C was very spiffy and fast. So far, my experience at Dulles made me think it has become a first-class international airport now. (If only its new Metro station were going to be underground.) But then, I got to terminal C and saw it is the same old sad Dulles in terms of décor, food, and shops.  In London, I was greeted by closed subway lines due to track work – something familiar at last!  I couldn’t help but notice the growth of American influences: TK Maxx is not a typo.

One of my stops: City School of London
One of my stops: City School of London

This 12-day, three-country trip was almost perfect in every logistical way: I made it to my school visits on time, no taxi driver tried to take me for a ride, and my iPad did not fail me.  But, I did fall victim to the Greek debt crisis because I was scheduled to fly from Athens to Thessaloniki on October 5, the one day that week that the airports would be closed due to air traffic controllers striking (as well as many other government entities and employees).

Something is going on in Greece?
Something is going on in Greece?

Thank goodness for my travel agent who easily changed my ticket to October 6 when my flight was officially cancelled two days before departure.  Greece was very considerate in that way, I must say.  How lucky I am that I just happened to have used a travel agent for this trip because I usually buy all the tickets myself. Phew!!!

On the road again.
Two days after returning from Europe, I was on a plane to Florida, having had just enough time to unpack, do some laundry, and repack.  No snafus for me on that five-day trip either.  And what lies ahead next week is a trip where I will visit six countries new to me.

Oh, the life of an international admissions officer!

One of the true benefits of international travel ... getting to see history.
One of the true benefits of international travel ... getting to see history.