The pandemic has taken a lot. It has taken loved ones, our mental health, our sanity, and much more. Far less on the scale of importance, but still something to note, is travel.
For a year we were stuck. Stuck in our homes, our cities, our states, and our countries. I had a trip to Korea and a semester in Greece planned. When Italy was presented to me as a study abroad option, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop; the announcement saying this too would be canceled. I think I held my breath about this trip until I got off the plane, my feet physically on the ground in Italy, and finally let the weight of the pandemic fall off my shoulders.
With all the pandemic took, I figured studying abroad while in college would be another thing that I would cope with. I chose Arcadia three years ago because I knew, as an International Studies major, I wanted to study abroad as much as I could and see the world. I picked the university that’s nationally ranked for study abroad participation, with international flags hung around campus—then the pandemic hit a week before I was supposed to get on a plane.
This is not a sob story or a cautionary tale, but I do have advice on traveling post-shut down. Before coming to Italy, I had to take a COVID test in order to make it through customs. I reached the airport I was departing from, negative COVID test in hand. I had bags packed and felt ready to go. When I reached the gate, the agent told me my test was a day too late—invalid. Apparently, the test I got 48 hours prior would not count because it had to be 48 hours from landing, not departure. I was landing the next day since it was an overnight flight.
Right then and there, I thought I would have a heart attack. I thought the worst—I would miss my flight, have to have a hundred of dollars extra, miss orientation. I came back to my body and asked if my vaccination card would count. Thankfully, it did! Long story short, have multiple methods of proof that you do not have COVID. I had a negative covid test and my CDC card, and this preparedness got me on my plane.
The EU is very easy to get around. We were warned various times to avoid leaving our country in case other countries went into lockdown. Arcadia thankfully provides a system called International SOS, which updates you on changing COVID conditions in any country you want to search. My roommates and I have used this to our advantage and gone to multiple countries over the last few months. Since we stayed in the EU, the process was simple. All you needed was your CDC card, possibly a passenger locator form, and your passport. When I went to Poland for a weekend, I had a layover in Switzerland and started in Florence. I went through three airports and three countries, and not once did anyone even look at my passport. Going from EU country to EU country is about as easy as going from state to state in America.
The only struggle I knew that anyone faced with travel was going from the UK to the EU. Since Brexit, there are more restrictions from going between EU and UK. It is not difficult, but it certainly isn’t as fast and easy as EU travel. This semester, I have been to Switzerland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovenia and not once did I face an airport hiccup. For reference, I once had a 15-minute layover which had me panicking. In America, a 15-minute layover to go to another country means you’re missing your flight. It is physically impossible to get off the plane, go across the airport, make it through customs, and get on your next flight. In the EU, when I told the flight attendant my concern she shook her head and said 15 minutes was plenty of time, and she was right. I made it to my gate with eight minutes to spare and boarded the plane with no issue.
Don’t get stressed about all the logistics of travel. As long as you come prepared with your passport and other COVID documents, you’ll be fine. COVID has put a wrench in many things over the last two years, don’t let it deter you from traveling during your time abroad. Get those $8 flights to Romania or $10 trains to Slovenia!