Even though I am a fairly anxious person, I prefer to do my packing last minute. I feel like the adrenaline rush provided by the idea that I might miss my flight really helps to expedite the otherwise lengthy process.

As a result of my packing philosophy, on the day of my departure, my family anxiously waited as I scrambled to shove several weeks’ worth of clothes and toiletries into a singular carry-on. I can vividly recall my mom’s concerned facial expressions as she watched me sit on my bag so that I could zip the overflowing suitcase shut. Side note: I’d later find out that my efforts were all in vain because the airplane ran out of overhead storage space…

Despite arriving at the airport three hours in advance, as the TSA recommends, after what is best described as a protracted security experience courtesy of DFW, I still barely made it on my flight. Nestled comfortably in my economy class seat, I was excited for the first leg of my flight to Zagreb, Croatia. Unfortunately, just as I had started watching The Shawshank Redemption, the intercom buzzed, informing all of the passengers that, due to thunderstorms, our take-off was delayed for an indeterminate amount of time.

“That’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I have a three-hour layover in Istanbul, and no way it takes that long for the storms to pass!”

…four hours later, the plane finally took off. Safe to say, I missed my layover.

I arrived in Istanbul at 8:00 P.M., an hour after the flight to Zagreb had taken off and eleven hours before the daily 7:00 A.M. flight. Not wanting to navigate the city of Istanbul alone, I decided to spend eleven sleepless hours at the Istanbul international airport, which, despite the sleep deprivation, was actually lovely. 

While I certainly would not recommend an accidental eleven-hour layover to anyone, I actually had a great time in the airport. Downing five lattes during my time there, I would definitely consider myself an expert on Istanbul airport’s cafe scene. 

Even though it sounds like a horror story, the point of my post is not to scare you off of studying abroad but rather to tell you that despite the absurdly rocky start to my journey, I had so much fun (which I’ll detail in later posts) that I’d do it all again. Things can and will go wrong—don’t let that fear deter you from such an eye-opening experience.

As you can see below, based on the views of the Croatian seaside alone, the hectic traveling experience was worth it: