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We all knew what we had signed up for when we elected to do the Durham-Durham DukeEngage. About halfway through the program we would have to take a sequence of flights from one Durham to the next and hopefully all arrive together and prepared for the next four weeks. Oh how complicated this would become.

As our travel date neared, a few students began to realize that the time between connections in JFK was only 41 minutes. This is a short window for such a process, but we didn’t worry as we felt this would be just enough time to hop from one plane to the next. As the first half of our program arrived to RDU, luggage checked and phones charged, we were notified of a flight delay of about 45 minutes in length. Immediately, we knew this was a problem as making our connecting flight would no longer even be possible (unless we could get the pilot to fly even faster than planes normally fly) and we had to act quickly so as to not fall too far behind schedule. We all began calling the DukeEngage hotline and travel agency to which we were told to take the next suggested flight by Delta. After opening up the Delta App on our phones and seeing a flight to Atlanta (with a connection to Amsterdam shortly thereafter) six of us pounced on the opportunity to keep our travel schedule as close to anticipated as possible. We headed for the Atlanta gate and hoped for the best.

As the line at the Atlanta counter continued to grow, the estimated time of departure kept inching closer. Boarding passes were printed and plans put in order, we boarded the plane and committed ourselves to going with this. As the plane left the gate and headed for the runway, a long line of planes came into view outside of the cabin windows. After being notified of a 15 minute delay due to the traffic on the runway, the six of us began to look worried as we thought, yet again, a delay would cause us to miss our connecting flight, except this time, we would be in an unfamiliar airport in Atlanta. As we inched closer and closer to takeoff, we continued to do math in our head, making sure it would still be possible to make our next flight once in Atlanta. Our wheels went up and soon came down in Georgia, we had 35 minutes to de-board the plane, gather ourselves, and change terminals to get to our next flight to Amsterdam just before boarding doors were closed.

As the six of us got off the plane, we began to sprint in every which direction. We knew we had to go somewhere quickly, we just weren’t yet sure where. After some assistance from other travelers who knew the airport better, we sprinted to the train that would take us to the next terminal, missed that first train by mere seconds, and then waited patiently as the next one pulled into the stop. Three stops later and a few hundred yards more of sprinting, we arrived at our next gate. Luckily enough for us, the boarding process hadn’t even started yet as the previous flight had taken longer than expected to deboard. As we all composed ourselves and scanned our boarding passes, we caught our breath, stretched our legs, and prepared for the next 8 hour leg of the journey.

This time in Amsterdam we had plenty of time to get from one gate to the next in order to make our connecting flight to MME (Durham Tees Valley). As the departure time grew closer, the gate agents began boarding us onto a bus and headed for the small jet. Once the plane came into sight, the (with an addition of another student in Amsterdam) the six of us became relieved as we knew that our last short leg was now upon us and this nightmare would soon be over. As we pulled to a stop and prepared to get off the bus, the pilot came on and told us that they were experiencing technical difficulties and a crew was on their way to check it out, but they had no idea how long this could take. Realizing that our boarding passes had already been scanned, even though we desperately wanted to, they would not let us off the bus for any reason. As we stood there and got to know our fellow passengers we finally got the all clear from the pilot to board the plane. As I climbed the stairs and took my seat (luckily with an open one next to me) I breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long 20 hours so far with only a couple more to go, but we had done it, we were on our way to Durham, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Now, wait until you hear what happened with our luggage.