Rookie Mistakes

I am a planner, truly, like the color-codes my weekly checklist, keeps all my papers in page protectors, laminates a copy of my passport and insurance card and keeps them with me at all times type. The great paradox, though, is that I am also the world’s worst procrastinator. I think there’s something about the pressure that comes with having a deadline written (in its respective color) a month in advance and choosing to wait until the last possible minute to get it done that’s truly exhilarating. 

With that being said, from the moment I handed over the deposit check, I planned furiously for my time in the JSB program. By the time my plane was wheels-up and on its way to Rome, I was positive that I was going to be an excellent world traveler — I really had it all figured out… not. 

Upon reflection, I have realized that I made a foolish travel mistake in every single week of this program. So, here’s the breakdown, folks: 

Week One: On second thought, this week actually had two mistakes. The first mistake, which probably led to the second, was that I packed the night before I left. Did I mention I’m the world’s worst procrastinator? In the midst of my packing crisis, I left an entire garment bag of clothes, which I had purchased and stored away specifically for this experience, hanging in my closet. 

Week Two: The second week I booked a plane ticket to spend the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, but I forgot to check-in. Evidently the whole “check-in” process is not merely a suggestion when flying on a budget airline, so I ended up paying 50 extra Euro to get a boarding pass, not to mention almost missing the flight. 

Week Three: The third week I booked a plane ticket to spend the weekend in London with high hopes that my luck would change. Instead, Winter Storm Ciara brought 80mph winds, which canceled our return flight and left us stranded. I was too busy picking out an outfit for high tea; I didn’t think to check the weather. 

Week Four: Despite the harsh luck in London the weekend prior and my father’s better judgment, I booked a ticket to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris. I had big plans to buy myself a Prada bag while I was there (which I did) and where better to do so than the City of Love on the international day of love? So, where’s the mistake? Well, I booked a ticket for a plane that departed from a tiny airport in ‘Middle of Nowhere’, France during an airstrike — this one landed me on a 12-hour train back to Rome. 

Disclaimer: I would do this one again; then again, I’d do just about anything for Prada. 

Week Five: Week five is the most embarrassing mistake of all, I had booked a ticket to spend the weekend in Geneva, Switzerland. So, when Thursday night rolled around, learning from my week two mistake, I logged into the airline website to check-in for my flight and print my boarding passes. Instead, I discovered that the flight I thought I would be boarding the very next morning had actually taken off 24 hours prior. 

At this point you may be wondering why the mistake timeline stops at only 5 weekends. Well, that would be because on Saturday morning of week six the CDC increased the threat level in Italy to a 3, due to COVID-19, and we were evacuated from the country. 

Needless to say, dropping your American life and moving to a new country, even if it’s only for 3 months, is not for the faint of heart. I struggled at times, I made mistakes – a lot of them, and at the end, I was dealt a hand of cards that no amount of color-coding or page protectors would’ve helped me plan. However, not in spite of but truly because of all of these experiences, I left a country that became so dear to my heart, with more grit, more tenacity, more culture, and more experience. Most importantly I left with more compassion. With the world in the midst of pandemic, politics, and self-preservation, we could all afford to practice a little more compassion — remembering a time when you, too, were a rookie, in need of a little grace on the learning curve. 

A celebratory photo of the only thing that got me through being stranded in a foreign country for the second time in two weeks.

Megan Jeter