Mad Dash Through Malta

I’m a planner. It’s what I do. I plan in advance, and I plan in detail. In Auburn, I’m known for having at least three planners or calendars that I’m keeping up with per semester. Coming to Ariccia has given me the chance to do lots of planning. I plan out my assignments, my grocery shopping and cooking, and, most importantly, I plan weekend trips.

Our weeks usually consist of classes Monday-Thursday with the opportunity to travel on your own on the weekend. This gives you the opportunity to take quite a few trips externally of those planned by the program while you’re here. When I finish the JSB program, I will have been to 9 countries in 12 weeks. This was only supposed to be 8.

Over spring break, I had planned a highly ambitious trip with my friends Sara and Sophie which included visits to several cities in Greece, Spain, and Austria. I worked on this schedule for weeks. Part of this journey included a late flight from Athens, Greece to Malta where we would have a layover and then fly to Barcelona, Spain. Then, we would arrive around midnight at the houseboat we were staying on (I affectionately referred to this as our Airbnboat). No amount of planning could have prepared me for the struggle it would be to make it from Athens to Barcelona. Our first flight from Greece to Malta was delayed, and we landed about 10 minutes before our next flight was supposed to take off. We ran through the airport barely holding on to all our things. We could still see the plane sitting on the tarmac; the sign above the counter flashing “Last Call”. When we made it to the desk, the flight attendants tried to radio out to the pilots who told them they had already closed the doors and we would not be allowed on the plane. Sophie, Sara, and I sat down in the airport and watched our plane take off without us.

At this point we were very upset, and some tears were shed as we realized we would be stuck in Malta for the night and had nowhere to go. We ended up staying in a sketchy hotel and having to book two more flights for the next day because there were no direct flights to Barcelona. On one of these flights, we boarded and sat on the tarmac for two hours before we took off. Luckily, this was our last flight, so we had no more connections to make. All in all, it took us over 24 hours to make it from Athens to Barcelona, which is only about a 3-hour direct flight.

Missing one of our nights in Barcelona meant we had to condense all the things we had planned into one day. This wreaked havoc on my little planner brain, and I was very upset because I felt like our trip would be ruined. However, Barcelona ended up being one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. We all agreed that we’ve had some of the best experiences there of the entire semester, including being able to watch a flamenco show.

This experience taught me lots of things. One, that there’s no possible way to plan for everything, which I would probably have argued with you about previously. Two, sometimes when you have no idea what you’re doing, you can make some of the best memories. And three, sometimes plans go out the window, and that’s okay.

Especially if you’re with your best friends. Which I was.

— Elena Gagliano

From left to right: Sophie, Sara, and I on spring break (shortly before the Malta airport fiasco).