Hour by hour, more and more members of our group staggered into the Continental Airlines group room that was designated to be our meeting spot. Each time, the same awkward introductions were exchanged. We all had had limited communication with each other through our group Facebook page over the previous months, but for many of us, this was our first face-to-face meeting. “Where are you from, what is your major, do you have an internship?” were the common questions that filled the room every time somebody new walked in. Once the cordial conversation and the basic questions had been answered, then we would each quietly retreat to our music, our final phone calls and text messages, and our own mental preparations for the months ahead.
When we moved from the room to the terminal with 30 minutes to go, the anticipation and excitement grew. New conversations began about where to travel and what we all wanted to see. Nobody had their earphones in. We heard the announcement, and members of our group began boarding when their rows were called. We settled on the plane, helped one another stow our carry-ons, and began conversations with our neighbors.
The taxi away from the terminal and towards the runway was when it began to feel real. Sitting next to me, Gordon remarked on the beauty of the view out our window; the massive Boeing 767 wing, with a backdrop of several factories spewing steam and smoke into the New Jersey night. This would be our last view of America until May. We got the order for take-off, and as soon as the plane lined up on the runway and pilot throttled the massive GE turbofans to full, we began to pick up speed and I felt a chill run up my spine, a tear come to my eye, and adrenaline coarsing through my body. Partially because airplanes fascinate me, and partially because I love acceleration and speed, but mostly because this is the greatest adventure I have ever embarked on. I am simply overwhelmed with excitement.