First-Time Study Abroad Students: What to Expect During Your Flight from the USA to Scotland

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Hello, Scotland!

After a long school year, my trip to Scotland is finally here! I applied for Arcadia University’s STEM Summer Program back in November, but just five days ago I finally arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland! I’d like to share some airport-related tips with you that might come in handy if you plan to pursue a study abroad program in Scotland.

Getting to the Airport and Why Arriving Early is a MUST

Advisors from Arcadia University, my study abroad institution, suggested that students arrive at their local airports three hours before the international flight’s departure time. This will give you time to print out your ticket, check in luggage, pass through TSA, find your gate, and have something to eat before you board. Getting to the airport early was really useful in my experience. About 20 minutes before my flight boarded, I realized that I left the information desk with only one boarding pass, the one from my city to a connecting domestic flight. This means I didn’t have my boarding pass from the domestic flight to my final destination abroad! Luckily, once I noticed this, I had a couple of minutes to find help and figure out how to obtain the missing boarding pass.

Eating on the Plane

On most international flights, airlines include a meal or two (dinner and breakfast) in the price of your ticket. However, I strongly recommend bringing your own snacks because there’s a good chance you might not like the options. Additionally, supplementing your meals is a good idea if you have allergies or dietary restrictions as the pre-made meals are not always friendly to every diet. Some great plane snacks include almonds, pretzels, chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and leftover pasta. Avoid packing whole fruits and vegetables as these are often not allowed past TSA. In fact, you might even be fined for having them! Another great item you should pack is a reusable water bottle. Although you can’t go through security with water inside, the bottle will get through just fine. Fill it in the water fountain after you walk through TSA to save five to seven dollars on a plastic bottle of water at the convenience stores near gates.

Sleeping on the Plane

One of the things I remember about my flight was how surprised I was that the sun was already shining brightly in the wee hours of the morning. Just when I was sleepy enough to take a nap on the plane, the light was glimmering through the windows on the plane. If you happen to be traveling to Scotland in the summer, I would definitely recommend bringing a sleeping mask so that you can rest during your flight and get used to the time change from day one. In general, you should expect long days that start around 4:00 am and short nights that begin at about 10:30 pm.

Preparing to Land in Scotland

If you’re studying abroad in Scotland, you should have a dedicated folder or envelope filled with important documents. In your folder, make sure to have your driver’s license, passport, a letter of support with course start and end dates from the university you’ll be attending, an international insurance card, and an emergency contact list. Once you land, you will have to go through US-UK customs and an officer will immediately ask for your passport and letter from your university.

Getting Around in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a great bus and train system in place. Take advantage! Depending on how far your accommodations are from the airport, you can buy bus tickets for as little as 4.50 pounds. Aim to save the taxi as your second or third local travel option as the taxi is almost always more expensive than other forms of public transportation.

Gorgeous view of Edinburgh on a cloudy afternoon.

Departure day is difficult enough. Save yourself time and money by arriving early, packing snacks and a reusable water bottle, preparing documents ahead of time, and choosing the most efficient method of local travel. You’ll have a great time in Scotland!