Thursday, March 28, 2013 | By: Jake

The Beginning!

In November of 2011, I heard about an amazing opportunity within Notre Dame's Campus Ministry...a pilgrimage to the Holy Land over Spring Break. Amazed that I actually had a chance of going on the trip, I eagerly waited to see if I was accepted into the program, only to find out that the trip had been cancelled due to last minute logistical and financial issues. Disappointed to say the least, I actually ended up having a pretty good spring break, staying on campus with weather in the high 70s.

Not quite knowing what to do inside an airport.
A year later, this past October, I heard about the opportunity again, and immediately applied (and by immediately, I mean that I instantly decided I would apply and then procrastinated on the application, turning it in a solid 5 minutes before the deadline). A quick two weeks later, while I was in the midst of an awful case of bronchitis, I received an email around 3am informing me that I had been accepted to go this year! It all seemed so surreal...never having been on a plane, and never having left the US, this was sure to be quite the experience, not to mention walking the very place where Christ walked!

In order to go on the trip, I had to raise a lot of money and was astounded by the generosity of close friends, distant acquaintances, members from my church, and family friends that I had never actually met! To all of them, I cannot express how grateful I am because the trip would not have been possible without them.

Over Christmas break, I made my trip to USPS to get my passport, and before I knew it, February raced by....and March had rolled right in. I went home to get some last minute things and my luggage (that my parents graciously bought for me) the weekend before I left. Although we had a few pre-pilgrimage classes before we left for the trip, many of the other pilgrims were mere acquaintances...but we became close friends soon enough!

As I walked over to the Coleman-Morse Center on March 8th, I wanted to scream, "I'M ABOUT TO GO ON MY FIRST PLANE. I'M GOING TO ISRAEL." to everyone student I walked past on the quad...but I held back.

AKA "O'Hare Airport"
We took the long bus ride from Notre Dame's campus to O'Hare---my first time inside O'Hare. Confession: I grew up thinking that this building to the right was O'Hare....until about 8th grade. Needless to say, I was pretty confused when we got to here...and still really don't understand what it means to "check in" haha.

I checked my baggage, went through know, all the fun stuff. We had to wait a good four hours or so before boarding, but it actually went by pretty fast. We went to our gate, and I saw that we would be flying on a Boeing 747; needless to say, I was pretty excited.

A little "surprised" that my first airplane was going to be a Boeing 747.
Before long, it was time to board the plane...and I'm pretty sure all of my nerves were calmed by the constant pictures of me "being scared".
Thankfully, Anastasia calmed any last minute fears.
I ended up getting an aisle seat on the plane, so I couldn't complain. Overall, I am a big fan of flying...even with a 7 hour and 49 minute flight to Amsterdam, I was pretty excited. The food was a lot better than I expected it to be, and I had a lot of time to journal and read.
Kate, Amanda, and Trevor---my helpers through the first flight.
Sleep, on the other hand, was not the easiest thing. I assumed a neck pillow would help, but at times, it actually made things worse. We arrived in Amsterdam 7am their about midnight our time. Thankfully, jet lag wasn't even a problem for me---let's just say coffee in Europe is very strong!


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