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By Plane, By Train, By Car

We aren’t going to make it. The plane is going to leave in twenty minutes.”
My mom and I were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Chicago, on the second leg of a nine-day college tour.
“Well, maybe if you hadn’t insisted on making that turn back there then we would have made it,” I said. We both sat in silence for a moment, sulking.
Then, the traffic had a break in it and my mom hit the gas pedal. Somehow we made it to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where we grabbed our suitcases and ran to security. The expert traveler line was empty. “I think we qualify now,” I said. We breezed through security and made the plane with five minutes to spare.
When I decided I was going to look at colleges, my mom and I planned a trip where we would be able to see family and friends to break up the stress. We went from Philadelphia to Boston to Chicago to Indiana to Ohio, back to Indiana, and then finally, home. We saw at least nine colleges and relied heavily on the use of airplanes and public transportation.
I thought this trip would be easy. I thought I had prepared for everything. I was wrong. If I had to make a life lesson out of this trip it would be: what can go wrong, will go wrong.
There were no issues in Philadelphia, which is why I should have been wary of Boston. Our first night in Boston we missed the train that would take us out to where we needed to go. The next train was at ten. I couldn’t wait four hours for a train only to walk to a college in the dark, so we grabbed a taxi. The cabbie drove with his foot out the window at 80 mph while listening to a baseball game. I had never been happier to pull into a hotel.
The next day was my college visit. I did my info session and my tour, and while waiting for my interview, I tried to make conversation with the girl sitting next to me. Her reply? “Sorry, I don’t talk to the competition.” She glared at me and turned back to her book. I sat for a moment in stunned silence before the interviewer came out and called my name.

We arrived in Chicago after a huge storm hit the area. We grabbed a rental car and drove out into the suburbs so we could have dinner with friends. Almost every light was out along the way. The same was true for the next morning when we drove back into Chicago to see a college. Traffic was backed up and there were no police around to direct traffic. I arrived nearly thirty minutes late for my intended session. However, the admissions office understood and directed me to a local coffee shop. I was able to turn my frustration into a chance to see the area. Then, we had the whole nearly-missing-our-plane incident…
While touring another college, this one in Indiana, the forecast promised sun and temperatures in the lower 80s. That day I woke up to a thunderstorm and temperatures in the lower 60s. The lesson learned? Pack for all weather.
Most of the incidents I encountered on this trip were weather, traffic, and the occasional person who considered me the competition and wanted to scare me from applying.
Despite everything that happened, I discovered what I wanted in a college: tons of green space, paths where I can ride my bike, squirrels, a strong community, strong academics and a place where I can grow. I don’t regret going on this trip, especially since I found that place.
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Alice Dunaway is a former HerCampus writer.
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