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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Having been studying in Barcelona this past semester, I have been fortunate enough to travel and explore Europe on the weekends with my friends and classmates.  Overlooked amidst the thrill of adventure are airports–from bustling hubs to quaint terminals, each one I encountered became a memorable chapter in my study abroad experience.  I’ll be recounting my experiences traversing different airports during my time abroad and ranking them based on layout and design, customs and security, and cafes and stores.  

  1. Porto Airport: 

This trip was such an adventure.  My friends and I had pulled all-nighters in order to leave on time for the airport.  Our flight was at 5:00 a.m. and we landed just two hours later, exhausted and hungry.  My friends and I went nonverbal, scattering around the terminal and scrounging for food to avoid getting hangry.  After satisfying our hunger, we were excited to drop our bags off at the Airbnb and nap before exploring, but soon realized check in wasn’t for another seven hours.  In defeat, we decided to take our naps right there at the gate, all seven of us passed out.  I don’t quite remember if there was any English on any signage because I struggled a bit to finally get to the pickup spot for our Uber.  

Layout and design: 2/5 – Average looking airport and no English signage in an international terminal

Customs and security: 5/5 – no problem!

Cafes and shops: 5/5 – We were really hungry and they saved us.

Overall: 12/15 

  1. Dublin Airport: 

My flight to Dublin was extremely stressful since I left for the airport quite late and I had a layover in London.  I landed late at night so I couldn’t really see anything out the plane window, but I do remember that it was raining.  I also did not have to go through customs and everything was in English, which was such a breath of fresh air.  If I remember right, I think that everything was only in English though, which should not be the case in an international terminal.  

On my way back to Barcelona, the check-in line took forever.  There was only one airline agent working and the entire line was full of people who were close to missing their flights.  I was extremely exhausted from St. Patrick’s Day weekend, as was everyone else in line, but the endless complaining I heard did not make it any better.  Security after that was fast and then I was on my way to Manchester for my layover.  

Layout and design: 3/5 – It was really easy to navigate.

Customs and security: 5/5 – Security was so smooth!

Cafes and shops: N/A

Overall: 8/10

  1. Frankfurt Airport: 

As I landed in Frankfurt for my three-hour layover en route to Barcelona, the exhaustion from the eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Chicago weighed heavily on me – I was extremely jet lagged.  I was, however, randomly upgraded to first class, affording me a much needed opportunity for rest.  Getting off the plane was such a relief as I got to stretch my legs and breathe in the fresh air of the terminal.  Thankfully, my checked luggage was seamlessly transferred from Chicago to Barcelona, sparing me the hassle of navigating through a crowded baggage claim with my 50 pound suitcase.  The airport itself was modern, clean, and easy to navigate.  The signs and directions were in both German and English, which made navigation pretty effortless.  I had time to spare before my next flight and decided to take a lap around the terminal and explore.  I found an espresso machine and treated myself to what I can only describe as some of the best espresso I’ve ever tasted, although my fatigue may have colored my judgment.  

Layout and design: 3/5 – Clean and modern but nothing too special

Customs and security: 5/5 – Super easy and fast 

Cafes and shops: 4/5 – Only had the espresso, but that was really good 

Overall: 10/15

  1. Marrakech Airport: 

Landing in Marrakesh marked a significant moment for me, as it would be my first time setting foot in Africa.  The landscape beneath the airplane window mesmerized me with its unfamiliar beauty, unlike anything I had seen before.  With the slight jolt of the landing, which ended my two-and-a-half hour nap, the fact that we were flying Ryanair came as no surprise.  No hate to Ryanair, though; they’ve taken me everywhere I’ve needed to go.  Excitement coursed through me because Marrakesh was No. 1 on my list for places to visit while abroad.  Exiting the plane, my friends and I eagerly entered the airport and followed everyone to customs.  Customs was a lengthy wait, despite the efforts of every available officer and the bustling lines.  Unfortunately, my friends and I were separated in the process and ended up in different lines.  The encounter with the customs officer was awkward and strange, yielding minimal interaction as I handed over my passport, ticket, and riad address, mirroring the actions of those around me.  Leaving customs, we found ourselves with leftover snack wrappers and were surprised to find a lack of trash cans, despite the airport’s pristine cleanliness.  

On our way back to Barcelona upon check-in, Ryanair asked us to do the worst thing: stuff our bags into the carryon sized bin.  For some reason, we were taken aback, as if our clothes and souvenirs weren’t dying to be freed from our giant bulging backpacks.  The four of us huddled by the check-in, trying to cause as much chaos as needed in order to slip a few things out of our bags and leave them on the floor so the airline agent wouldn’t see.  As we went one by one making our bags fit in the bin, the person before wouldn’t leave without sneaking a few items from the floor back with them.  We got through security quickly and smoothly, and were headed back for Barcelona.  

Layout and design: 4.5/5 – The airport was really pretty and the facade on the outside was so beautiful.

Customs and Security: 2.5/5 – Customs were weird, but security at departure was a breeze!

Cafes and shops: 3/5 – There was this little coffee shop and I got an affogato, but we were late to board so I was stressed.  

Overall: 10/15

  1. Manchester Airport:

I only visited the Manchester airport as part of my layover, but I had quite the experience there.  Everything was fine except the security;  the security was awful. My friends and I were in a rush because we only had an hour between flights, and the security took up the entire time.  It was such a road block because almost everyone’s bags got flagged.  It was up to the point where nothing would come out of the screening box, but every bag would come out the opposite end, forcing the line for flagged bags to snake.  

Layout and Design: 2/5 – Pretty average 

Customs and Security: 1/5 – Horrible

Cafes and Shops: N/A 

Overall: 3/10 

Each terminal, from bustling hubs to quaint terminals, offered its own unique blend of excitement and challenges.  Whether it was navigating through language barriers, enduring long security lines, or simply savoring a delicious cup of coffee, every airport experience added richness to my time abroad, creating memories I’ll treasure forever. 

Melanie Santiago

CU Boulder '25

Melanie Santiago is a junior and a contributing writer at Her Campus CU Boulder. She is majoring in Environmental Design with an emphasis in Architecture. She has always loved reading and writing and wants to see how architecture and writing can blend together in the future. She found her love for writing in her childhood where she would write creative short stories as gifts to her family members and also enjoyed writing out the script as a morning announcer for her middle school. Melanie is a passionate writer when it comes to movies, pop culture, and all things Latino culture. In her free time, Melanie enjoys coffee runs, movie nights, any CU sports game, going on a long run, and attending concerts or any live music get together. Melanie also loves traveling and seeing all the world has to offer.