When Heathrow International Airport closed due to bad weather a week before Christmas, it posed quite a dilemma for 18 students, their professor and a staff member, Brian Rainville, who were stranded in Berlin at the conclusion of a D-Term course. The group was supposed to transfer flights in London.
Rescheduling the group required five extra days, which stretched the students’ food budgets and nerves as they worried about the holidays. “We stayed busy and that kept the stress level down,” says Louis Waldmeir ’13, a German major. “But we were the lucky ones—in a hotel for five days instead of on the floor of an airport, and we made it home in time for Christmas!”
Gregory Wolf, associate professor of German, wanted to make the experience positive by organizing meals in hotel rooms to save on costs and conducting additional excursions.“I was most worried about students’ financial welfare,” says Wolf. “And then we continued to take advantage of all the great things that Berlin has to offer and be engaged in course work. It was important for them to see this as an opportunity.”
The final return arrangements involved a tight connection through Madrid, where there were labor strikes underway. So it took an additional 48 hours for luggage to reach O’Hare International.
“The important lesson from an experience like this is that you have to be flexible—it was eye-opening for my students,” says Wolf. “Many will go on to careers in international business or global operations and how they respond to challenges of transportation, cultural differences and even jet lag is crucial to their futures."