Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Arrival

Well I've finally arrived.

Having had a fantastic evening on Friday I headed straight down to Gatwick to arrive in the early hours of Saturday morning ready to catch the first flight out to Dublin. In Gatwick I met a couple of the lads who were also travelling out and we waited patiently for the plane to the Irish capital.

The sun came up over a gorgeous morning in Gatwick. A quick one hour hop over to Ireland and we then had a 4 hour wait during transit. In Dublin (and Shannon in fact), the US Immigration authority have a station whereby passengers departing the America are able to clear immigration in the respective Irish city therefore arriving as a domestic flight. This is a superb idea as not only does it kill time at the departure point (during which you would otherwise be perusing the shops spending money on goods you really don't need or want) but also speeds up the process at the other end. I'd hate to have thought that we would have had to stand in a 1-2 hour queue in Orlando International (after the arrival of three UK flights) having endured a nine hour journey from the ROI. Anyway, having passed immigration we had little time to wait before boarding the Aer Lingus flight out to the States.

In Dublin the three of us that had originally congregated in Gatwick met up with a number of others. Having been placed in a middle seat and being quite tall I was dreading the flight however the aircraft had a significant number of empty seats meaning a number of us could spread out which was fantastic. By this point I'd reached sickly tired and was looking forward to nine hours of sleeping. However this was not the case and I spent much of the time either people watching or using the in flight entertainment.

Anyway, the flight passed without bother and upon arrival into Orlando International we again met up with more of our group. Unfortunately one who was travelling from Stockholm via Newark had a delayed flight from New York therefore did not join up with us until later on. The journey from the airport to the facilities was not a long one but it was a great time to get to know some of the people I'll be spending the next 14 months (and beyond!) with. They all seem a great bunch.

Having arrived at the accommodation we were all given our respective room assignments and were then left to settle in. Due to renovation of the new facilities we hope to be in by the end of the summer we are currently in something very similar to university halls. Personally I think it's great for getting to know the people on the course as it's very much more open and I wouldn't hesitate to say that it would be a good idea for all classes to start a similar way to ensure the group gel together. Upon arriving in the room we were greeted with our uniform. It was great to see what we'll actually be wearing and believe me - it's not the quickest thing to put on in a morning! Having unpacked (sort of) we headed out for something to eat and found a great little pizza place.

The following day was a day for us to visit the world famous Walmart Superstore and start to acclimatise ourselves to the weather and surroundings. As a group we visited the store to get supplies and then headed to Denny's for breakfast. It was something I have never seen before in all of my life. Bacon on an ice cream Sunday! The afternoon was spent at the mall and beach before again returning to the pizza restaurant for something to eat.

Today was the very first day of the course. Uniformed up, we went on a guided tour of the campus and in turn completed all of our tasks such as registering for ID cards, library, gym and postal boxes. The heat was quite unbearable, especially in shirt and tie. The initial holiday feel was well and truly gone.

This afternoon we went down to the 'Annex' where a number of classes will be held over the coming months. We again completed some more paperwork including registering with the relevant authorities so to keep in line with our student visas. We were also all given our flight bags with a substantial amount of gear that we will be using over the coming months. These included everything from headsets to books and measuring equipment to maps. It has certainly been an information overload sort of day but slowly but surely I'm sure I'll be able to take it all in.

Over here to get between the housing, Flightline (as you can guess, where we fly from) and the Annex we take specially laid on buses which run every fifteen minutes. This has been great in allowing us to talk to a number of students who have been here for a few months and to understand the workload involved. Let's just say we've seen a lot of red eyed, tired looking people walking around in pilots uniforms.

I've just looked over some of the books and it looks extremely daunting as to the amount of information we will have to absorb in such a short space of time. I don't think anyone can stress enough how much time and effort will have to be put into achieving that goal of a right hand seat.

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