I’ll never forget the day before my interview at ICO. It was just after 9 p.m. when the plane started to make its descent over Chicago. The sky was dark as I gazed out the tiny window, seeing nothing but my own disheveled appearance looking back at me. I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day and I didn’t realize how tired I looked or how badly my hair needed a brush. Luckily, no one was sitting next to me as I peered closer at my reflection, trying desperately to smooth out the tangles, before thinking back to how I got here.
I’d woken up early that cold October day to start my journey from Ottawa to Chicago via Newark. I sat outside my gate at the McDonald-Cartier International Airport with my carry-on, my notes, and a criminally overpriced turkey sandwich that I had just purchased for lack of a better option. Ten minutes into my waiting, I was notified that my flight to Newark was going to be delayed indefinitely due to bad weather conditions and computer failure.
“Great,” I thought. This was not a good start to the morning.
Four hours went by and in that time, I managed to finish my turkey sandwich, go over my interview notes three times, and made two trips to the washroom.
On the plane, I watched as the clouds began to part and a vast ocean of lights emerged from below, flooding my entire field of view. I had never seen anything like it before and as we neared O’Hare International Airport, the whole world seemed a lit, like the sky was on fire.
The cabin lights flickered on as the plane coasted to a stop. I was planning to spend the night in the Residential Complex, and I had told my RC Ambassador the day before that my flight was going to arrive at 8 and that I should arrive at ICO by 9. By the time I had navigated my way through the massive airport, purchased my shuttle ticket and boarded, it was close to 10, and I started to panic.
As the driver started the engine, my stomach rumbled along with it and I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day, except for that turkey sandwich. I tried not to think about it as I watched the city lights roll by my window, casting long, fleeting shadows on the driver’s seat in front of me. The ride was peaceful. No one said a word. I suspected it was because they were all deep in thought like I was. Maybe they too were thinking what I was thinking.
“I can’t believe I’m here.”
“I could really use a washroom right now.”
“Wait, wasn’t that tunnel also in The Dark Knight?!”
An hour later, we finally pulled up to ICO’s main doors. I was the only one left on the shuttle and the driver was adamant that he stay with me until security let me into the building despite my protests, claiming it wasn’t safe for a girl to be alone in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place. He even gave me his card and told me to call him when I needed a ride back to the airport after my interview.
Despite the rain, the computer failures, and having to run across an airport for a flight that already took off, that day was still a great one because of the people I met along the way–from the ticket agent who gave me an extra discount because he kept me waiting in line, to the shuttle driver who up until that point had been working 14 hours and still decided to stay with me instead of going home, and to Sonal, my RC Ambassador, who after showing me to my room still wanted to give me a tour despite the fact that it was late and she had an exam the next morning.
It sounds strange but it felt like my entire journey, from the application process to arriving in Chicago, was non-stop chaos up until I arrived at ICO. And I realized that night that it didn’t really matter how I got to where I was. I was just glad to be here.