Volcanic eruption disturbs student’s spring break abroad

Bethany English

Plans canceled because of ash in air

Instead of spending the evening in Venice like she had planned, Lindsay Ridinger spent Saturday night sleeping on the floor in Aeropuerto de Barcelona in Spain.

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull and massive amounts of ash in the air prompted the European Union to ground many flights in Europe, including Ridinger’s.

After paying 10 euros for 24-hour Internet, she and the two young women she is traveling with huddled in a corner of the airport, near what she described in an e-mail interview as “what seemed to be the only plug in the terminal.”

Ridinger, who is studying abroad in England at the University of Leicester, said the ash couldn’t be seen in the air as far south as she and her friends were. But, the effect of their plans was definitely felt.

Though the sophomore public relations major planned to explore Europe during her five-week spring break, the travelers decided to cancel the rest of their plans and try to find a way back to England, Ridinger said.

“We kept checking the news, and it didn’t seem like the situation would be getting any better,” she said.

Ridinger and her friends left the airport Sunday afternoon and went to a train station where they hoped to purchase tickets to London or Paris. She said after waiting in “another long line,” they heard there had been a rail strike in Paris, which shut down the train system.

Finally, they decided to purchase tickets Sunday evening for Monday morning’s six-hour train ride to a Spanish port town called Bilbao, she said. They hoped to catch a ferry there to return to England.

Britain reopened airspace late Tuesday, but Ridinger said she and her friends plan on taking the ferry. If they can’t catch one before then, they “definitely” have tickets for Sunday’s ferry.

She said if they end up staying a few more days, their family gave them some ideas about interesting landmarks and museums to check out while in Bilbao.

Ridinger said they have been keeping in touch with family and friends through Skype.

“I’m sure they might be a little worried about us, but I think by now they trust us to look after each other and stay safe,” Ridinger said of her parents.

She will not get to visit Venice, Rome, Santorini, Athens or Dublin as she had planned, but she said she is happy to have already traveled to Prague, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona.

Her early cancellations led to even more disruption than a shortened trip. Because she planned to be traveling across Europe, Ridinger didn’t pay to live in her dorm during this time.

Instead, she will be staying with her friend’s British boyfriend and his father until classes resume May 4.

Ridinger said she plans to return to the United States on May 16 when her classes at Leicester end, unless the volcano continues to affect transportation.

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