For most college students, going home is a matter of hopping in the car and driving down the road. But for those from a foreign country, traveling home can be a complex ordeal. Given the increasing number of Kansas State University students who come from other countries, the challenges are only likely to increase in frequency.
When several foreign students had to be pulled aside at the Manhattan Regional Airport this past spring because of common air-travel mistakes, the general manager for the local office of American Eagle Airlines created a pre-planning class designed to help those foreign students learn to fly.
That general manager, Laurel Sullivan, said the idea was to avoid the “mess” created in the spring when several foreign students were trying to catch their flights home. The result so far, for 107 foreign students leaving the community this summer, has been a smoother departure.
The issue is important because the ranks of foreign students at KSU have grown significantly in recent years. From fewer than 1,000 of those students as recently as 2005, there are now more than twice that number enrolled. Sullivan said authorities identified several common mistakes made by spring departees that created long waiting lines and delays. Two students almost missed their flights. In response, Sullivan held classes with students departing this summer to inform them how to avoid making the same mistakes. In addition, she has opened the airport early to allow the students to go through customs without hindering other passengers.
“It makes it easier on everyone,” Sullivan said. “It’s just overwhelming to the other passengers with all the extra bags.”
One of the common mistakes students made were packing lighters in their checked bags. Sullivan said it is acceptable to bring a lighter on foreign flights, but it must be in a carry-on bag and not in checked baggage.
Another common mistake was over-packing suitcases. She said the airlines limit the weight of each bag to 50 pounds. Weight above that will cost fliers extra. She said several students last spring were going through their luggage and throwing out various items and repacking to make the weight requirement without being charged.
A few students even packed fireworks in their bags. Sullivan said that is a huge no-no; the students had to dispose of them before being allowed to board.
When going through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, Sullivan said laptops and notebooks have to be put in separate bins before going through the machines. She said many travelers are not aware of this and lines form, which in turn causes passengers to get upset. Finally, she said many of the foreign students book their flight a year or more in advance. Then, as the date to leave approaches, several do not confirm that their flights have not been changed. In some cases they have, leading to confusion about correct departure dates and times.
Sullivan said holding the pre-planning travel classes and opening the airport earlier has not only alleviated the longer lines at the airport, but also stopped students from making common air-travel mistakes.
The next large group of students — 87 from Ecuador — will leave on Thursday. They will gather at the airport at 3:30 a.m. to check their bags, confirm their flights, and go through customs.