Hello CIMBA blog followers! Welcome to my page! I hope over the course of my 4 weeks in Italy, you will be able to receive some guidance in deciding and planning to go on this incredible study abroad opportunity with the CIMBA program. Throughout my posts, I will provide some valuable tips that will hopefully help you make your trip just as amazing as mine!
So before I begin sharing my amazing experiences in Italy and the rest of Europe, I would like to just give you a taste of how my pre-departure went. Since I am writing this post a week after the program’s start, I have put together a list of important TIPS that may help you with your plans!
Tip #1: CHOOSE THE FLIGHT THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU. One of the first things you should do a few months prior to the trip is figure out your flight. Here’s what I did… I flew into Rome’s airport on Saturday and took a fast train from Rome’s main station (Rome Termini) to the Mestre train station in Venice. A lot of people do not recommend flying into Rome because it can be a bit overwhelming for the first time abroad. However, I had a travel buddy and we both had no trouble at all in navigating our way up to Venice by Saturday night. I chose to fly into Rome because it was a lot cheaper to fly into and it also was also a direct flight, which made it less stressful.
Tip #2: BUDGET YOUR TRIP. One thing that I wish I would have done before coming to Italy was to budget my four weeks abroad. After one week, I have spent more money than I thought I would. I highly recommend having somewhat of an idea of the places you would like to travel to and the things you would like to purchase, so you don’t end up short with money by the end of the four weeks. I would try estimating your transportation costs as well as hostel/hotel costs for your travel weekends. Two websites that can help with estimating these costs are: hostelworld.com and trenitalia.com.
On a side note, Italians almost always pay with cash. That being said, you will be using the ATMs a lot here, so check with your bank about the withdrawal fee before coming to Italy.
Tip #3: PACK LIGHTLY. I definitely learned that packing light is not as easy as I thought it would be. Then again, I am a girl and take twice as long with everything. Anyways, I used a very large backpack (the type that many backpackers use) plus a regular size backpack. I walked around my house the day before I left to see if I would fall over from the heavy weight, but thankfully I was able to handle it while walking all over Venice. Just be mindful about the amount you bring if you plan to stay before and after the program.
In order to pack light, it’s good to lay everything on your bed with only the clothes you think you would wear more than 3 or 4 times (try to stick with generic colors, so you can match these clothes with anything). Then, cut the amount you laid out in half and you should be good to go! Remember… don’t pack 100% full because you’ll be buying some souvenirs during your trip. If you weren’t planning to buy anything, well… I’m pretty sure your mom is expecting something. J
TIP #4: GET ORGANIZED BEFOREHAND. Aside from all the packing fun, I also made copies of my passport, called my bank two days before I left to tell them I will be using my cards abroad, printed my flight itinerary, booked a hotel for the weekend before the program started, and made a reservation through the CIMBA staff for a bus to the campus on Monday. Planning and organization is key in order to reduce your stress, especially if it’s your first time abroad.
Tip #5: LEARN SOME ITALIAN. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as taking an Italian course before the program. However, I do recommend buying a translator book and begin looking over some key phrases before arriving in Italy. Although many Italians (mostly younger) speak English, some still do not speak any English. So it’s good to know phrases that will help you buy a ticket in a train station or order food in a restaurant. I’m starting to realize that Italians instantly know that I am an American because of the way I pronounce some words; however, I noticed that they are very grateful for me trying.
Tip #6: PLAN YOUR ARRIVAL TO REDUCE STRESS. While some choose to arrive in Venice or somewhere else in Italy without any hotel/hostel reservations, I personally thought it was very helpful to have booked my hotel a few weeks prior to the trip. It was very hard to find a hotel or hostel on Venice’s island (where all the tourists usually are) because they were all booked. If you know for sure you will be spending the weekend before the program on Venice’s island, be sure to book your hotel at least a month or so in advanced. Though, I did find a ton of available hotels on Venice’s mainland two weeks before the trip. I stayed in Hotel Trieste, which was extremely convenient because it was right across from the Mestre train station on Venice’s mainland. It was also a great hotel choice and I highly recommend you to check it out! The front desk workers did not speak a lot of English, but we were able to get by with a few Italian phrases from my translator book.
Tip #7: CONSIDER SPENDING ONLY A DAY IN VENICE. There are some students who chose to come to Europe a few days before the program and then eventually make their way to Venice on the Monday of the program’s start. Since this was my first time abroad, I decided to do my extensive traveling after the program, so I can get used to the culture before I ventured off with a few other people. My travel buddy and I spent time in Venice on Saturday night and Sunday. Because our hotel was right across from the train station, we took a 10-minute train ride to Venice’s Island and spent the entire day there. The island was absolutely beautiful. To be honest though, I thought one afternoon in Venice was enough. So if you are limited on time (especially the summer program students), consider spending the day before the program in Venice or just one free afternoon.
Tip #8: FIND THE BEST WAY TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FAMILY. There are plenty ways to stay connected with your loved ones at home. You can use Skype, Google Video as well as a cell phone that can be purchased on campus. I personally use Skype to call home and an Italian cell phone for local/emergency calls. A phone company comes to campus in the first week and sells Italian cell phones and Sim cards for a really good price. Also, be aware that internet connection in Italy is a bit slower than what we are use to in the U.S. I recommend purchasing internet access in your room because it is a lot more convenient than walking to the library every time you need to use the internet.
I hope these tips have helped you in your pre-departure process! I will definitely be sharing a lot more tips throughout my four week journey, so keep a look out for them.
My thoughts on week #1:
Aside from my pre-departure advice, I absolutely love the CIMBA campus and classes. I really like the fact that the campus is located in a smaller town because I get the true Italian experience. My two classes, International Marketing and Intro to Financial Management, are also great! I’m glad I chose to take International Marketing in Italy because I am able to understand the subject at a whole different and unique level. This class also has a vineyard trip planned in a few weeks, so I’ll definitely update you all on that when the time comes. J I have also been meeting a lot of students from various U.S. universities and it’s interesting to hear about everyone’s different backgrounds. There are about 220 students, so it kind of has a small high school feel to it. Since there are also Italian high school students on our campus, it makes the experience on campus so much more exciting to be a part of.
Also, traveled to Verona for my first travel weekend! Verona was by FAR the most beautiful/clean/fun/friendly city I have been to yet! My five friends and I stayed in a great Bed &Breakfast right downtown and we were in walking distance of everything. We bought a 2-day pass, which gave us access to almost all of the top museums and sites in Verona. Since Verona is the home to Romeo and Juliet, we had the opportunity to see Juliet’s house. Our 2-day card also gave us the chance to go in the Torre dei Lamberti, which overlooked the entire city of Verona.
Well, I’m off to explore more of Italy, so I can share more with you all. Ciao for now!