Tips and Resources

Preparing for Your Study Abroad

Before you arrive in Italy, there are many important steps you need to take to prepare for your study abroad program. Please use this page of pre-departure resources, our Health and Safety page, and your Travel and Living Guide to help you prepare for Italy. Your Travel and Living Guide is a very thorough resource that you should read as you prepare and also bring with you to Italy.

Logistics Before You Depart

Passports

You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months after the program ends. Non-U.S. citizens should verify the validity of their passports as well.

It is best to begin this process early, as normal processing time for a passport can take between four and six weeks. For first-time passports, apply in person at a U.S. Department of State agency, through selected post offices, or through clerks at federal, state, or county courthouses. The cost of a passport is not included in the CIMBA program fee.

Documents required for obtaining a U.S. passport:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (official birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or previous U.S. passport)
  • Two recent, identical color 2” by 2” photographs with a white background (passport photos can be taken at most Kinkos, Walmarts, Walgreens, or other photo processing locations)
  • Form of identification with your signature and photograph (i.e. driver’s license)
  • Social Security number
  • Passport fee

More information about passport applications can be found on the Department of State website.

Three important tips for passport security:

  1. Be sure to make several copies of your passport.
  2. Leave one copy at home and carry a copy abroad.
  3. Store the copy apart from the actual passport so as not to lose both at the same time. A copy of the passport speeds up the process of replacing it in case of loss or theft.

Visa Information

Italian study visas are not allowed for U.S. citizens for study abroad programs that are less than 90 days. Since the CIMBA program is usually 82 days, U.S. citizens participating in CIMBA are not able to obtain a visa; instead, you will be in Italy as a tourist. In addition to the approximately 25 days during the program that are available for personal travel, you are allowed to travel throughout the Schengen area of Europe for a period of up to 90 days which means that after the program US citizens can stay for about one week in the Schengen area. If you plan to stay longer than one week, we recommend that you visit the U.K. or Ireland, which are not Schengen countries and thus do not count as part of your 90 days. For a complete list of countries included in the Schengen region, please visit a website such as this one. If you choose to overstay the 90 days, you do so at your own risk.

Students who hold a passport from the EU will not need a visa and the 90 day restriction does not apply. Participants holding passports from countries other than the US and the EU should check with the nearest Italian Consulate to determine whether they need a visa to enter Italy. Requirements vary from country to country and from consulate to consulate within a country. If you hold a non-US passport and need help getting a visa, please contact cimba-us@cimbaitaly.com.

Upon entry into the Schengen area you will present your visa to the customs official. Normally, the customs official stamps your passport with the date of entry. If your visa document is a multi-part form, they will take one copy.

Registering for Classes

You will receive an email from CIMBA when class registration is open. In the weeks prior to registering, you can begin planning your courses by using the block schedule posted on your CIMBA Portal. This is a student portal which you can log into after being accepted. It is important to meet with your advisor at your home institution prior to registering to ensure your courses will transfer correctly. 

Registration for CIMBA courses begins later than it would at your university, so do not worry if you are not registering on a typical time schedule. We also do not operate on a first-come, first-serve basis like at many universities. If you complete your registration by the stated deadlines, you likely will receive your requested classes. Summer undergraduate students will select alternate course options in the event of a class reaching capacity.

CIMBA Portal

You will receive information about your CIMBA student portal in your acceptance email. Please login frequently, as updates and announcements are regularly posted. The forms on this site are critical for CIMBA to prepare for your arrival, so be sure to plan ahead and complete them by their deadlines. You can access your portal page by clicking here.

Getting Around in Europe

Eurail Passes

We have found that the Eurail pass does not tend to be an economical choice for CIMBA participants due to travel restrictions associated with the pass. Instead, it is cheaper and more convenient for students to purchase their train passes as needed. Additionally, you will often be able to find competitively priced air tickets for travel throughout Europe.

Travel

During your program, you will have significant time for independent travel throughout Italy and Europe. Once you arrive at CIMBA, you will have a travel seminar to teach you how to use discount airlines, trains, budget accommodations, and other planning tips. We recommend waiting until you arrive on campus to plan your travels for weekends and breaks, as plans, schedules, and inspiration may change once you arrive. However, it is a good idea to begin thinking about what types of locations you would like to visit to begin planning your budget. (The University of Iowa International Travel Policy will also be followed and can be viewed here.)

Traveling to and from Campus

It is important to wait until acceptance to purchase airline tickets to Italy. We will provide you with specific instructions for purchasing your flight, along with tips for booking. Typically, students fly in and out of Venice Marco Polo Airport. It is about one hour from campus, and for most programs, CIMBA provides several free shuttles from that airport to campus. Information regarding your specific program’s shuttle will be sent to you in the weeks prior to departure.

Instructions on how to get to the CIMBA campus from regional airports, using a train, or bus can be found on the Maps & Directions page in your Travel and Living Guide. It is important to carry this guide with you during travels in the event that you need directions to campus.

Communication and Technology

Cell Phones

When it comes to cell phones, you have many choices while at CIMBA. We recommend exploring all of your options to determine which plan meets your needs and budget. Here are a few ways to start your research:

  • PicCell: This is a wireless provider that offers both phones and SIM cards that you can use in your personal phone (must be unlocked by provider in your home country). If you order a phone or card through PicCell at least 14 days before your departure, you can have a phone in your hand by the time you leave. We recommend looking through PicCell’s Cell Phone Option to learn more about this provider. We also recommend being very familiar with their fees. We have received positive reactions in the past from participants who selected this option as well as feedback that they wish they read the policy closer.
  • Using your own phone: You can check with your provider on what options they have for international calling. We recommend thoroughly investigating the potential charges you could incur. It is important to consider how/if you need to use data while abroad, or if just the WiFi and calling features will suffice. Many participants will use their smartphone in airplane mode so they can connect to WiFi to use Skype or texting apps, but not incur data or cellular charges. This decision will be largely dependent on your provider and your expected amount of usage.
  • Purchasing an Italian phone: Once you arrive in Europe, you can purchase a phone at various local convenience stores. This would be an Italian plan and phone number.
  • Purchasing a SIM card: You have the option of having your phone unlocked before going to Italy and purchasing a SIM card with a set amount of money on it. These cards are available at the convenience stores in Paderno. This means that if you purchase 20 Euros, you can use your phone until the money runs out, then decide if you want to purchase additional time. This option works really well if you have a phone that is not a smartphone and is not connected to your home wireless plan. You may need a SIM card for Italy and one for the rest of Europe, so please consider that when researching options.
  • Skype, Viber, and calling and texting apps: To minimize international calling fees, we recommend you take advantage of free texting and calling apps whenever possible. Begin researching popular apps, such as Viber, Skype, and WhatsApp, which use WiFi to communicate with those at home. It is important that both you and your loved ones download and test these applications prior to departure. WiFi is available in every dorm room on campus and in many common areas, as well as throughout most of Europe, to help you stay connected.

Computers

We recommend that you bring a personal laptop to CIMBA. There is WiFi available in your dorm room as well as the common areas. This is helpful for completing homework and communicating with home. There are desktop computers and printers available for you to use as well. Please be mindful when traveling with a laptop, as these can often be high-theft items. When traveling, do not have your laptop at an easily accessible part of your bag, and keep it out of sight. You may want to research insurance options, including whether it is covered under a homeowners or renter’s policy.

Mail and Packages

Mail to campus should be sent to:

Student or Professor Name
℅ Istituti Filippin
Via S. Giacomo 4
31017 Paderno del Grappa (TV)
Italy

Please note: Sending luggage to campus prior to arrival can be very expensive and delivery times may vary. We only recommend this in unique circumstances. When mailing items to/from campus, students have found Mailboxes Etcetera to be most convenient.

Mail traditionally takes up to two weeks to travel from the U.S. to CIMBA. If you are expecting to receive mail, please ask your family or friends to send it before your last two weeks on campus. If mail arrives after you depart from campus, it will be discarded.

Packages will incur customs inspection fees upon their arrival in Italy and must be paid in order to receive the package.

Customs Declaration Form

  • The sender is required to fill this form out in order to send a package to Italy.
  • Beware: The form will ask for the value of the contents of the package; the value it is asking for is actually the commercial value. If there is no intent to sell the contents of the package, do not declare a high commercial value. For example, if you purchased a $300 jacket that you intend to keep for personal use, you could declare it for $30 so the customs office understands that there is no intention to sell it.
  • If commercial value is stated, the receiver of the package will be required to pay a 33% tax on the package or send it back.
  • If a package sent from the US is declared to have a $1 commercial value, but insured for $500, you can expect to pay a 33% tax on $500 to receive the package in Italy. 

Personal Use Only

  • If there is no intent to sell the contents of the package being sent, clearly mark on the declaration form and the package: FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL VALUE.
  • Carefully describe the goods. “New Clothes – Personal Use Only” will almost always get taxed while the same goods declared as “Clothing – Personal Use Only” generally will not.

CIMBA is not responsible for the levy of any taxes, duties, or other fees incurred for items intended for your personal use.

Money and Budgets

Program Payments

Most students will be able to use their existing financial aid and scholarships for the program, but it is important to verify this with your home institution. CIMBA also offers merit- and need-based financial awards, and students can offset the cost of their program by applying to be a Resident Assistant, a Blog Ambassador, or part of our Social Media Team. To learn about how to make payments toward your CIMBA program, please visit our Payment Process page.

Money and Banking

Before you leave:

  1. Call your bank, debit cards, and credit card companies to:
    1. Let them know the dates you will be living in Italy, and also emphasize that you will be traveling around Europe. You may want to add a few days before and after in case your plans change so they not freeze your account when they see international charges.
    2. Inquire about international fees for using your debit and credit cards to make informed decisions about how you spend. They may have a recommendation for a card that works better for foreign transactions.
    3. You may want to consider putting a trusted family member or friend on your accounts so if you have any difficulties while abroad, they can call the bank on your behalf. This is especially helpful considering the time difference between the U.S. and Italy.
    4. Request to have back-up copies of your card mailed to you prior to departure. This way, if a card gets stuck in an incompatible machine, you will not be left without convenient access to your funds.
  2. Convert at least 150 Euros before departing for Europe at a local bank to have to pay for the taxi and in case of an emergency. Avoid converting money at airports and train stations as they likely have higher exchange rates. Once you arrive on campus, you can withdraw more money at the ATMs in town.
  3. Make copies of your important documents, including your credit and debit cards. Keep these in a separate location than your original cards, and leave a copy with a trusted family member. This will help if your card is lost or stolen.
  4. Make sure you either have access to your bills online or designate someone at home to facilitate payments.

Cash: Europe is a very cash friendly society. Expect to use cash at restaurants, shops, markets, and for admissions to attractions. Many times you are not able to split a bill amongst several diners, so it is important to have exact change. Keep in mind that Euro coins have different monetary values than American coins.

We recommend using the ATMs on and around campus to withdraw Euros, as they have a fair exchange rate. You may want to withdraw a larger amount of money each time to avoid numerous ATM charges. It is important to make sure your card is compatible with an ATM by matching the symbols on your card to the symbol on the ATM before inserting your card.

Debit and credit cards: You will use debit and credit cards for larger purchases abroad like tickets, large souvenirs, and hotels/hostels. Most large debit and credit providers are accepted throughout Europe. AMEX is not as widely accepted as MasterCard and Visa. 

Money safety: You should store valuable items such as your passport, identification, cash, and credit cards in a secure location. CIMBA recommends purchasing a money belt or neck pouch. A money belt is less susceptible to pickpocketing and is out of sight for criminals. You can keep the majority of your money in this secure location and carry only a small amount in your purse or wallet. We recommend never having all of your money and cards in one place.

Living in Italy

Laundry

Laundry access is included in the cost of the program and is located on campus. You will receive a set amount of laundry tokens and soap upon arrival. You are able to purchase more if you would like to do additional loads.

Campus

While you’re at CIMBA, you’ll live on a beautiful campus at the foot of the Italian Alps in the shadow of Mount Grappa. Depending on the season, you can join hardy bicyclists, hikers, snowshoers, or cross-country skiers who come from around the world to navigate Mount Grappa’s twisting trails. You’ll live in a residence hall where you can choose a single or double room—most of which have a magnificent view of Mount Grappa and all of which are less than five minutes from your classes. Rooms include a bed and a desk for each student, as well as bathroom facilities. Towels and linens are provided. A video tour of one of the single rooms can be found on the CIMBA YouTube channel.

If you are attending the undergraduate program or the summer graduate session, your program cost covers breakfast, lunch and dinner at the campus cafeteria, and gives you access to the Hawk recreation room, computer areas, and athletic facilities. These facilities include a  swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts, a cardio and weight room, a gymnasium as well as an  outdoor basketball court, tennis court, and soccer field.

Packing

The CIMBA Packing Guide provides you with our packing suggestions and tips to best utilize your suitcase space. Keep in mind: Packing is not a perfect science. We recommend you use the guide as a resource and adjust our tips to fit your needs. The secret to successful packing for study abroad is to remember two things: pack smart and pack light.

Storing Luggage

If you are traveling before and/or after CIMBA, it is important to pack light so you can bring your luggage with you. While the CIMBA campus can store luggage up to a week after the program, it is not usually convenient to travel back to campus to retrieve it.

Instead, we recommend looking into Luggage Forward, or using luggage storage at train stations around Europe. You can pay a daily fee to store your luggage at a train station for a few days while you travel to alternative locations. Then, when you travel back through, you can retrieve your luggage. One location you can do this in is the Venice St. Lucia train station. As you research, you may find it listed as “left luggage.”

Textbooks and School Supplies

Your textbooks will be provided once you arrive on campus and are included in the program cost. If your course requires special materials (i.e. calculator, graph paper), you will receive a notification prior to departure.

Bring at least one notebook and pen with you for the first few days of class. There is a convenience store across the street from campus where you can purchase additional supplies. You will also take a trip to the mall within your first week at CIMBA where there are many options for school supplies

Travel and Living Guide

You will receive a hard copy of a Travel and Living Guide in your acceptance packet. You can also access it online and download it to your mobile device to use while traveling. To do this, download it as a PDF and send it to your device to read on an ebook app. It is mandatory that you read this guide prior to departure, as it contains information that is critical to a successful study abroad experience. Please bring this guide with you when you travel to CIMBA because it has directions on how to contact campus and get transportation to Paderno del Grappa in the event of a flight delay or emergency.

Using your Electronics in Europe

Electric voltage and delivery in Europe is different than in the United States. Your devices require a different plug shape (adapter) and voltage (converter) to function in Europe. You can purchase these individually or as a combined unit at most travel and electronic stores as well as Walmart or Target.

Adapter:
To insert your American devices into European outlets, you need an adapter to change their shape. Depending on how many devices you will use at one time, you may want more than one. If you intend to travel to many different countries, please keep in mind that some non-Italian countries in Europe also have different outlet shapes. We recommend looking at universal outlet adapters as an option. 

Converter:
The standard voltage in Europe is 220 volts, compared to the United States where it is 110 volts. This means that most of your electronic devices will not work in Europe or will require a converter.

We recommend that you look at the plug on your device, which lists its voltage compatibility. Many electronic devices like laptops, camera chargers, and phone chargers will list 110-220v, meaning they can be used in Europe without a converter. If your device only lists 110v, you need a converter.

Certain devices will not work in Europe, even with an adapter and converter, and will be destroyed if you plug them in. You also risk injury to yourself and your surroundings.

Devices that WILL NOT work include:

  • Hair dryer
  • Hair straightener
  • Curling Iron
  • Electric razor
  • Plug-in clock (Most people use their phone for a clock and alarm or bring a small, battery operated travel clock with them.)

You can purchase inexpensive versions of these items once you arrive in Italy or purchase a dual voltage one specifically for Europe before you arrive.

Weather at CIMBA

The Veneto region has four moderate seasons. The weather is comparable to milder regions of the Midwest, without the harsh winters. Below is a guide for the weather during each season. Keep in mind, these are averages and you should be prepared for temperature variance. We recommend using a weather app or website in the weeks before you depart to monitor temperatures in Paderno del Grappa and other travel destinations while abroad. 

Fall: Temperatures during this time are mild with variable amounts of rain. You should prepare yourself for temperatures ranging from highs around 75°F to lows around 35°F. Snow is rare in Paderno del Grappa; however, you should research other travel destinations as temperatures will vary.

Winter: Temperatures have highs around 50°F to lows around 30°F. Snow is less common, but possible in Paderno del Grappa, however you should research cities you may travel to, as temperatures will vary.

Spring: Temperatures during this time begin cooler and gradually get warmer. Again, you are more likely to experience overcast days and rain in Paderno del Grappa than snow. Be prepared for temperatures around 40°F when you arrive in Italy, which will warm to averages around 65°F when you depart. Southern regions of Italy can be quite warm during these months, and Northern Europe can experience heavy snow, so plan accordingly during your travel breaks.

Summer: Temperatures in Northern Italy range from 60°F to 85°F during this time and are known to get cool in the evenings. Summer in Italy can be very hot and humid, so keep this in mind if you plan on traveling after the program. Also, please note that air conditioning is not as readily available in Europe as in the United States. You will want layers to adjust to temperatures.