Beginnings Start with Goodbye

Written by Kate October 2, 2018

I’ll be the first person to admit I thought I was completely ready to take the plunge into a three-month excursion in Europe. I prepared all my documents, packed all my bags, and made the rounds to all my favorite people to tell them goodbye before starting this brand-new chapter. I’ve always been a planner, and I’ve always established those plans with the anticipation that things would go exactly as expected. As luck would have it, my first week taught me just how much those rules would need to bend over the coming months.

My journey started with a delayed flight- four times delayed to be exact. While this initially rattled me, because it meant I would be missing the scheduled bus to campus, I was able to meet several other CIMBA students waiting for the same plane as me. There is a lot of comfort in numbers, and knowing that I wouldn’t have to make my way to Italy alone was all the encouragement I needed. We all managed to contact one of the coordinators, and eventually alternative transportation was arranged to take us to campus. First crisis: avoided!

After arriving to campus, a friend and I decided to take a day trip to Verona, Italy on our first free Sunday of the semester. We booked our train tickets, downloaded maps of the city, and were all but certain that nothing could throw a wrench in our planning. As it turns out, that wasn’t entirely true.

We began to run into issues the evening before our departure when we discovered that one of the only English-speaking cab drivers in Paderno del Grappa was already booked for that Sunday morning. The town’s buses do not run on Sundays, so on those days, you will always need alternative transportation to get you to or from your station. My friend and I decided the most proactive measure we could take to ensure our arrival to our departing train was to wake up early and have the Italian gate keeper call a non-English speaking driver to pick us up. We researched what Italian words we would need to speak to the woman at the front gate to have her call for us, and with a little Italian and a lot of gesticulating, we managed to nab ourselves an Italian cab. Second crisis: handled!

After that, we made it to Verona. It was a lovely day of sightseeing, beautiful weather, and Italian sweets. We came back on the last returning train feeling great. That evening, we learned another great travel lesson. Do not take the last train into the station if you are returning to a small town! Another passenger got the last taxi, and we were left without transportation and working cellphones to call a taxi service. We were fortunate to find a kind local, and we used what little Italian we knew to ask him to contact a taxi company for us.

When all is said and done, it was a fulfilling and memorable first week. There are lots of travel tips you will pick up as you go, but for now the most important things I learned are as follows:

  1. Memorize key transportation and question words. You can’t help yourself if the language barrier prohibits you from telling someone what the problem is or where you’re trying to go.
  2. It’s a bad idea to take the last train into a small town, unless of course you already arranged for a driver to be there ahead of time.
  3. Finally, things will work out. Maybe you’ll find yourself lost in a new city or stranded without a taxi, but nothing is ever so impossible that you can’t fix it with a little reasoning and a lot of celebratory gelato.