“If You Give a Girl a Passport…” – Advice for the First Time International Traveler

Written by Katie May 18, 2016

Just the typical first day of school picture - actually not so typical. How many people get the opportunity to study in remote areas such as Paderno del Grappa? I am forever grateful for this summer regardless of the unsettling nerves. Deep down, I know this will be the utmost memorable experience.

A reassuring view - after the many diverse emotions of international travel, this was a reassuring sight from my dorm room. It reminds me to remain at ease.

This sure doesn't look like Iowa City to me... but how exciting this new place may be!

Too often throughout my flight, I found myself utilizing the GPS feature on the screen in front of me. My nerves continued to spike while amidst the ocean waters and foreign lands because it was all so unusual to me.

Overflowing airports, tedious security systems, strangers running wild for the gate that they should have been at an hour ago – these are just some of the common, unsettling sights of traveling. If flying isn’t nerve wracking enough, then international traveling most definitely is enough to put you over the edge, especially if you’re a first-timer like me! Problems arise and solutions must be created in order for a trip to go smoothly, which is quite similar to the pattern of events in one of my favorite childhood books, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. I felt as if I was the mouse within this ludicrous, eventful process we like to call international travel.

If you give a girl a passport, she is probably going to want to study abroad in Italy.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of attempting to submit assignments before midnight, cramming for midterms, and just college life in constant full swing, this college student will decide to throw in another flavor of adventure. Why not study abroad this summer? What better place to go than Italy? What’s another slice of pizza to add to the already full plate? Sign me up. Advice: Listen, you may want to do it all (who wouldn’t), but make sure you choose a study abroad time and program right for you. CIMBA most likely is (in all its glory), but still. Take time to research before diving in. The more knowledge, the better.

If she wants to study abroad in Italy, then she will have to pack her bags in a matter of a few days to last her over a month.

With finals completely taking over a college student’s life, it’s an unfortunate reality that one will probably only have a few days to figure out what to bring for a month’s worth of survival overseas. This isn’t the simplest task as one simultaneously moves out of a dorm room. From numerous bins containing the college wardrobe, I had to decide what could fit in my bag. Advice: Pack as early as possible and eliminate items while doing so. Create a list of everything you need to pack prior to doing so, and look to websites with ready-to-go packing lists to discover anything you maybe had missed. List-making is a great way to discover what you truly need rather than what you want.

If she packs her bags in a matter of a few days, she will probably over-pack and end up bringing two suitcases.

As I straggled out the door to load up the family van and head to the airport, it was brought to my attention that my bag was at risk of being overweight, so I quickly transferred all shoes, accessories, and toiletries into a small rolling suitcase. This is where I was the most foolish of all. Advice: PLEASE try to not be as high maintenance as I am and bring two rolling suitcases unless you truly think you can handle it. Yes, I did need to save my bag from being overweight, but try to solve this problem ahead of time. It wasn’t terrible having two bags, but dealing with one bag rather than two would have been ideal. And ALWAYS be conscious of what is in your carry-on…

If she ends up bringing two suitcases, she will most likely struggle with security.

As the man working at the check-in counter looked into my eyes and informed me that my second bag would cost $100 to check, I decided that the smaller bag would immediately become a carry-on. Little did I remember that the small suitcase was full of items such as lotions, perfume, and a small container of laundry detergent, which would have only been allowed in a checked bag. As I watched my precious cargo be carelessly thrown in the trash, a new lesson was learned, and I was on my way once again. Advice: Plan ahead, people, plan ahead.

If she struggles with security, she most likely will struggle with the rest of the the departure process as well.

I thought airports were my go-to happy place. It feels as if I’ve done the airport routine millions of times. What’s a little international travel… piece of cake, right? Wrong. To be honest, I couldn’t have asked for a smoother process even if there were a few bumps here and there. The series of events wasn’t the problem. The problem was the uncontrollable nerves – I was so anxious to get to Italy that I could barely hold myself together. If I told you I got any sleep on the plane, I’d be lying. I could barely eat (maybe that was the two American burgers I scarfed down before boarding…. R.I.P American food), and I did nothing but binge-watch newly released movies to ease my unsettling nerves. My trembling hands were in full action during the descent into Venice, but I forced myself to look around and gaze upon the other soon-to-be CIMBA students traveling with me, and then I was immediately at ease. Advice: I know it sounds cliché, but when you get as anxious as I did, close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Remind yourself of what you’re doing, where you’re going, and why. This will reassure your confidence and help you be more at ease during a stressful process such as this one.

If she struggles with the departure process, it most likely means the journey is absolutely worth it.

Somehow, some way, I kept myself completely collected, made it through customs with ease, hopped on a weird-looking yellow bus, and miraculously arrived on campus. I MADE IT. After many stressful hours, I, just a freshman college student from Iowa, have managed to successfully travel halfway across the world. I can now cross the first task off my Italian adventure list, and I am more than ready to cross off many more. They say nothing worth it is easy, so I know that, although the journey over wasn’t the most predictable process, my time here will be more than worth it.

Italy, I’m officially ready for you – nerves free.