Written by andrewgippert December 28, 2022
The 12 weeks of our semester abroad are sadly up and us students have said “arrivederci” to Paderno Del Grappa and “ciao” to our family and friends at home in America. After having some time to relax and reflect on the experience of this past semester, I wanted to use my last blog to offer some advice on how students can make the most of their CIMBA experience as well as provide my final reflection and thanks to the program. There isn’t a perfect way to approach studying abroad and I certainly made mistakes along the way, but I hope that any future CIMBA students who read this are able to take away some useful insight to benefit their own experience.
1. Keep an open mind (especially in the first few weeks!)
On the surface, studying abroad is of course an incredibly fun thing. And this is true, but studying abroad will also put you in some relatively uncomfortable situations of being away from home in a totally foreign situation. It’s normal in these times to revert to habits and behaviors that make you comfortable, but I strongly encourage you to keep an open mind with experiences that push you out of your comfort zone, especially in the first few weeks when CIMBA does a lot to help you build camaraderie with your peers. The motto of one of my favorite YouTube channels, Yes Theory, is “Seek Discomfort”, and I believe that by keeping an open mind throughout the program and embracing and discomfort that comes with being in a foreign setting, I was able to learn a ton about the local culture, my peers, and myself.
2. Go into it with some trips planned, but leave the majority of your weekends open so you can plan with your newly made friends
Before leaving for PDG, I was concerned that I didn’t have enough trips planned ahead of time. However, I’m really glad I had so much flexibility in my schedule because it allowed me to have fun making plans with the great friends I made quickly at CIMBA. The CIMBA team does a great job of helping you make friends from the very start (even before leaving for Italy), and some of my favorite memories came from late-night planning sessions where some of the craziest ideas were explored, so I encourage you to trust that trips will get planned once you’re on campus.
3. Sign up for all the fun cultural activities that CIMBA plans
This may sound like simple advice (and it is), but I can’t recommend enough for students to take advantage of the different cultural activities CIMBA plans like pizza making, pasta making, and evenings with professors. These events give you an incredibly unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with locals while learning more about the Italian culture. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be able to make pizza alongside a pizzaiolo from Naples again and memories like this will surely last a lifetime.
4. Be mindful, present in the moment, and remind yourself to appreciate the adventure you’re on
My last, and in my opinion most important, recommendation for having a great CIMBA experience is something that I truthfully struggled with at times. When spending multiple months overseas and traveling to new destinations every weekend, you can become desensitized to the positive shock and amazement of traveling. For me, I remember sitting in Barcelona at the beginning of the travel week without understanding the magnitude of being in a completely new country and city that I had always dreamed of visiting, simply because I had spent the previous 6 weeks hopping across Europe.
From that moment on, I challenged myself to take a minute each day to reflect on where I was, the history of the location, and the excitement I felt to explore that destination. This process was extremely rewarding and shifted my mindset from taking my travels for granted to truly appreciating the opportunity I had, and this created a renewed sense of excitement each week.
My final reflection
Studying abroad has been a dream of mine throughout college – since before COVID in 2020 to be exact – and I could not be more happy and fulfilled with how my experience played out. I’m grateful for the wonderful CIMBA staff who poured so much energy into making the experience a great one for each and every student by taking time to teach us just as much outside of the classroom as in it.
I’m also thankful for each of my peers who were genuinely great to be around and made even the most “boring” days enjoyable – CIMBA truly attracts high-quality people and this is much more valuable than I previously had considered. Finally, I’m grateful for my family who supported my non-traditional route to studying abroad and helped make sure this was possible for me.
CIMBA is a special study-abroad program in that they ensure you get so much more out of the experience than simply hopping from destination to destination every weekend and I couldn’t have asked for it any better. I know this isn’t a “goodbye” to Italy but rather a “see you later”, and I already can’t wait for the day when I visit Paderno del Grappa again.