More Skill Building Than I Bargained for

Written by marandahmangradutcher June 7, 2024

I am not a well-traveled person.
My family or school planned, booked, and paid for all the trips I’ve been on. And, growing up, my family mostly opted to travel by car so I can count how many times I’ve been on a plane with my hands.
It’s safe to say that planning for the weekend trips during CIMBA was way out of my comfort zone.
During CIMBA orientation, the speakers at the University of Iowa kept mentioning a campus partner called Ciao Italia as an option for weekend trip opportunities. However, they advised us not to book every weekend before we leave because plans and interests shift once we meet people at CIMBA.
Ciao Italia created specific programs structured around the CIMBA campus schedule where they provided transportation and, if you chose to include it, accommodations for popular areas of Italy and the surrounding countries. My interest was immediately piqued.
But the more I thought about it, the more I acknowledged that my time at CIMBA would be the best way to gain those skills I’m lacking. So, I made a deal with myself while heeding the advice of CIMBA speakers: I could book the first weekend trip with Ciao Italia, but the rest I had to figure out on my own.
After I made that decision, I sat down on a random Saturday with my laptop and chose the option featuring the infamous blue water of the Mediterranean with Pula, Croatia my heart was set on it.


Ciao Italia sent the itinerary for Pula while I was boarding the first of my three flights to get to Italy.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw we were staying in a hostel. I knew it was a possibility but I was still super nervous about it. I had talked through the possibility however with a friend on Fullbright, Eleanor, before leaving and she talked me through everything which helped curb my anxiety.
Boarding the Ciao Italia bus, I was nervous but could tell everyone else seemed to be in the same boat.
After a five-hour bus ride with beautiful scenery, we arrived at the hostel, and the friends I made on the ride over and I were just shoved into one of the rooms. Another group of three other girls from CIMBA grabbed the other open beds in the room with us and it worked out extremely well.
I was shocked by the room itself because it wasn’t what I was picturing.
There was a bunch of signage in both Italian and English which helped us understand how to do things like get a towel or use the air conditioning. We were also given sizeable lockers to keep our belongings safe.
The hostel was located in Old Town Pula — close to the city center — and a reasonable way from the beach we visited. I honestly had no compliments about the accommodations and it worked out really well.
Pula, while beautiful and fun, was a stepping stone in my brain for my next trip — Verona.


Verona was the one town in Italy I knew I wanted to visit before even fully deciding to come the study abroad.
I didn’t want the trip to be too expensive and I didn’t want to go alone so I started asking around to see if anyone else was looking to go. I found a wonderful group of people, and that Monday we planned and booked everything we could beforehand like the Verona Card, train tickets, and accommodations.
I knew from my time in Pula we should stay somewhere central to the city and if it needed to be a hostel to save some money, it could be. However, we were lucky enough to find an Airbnb that was relatively inexpensive.
We knew what places we wanted to go, and searched for affordable restaurants as we went. It was by far my favorite weekend trip.
I learned through the trips how to find a safe place to stay, how to book train tickets, how to change trains, where to find good food options but also how to travel on a budget.
Leaving CIMBA I have both the technical skills I learned in classes but the practical, real-world skills I learned through planning and traveling on trips over the weekends.