Iowa study abroad packing
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
By Allison Grier (BBA20)

Preparing to go abroad has been an ongoing process. After making the decision to study abroad, choosing a program, and planning my course schedule with my advisor, I was ready to apply to the CIMBA Program. The application process was straightforward: my transcripts, answering a number of short essay questions about how I could benefit from the experience, and a faculty reference letter.

Receiving my study abroad acceptance packet a few weeks later was like receiving a golden ticket. It meant I was going abroad. My parents have never traveled outside the country so, without the help of an academic program that already had everything laid out, it was hard to envision how I would accomplish my dreams of world travel. The packet congratulated me on my acceptance as well as included a letter to my parents, a travel booklet, related financial documents, and two luggage tags.

This opportunity means I will explore places my family have never had the opportunity to explore themselves, not to mention developing a whole new level of confidence and independence. I am a proponent of self-improvement and developing life skills, and I suspect studying abroad will be an extreme growth opportunity. It will involve communicating with those that don’t share the same language, navigating different forms of transportation, consuming new foods, exploring unfamiliar environments and cultures, and so much more.

Following the review of my packet contents, came a checklist of forms to be turned into the CIMBA office prior to my departure for the spring 2019 semester. This included proof of my passport, applications for scholarships, verification of health, financial aid, etc. I was on a roll, visiting the CIMBA office every other week to ensure I had all the necessary documentation and my travel expectations were accurate. By the time I finished the fall 2018 semester, I had met with each of the CIMBA faculty at least twice and we knew each other by name. I definitely took advantage of the fact they were open from 8AM to 5PM Monday through Friday for students to drop in.

It was not until the end of the semester, however, the CIMBA staff truly came to know who I was. This was due to my family deciding to join me abroad on the back end of my trip. For ten days, I will be reunited with my family to explore Venice, Florence, and Rome. This was a dream vacation for my family but not without its challenges. The CIMBA program is designed not to surpass 90 days. This is because Italy is part the Schengen Region. Many European countries belong to this region in which allows visitors without a visa to travel freely for up to 90 days. Not realizing this when booking my flight, it turned out I would be surpassing the 90 day limit by three days. Changing my flight would come at a great expense, not to mention threats of fines and ban of reentry at the time of my final departure. Notifying the CIMBA office of my concerns, they ensured me that as long as I traveled outside the Schengen Region, such as the United Kingdom or Croatia for three days or more, I would be safe. This helped calm all of our worries as I had already planned to spend a good portion of my 10 day spring break in another country.  

Right now as I prepare to leave, I feel a bit anxious. How will I make the most of this experience? How do I even begin to plan travel weekends or book flights for places that are so unknown to me? Another scary thought is what if I don’t return the same? I took courage from the 80’s rock band Queen which I happened to be listening to on a run this afternoon, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

If you're interested in other first person perspectives from Tippie students studying abroad, check out our Instagram Story "Q&A" highlight.