When you study abroad with USAC Verona, the program provides students with different opportunities for volunteering or extracurricular activities. One of these is at a children’s play and learning center called Atelier del Bimbo. Alexia Sanchez Garcia, a student of Summer Session 1 and 2 from the University of Iowa, decided to volunteer at Atelier del Bimbo during her time abroad and was nice enough to talk about her experience.
How did you feel about volunteering at Atelier del Bimbo?
I was incredibly excited that USAC Verona program provided us opportunities to get involved with our community. I have worked in children’s centers and programs in the states so I was really excited when I learned we could work with children in Verona.
Even though I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of while studying abroad, I was also nervous. With not speaking the Italian language, I was not sure if I would be of any help if I volunteered my time there. After my first day, those fears went away.
How was your first day? Do you think the children understood you were from a different country?
Right away on my first day of volunteering, I was welcomed with open arms by the teacher, Isabella. We talked about a possible plan for myself and the students.
When meeting the students, they were all so excited to get to know me and hang out. Even without speaking the same language, we had fun and did activities together. I helped the children with basic things such as pouring them water, unlocking doors, coloring with them, and many other things. The first day we spent a lot of time practicing English children’s rhymes and also learning each other’s names.
How did you feel before working with children speaking another language? And how about after?
Volunteering with children made me want to learn Italian so much more than before. I wanted to be able to communicate with them without issues. I would practice phrases before heading to the center and then I would try my best to pronounce them correctly. So as much as I was there to help them with English, I also learned a lot and practiced Italian.
Can you tell us about your best memory at Atelier del Bimbo?
My favorite memory was after meeting with them several days, they were finally comfortable being around me. At the end of one day, they gifted me their drawings they made that day. They were truly sweet kids. It didn’t bother them that we spoke different languages. They cared about making a new friend and having someone to hang out with.
I do think they did understand that I was different than them but they did not treat me like an outsider. I was open to making friendships with them and they opened up to me as well.
What would you suggest to future USAC students in Verona?
For other students who study abroad, I highly recommend taking some time to volunteer in your location. Giving back to the city or community that you call a temporary home can give you an amazing memory.