After spending a summer studying abroad in Verona, Italy, Crystal Jae Respicio from the University of Nevada-Reno agreed to answer a few questions about her time on the USAC Verona Summer Session I program.
How was the first dinner together with the other USAC students and staff?
After traveling 13 hours across the world, you could say I was hungry. The first dinner I had in Verona was perfect for my first meal in Italy and to meet all the other students in the program.
I remember walking through the city for the first time to get to the restaurant and I’ll never forget how awestruck I was by Piazza Bra. The Arena was incredible, the buildings were beautiful, and the people were so lively. It was so fun to experience this with all the other students. The entire program filled the top floor of the restaurant and I can only imagine how many pizzas we all scarfed down. The pizza was sooo delicious and it was a night full of laughs.
Everyone was so excited to meet each other and it couldn’t have been a better welcome by the USAC staff. It made the initial transition into a different country so much easier and more comfortable.
Did this experience abroad help you improve your ability to handle difficult issues?
Yes. Definitely, yes. I have always thought myself to be a level-headed person. But, when you are abroad you are put into situations that you have never experienced and I’ll forever be grateful for the lessons I have learned. I feel that my experience helped me to understand people on a different level.
Language barriers, different cultural norms, and communicating with different personalities from the US and in Italy allowed me see that an open mind is the best thing you can have while abroad and in life in general.
Did you change something in your life or way of thinking after coming back from Verona?
Throughout my entire life, I have always been an “on-the-go” person. I was always busy and always involved in my community. Even though I appreciate all of my past experiences, my way of thinking is forever changed.
After coming back from Verona, I realized that I never really had time for myself. I was always on some level of stress. I definitely incorporate the culture of “enjoying” from Italy. I take more time to eat my meals, I find myself walking slower to notice the beauty of my environment around me, and I am not trying to rush through life overall. I will never be the age I am now again.
It is important to have your business handled, but for life to be fulfilled you have to take the time to truly enjoy it.
What is your favorite memory in Verona?
My best moment in Verona was my last night in the city with one of my local friends. We went to an amazing pizzeria, Bella Napoli, and then we went to the gelateria “La Romana”, for dessert. It was the best gelato I have ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of gelato. The cone was filled with chocolate and I got two flavors: “Biscotto della Nonna” and “Crema dal 1947” that was topped with an egg-based whipped cream. I wish I could eat that same cone every day.
Afterward, we strolled the city at night and ended up at San Pietro hill to enjoy the view. The Verona city lights at night are incredible.
I will never forget how extraordinary it felt to be at the castle at that moment.
Did you experience something different from what you had expected before leaving your country?
I was very timid of being from a different country and not knowing the Italian language. I did not think that I would be treated poorly, but I was always wary of being too “American”.
I wanted to blend in as much as possible to get the full experience of the country. What I was surprised about is that people wanted to speak to me because I was American. They wanted to learn English just as much as I want to learn Italian.
I met one of my good friends, Benny, because she heard me speaking English. From then on, we hung out together and she introduced me to all of her friends from the city. Everyone was so kind and warm to me, I am grateful that I was able to make so many local friends.
If you had to convince a student to study in Verona, what would you say?
I would say, if you want to have the best experience of your life, GO. Your mind will open in a way you didn’t think was possible. Traveling on your own will push you to be the best version of yourself. The people you will meet will change your life forever. You will fall in love with the city of love.
What is something you particularly enjoyed about Italian culture and Italian people?
I love food in general, but what I appreciated most about Italian culture is how food is a religion. Food is a way of life over there. It may sound different to a lot of people, but you have to respect the food and treat it with integrity. Every ingredient and every flavor is appreciated. As it should be.
Which USAC field trip was your favorite? Why?
My absolute favorite USAC trip was the overnight stay at Lago di Garda. Everything we toured was amazing.
In Riva, all of the girls in the program found a spot on the beach together and swam out to a buoy that people could lay on. We jumped off the buoy as a group and its one of my favorite memories of the summer. At the end of the day in Riva, the USAC staff bought us all gelato and it was so nice of them, I wanted to bear hug Irene, Anna, and other Anna.
The hotel we stayed at was so awesome. We were surrounded by beautiful mountains with a view of the lake. The hike to the Arco Castle was strenuous but worth it. It was an incredible feeling to see the views and be in a place of such deep history.
The three-course meals USAC provided were amazing, I loved the breakfasts.
There are so many things I want to share with everyone about this trip. I wish I could take a flash drive from my brain and show people everything that I was able to experience.
What was your favorite class during this session? Why?
My favorite course was Italian Cuisine. Our instructor, Martina, and her sous chef, Natasha, were so fun to work with. They almost felt like aunts teaching you how to cook. We were able to develop great relationships with them and also learned how to make traditional Veronese dishes. My favorite dish we made was Gnocchi, I kept all of my recipes and I continue to make everything at home. We also got to eat what we made which was one of the best parts.
How did the USAC staff support you during your time in Verona?
The amount of love I have for the USAC staff is endless. Irene, Anna, and other Anna truly made my experience the best it could be. They were all so warm and welcoming. They would not hesitate to help you with anything and I truly mean that. I would even stop into their office to have a conversation with them and I really enjoyed their company.
Other Anna lived closer to the residence and sometimes we would ride the same bus together home, it was awesome to get to know her.
I can’t thank Irene, Anna, and other Anna enough for all of their kindness, support, and laughs.
I plan on traveling back to Verona and visiting all of them again.