Italian PhD Candidate at NYU Reflects on His New Home: America

Italian PhD Candidate at NYU Reflects on His New Home: America

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Alessandro Vecchiato resembles every other hipster in Brooklyn: he has tousled hair and an untrimmed beard; he sips coffee as if it is the elixir of life; he rocks plain white t-shirts that juxtapose his designer jeans. Yet there is something distinct about him. He doesn’t seem to appreciate irony nor does he seem too concerned with counter-culture. Vecchiato, 29, born in Venice, Italy, is a PhD candidate in political science at New York University.

Four years ago, Vecchiato came to the United States to pursue a career in American academia, first at the University of California, Los Angeles to earn his Masters before moving to New York City for his PhD. Vecchiato hopes to become a professor at an American university and have the school sponsor his work visa.

On this Sunday morning, Vecchiato is somnolent, but alert. Words fly out. He speaks almost in paragraphs. His second language, English, carries authority, but more than a little spaghetti dangles from his accent.

What’s it like living in Venice?

It’s much different from New York. No cars; no traffic. Life is calm. Not many events. The city is family oriented with more of a neighborhood lifestyle. It makes Venice unique, but it also gets boring after awhile because nothing happens. Not much of a nightlife scene.

How is your social life different here?

When you go out with friends back home, we would have a house party or a dinner party, or we would drink in the square. But here in the United States, it is all about going out to bars and clubs; it is almost businesslike. Social life is very expensive in the U.S. because you meet at establishments for dinner and drinks, but in Venice it was more about the people rather than the destination.

Is dating different here in the U.S.?

Online dating is well developed in the U.S. In Italy, you don’t ask someone out on a date until you have established feelings for that person. In America, dating is very artificial, not romantic—almost like a job interview.

Why did you want to come to the U.S. for grad school?

I wanted to come to the U.S. for undergrad, but it was difficult unless you went to a high school that is known for sending students to America. I didn’t attend one of these schools. But I’ve always wanted to come to America. When I applied to schools for my Masters, I was accepted into UCLA’s program; it was the most interesting offer I received. Plus, L.A. is a big city and I wanted to live in a big city.

Did you enjoy living in Los Angeles?

The lifestyle in L.A. and the people in L.A. are very much different from my European background. It was an exotic experience in that respect. But I also knew that the feeling wasn’t going to last. I was going to become jaded to the oasis. So after two years I left.

Why did you want to move to New York City?

New York is very much influenced by Europe. There are more Europeans in the city. But I applied to every school in the top 20 of PhD political science programs. But I also always wanted to live in Manhattan. New York City is the undisputed capital of the world. It was just convenient that NYU was the best possible school for me.

When you first moved to New York City, you lived in Stuy Town your first two years. Now you live in Williamsburg. How have these neighborhoods shaped your experience?

Living in Manhattan is stressful. There are so many people. It’s hard to carve out a place to relax. I like the idea of commuting to Manhattan for school. The intensity in the city is palpable, which makes it exciting. But living in Brooklyn let’s you briefly escape the madness.

Does the America you experience resemble the America you’ve seen in the movies?

It has been a positive surprise. The academic environment in the U.S. is impressive. People here are better read and educated than advertised. I guess Americans are cocky, which is a reputation the U.S. has abroad. So, in that sense, my experiences have contributed to the myth. And the myth has become real.

Article can be found on www.linktaylor.com

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