Athletics and education after Johnson & Wales University did not end for a pair of former Wildcats. Raquel Pederzani and Eric Russo spent the 2018-19 school year pursuing their graduate degrees and playing the sports they love in Europe.
Pederzani, a Coventry, R.I. native, attended the University of Edinburgh earning a master's in global crime, justice and security. West Grove, Pa. native, Russo worked on a master's in management at the University of Manchester.
During her four years at Johnson & Wales, Pederzani was a two-sport star in basketball and lacrosse. She became the school's first First-Team All-GNAC selection in two sports while setting the basketball career record for points and assists.
After graduating JWU with honors in criminal justice, Pederzani applied for the Rhode Island state police academy. Unfortunately, she wasn't accepted into the academy, but she did not let that setback deter her.
"Doors are going to close on us, but that does not necessarily mean they are forever locked," Pederzani said. "They may open up at another time in your life. You cannot go wrong with what your next move is as long as you continue to further better yourself."
Life as a graduate student was very similar to Pederzani's undergrad days. While she only had each class once per week, she had to keep up every day with her studies. Basketball games were typically scheduled for Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday with training sessions in between.
"I thought I was already considerably good at managing my time between sports, homework, and a social life," said Pederzani, "Yet, the hardest adjustment I had to make was to manage my time even more efficiently than I did at JWU or from previous years."
Between school and basketball, Pederzani didn't have much time to explore Scotland early on. She spent time with her teammates during breaks and traveled more once the season was over. Pederzani said the food is very similar to America, which the exception of chocolate, which is much sweeter.
For Russo, Johnson & Wales impacted his choice. Men's lacrosse coach, Nick Coppola introduced the graduate to the program "Lacrosse the Pond" where students earn their master's while continuing to play throughout Europe. According to Russo, school in England is different compared to the academics at Johnson & Wales as final exams could be 70-100% of the total grade.
A two-hour block of classes starts at 10 am each day followed by a lunch break and a two-hour seminar to discuss the material taught in class. Russo gets a workout in before dinner with practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition to academics and his own games, Russo helped coach a U16 lacrosse team in the area to the championship game.
Living abroad has helped Russo learn more about different cultures. One thing he has not adapted to is the English cuisine. Outside of fish and chips, he categorizes the food as "bland."
"Most of my colleagues are international students as well, which allowed me to learn about a lot of different cultures," said Russo. "Playing lacrosse for the university and a club made the transition to a new environment very easy. Everyone did their best to make me feel welcome."
Even though the time change makes it difficult, Russo and Pederzani have still been able to stay in contact thanks to technology. Both of them are happy with their decision to study and play aboard and encourage anyone who has the chance to take the leap.