Even though I have a huge imagination, what I am going to write is really something unexpected.
Four things are recurring in this story: nutella, parmesan, my granddad’s backpack and a moka.
Five years ago I embarked on my university journey. I would say it is appropriate to call it a literal “journey”. I will tell you why. Everything started in my home town, Padova, where the third oldest university worldwide was founded (after Bologna and Paris). There, I started studying Statistical Science. Actually, when I enrolled in this bachelor’s program, I did not know what exactly this subject was: statistics?! Something between math and economics? Boh. I discovered it later, and I can say that luckily, I made the right choice.
In my second year of the programme I was late for applying for an Erasmus scholarship, but I really wanted to see and experience something else. It was summer in Italy and I was searching the university website and I found this scholarship for studying in China. During high school, I attended a Mandarin course for a year. What did I remember? Nothing at all. It took me quite some time to remember that ni hao (你好) was indeed ciao. I started to probe the opinions of my parents about the prospect. Which means: I told my mother, we convinced my dad, we discovered where exactly the city of Guangzhou (广州) is and – BAM – I applied. I did not think I was going to be granted a scholarship, but there I was – 21 years old and with just a 20-kilogram suitcase containing a jar of nutella, a moka, a piece of parmesan and a scout backpack, ready to spend a semester in Guangzhou.
I did not know anyone. I was overexcited. I landed and I discovered that my credit card was demagnetized. Was I upset? Only for the first ten hours, then I got a grip of myself and decided to face the journey ahead. Every day in China was an adventure: from understanding which kind of food I was eating, to which bus I was supposed to take. I remembered all the smells, all the colours, all the humidity, all the bao zi (包子) I ate. I had the opportunity of working with the Italian Consulate in Guangzhou for writing my thesis on the Italian migration flow to South China, which involved my own web survey. A unique opportunity!
Finally, I went back to Italy to take my last exams. I passed the IELTS exam and I was ready to move to Stockholm to enrol in the Masters’ program in Demography at Stockholm University: a multidisciplinary program combining sociology, statistics, human geography and economics. I was ready again to fly with my suitcase, my backpack, parmesan, nutella and the moka.
Stockholm is now my second home. It is the place where I’ve prepared more tiramisù than ever. It has been harder compared to the experience in China. However, I have Swedish friends whom I can count on and an adoptive family!
I just came back from an internship in Vienna, at the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital. This time by train, I moved with my usual luggage, by now already an established tradition of mine. I really enjoyed those ten weeks in Vienna, where I worked with researchers and Phd students. I learned a lot and I was in the centre of Europe speaking English with researchers from all over the world.
Europe is full of opportunities for students and young scholars. The fact that by only speaking one foreign language, English, one can go almost everywhere is beneficial for the student experience. It has not been easy, I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned and I am still learning a lot.
So where am I to go next time with my nutella, my backpack, my moka and my parmesan?