Tag: Europe


Brexit 10 Years On. What future for the EU and the UK?

It seems fair to say that the new decade did not begin at its best. The finalisation of Brexit took place on 31st January 2020 and was shortly followed by the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19. Considering the complexity of global politics, ten years are likely to be gone in the blink of an eye: long-term changes do not usually happen in such a short time. But then, again: in the space of four years the United Kingdom cancelled forty-seven years of European membership, so who is to say?

The European Union’s delegation in London stated that: “The global health emergency triggered by Covid-19 has shown us that the challenges which we face are global and know no borders”. For this reason, we have tried to imagine what could happen after Brexit. What will be the relationship between the UK and the EU in ten years? We have asked this question to political experts, representatives of institutions, British citizens and residents. In order to answer this question it is necessary to make some considerations on the future of the EU as we know it.

Although no one has the power to predict the future, looking at the past may help. The UK’s decision to leave the EU did not come out of nowhere and can be linked to the fact that British Europeanism never really took off. To start, the rhetoric of British exceptionalism is deeply rooted in British culture. Every identity conceives of itself as opposed to someone else and Britons have usually found their counterparts in Europeans.

Secondly, the United States has always been an attractive pole for the UK. The ‘special relationship’ has made the English Channel seem metaphorically wider than the Atlantic Ocean, and it is well known that president Donald Trump has endorsed Brexit. “People have very much taken for granted many of the everyday benefits of being a member state” told us Chris, a British native citizen with a keen interest in the politics of his country, “[even though] the EU has been responsible for crippling [some member] countries’ economies”. According to these premises, the UK’s departure could have been foreseen.


Photo by Agnese Stracquadanio, 2020, All Rights Reserved


Historian and former professor of History of the European Integration at the University of Milan Lucio Valent offered his views on some of the likely scenarios for the next decade. “The feeling of belonging to the EU still differs from member to member and the process of the EU losing its appeal started way before the Coronavirus outbreak” he stated. As a historian, it is his job to look at the past, rather than at the future. However, his knowledge of past events may provide a sort of reading key for the future. “Since the financial crisis of 2008, public opinion has progressively shown a preference for national sovereignty over European authority, to the point of questioning the benefits of European membership” he said. “But this is not something new” – Professor Valent added, “the same happened in 1929 when the economic crash was followed by the closure of national borders and the implementation of autocratic policies”.

How the UK will shape its relationship with the EU depends on its internal growth” Valent said. This is because the performance of the economy always has a political impact. “The one-of-a-kind European market cannot be easily replaced. For this reason, the UK is striving to maintain a close economic relationship with the EU”. According to Professor Valent: “Economic consequences that may occur after the transition period could trigger a new wave of Europeanism in the UK”. This is what Chris hopes too. “By 2030 in one way or another we will have ended up drawing the conclusion that it is better to be part of the EU” he maintains. Like Chris, Professor Valent is optimistic about the role that many years of communality with European countries will play in future policy-making in Britain. The EU delegation in the UK does not exclude the possibility of future co-operation: “We hope that on the basis of shared history, shared values and geographical proximity, there is scope for the EU and the UK to work together on the global stage” the delegation stated. However, as Professor Valent pointed out: “if both the common market and the monetary union still exist in ten years, the international weight of the UK could be questioned”. This is a scenario which would scare hard-line Brexiteers too.

Another aspect to take into consideration is that the departure from Europe could trigger not only a new wave of Europeanism, but some internal discontent too. In this regard, Professor Valent reminds us that in recent years a number of European nations have seen regional demands for independence gain momentum, along with the hope of support from the EU in turn. For example, “those who supported the Belgian secession or Catalonia’s separation from Spain aimed to obtain EU protection”. In the same way, “it is possible that Scottish pride will prevail over British identity due to Brexit”, Valent explained. Fidelity to national identity is hard to change. In fact, more than three-hundred years of being part of Great Britain has not tarnished Scottish pride. “The idea of Scotland leaving the UK is supported by a portion of the Scottish public opinion”. “However,” – Valent added “– such a scenario would only prevail if independence was to be followed by European membership, with its large, regulated and rich market”.


Photo by Agnese Stracquadanio, 2020, All Rights Reserved


The same applies for Northern Ireland. Here, “the geographic borders and the close relationship with the Republic of Ireland polarise the public debate even more” Valent said. Managing the complex relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been a focal point of Brexit negotiations. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, together with EU regulations, have framed this relationship for many years, and “without the EU, the Good Friday Agreement would inevitably be put under pressure”. If a crisis between England and Scotland occurs, Northern Ireland could also decide to take its own path. According to Chris, the combination of these dynamics and the seemingly unending austerity imposed by the current financial policies and the socio-economic shape the UK is in, will lead to a change in the next general election. “At that point, my hope is that [the government] will seek to reverse the trend” Chris said.

Besides economic and financial implications, the human aspect is what interests Gianna, an Italian who has resided in London for several years. “What has worried me about Brexit is the problem of immigration” – said Gianna – “I have never been a fan of immigration policies; I struggle to understand why we need borders at all”. She studied philosophy and ethics, and is currently employed by a non-profit organisation working with Italian migrants in the UK. If the British government does not ask for an extension of the transition period before 30th June, “freedom of movement from the EU to the UK will become limited, and those who wish to enter the UK will have to meet certain criteria from 1st January 2021” she added. In Gianna’s words “Brexit represents the first step towards an era of national sovereignty and inward focus”. All this is simply against what the EU represents, “togetherness, communication, freedom of movement, mutual support” she said. Even acknowledging the problems that need to be fixed within such a multilateral body, the EU still embodies “the post-war attitude of choosing openness”. “What worries me more than what the relationship between the EU and the UK will be, actually is: Will there still be a EU?” Gianna said. And that is what worries pro-Europeans all.


Cover Photo by Agnese Stracquadanio, 2020, All Rights Reserved

How you doin’, Manchester?

Talking about terrorist attacks is not easy at the present moment, when everybody wants to respect the grief of the victims’ families and the privacy of the injured. However, I truly believe that there is a great need to report how the citizens of the countries hit by violence are currently reacting. On the 22nd of May 2017, 22-year-old British Muslim Salman Ramadan Abedi detonated a homemade bomb at the exit of the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, at the end of a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. Twenty- three adults and one children were killed, Abedi included.

Bombing location map. (Credits: Wikipedia, Eugen Simion 14 – Base map from OpenStreetMap, CC BY-SA 2.0).

Manchester is a lively city. I had the pleasure to live there during the last winter, and what surprised me most of it was the extreme variety of cultures living together. For example, I was truly impressed by the huge sign indicating the Gay Village in the city centre, something that couldn’t happen without issues in my hometown Bergamo, close to Milan.

Gay Village in the city centre of Manchester. Credits: Francesca Gabbiadini

During my stay, I attended an English course at a private school in the city centre, situated about 7 miles from the Manchester Arena. Immediately after the attack, I contacted Paul Ames, a 49-year-old British teacher who works at the school I attended, to understand better how Manchester is doing. Paul has lived in the Middle East for 6 years and worked there as an English teacher, discovering himself and facing the challenge of living immersed in another culture. Paul is originally from Manchester and currently lives approximately 10 miles from where the attack took place. When the terrorist attack happened, Paul was in Italy, on a holiday in Venice. For that reason, he found out about the attack on the morning after, when he checked the news on his mobile: «At the beginning, I felt a mix of shock and sadness. Then, I became very angry imaging all the suffering this attack was causing».

This is the first attack to hit the city after the powerful truck bomb which exploded in central Manchester on June 1996. At the time, it was the biggest bomb to have been detonated in Britain since the Second World War. It caused widespread damage and injured 200 people, but there weren’t any deaths. Despite the surveillance the city is under and the fact that Paul didn’t expect the attack, he adds that «however, it was not a big surprise since it felt like it was just a matter of time until a terrorist attack took place».

Rushholme, the Arabic neighborough where I used to live during my stay in Manchester. Credits: Francesca Gabbiadini.

Manchester is a lively place, I have already told you this. Anger is not the feeling that is currently running in the streets of the city. The citizens reacted with empathy and answered the terrorist act by flooding the places surrounding the Arena with flowers, poems, drawings and balloons. On the 4th of June, Ariana Grande came back to Manchester as hosted a benefit concert entitled “One Love Manchester” at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, which was broadcast live on television, radio and social media. The benefit concert and associated Red Cross fund raised £10 million for the victims of the attack.

Paul doesn’t notice any difference in his daily life after the bomb attack and he doesn’t have any desire to move to another place. He maintains that Muslim communities and the Muslim neighbourhood Rusholme didn’t receive a different treatment from the citizens or the police. Finally, I asked Paul a question about Europe and whether in his opinion these attacks are somehow threatening the concept of a united Europe: «The attacks may threaten a united Europe but I don’t think that is the intention of daesh. Unless Europe and its leaders wake up, it will sleepwalk itself into disaster in the next 20-30 years».

Floral tributes to the victims of the attack in St Ann’s Square in Manchester City centre (Credits: Wikipedia, Tomasz “odder” Kozlowski – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0).

Konrad is a 23-years-old Polish man who attended my same course at the private school where Paul is currently teaching. Having moved from Poland to the UK, Konrad is currently working in London in order to save some money to attend an acting course in France’s capital in the future. I contacted him in order to understand better what moving across Europe feels like: «When the terrorist attack happened I was in Sevenoaks, near London, training to become a Personal Assistant for disabled people. I found out about it from my colleague… I was totally in shock; it’s hard to express all the sadness, sympathy as well as grievance caused by this security fail». He explains to me that he won’t stop travelling around Europe, or change his daily life just because terrorist attacks can happen everywhere: «Actually, I am thinking more about what kind of things I should have on in case a terrorist attack should happen [where I am], and if there are any things that could be useful to know».

Konrad has a positive attitude towards the European Union: «How do I see Europe? I see EU as a safe place to live in and welcoming people from around the world. We can make changes together».

Cover Picture: Manchester City centre. Credits: Francesca Gabbiadini

Viaggiare e scrivere accompagnati dalla Sindrome di Asperger

Navigando nei meandri del web capita, a volte, di imbattersi in siti interessanti, particolari. Succede quasi per caso: magari stai ascoltando una canzone su YouTube, sbirciando tra qualche social e, nel frattempo, vuoi compiere una breve ricerca su un argomento che hai poco chiaro. Succede che invece di aprire il primo link, il tuo occhio cada sul secondo e che, spinto dalla curiosità del nome, tu lo apra.

Ecco, questo è ciò che è capitato a me circa due settimane fa. Il sito in questione, o meglio, il blog si chiama Operazione Fritto Misto e, chiaramente, almeno un’occhiata l’ho dovuta dare! Perché… Perché nel nome c’è “fritto misto”; quindi, mi chiedo io: vuoi non aprire un link che ha “fritto misto” nel nome?

Le mie aspettative vengono subito deluse: ingolosito al pensiero di veder apparire sul monitor immagini di ciotole colme di verdure miste e piatti di carni e pesci rivestite di superfici croccanti, non appena lo apro scopro che il blog non tratta solo ed esclusivamente di cucina! Colpa mia che non ho letto tutto il titolo del sito: Operazione Fritto Misto – Ceci n’est pas un blog de cuisine. Causa la mia sbadataggine e forse l’appetito, non avevo colto l’originale punto di vista del blog, racchiuso nella bellissima citazione all’opera di Magritte, Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Di cucina e di ricette se ne parla, diciamo che c’è “Un po’ di cucina” (come titola la rubrica dedicata), ma gli argomenti di cui è possibile leggere spaziano dai libri alle serie tv, passando per i film e diversi viaggi. Insomma, un vero fritto misto!

A incuriosirmi, inizialmente, è più che altro il fatto di capire quale sia il collante, il filo conduttore di tutti questi post; così, esplorandolo un po’ scopro che la proprietaria, nonché unica autrice, si chiama Alice, ha 28 anni, è torinese di nascita e lavora come hostess d’hospitality allo stadio. Una blogger come tante, apparentemente, se non per il fatto che Alice è portatrice della sindrome di Asperger; un disturbo di scoperta relativamente recente, i cui sintomi, difficili da indagare sia per le loro molteplici sfumature sia per la mancanza di informazioni scientifiche circa le cause della sindrome, sono legati alla sfera sociale dell’individuo.

E come nasce l’idea di aprire un blog che parla di sé, in una persona che ha difficoltà nell’avere interazioni sociali? Non resisto all’invito “Contattami” che appare nell’elenco in menù, da cui Alice risponde a tutte le mie curiosità: «Come tutti i possessori di un blog ho iniziato a scrivere per puro piacere. A spingermi ad aprire Operazione Fritto Misto, però, è stata la difficoltà di comunicazione, il bisogno di una forma di socializzazione adatta al mio modo di essere, che conciliasse la necessità di condividere gli interessi alla facilità dell’espressione scritta. Per questo, scrivere, per me, vuol dire comunicare senza pressioni».

Il blog, nato come blog di cucina «vegetariana, simpatizzante vegana», presto si è aperto a una grandissima varietà di temi: «Stavo stretta in mezzo a sole ricette; così ho ampliato gli argomenti e si sono aggiunti i viaggi, Torino, libri e film. Un fritto misto, insomma», mi racconta Alice. E proprio sui viaggi di Alice ritengo opportuno soffermarmi, immaginando non sia facile cambiare ambiente e incontrare nuovi spazi, per chi come lei sente la necessità di vivere in una comfort zone, ossia un ambiente privo di rischi o fonti di ansietà, quanto più familiare possibile: «Per anni ho viaggiato in camper, il che mi ha dato l’opportunità di visitare moltissimo l’Italia, di cui ho amato il giro di tutta la costa sarda e la Puglia; ma anche il sud della Francia, la Svizzera (soprattutto Locarno, città d’origine di mio nonno) e l’Austria. Poi c’è Londra, che mi ha fatto innamorare ancora prima di visitarla, e Copenaghen, che nel periodo natalizio mi è entrata nel cuore».

Così, la sezione “Sì Viaggiare” del blog ha iniziato a prendere forma: in questo spazio, Alice racconta i suoi viaggi, di quelli passati ma anche di quelli che un giorno ha intenzione di fare. A tal proposito ha scritto un articolo, datato Gennaio 2016, dal titolo “Traveldreams 2016 Per Sognare in grande”, in cui stila una lista di quei Paesi che in futuro vorrebbe visitare; dalla Namibia alla Polinesia francese, passando per la Scozia, l’articolo racconta alcune delle fantasie di viaggio che Alice coltiva da tempo . Sorpresa: al punto 6 c’è l’Italia, perché, cito testualmente, «chi l’ha detto che i viaggi da sogno si trovino a distanze transoceaniche?». Nel sito non mancano consigli da viaggiatori: suggerimenti sui trasporti economici, tra cui particolare attenzione ottiene Megabus, cui Alice dedica un #diarioditrasferta su Instagram; innumerevoli recensioni culinarie, non senza riferimenti all’ambienti e all’economia; critiche sincere (irresistibili quelle al Balcone di Giulietta a Verona, la cui parete retrostante è «ormai cimitero di microbi e saliva») e commenti senza peli sulla lingua (ammette che «Parigi mi ha delusa», anche se per affrontarla impara ad apprezzarne il fascino, seguendo il suo principio di «curare la paura con la bellezza»).

Infine una certa attenzione è riservata a Torino, ai suoi eventi, ma anche ai suoi luoghi più nascosti e interessanti; immancabili sono i consigli su dove fermarsi a mangiare, mentre alcune curiosità sui piemontesismi più diffusi potranno aiutarvi nell’approccio ai torinesi.

Alla base di tutti questi viaggi c’è la sindrome di Asperger che la fa (quasi) da padrona. «I primi momenti – mi spiega Alice – non è stato facile perché partire senza i miei genitori, all’epoca parte integrante della mia comfort zone, si è rivelato psicologicamente tumultuoso: ero felice di andare ma inspiegabilmente ero terrorizzata, al punto di stare male per tutta la durata del soggiorno. Non mi sono voluta arrendere, così ho iniziato a cercare un modo per reagire, come faccio nella vita di tutti i giorni».

Ed è da quel momento che le cose hanno iniziato a prendere una piega diversa, e il viaggio ha assunto, per Alice, un sapore nuovo: «Mi sono accorta che a spaventarmi erano gli imprevisti e l’ignoto come, ad esempio, un metal detector che suona, un quartiere sconosciuto, o persone che mi parlano in un’altra lingua, e che quindi la soluzione era prepararsi adeguatamente, cercando più informazioni possibili senza lasciare troppo al caso. Certo gli intoppi ci sono sempre, ma riderci su e viaggiare con qualcuno di cui mi fido aiuta sempre».

Fotografie di Operazione Fritto Misto

Mollo tutto per vivere in barca a vela

«Fa un freddo terribile e questo vento prima o poi mi porterà via».
E’ febbraio e sono a Falmouth, in Cornovaglia, sulla mia barca. Ho guidato sette ore il venerdì sera per arrivare qui per alcuni lavori di sistemazione da fare sull’imbarcazione; e proprio questo weekend c’è una tempesta.
Sto aiutando il mio ragazzo Ryan a salire in testa d’albero del nostro piccolo catamarano per misurare il sartiame. Mentre saltello qua e là da un lato all’altro dello scafo, tendendo il metro avvolgibile e scribacchiando numeri, controllo che Ryan ci sia ancora: questo vento potrebbe farlo cadere dai dieci metri d’altezza a cui si trova.
Per un secondo l’idea di mollare un buon lavoro, il caldo confortevole di una bella casa, seppure in affitto, gli amici e la famiglia, e partire all’avventura su una barca a vela mi pare assurda. Poi, non appena Ryan scende al sicuro e siamo al riparo nella cabina, con tutte le misure che ci servono scritte sul mio quaderno, sorrido.
Lo stiamo veramente facendo: stiamo sistemando la nostra barca e finalmente salperemo per il Mediterraneo.

Una decina di mesi fa, lo scorso Maggio, mi stavo rilassando su una spiaggia naturale, camuffata e nascosta tra le coste di Maiorca, lontano dal tempaccio inglese e dai resort affollati dell’isola spagnola. Stressatissima a causa del mio lavoro come capo di dipartimento di un’agenzia di marketing digitale a Manchester e riluttante all’idea di riprendere l’aereo di lì a pochi giorni, ho iniziato a divagare in riflessioni sulla vita:
«Perché dobbiamo per forza ammazzarci di lavoro fino ai settant’anni, per poi goderci dieci o quindici anni di dolce far niente, magari costretti in un letto di ospedale? Chi l’ha deciso? Chi dice che dobbiamo per forza accantonare tutti i nostri sogni e sperare di poterli realizzare solo quando saremo vecchi e stremati?»
A un tratto, la vita regolare che pure mi aveva regalato non trascurabili soddisfazioni, non aveva più senso. Mi ero resa conto di trascorrere la routine quotidiana di quella vita che i più considerano normale, in attesa di quei momenti di pausa, spesso vissuti a contatto con la natura, che mi ridavano energia; stavo vivendo solo per arrivare al weekend per fare arrampicata oppure per le vacanze dedicate allo scuba diving.
Per la prima volta nella mia vita, ho capito che non dovevo per forza adeguarmi.

Ho la fortuna di poter fare il mio lavoro ovunque, a patto di avere una buona connessione internet, quindi perché rimanere intrappolata in una città grigia e fredda nel Regno Unito? Ho sempre avuto troppa paura di mettermi in proprio come freelancer perché avevo affitto e bollette da pagare, ma vivere in barca a vela elimina tutti questi costi e i relativi problemi.
Quindi, eccomi qui. Sto per iniziare l’avventura più rischiosa, ma anche la più emozionante della mia vita!
A fine Agosto 2016, io e Ryan abbiamo comprato un catamarano Heavenly Twins costruito nel ’77, lungo poco meno di otto metri. Non è grande, ma ha tutto ciò che serve: cambusa con forno e fornelli, cuccetta matrimoniale, “soggiorno” e bagno. Sarà la nostra casa galleggiante per il futuro prossimo. La barca, che abbiamo chiamato Kittiwake, ci è costata meno di un’auto nuova e vivremo a bordo frugalmente e in modo ecosostenibile, una scelta etica che avremmo sempre desiderato fare e che ora potremo realizzare.
Ciò che fa sentire me e Ryan vivi sono le avventure: campeggiare su isole deserte, scalare scogliere, conquistare la cima di una montagna, fare snorkeling con le tartarughe marine, … Così, nel mese di Maggio sistemeremo al meglio Kittiwake per renderla confortevole e poi partiremo alla volta del Mediterraneo, entro Giugno 2017.

Nell’attesa di partire, tra una riparazione e l’altra, fantastichiamo su mete sempre più lontane, pur avendo già ideato un tragitto definitivo. Facilmente ci scontreremo con ostacoli climatici che ci rallenteranno e non siamo certi delle miglia nautiche che realmente riusciremo a coprire: la sicurezza è per noi la cosa più importante, consapevoli che vivremo in balia dei movimenti del mare e del vento, ma la nostra ambiziosa rotta è disegnata sulla mappa!
Partiremo da Falmouth, in Cornovaglia, e attraverseremo la Manica vicino a Salcombe, in Devon. Da lì costeggeremo la Francia fino alla baia di Biscay, che in parte dovremo attraversare di notte per mancanza di punti d’approdo cui ancorare la barca.
Esploreremo poi il nord della Spagna e il Portogallo, dove trascorreremo le notti cullati dalle tranquille acque delle foci dei fiumi, protetti dalle correnti vigorose dell’oceano. Qui, speriamo di riuscire a fare qualche arrampicata sulle impressionanti scogliere portoghesi e, chi lo sa, magari impareremo anche a fare un po’ di surf.
Raggiunto il sud della Spagna, attraverseremo lo stretto di Gibilterra e ci dirigeremo verso le isole Baleari; abbiamo deciso di dedicare un intero mese all’esplorazione delle belle isole spagnole e delle loro cale naturali, cogliendo l’occasione anche per qualche allenamento nel freediving.

Navigheremo poi nel Mare di Sardegna, per arrivare sull’isola italiana nei pressi di Portoscuso; di qui, percorreremo la costa sarda verso sud per avvicinarci alla Sicilia, sfioreremo il Tirreno e raggiungeremo quindi il Mare di Sicilia e Marsala.
Dopo aver costeggiato la parte sud-ovest dell’isola, dovremmo attraversare nuovamente il Mare di Sicilia, questa volta in direzione di Malta. Qui, trascorreremo l’inverno navigando, tempo permettendo, tra le isole di Comino, Gozo, Cominotto e gli scogli minori di St. Paul’s e Filfola; speriamo anche di poter fare diving prima che arrivi il freddo, così da poter vedere i cavallucci marini. Ci avventureremo alla volta degli spettacolari sentieri e falesie dell’arcipelago maltese tra Novembre 2017 e Marzo 2018; Malta ha inverni molto miti e spesso le temperature sono intorno ai venti gradi fino a Natale, quindi è il posto ideale per svernare.
E poi? E poi chi lo sa. Non abbiamo piani per il futuro, ma sappiamo che vogliamo vivere una vita più significativa e avventurosa, una vita che non ci intrappoli dietro una scrivania o davanti alla TV.

Potrete seguire la nostra esperienza sul nostro blog sailingkittiwake.com e sui social: per ora siamo su Twitter e Facebook, ma documenteremo il viaggio anche su YouTube, non appena partiremo.

Shrinking Britain: a migrant’s view on the EU referendum

When I first moved to London it felt like my life had suddenly shrank. All the things that had been important to me until then pulled back to the background as I navigated my way through the challenges of adjusting to a new life. First came the awkwardness of not being able to communicate properly in English: the despair of trying to rent a room with a letting agent who would not speak slower irrespectively of how many times I asked her to, please. Then the frustration of booking an appointment for a National Insurance Number, mitigated only by the patience of the call handler who repeated her words over and over for me, a newcomer startled by her inscrutable inflection which I later learnt being a thick northern accent. Insecurity followed suit, felt under the scrutiny of the bank employee who let me open an account only after I had assured him beyond doubt that I would start a full-time job the following week, finally leaving ground to the overwhelming disorientation that pervaded me throughout the next months, as I tried to figure out how everything worked – from public transport to the subtleties of social interaction.

I was not new to this kind of experience: my family moved to Italy in 1992 to escape war in Yugoslavia, and I remember clearly how my parents struggled to find work and a landlord who would trust them enough to rent to them. I remember how their lives, too, seemed to shrink for years, as they battled the unbearable slowness of Italian bureaucracy and adjusted to the constant feeling of disenfranchisement and isolation guaranteed by life as a migrant in a small Italian town better known for its right-wing political views. I still remember vividly being observed and evaluated by the town’s inhabitants when my parents and their friends tried to recreate some sense of homeliness by drinking coffee after coffee (as it is custom in the Balkans) at the cafe in the town centre, talking and laughing loudly in their mother tongue. I also remember being excluded from the local children’s games because I didn’t know their rules and they didn’t have the patience to teach me. To this day, I am painfully aware of how many Italian uses are still unknown to my family and me despite having lived there for most of our lives, an incompleteness that testifies to the process through which we became Italian, not through the privilege of inherited customs but through the bumpiness of daily trial and error.

Photo by Pete Linforth / PIxabay
Photo by Pete Linforth / Pixabay

So, if you ask me, the initial experience of migration is best described as the feeling of your life narrowing, as your daily experience is reduced to a limited set of practical issues and uncomfortable feelings. But just like had happened to my parents in Italy, the process gradually reversed, and I eventually got to a stage where the full range of life’s experiences and feelings was available to me again. Today my life is richer thanks to my time in this country, and I can see that the initial shrinking I experienced was part of a process that eventually enabled me to look at the world through a wider, more complete perspective. I completed a Master degree in London, worked jobs in hospitality, academia and the charity sector, I got to know people from all over the world and made experiences that pushed me to reconsider my views and values. I came to appreciate the vastness of this city and the diversity of its inhabitants and became proud to be part of a society that values plurality and tolerance. Heck, I even learnt to understand northern accents.

If I was able to enjoy the challenges and rewards of life in this country, it was thanks to the privilege of European citizenship. If, as a child, I could participate to exchange programs that took me to England and Finland, it was thanks to projects sponsored by the EU to foster the movement of young people across its member states. I, too, see project Europe as limited and in need of change, but I hoped that over time we would see Europe improve and loosen its existing borders, rather than implode as new ones emerged internally. For all these reasons, when the result of the EU referendum was announced on the morning of the 24th, I felt truly devastated and could not shake off the feeling that the tide had turned in a direction ridden with dangers. Regardless of the long-term consequences that the decision to leave the EU will have on the UK, I can’t help but feeling that through this vote the British people have chosen to willingly narrow their lives. Within the country, there are many reasons to worry: job security may be jeopardised even more, Brits could loose their right to travel, work and live in Europe without visas, EU fundings to charities and research may be lost and there are concerns as to what will happen to human rights and worker’s rights once the protections afforded by the EU are taken away.

Photo by Rohan Reddy / Pixabay

Nobody knows for sure what will happen once article 50 has been invoked and the negotiations have taken place; it may even be the case that the common market and the free movement of people will be, after all, maintained. But the problem is more fundamental: everyone who lives in this country knows that immigration has been the real issues at stake, and that the UK’s attitude towards diversity has been completely redefined throughout the referendum campaigns. The shock on my British friends’ and colleagues’ faces as they struggle to make sense of how this could happen testifies to the reluctance to accept that the values their country has long stood for have been so blatantly sidestepped, when not deliberately trashed, in the run up to the vote by both sides of the political debate. I listen and empathise as they, in what is probably a first for Britain, contemplate the possibility of their lives shrinking, through no fault of their own.

If we don’t learn the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them, they say. My friend’s shock reminds me inevitably of that of my parent’s generation when Yugoslavia started to fall apart: that the principles of cohabitation and diversity could be so readily abandoned in favour of nationalistic interests was for many Yugoslavs simply beyond comprehension, just as it seems to be for many Brits today. Europe is not perfect, just as Yugoslavia was not, but it seems to me that membership to a larger, supranational entity must entail a willingness to show patience to each other as we negotiate the rules of the game, accepting the bumpiness of the process that leads to the creation of a sense of belonging and community, imperfect but shared. As reports of racial abuse in the UK increase and the far-right across the continent is emboldened by the referendum result, I fear that Britain and Europe may be shrinking into smaller, more limited, versions of themselves. Watching the UK migrate away from Europe, I hold onto the hope that this process may reverse sometime soon.

Cover photo by Jamie Street / Unsplash

I russi e l’Italia: un amore controverso

Il 27 maggio 1703 viene fondata San Pietroburgo, la città più europea di tutta la Russia. Lo zar Pietro il Grande era rimasto così inebriato dal fascino dell’Europa, durante i suoi viaggi nelle capitali occidentali, da volerne ricreare l’atmosfera nella nuova capitale russa sul Mar Baltico.

Pietro non fu il solo a provare una forte attrazione per l’Europa occidentale; come lui molti letterati, poeti ed artisti russi trovarono ispirazione proprio nel vecchio continente. E fra tutti i Paesi d’Europa, è forse l’Italia, con la sua storia, il suo mare e la sua gente, quello che ha fatto maggiormente breccia nel cuore del popolo russo.

Conseguenza di questa passione ancestrale per il Bel Paese è sicuramente l’elevato numero di turisti russi che lo scelgono come meta delle loro vacanze. Tuttavia, negli ultimi cinque anni i cittadini della Federazione Russa recatisi in Italia sono diminuiti di più del 50%. Che la penisola abbia perso parte del suo charme? Ne abbiamo parlato con Tatiana Salvoni, psicologa e scrittrice russa residente in Italia, e Anastasia Lavrikova, guida turistica russa a Milano.

Tatiana Salvoni in una conferenza sui suoi libri

«I russi amano ancora l’atmosfera dell’Italia» ci rassicura Tatiana, autrice di due libri dedicati ai rapporti fra russi e italiani, tra cui il bestseller Italia. Amore, shopping e dolcevita. «Da noi in Russia si crede che in Italia tutti sorridano! E poi l’Italia è uno dei più antichi Paesi del mondo, con una storia invidiabile e opere d’arte che non si può non apprezzare. Anche Puškin, il nostro più grande poeta, ha scritto dell’Italia come del Paese dei suo sogni» Dell’Italia i russi non amano soltanto l’arte; ad attirarli ci sono anche il vino, il buon cibo, lo shopping: «Tutti i russi si fanno un selfie davanti al Duomo di Milano, capitale della moda!» racconta Tatiana ridendo.


E allora perché il turismo russo in Italia continua a diminuire? Anastasia ha le idee molto chiare a riguardo. Lavorando nel settore del turismo milanese da circa sette anni, ha vissuto questa inversione di tendenza: «In generale la crisi economica ha inciso tantissimo, inoltre le pesanti sanzioni che hanno colpito la Russia hanno gravato anche sul portafoglio dei turisti». Ma per il popolo russo non si tratta solo di una mera questione economica, continua Anastasia: «I russi sono estremamente patriottici; per loro le sanzioni stabilite e l’allineamento dell’Italia alle direttive europee hanno rappresentato una sorta di tradimento da parte di un Paese che da sempre considerano amico».

Anastasia Lavrikova sulla Transiberiana

«Questo forte senso della patria è davvero determinante in diversi settori, dall’imprenditoria al turismo; – spiega Anastasia – anche coloro che potrebbero permettersi le vacanze in Italia in molti casi scelgono di spendere i loro soldi altrove, dove non si sentono messi in difficoltà dalle sanzioni». E per ovviare alla mancanza di una delle cose maggiormente apprezzate della penisola, il cibo, in Russia da qualche tempo ha preso vita una pratica interessante: la “sostituzione dell’import”. «È cominciata una produzione autoctona di prodotti tipicamente italiani, dagli ortaggi ai formaggi, in terra russa» ci dice Anastasia. «Per i russi infatti le sanzioni sono state un importante motivo di riflessione: anche noi abbiamo delle potenzialità, non c’è bisogno di andare a cercare le bellezze all’estero».

Russians wait at Saint Peter Square prior the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a private audience with Pope Francis, Vatican City, 10 June 2015. ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO
ANSA/Alessandro Di Meo

Potrà dunque questa spinta all’autoproduzione, insieme con l’incentivazione del turismo interno russo, sopperire alla nostalgia per il Bel Paese? Tatiana ritiene che il legame fra i russi e l’Italia sia troppo forte; nei suoi libri l’autrice parla proprio dell’attrazione imprescindibile fra i due popoli, spiegata in chiave psicologica: «I russi sono gli italiani al contrario: mostrano all’esterno quello che gli italiani sono all’interno. E viceversa. Gli italiani fuori sono solari ed allegri? Anche noi russi lo siamo, all’interno!» ride Tatiana, spiegando che la sua tesi è basata sulla “teoria delle uova” di Carl Gustav Jung, secondo la quale gli uomini tenderebbero a stringere legami più forti con quegli individui che nel loro “albume” dimostrano le caratteristiche che essi conservano all’interno, nel “tuorlo” della loro personalità.

“Italia. Amore, shopping e dolcevita” e “Italia. Mare, amore” di Tatiana Salvoni

Possiamo quindi stare tranquilli, l’Italia continuerà ad essere per i turisti russi “terra magica, gioconda terra d’ispirazione”, come cantava Puškin nei suoi versi. Anastasia conclude l’intervista con ottimismo: «L’Italia con il suo patrimonio ineguagliabile e il suo atteggiamento amichevole è favorita rispetto agli altri Paesi. E noi nell’ambito del turismo lavoriamo con i russi ma lavoriamo insieme per l’Italia».

Another war on women? The Polish attempt to ban abortion

As women’s rights activists know only too well, sexual and reproductive rights are often redefined when major social and political changes take place. Poland‘s case is exemplary in this respect: legal and relatively straightforward under communism, access to abortion came under attack after 1989, and in 1993 a law that allowed it only on therapeutic grounds and on criminal charges was passed. The procedure is in fact currently only permitted in cases of serious health risks for the woman or the foetus or where a pregnancy results from rape or incest, making the country’s legislation on the matter among the strictest in Europe.

Pro-life organisation Ordo Iuris has now drafted a bill that, if approved, would enforce a complete ban on abortion and increase penalties for medical professionals caught performing it. The conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), elected to government in October 2015, favours the proposal, which, along with the announced plan to ban prescription-free emergency contraception and end state funding to in vitro fertilisation testifies to a clear intention to limit the country’s reproductive rights.

The move has obviously spurred waves of protest across the country, with women taking the streets in protest brandishing coat-hangers – a tool reportedly used to terminate pregnancies and which recalls the reality of underground abortion – and reportedly walking out on masses after priests read a statement in support of the total prohibition. Public opinion on the matter in Poland is divided: while many Poles morally object to the act of abortion, most of them oppose further restrictions to the current law and believe that the procedure should be allowed in cases such as those currently provided for.

While anti-abortionists insist on the intrinsic value of all human life and the need to protect it as the main reason for the proposed ban, many worry that a total prohibition would put women’s lives and health at greater risk, determining an increase in the number of clandestine procedures, both self-induced and performed illegally by health professionals.


Photo by Aedrozda / Pixabay
Photo by Aedrozda / Pixabay


Women in Poland have already a hard time accessing abortion when they are legally entitled to do so, having to face the social stigma associated with it and the prohibitive prices of the procedure, but also the ostracism of medical personnel: women have reported that many doctors in fact object to abortion on conscientious grounds, are unwilling to provide correct information to the woman in cases of health risk or foetal abnormality or intentionally extend the timescale of the necessary checks until it is too late to perform the procedure.

Many women feel discouraged and intimidated and choose to avoid these obstacles by travelling abroad to have the procedure carried out, but they incur in large expenses and have to face the risks associated with seeking treatment for eventual complications upon their return to the country (Polish law currently doesn’t punish the woman but medical professionals and eventual helpers may risk up to two years in jail). As it’s often the case in such instances, the complete criminalisation of abortion is likely to end up penalising even more those who do not have the resources to seek alternative solutions, and playing in the hands of those who profit from clandestine procedures.

All these risks are known to the organisations that support the ban – although they contest some of the prohibition’s opponents’ figures – but other than paying lip service tho the idea that provisions should be put in place by the state to support women who are pregnant as a result of violence and families with disabled children, they rarely address the issues raised by the prospect of full criminalisation. Those who favour a complete abortion ban depict it as a measure aimed at protecting human life understood as an intrinsic and universal value, but their partiality is striking when considering how little interest they show in preserving the lives of women who carry unwanted pregnancies, being it from physical and mental health risks or poor life conditions.

One would expect that those who oppose abortion would go to great lengths to ensure that valid alternatives to it are available, and that support measures that would help reduce the numbers of women resorting to the procedure are implemented. The lack of a significant effort in this sense makes attempts to prevent women from terminating unwanted pregnancies look like attacks on women’s rights in favour of the affirmation of ever-stronger anti-democratic and misogynistic power alliances.

More than anything else, Poland’s proposed abortion ban is today symptomatic of the wave of political conservatism that has swept across Europe in the years since the economic crisis, a political shift that is being negotiated on the bodies and lives of women and girls. If approved, a complete prohibition of pregnancy termination in Poland would set a sad precedent for us all, sanctioning the principle that we can see our hard-won rights disappear at the whim of illiberal governments that aim to transform their countries into new bastions of political and religious conservatism.

It may seem superfluous to say that abortion is a fundamental right, but if it needs re-stressing then we need to make clear that #westandwithpolishwomen.


Cover picture: View of Warsaw, Poland. Image by Cimedia / Pixabay

The impact of Brexit

The UK, with its strong economy, excellent education standards and attractive multicultural society, has been a popular destination for migrants from all over the world for decades. Immigrants now account for 12%, 7.8 million, of the UK’s population. Of these, 2.4 million are from Europe.

People move to this country for many reasons – some are fulfilling the dream of a lifetime (like myself), some are escaping hardships in their own country, whilst others simply have to to leave their family and friends because there are few jobs where they were born.

The UK has been welcoming migrants and absorbing parts of their cultures through the years, making it a great cosmopolitan place to live. I tasted my first pad thai, tikka masala, red pesto and Halloumi in London. I learnt about Diwali in Bournemouth and find more and more Italian products in the supermarkets every month – Barilla pasta sauces, limonata Sanpellegrino and Nduja.
Given the increasing influence Europe has on Britons’ daily lives, you’d expect to see a feeling of increasing unity with Europe. Yet, you’ll often hear Brits referring to Europe as a foreign entity; nothing to do with the UK.brexit__tjeerd_royaardsThis mentality is long established; it goes back to at least WW2 and is certainly still evident in the mindset and politics of the UK today. Factions in the ruling Tory party are determined for the Britain to exit the EU (Brexit).

Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tory leaders realise how detrimental leaving the EU would be, so they are determined to renegotiate changes to the UK’s membership and are campaigning to stay in the EU.

However, euro skeptics are doubtful of the effectiveness of this renegotiation. The demands have a huge focus on the freedom of movement, as the ruling right wing want to reduce the flow of migrants, especially unskilled workers, moving to the UK.brexit3There will be a referendum before the end of 2017 to allow Britons to decide whether to leave or not, no matter how Cameron’s renegotiations go. Groups for and against Brexit are already campaigning. Leave EU and Campaign For An Independent Britain are making their voices heard loud and clear.

The right wing press in Britain paints a picture of unskilled foreigners moving to the UK just to claim jobseeker’s allowance. However, only 2% of people claiming benefits are from the EU. Moreover, Brexit wouldn’t affect foreigners or unskilled workers only – 2 million Britons currently live on the continent. In 2014 alone, 307,000 British people relocated abroad to countries such as Australia, Germany and Spain looking for some sunshine, a bit of adventure or a cheaper house.

Additionally, many European countries complain about brain drain as a lot of their brightest engineers, nurses and graduates leave the continent to live in the UK. Myself and many other Europeans I know are contributing to the country’s economy with our marketing, software development, journalism and web design skills. We never claimed benefits, even when we found ourselves without a job for 6 months after graduating from a British university.

The proposed reforms would essentially breach the freedom of movement, which is right at the core of the EU principles. They would restrict easy border crossing for everyone – unskilled workers, bright talent and Britons wishing to move abroad alike. Have the people in favour of Brexit thought about that? Have they thought about the impact it would have on the lives of millions of people and their families?

We still don’t know what the practical consequences will be for Europeans already living and working in the UK. The uncertainty and fear have led to more and more people living in the UK applying for British citizenship.

I’m planning to do it myself if necessary, as a desperate move to stay in the country. While a British citizenship costs a minimum of £1,000, my life is here now, after studying and working in the UK for more than five years.

I live with my boyfriend and I can’t imagine moving back to my hometown. I have chosen this life and I won’t allow anyone to take it from me.  I just hope that the British people show an open-minded view of the world, not a closed off island mentality, by voting to stay in Europe.

Anita, a bright and talented girl from Latvia

Today we have met a young smart and brilliant Latvian girl, her name is Anita, she lives in Nijmegen and she concluded her first master in Linguistics one month ago. After it she has just started a Research master in Language and Communication which is part of a new joint master program offered by the Radboud University Nijmegen and the Tilburg University.

Anita, you have a very intercultural education background, I know you speak fluently four languages, respectively, Italian, English, Russian and of course Latvian…

« I took my bachelor degree in Latvia, but at first I did not know what to study exactly after high-school.  I was interested in Journalism and at the same time there was a very interesting bachelor program on Intercultural Relations between Latvia and Italy. The same year I finished high-school a new cycle was about to begin – it was something totally different and challenging so I decided to do it. »

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Anita with her former housemates

 Get a very multicultural education seems to be a very strategic choice made by several European students who decide to invest in their future moving abroad, getting used to new habits and lifestyles. Why did you decide to move to the Netherlands for your master ?

«Well, my sister was studying in the Netherlands before me, she could vouch for the high level of education since I was looking for Universities with high standards in terms of  education and research. Especially the latter aspect was very important for me and it turned out that Radboud University was also a great university for research »

Leaving your own country for new challenges abroad is not always easy as may appear, there are several aspects which must be taken into account such as the new culture you are living in, the new habits and also the new lifestyle of that country. How is you daily life in the Netherlands ? Is there something you miss the most from your own country?

« If I don’t have to attend lectures I usually go to my office at the MPI (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics ) to keep on working on my current research. If I have to compare my lifestyle here to my Latvian one, I would say that here I am a bit antisocial in the sense that I am really focused on my studies and research so I cannot invest a lot of time in establishing new friendships which require time. Culturally speaking I really miss my Latvian tasty food, I also miss going out because the way of partying is completely different from the Dutch one. However, the thing I miss the most is that feeling of belonging which is the result of years and years spent in your own country, the feeling you have when you cross a bridge you know since you’ve been six, the mental association you have when you travel through a path you know perfectly. »

Anita during a conference
Anita during a conference

It clearly appears that you’re investing time, efforts and money in your education, as previously mentioned this type of choice is driven by the added value that such experience can bring both from the personal growth point of view and for the educational enrichment itself. What are your future plans? After your master degrees would you like to remain in the Netherlands?

« I would like to apply for a PhD after my master, I want to become a researcher in the field of Language and Communication. From the very start my main interest was Multimodal Communication but for my PhD I would like to link it to Developmental psychology. Well,  it all depends on the chance to find a PhD position suitable for me, I wouldn’t mind changing country since I believe it would be extremely valuable to change setting in order to grasp more knowledge from a different perspective.»

 Apart from your deep interest in Communication, Language, and Psychology, I know that you are also an active photographer. Few of your works are available here www.anitagigante.blogspot.com . Could you tell us a bit more about it and when exactly you started with photography?

 «I’ve always liked to take pictures, I started with a basic digital camera, the cheapest one you buy before a trip somewhere. I was always trying to make better and more artistic pictures, that was the challenge. In 2011 I went on Erasmus to Italy, there I realized I wanted to move to a higher level  so I started taking pictures of landscapes and architecture because I was hesitant  to ask people to pose for me when my skills were not that good yet. I experimented first, trying to improve my technique every time till my transition from landscapes to  portraiture began. It was in 2013, precisely in Sicily where I realized my first “real” artistic  photo shoot with my Latvian friend .  From that moment onwards I only focussed on working with people. The main important thing for me is that the models are happy with the pictures I am taking; they have to recognize them, like them, and identify themselves. Moreover,  when shooting my personal projects I never pay to the models, it ‘s always a collaboration; so I want to make sure they love the end product and they feel proud to have participated in bringing it to life»

Anita’s first photo shoot with her friend  Anna
Anita’s first photo shoot with her friend  Anna

Latvia entered the EU in 2004, exactly 10 years later move a step forward to the Eurozone. How was perceived this change by the public opinion? Which is the general sentiment about it ? How do you perceive the European Union?

«In my opinion, the entrance in EU was perceived like something  that has just to be done and it seemed like a logical step forward for a small country like Latvia. As regards the adaptation of the Euro currency there was a fair currency change campaign; the state promoted a fair change, so the public opinion appeared to be rather satisfied. It was pretty funny the fact that I came back and I could use the same currency I was using here. Thankfully we didn’t have to face problems like Italy when the currency was changing.

When I think about the European Union I think about this great initiative to gather different  European countries and making it possible to gain experiences all around Europe. This is a great chance for young people to discover new cultures and to broaden their horizons. What I find really interesting is that when I was younger I was amazed  by meeting people from a different country, you hear a foreign language and you try to guess the nationality, maybe you chat with them and you discover they are from Portugal.Well this kind of surprise effect doesn’t happen anymore because nowadays our countries are so multicultural and open that several languages and cultures coexisting at the same time is absolutely normal. I would say that we are the transition generation, the one which noticed this shift to a more globalized reality.»

The wall is gone

“The wall is gone” – that’s what they say in Goodbye Lenin, one of the most popular movies about the Berlin Wall and its fall.
On November 9th, 1989 the symbol of Soviet Power and Cold War fell, and since that moment the whole world has changed a lot. The Berlin Wall represented the world before Europe, whereas Europe means unity, freedom and mobility. In facts, less than three years later, in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed and in that moment European Union started to become what it represents nowadays.

Were people aware, back in the Autumn of 1989, of the huge meaning of that event? Could they imagine the historical relevance of such a real, material happening like the distruction of a wall? Sure we know that it was probably the greatest party ever, that the feeling of excitement was filling the air and everybody could perceive that. But what was the crowd really thinking of in that moment?berlin_celebrating3We’ve all probably heard of the famous speeches had by politicians or other authorities, who claimed the historical importance of the fall of Berlin Wall and spoke about its political consequences. But even they couldn’t ignore the fact that people in the streets were celebrating like never before, making the city a huge and uncontrollable party. Margaret Thatcher defined November 9th “a great day for freedom”, Horst Köhler, former German President, said that «the Wall was an edifice of fear. On the November 9th… it was a place of joy» and even Angela Merkel, who was a young girl at that time, probably joined the celebrations, after making it through the Bornholmer crossing and phoning her aunt in Hamburg from the west side of the Wall*.

Nonstop celebrations, music, joy and laughs – that’s what best represents the fall of Berlin Wall among the young people in Berlin. They were finally able to be free, to live their city and to see their families finally brought back together. But they probably couldn’t imagine what that was going to mean for Europe. Most of them were associating the end of the Wall era to the end of Communism and the start of Capitalism, the two opposite worlds that the Wall was keeping apart. But it was still impossibile to realise that that moment was also the beginning of a new way of living Europe and especially the borders. The Wall of Berlin was just another example of how men can build and destroy borders themselves; from that moment, many borders were destroyed in Europe, opening new possibilities and giving millions of people the possibility of feeling European.

Today, one day after the 26th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, many people might wonder whether the world has learnt the lesson. Many walls were destroyed, but many have been built since then. How could people forget the joy given by that moment of conquered freedom? How could people forget about the sadness and the pain caused by the absence of liberty? That might sound rhetorical, but in these days, remembering November 9th, more than other days, we should really understand that the freedom and possibilities that Europe has given us in the last two decades is not something to be given for granted.6a00d8350417e069e20120a663b906970b-800wi

*Here‘s an interesting article by The Telegraph for those who want to discover some underrated stories of people in Berlin in those days.

GoCambio Zaragoza edition

Sinead is 26, she’s a dancer and an English mothertongue… She thought that she could take advantage of being a native English speaker to enjoy a great holiday in Zaragoza, Spain. All she had to do was consulting GoCambio website, finding a host living in Spain and willing to learn English and booking a flight! Pretty easy, isn’t it?

Hello Sinead, what do you think about GoCambio?

I loved GoCambio as it was such an unforgettable experience. It was a holiday with a difference and so easy to arrange through the online forum and social media contact with my hosts.

Can you describe the passages one has to do before setting off? Would you describe it as easy?

Yes it was easy as flights are straight forward to book these days and facebook helped with the contact for arrangements. Check the weather for packing your suitcase, keep an open mind and a positive mind set and you are good to go!

So, you were a Guest, which means that you were hosted for free and in exchange you had to help your host with learning and improving a language, your language. What did you do, precisely? Can you describe your day while on “cambio”?

Everyone’s will differ but my day was very relaxed and full of tapas, wine and fun! I got on so good with my hosts and so we would go sightseeing, eat out and meet friends.

Did you like your host?

I loved my host and I have made friends for life!

Would you say that you had time enough to enjoy the city and your trip? Is the “cambio” way demanding in any way or not?

I had loads of time as my hosts were so relaxed and not demanding of my time. I didn’t give formal sit down English lessons as we just hung out and we spoke that way.

Is there a moment that you especially enjoyed and would like to share with us?

My hosts knew I was a burlesque dancer and so we all went to an amazing burlesque show El Plata Cabaret. It was such a good night!

Anything nice or particular that happened with your host?

The whole trip was amazing and friendships were made.

Did this experience with GoCambio influence your idea of Europe and being European in any way? Was it significant in terms of belonging to a larger community?

I have always travelled and felt at home everywhere I go so without sounding cheesy I never specifically only thought of Europe as I feel almost everywhere is a community you can enjoy and experience.

AEGEE Summer University will change your student life : Simonas can vouch for that!

As you already know AEGEE gives you several chances to integrate in the international University social life, today we have a special guest to interview, a young Lithuanian guy who has just become vice-president of AEGEE Tilburg.

Hello Simonas, we have heard that now you are involved directly with AEGEE Tilburg but first tell us something about you.

 Hello, my name is Simonas Valionis, I am 25 years old and I come from Lithuania. At the moment I am doing a master in Communication and Information Sciences at Tilburg University with specialization in Digital Media and Business Communication. During my previous education I studied to become translator from Lithuanian to English and vice versa .

Why did you decide to leave your own country and apply for a master in the Netherlands?

After finishing my translation studies I was offered a job in the same college I was studying, the job was related to communication and international relations, I was responsible for the Erasmus programme in my institution and I also supervised several European projects in high education. For instance, there was a large project called ADUQUA which was related to adult education and whose main goal was to help immigrants all over Europe to integrate better in their countries. After working in this position for two and half years I felt that it was time to move on, find new challenges and change my environment. Why the Netherlands? Well, I started applying for MA degrees in several countries such as Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands because I was always fascinated by the Western part of Europe. Finally, I got accepted by two different Dutch Universities, respectively, Radboud University Nijmegen and Tilburg University. After reviewing them both I decided to go with the latter one.

Simonas and his friends during AEGEE Summer University in Spain

So far so good in the Netherlands?

Absolutely ! I have been here for one year only and I feel that this country has become my second home, I do really enjoy living here. However,  after graduating I am planning to explore other continents and countries, most likely USA.

We also know that last summer you had a great experience with AEGEE, could you please describe your experience ?

I participated in the biggest project of AEGEE which is the summer university . It was the best summer I have ever had in my life, I spent 18 wonderful days in the North of Spain travelling and experiencing  amazing cities like Zaragoza, Burgos, Leon, Madrid. I met a bunch of amazing people from all over the Europe who became close friends and we continue to keep in touch until now. This summer university was the reason that I decided to become an active member of AEGEE Tilburg because I wanted to return the favour to the organization which gave me this incredible chance to widen my horizons. I contacted the previous board members of AEGEE Tilburg to ask if could join the new board that was expected to be elected in the coming weeks, after several interviews I was appointed  as a vice-president of the student association.

Dionne, Tsvetelina, Nikki, Simonas and Ruben respectively the board members of AEGEE Tilburg

Would you recommend the same experience to young students then?

I would definitely recommend everyone to join AEGEE and participate in a summer University for several reasons : ability to experience new cultures through their local food, heritage, and citizens , have the chance to meet the most incredible young people from all over the Europe who want to exchange their knowledge and talents, finally have the time of your life.

Let’s change topic, Lithuania has been part of the European Union since 2004 at the beginning of this year more precisely the 1st January 2015 joined the Eurozone by adopting the euro currency. What is your impression about this decision?

There is no doubt that it is a great achievement for Lithuania to be part of the EU since 2004 and the option to adopt the EURO was a main topic from the very beginning. However, it required a lot of systematic hard work and many years inside the country in order to be ready to change the currency. The reason why this process took so long it was basically that in order to change the currency the economy of a country must be stable, back in 2004 Lithuania was still a growing country  not yet ready for such big changes. After three governmental terms and an improved economical situation it was the right time to embrace the Euro currency. Well, my impression is that this change was inevitable and it happened at the time when the country and the people were already prepared for that. Even though, it can be noticed that the prices have increased a little bit, the benefits carried by this decision in the long term period will outweigh this aspect.

Simonas and his friends enjoying Amsterdam during the Queen’s day

Do you  perceive the EU as a whole entity or given the recent events such the Greek referendum and all its implications you think that this great project is still far from being achieved ?

 For me personally, the EU project is what makes the whole Europe unite. There will always be challenges and difficulties for the complete and equal integration of the continent, but if we all think about other people, not only ourselves and systematically work towards the same goal, we will overcome the darkest times, setting the life quality at the level which satisfies everyone. In my opinion, Europe should be borderless and available to all who are interested. Some call it Europe, I call it home!

When moving abroad is not a choice

Many people don’t choose to live an international life: moving abroad isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. In order to survive, to earn some money or to reconnect with the family some people are forced to adapt to a new world, which is not always so welcoming. Moussa’s story tells us this and much more…

Your name, age, nationality, where are you from? Where do you live now? Which is your current occupation?

I’m Moussa, 28 years old. I’m from Mombasa, Kenya and now I live in Bergamo, Italy. I work as an express-courier.

Why did you decide to leave your country?

I left Kenya to join my family: my dad was already living in Italy.

Why did you choose Italy?

I couldn’t decide, I had to come here.

How is your life in Italy?

I have to get up early in the morning because I distribute milk and fresh food to cafes and supermarkets; usuallyI have to start around 3 am, until 10, sometimes 11 am.

Life has never been easy because I have no guarantees about my job and some weeks I work only for a few days, also the pay is not that much… I’m quite grateful though, as my father manages to take care of me financially.

My social life is not so full: I’m not much talkative, but I like reggae music and I got somefriends, both Italian and African, with whom I go to reggae sessions or festivals.

How is living in Italy different than living in your country?

Sometimes with my friends we discuss about the fact of being strangers in a foreign country. Most of us are from Africa, but not from the same country, but living in Europe makes us see the big differences between life in our continent and European life.

I think that the most important difference is that here it’s really hard to mingle with the locals: when I arrived in Italy, I didn’t know anyone and had to realize that most Italians are social only after knowing you well. Definitely not the best attitude to meet new people. In Kenya social life is completely different: people are talkative, mostly if they’ve never met you before; Kenyans are used to tourists and like to discover new countries and cultures.

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?

The biggest challenge is to adapt yourself at the rhythm of the society you are moving to: it’s not so easy to meet people, to find a job and to be independent; but moving to a new country is a great experience ‘cause you have to restart from zero.

I’ve not regrets, but of course I miss my homeland.

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community?

Europe exists, that’s geographically and financially evident. But I don’t feel that European identity is something real, as countries are completely different one from each other and natioanl languages are the most striking evidence: if you travel around Europe, you can listen a huge variety of strange sounds!

Italy & Kenya. Use three words to describe each of the previous.

Kenya: nature (mountains and animals), Swahili (mother language), Masai (the guardians)

Italy: social, mafia e pasta …:)

What would you say to someone to convince him to move abroad? What’s the best thing you’ve got/you’ve learnt by your experience abroad?

I don’t think that I will convince someone to move to Italy for living, maybe just for tourism; but travelling is important: you can discover a new world and that’s always a great experience!

GoCambio: not only language skills

GoCambio is not only about exchanging language skills. Any skill or art can be traded, as did Biru, a 21-year-old Sound Engineer from Washington DC. He helped his hosts setting up a recording studio and he got the chance to visit many English cities. Read his interview below.

How did you find out about GoCambio?

I was studying in Dublin, Ireland this past year and my roommate was from the country. He had invited some people over for a get together and I started talking to one of them. I had told her how I had just finished backpacking Europe the summer before and we bonded over how much we love seeing new places. She was one of the GoCambio test-runners and she said that I would love the site. So I looked it up, signed up, and took a chance with a family in Leeds and it was amazing!Cambio 2Can you describe the passages one has to do before setting off? Would you describe it as easy?

The online meeting process was a breeze. I just had to get a few personal recommendations for them, then the site and we had a Skype call so we could put the names to the faces.

 So, you were a Guest, which means that you were hosted for free and in exchange you had to help your host with learning and improving a language, your language. What did you do, precisely? Can you describe your day while on “cambio”?

My Cambio was a special one. The Hosts were actually looking for a Spanish tutor, but found me instead. I Cambio’d for my skills as a Music Producer and Sound Engineer. I helped the family set up their studio, learn how to use the software’s and recorded a radio show (My Name is Bill: An Evening with an Alcoholic). This is why GoCambio is great: it can be used for much more than just language. Any sort of trade can be a selling point, I just happened to be the first one that did anything like that for GoCambio.

A normal day started around 10:00. We would have breakfast and then go work for a few hours. Around 13:00 we had a break for lunch, then when we finished it was back to work. We’d finish up whenever we wanted to, usually around 18:00, as this was dinnertime. After dinner we’d watch some television and then head off to bed. All the work I did was my trade, so I enjoyed it and it never felt like work.
Cambio 1
Did you like your host?

My hosts and the family were great! I had an amazing time with them and we still keep in touch via email.

Would you say that you had time enough to enjoy the city and your trip? Is the “cambio” way demanding in any way or not?

I had plenty of time to travel around as well as work with the hosts. I got to visit Leeds, Bradford, as well as Harrogate. The Cambio was very organized and relaxed.

Is there a moment that you especially enjoyed and would like to share with us? Anything nice or particular that happened with your host?

The family took me out to dinner at an Indian restaurant, Akbar’s, in Bradford. This was amazing because I am part Indian so it felt like a home meal! Naan is amazing.Cambio 3Did this experience with GOCambio influence your idea of Europe in any way? Was it significant in terms of belongin to a larger community?

GoCambio helped me fill out more of the world in my head. It’s so hard to be in one area knowing that the world is so big. We’re all different and we all live life in different ways. Even though the Cambio was in another English speaking country, everything operated differently than Ireland, or even America did. Living with a family in a foreign city is a more immersive and, in my opinion, more desirable way of traveling than staying in hostels.

GoCambio can be fun, ask Lorraine!

Second chapter of Pequod discovering GoCambio experience. Here’s Lorraine’s story of cambioing, from Ireland to Spain. She had a lot of fun while learning something new about Spain and teaching her host English in a fun way…

How did you find out about GoCambio

Well the company started up in my hometown of Youghal, Ireland. I bumped into a friend who was working for the company when I was home on holiday. I travel a lot and when he mentioned what he was working on I was immediately intrigued! I couldn’t believe no one had done this before!

Can you describe the passages one has to do before setting off? Would you describe it as easy?

You can sign up on the GoCambio website (here). It couldn’t be easier. You enter your details which you late have to verify for security reasons, a standard request from any reputable website. Then you fill out your profile including what you can offer either as a guest or a host; likes, dislikes, languages, hobbies, interests…etc. It’s pretty straight forward and very user friendly. Then all you have to do is pack you bag and ditch the guidebook!

Did you like your host?

Alex was so much fun. I went to his place in Zaragoza, Spain. It turned out we had a lot in common and he really made me feel welcome and at home. I made so many friends and hopefully Alex will make his way to Youghal sometime so that I can extend him the same welcoming!

Lorraine and her host, Alex
Lorraine and her host, Alex

So, you were a Guest, which means that you were hosted for free and in exchange you had to help your host with learning and improving a language, your language. What did you do, precisely? Can you describe your day while on “cambio”? 

Sure! Well since Alex and I got along so well, he decided that rather than a ‘class’, he just wanted to hang out and speak in English so that’s what we did. The language teaching is something you can discuss with your host in advance and arrange a situation that is suitable for both of you. Some people want to chat, maybe others have a particular goal in mind and might ask you to help them with their writing for example, it really depends on what you want or need from you cambio which is really the beauty of the whole experience. We enjoyed breakfast together and then Alex gave me a tour of the city of Zaragoza. He told me the history, showed me the best spots to eat (I may have eaten a little too much to tell the truth), some funky bars for grabbing drinks, he brought me to the famous cathedral and we had dinner in an amazing Mexican restaurant tucked away down a side street.


Would you say that you had time enough to enjoy the city and your trip? Is the “cambio” way demanding in any way or not? 

Absolutely not. I went with the flow and was lucky to actually want to hang out with my hosts and see a different side of the city but you can also just tell your host ‘Hey, I would love to do some sightseeing, could we have classes in the morning/evening/at a specified time’ etc. Its about sharing, so it has to be convenient for everyone. It’s a sharing economy, give a little, get a little!

Sightseeing in Zaragoza
Sightseeing in Zaragoza


Is there a moment that you especially enjoyed and would like to share with us? Anything nice or particular that happened with your host? 

Alex and I made chicken fajitas together and he invited his friends over for dinner. We took turns playing different Spanish or English songs and Alex showed me how to do some salsa dancing. I was terrible at it but it was such an authentic experience that I thought ‘Yeah, this is what it’s all about’.

Did this experience with GOCambio influence your idea of Europe and being European in any way? Was it significant in terms of belongin to a larger community?

Of course! It brings people together in such a unique way that you can’t help but really feel a part of it. It is refreshing as someone who travels a lot to come across people who want the same authentic experience, who want to see the things that aren’t in the guidebook, who want to wander to places that are not on a map, who want to speak to real people who have real lives and real stories to tell.

Sightseeing in Zaragoza
Sightseeing in Zaragoza

From Mexico to the Netherlands : what a great experience!

Today we have interviewed Rodrigo, a young Mexican guy who decided to move to Europe after his bachelor in Mexico. Rodrigo is really open minded and easy-going, he loves to travel as much as he can and get in touch with new people, especially with European students. According to his first impressions about living in the Netherlands, we might say «so far so good».


Hello Rodrigo! Tell us something about yourself, please.

Well, my name is Rodrigo and I am Mexican, which is one of the first things that people should know, I guess. I am currently studying in Tilburg, NL, doing a master’s in Communication, but right now I am doing an internship in Amsterdam, which is pretty cool.

Why did you choose the Netherlands?

Because it’s the gateway to Europe, it has one of the best education systems in the world, also the fact that ninety percent of the people here in the Netherlands speak English helps a lot.

Describe your life in the Netherlands.

As I said before I am a student, in a normal day I go to class, after that to the library to study, trying to catch up with the deadlines. I always try do to as much as possible because you have to get it together if you want to pass the course, which means that there are hectic periods when you have several deadlines and all of them need to be done in a very short time. As regards social life, in the beginning it was difficult to socialize and go out because of the deadlines and group projects, but working together was the first step towards having a proper social life. Now that I have my own group of friends it’s easy to go out and enjoy our free-time. Our favourite spot is Kandinsky, a great pub in Tilburg where you can get several different types of beer, which is perfect to warm up before getting to the city centre and going dancing in some clubs.

Rodrigo is seriously enjoying Tilburg social life, including dinners!
Rodrigo is seriously enjoying Tilburg social life, including dinners!

How is living in the Netherlands different than living in your country?

I’d say there are few differences. Of course here I’ve started to enjoy sunny days as I have never done before, because in Mexico it’s always sunny, while here you definitely appreciate the sun, especially after some rainy days. Another difference regards the food – I have not missed Mexican food that much, I guess because here there are other delicious products like frikandel (a Dutch and Belgian snack, a sort of minced-meat hot dog – editor’s note) kassouflet (cheese croquettes, editor’s note), croquettes, kip corn (chicken nuggets, editor’s note). Also, people here are more open and direct with their feelings, while in Mexico they tend not to be so straight-forward… At the beginning this was quite a difference for me, something I had to get used to, especially when I started working with international people.

Each country has different tradition. Rodrigo seems to respect the local costumes, here he's celebrating Dutch Carnival with his friends.
Each country has its own traditions. Rodrigo seems to respect the local costumes, here he’s celebrating Dutch Carnival with his friends.

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?          

The biggest challenge in my opinion is leaving everything you have behind you, friends and family, and starting everything from scratch . I cannot say I have any regrets, I would say that now I have done the right choice but at first I was hesitant about deciding to live far away from home. The thing that I miss the most from my country is my family, I was used to talk with them everyday and, even if today technology allows us to communicate everywhere and at any time, it’s not the same as having a real contact with the person you are talking to.

Especially in this particularly tough moment, what do you thing the meaning of Europe is? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community? If you were born here would you feel part of it?

I was used to a completely different world – probably if you ask a Greek student or a Spanish one, who have actually been living the European issue, you might get a better answer. What I am trying to say is that they experienced that situation and they are able to tell you more, and that is really fascinating. I feel that nowadays Europe is a little bit puzzled, given the recent events which are forcing Europe to be divided or more cohesive. Of course, if I were born here I would perceive myself as part of a multicultural community, therefore European .

Would you suggest your Mexican fellow students to have an experience like yours in Europe? If yes, why ?

I would one hundred percent suggest them to do it, there will be no regrets of doing such a choice, it’s a challenging one but it opens your mind and broaden also your job opportunities – thanks to an international environment you can experience more, get in touch with several people and enlarge your network.

Bamba, an «African lion» struggling in Italy

Today on Pequod, we’ll tell you something about Bamba Dieye, a Senegalese arrived 17 years ago in Italy. He lives and works in Carrara, Tuscany, but his heart beats only for Senegal, the land of Teranga. However, he totally agrees to share his ideals and thoughts with all of us.

Hello Bamba, could you introduce yourself to Pequod’s readers?

Hi, my name is Bamba Dieye, I’m 38 years old and I come from Senegal. I was born in Dakar. Then, in 1998, I moved to Italy. Since then, I live and work in Carrara, where I own my business and I am a beekeeper.

Why did you decide to leave your country?

I decided to leave Senegal mainly for a childhood dream: I was attracted from Europe, from the idea of Europe. I wanted to grab the opportunity to change my life. At first I moved to France, for family ties. My sisters lived there. But I didn’t like France, so, almost by accident, I moved to Italy. Italy was not a choice, but a fortuity.

What’s your life like in Italy?

As I said earlier, in Carrara I work as a beekeeper and I have my own company of import of organic products. I also work at the computer, on our website, and I go to meetings with the customers. Moreover, I spend much of my free time at the association Culture Migranti, which is one of the few realities for immigrants run by immigrants in Italy. We try to be helpful for those people who are facing difficult situations in a new country – situations that each of us has experienced in the past. However, I have a lot friends outside the workplace and the association, but in Carrara there is not much to do. The historic center has suffered a sharp decline: cultural heritage is neglected, there’s a strong pollution, which creates environmental problems and damages to marble, which is famous all over the world.

I wish my city was better, it could be better! But there’s no cinema, no theatre… The city is simply careless.

Bamba working as a beekeeper.

How is living in Italy different than living in your country?

Unfortunately, I have no terms of comparison. In Senegal my life was not bad, I left for a youthful dream, not for need. I came to Italy, I created my own job, my profession. I like my life as it is.

Which is , for you, the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far?

The biggest challenge was definitely the language barrier: at the beginning, it was difficult to deal with the others, the reception system isn’t efficient. For immigrants there is no effective aid, they don’t make your life easy, nobody tells what to do and how to success in being integrated. Those arriving in Italy uninformed are excluded, almost ghettoized. There are so many difficulties.

My regret is to be away from my family, away from my loved ones and my affections. Perhaps, I regret the fact that I’ve not created this work and this life in my country, too.

Often it seems to me that in Italy merit is not taken into account. They don’t take regards to the efforts of people. I feel a gap between immigrants and the others, I have to run after my rights!

Italy, your country and Europe. What do they mean for you?

Senegal is the land of Teranga, which means hospitality. In its own history Senegal didn’t have war! It is a secular State, and there are not religious issues.

On the contrary, Italy is like “Toyland”. Young people are anesthetized, while old men and ladies suffer from something that might be defined “politics of fear”.

At last, in my opinion Europe is supposed to be a response to the American and Asian imperialism, but it fails to be like that.

Teranga means ‘hospitality’.


What would you say to someone to convince him to move abroad?

I would say to an African to leave his country to improve his life, to live well considering both the economic aspect and the social one. Also, to live to the fullest his family and his loved ones.

However, I do not recommend Italy. There’s no help for migrants. You can’t live well in a country if you don’t know the language and in Italy institutions are distant from the problems of migrants. They do not attempt in any way to facilitate your arrival in the country. Instead, I suggest Nordic countries. There the government and the institutions direct you to possibilities of a better life. They help you to try to achieve a comfortable life.

Instead, I say to young Italians to stay in their country, I tell them to fight for their country. Italians must give a strong response on the political level and on the social level. They must stick together for the love of their country!

Viktor and «Moscow Games». When SPORT means youth, student and international.

Do you wonder how a young Russian journalist and sports-lover can conciliate his work with his passion? Have you ever heard of «Moscow Games»? Here’s what Viktor shared with us about his life, his work and his country.

(original text of the interview in Russian – translation into English by the author)

Hello Viktor, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Viktor Kravchenko and I’m 22. I was born in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, in the Far East of Russia. Of course it’s a beautiful place, where nature is majestic – there are geysers, volcanoes, snow, sturgeons (fish from which we get caviar – translator’s note) and brown bears.

Viktor in Kamchatka, his homeland
Viktor in Kamchatka, his homeland

When I was 16 I decided to carry out a pretty interesting experiment – I left my home and moved to Belgorod (Western Russia, not far from Ukrainian’s border- translator’s note) where I got into the Faculty of Journalism of Belgorod State University. I finished my studies in 2013 and now I’ve been living for more than a year in Moscow.

Every city I’ve lived in has its own beauty. I don’t like those people who move to a big city and suddenly stop loving their hometown. Both in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and in Belgorod I still have great friends and it’s always a pleasure to go for a visit there. Moscow is completely different though, because it’s a megalopolis. It has an incredible energy, here you start living faster, thinking faster, it’s an avant-gard city. I’m glad I’m living here now.

What’s your life like in Moscow?

I work for the Association of Student and Young Sports. Our goal is giving the possibility to every student in Russia to do some form of sport on a regulary basis and also offering them the chance to study and play in student championships at the same time. I’m not talking about tournaments held within the different universities – what we try to do is something way bigger, for example one of our most successful achievements is the Moscow Student Hockey League, where there are teams from 22 different Moscow universities. Each team has its own logo and during the whole academic year there are matches, which are attended also by spectators and fans. We would like student sports to become more and more popular in Russia, an interest subject for sponsors, state and spectators.

In this association I’m a PR-manager. We might say that I represent it and what we publish.

What is «Moscow Games»?

The first International Student and Youth Sports Festival “Moscow Games 2014” took place in Moscow on the territory of the Olympic complex “Luzhniki” from 2 to 5 of September 2014. The festival received the award as the best sport event of Russia on the Award Ceremony “Sport and Russia” in 2014. The festival gathered together more than 1500 amateur athletes from the universities of different countries: Senegal, Russia, Algeria, Romania, Northern Cyprus, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Macedonia.

This year we are planning the second Moscow Games, “Moscow Games 2015” (official website), and the students will have the chance to play in the exclusive context of 1980 Olympic Games. Also, this year we are supported by the patronage of the European University Sports Association (EUSA) and more countries are joining the competition – Great Britain, Belgium, Finland, Croatia, Serbia, Norway, Poland, Lebanon, Senegal, Algeria, Republic of South Africa and others. The categories of the matches are nine, including football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball, rugby-7, beach football, table tennis and cheerleading.

It’s a cool event, where you can meet new friends, and we’d be happy if people from Italy joined us too.


What do you do for the organisation of «Moscow Games»?

I take care of the social media of the event – in other words, I do everything I can in order to let always more people know about the event. I take agreements with our media and business partners. It feels great when your message gets viral and the most important sports media of the country write about the event! I also like talking to professional sportsmen, who support the festival – famous Russian athletes are our testimonials.

Our goal is to make the whole world know about the event, so that university teams from many different countries would join the games. Moscow Games would become an amazing sports party – that’s what we’re working for!

What’s the meaning of this event in the international context?

I think that in such a complicated period for international relationships among Russia and the other countries, this event is definitely important.The fact that students from all over the world can come to Russia and see with their eyes our hospitality and professionality will help destroying the fake myths and legends existing about our country. It’s absolutely great that international students have the possibility to meet in Moscow without any kind of political context. Sport is stranger to politics.

Viktor working as a PR manager for student sports
Viktor working as a PR manager for student sports

Russian position in the international landscape is not easy right now. Do you think that such an internation event as Moscow Games can promote a portrait of Russia as an open and welcoming country?

I definitely think that the political context creates stereotypes about our country. Moscow Games 2015 will gather the most educated, creative and ambitious youth, that’s why I think that the foreign people coming to Moscow for the event will have the best impression of Russia. Sterotypes and myths created by mass culture, television and the web won’t last much longer and people will discover a welcoming and open country.

What does Europe mean to you? Which is your personal attitude towards Europe? Do you feel close to the Old Continent?

I respect Europe. I’m always happy to go to a European country, because each of them is a land of culture, literature, cinema, art and beautiful towns. In Europe there are some cities which are worth to visit at least once in a lifetime. They’re the places where world history was created. Defending and appreciating citizen’s rights, freedom to vote and to express themselves – this is very important. I was in Germany and in Poland, and there I met good and talented people.

I also like how people play football in Italy and Germany and how sports management works in this countries. We have something to learn one from each other, so I don’t think that Europe represents something negative to me whatsoever.


What if you were offered your dream job abroad? What would you do?

First, I’d like to know what my dream job would be. I’d probably agree to work in a marketing position in a European sports club. Or maybe to work with children football teams. This would be an interesting experience, as I like to learn something new and find myself in a different language and cultural context.

If someday I received a proposal, I’d give it a chance.

What’s more important to you? Travelling, getting to know new cultures and being part of an international community – being a citizen of the world – or respecting your roots, paying attention to tradition, defending your motherland, language and culture?

This is a difficult question, which doesn’t have a definite answer. I like travelling and discovering new cultures, and I absolutely think that instead of fighting one against each other, countries should work together in order to fight and defeat poverty, to solve ecological problems, find the cure to diseases and so on. First of all, we are all human beings, no matter which colour our skin is, which language we speak or what we believe in. In Russia we have this beautiful song by Vasya Oblomov, which says that «the important thing is that the person is good».

Defending your own cultural traditions is also important, as it’s our nation’s history and what makes it interesting. It’s important not to forget your language, culture, even the little town you grew up in. That’s patriotism. It’s fundamental not to exaggerate and become a fanatic, thinking that your country is the chosen one and it’s the best. All the people in this world are the same.

Michael, a Dutch student with an entrepreneurial aptitude

Today we have met Michael Spikmans, a Dutch student from Eindhoven who is doing his MSc at the Tilburg University.During his previous studies he mainly focused on ICT, what makes Michael a different student in the domain of Information Technology is the strong awareness about the pivotal role of human aspects. His main goal is to bridge the gap between  technology illiterates and digital tools which enable people to be more competitive in the job market.


So Sir Spikmans, could you introduce yourself to Pequod’s readers ?

Hello, my name is Michael, I am from Eindhoven and studied Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for four year, graduated cum laude, worked for Philips and PinkRoccade (a health care organization). Right now I’m doing a master degree in  Communication and Information Sciences. I really like travelling, sightseeing, cycling and swimming, going out with my friends. I am also an amateur photographer and generally I take pictures during the summer. My favourite spots are desolated urban sites and I also have my own flickr profile.


Describe your country with three adjectives and mention what you like the most and the least about your own culture

OVERCROWDED, RAINY, LIVELY .  The aspect about my country I like the most is the cultural diversity, high level of tolerance and the innovative technology represented by the majority of the companies.

What did you study before applying for this master?

As I have already mentioned before, I studied ICT, more precisely my major was multimedia design which is basically developing websites and cross-media campaigns, also social media strategies. I also specialized in interaction design and user experience, the former is mainly focused on the user interaction with the product while the latter is more about the overall user experience.

Why did you decide to study at the Tilburg University?

Because they offer a master which gives you more insights on the human aspects of information technology. In addition, no matter how advance a product is, there is always a user behind it with no prior knowledge about it.  Here it’s my main aim, combining technology and humans aspects and trying to bridge the gap between them.

I have heard that you have an entrepreneurial aptitude, could you please explain more about it?

Yes, I have a sort of entrepreneurial aptitude, one year ago I founded my own online company, vector-licious.com, with  a former university colleague . Our primary business consists of developing websites, creating social media campaigns and customizing companies corporate identity.


In my spare time I also work as a volunteer in the Eindhoven library because I am interested in books, people and education. One year ago I started a new project with them, it is called digital café, because we have 43000 digital illiterates, which is a paradox since Eindhoven is the high-tech companies headquarter of the Netherlands. The goal of this project is to help people to use technological and digital tools. For example, I teach people how to use tablets, smart-phones, Windows and other types of software.

At first it was meant for elderly people but there was so much interest also from younger people that we decided to broad our target group by giving social media, online safety, and personal branding workshops.

Which are you plans after your master? Would you like to stay in the Netherlands or move abroad?

My plans change every week, at the moment I am really focused on applying for a PhD after my master because I would like to stay in the research and academic domain. However, even if I change my mind about the PhD I still have several plans such as developing more awareness about the crucial aspect of technology nowadays but always taking into account the central role of the human beings. Of course I would like to move abroad for a while, I would say USA because I want to get some experience from a major tech company like Google or Facebook.

Let’s change topic, what do you think about the European Union ? Do you feel part of it or you perceive it as a geographical entity only? Would you define yourself an European citizen?

I am always saying that I am European rather than I am Dutch and I like the fact that the borders are open, we are a large community, we can cooperate and build a better environment.  I totally feel part of it but unfortunately in practice it’s still far from the truth, because of the different cultural and economical situation of some countries. Yes, I would define myself as an European citizen to the extent that I was working for Philips (TP Vision) I worked for an European research project which included seven European countries called USEFIL, we had to do research on smart living environment for smart living environment people and I was enthusiastic to present my prototype to the European commission in Brussels.


A Slovakian payback. Miriam’s story of work and success in Italy.

(editing by Margherita Ravelli)

Migrants’ life in Italy is never easy, but sometimes working hard and never giving up give their results. Miriam is an example of a woman who left her country, Slovakia, despite of all the difficulties, and eventually got her payback in Italy.

Hello Miriam. Could you introduce yourself to Pequod’s readers?

I’m Miriam and I’m 41. I was born Czechoslovak but now I’m  Slovak and I also have Italian nationality. I’ve been living in Italy since 1992, I stay in a little town called Rovetta, in the province of Bergamo and I work as a midwife in a public facility. I’m also teaching at the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Why did you decide to leave your country?

I was 18 and, as every teenager, I felt my country too tight for me. It was 1992, the Czechoslovak Republic had been out from Socialism for 2 years and it was going to be separated into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.  Plus, borders had been opened and I wanted to discover the world, in particular the capitalist world.

Why did you choose Italy?

I had sentimental reasons – I had met an Italian guy on Tatra mountains.

Describe your life in Italy (your occupation, your everyday life, social life, etc.). Tell us something about the city you live in.

Today my life is like an Italian woman’s life: I get up every morning at 5.45 a.m. and I go to work. I spend most of my time working because I have three different occupations: I’m a midwife, a teacher and I also work in a counseling close to my town. I have been living with an Italian man for eight years and only recently banks  have granted us a loan to buy a house.

I like the place where I live, Rovetta, it’s in the mountains and I love its good air. Some people go there for hiking on Presolana mountain. There are also some historical places to visit, particularly in Clusone, the largest town near Rovetta.

Today you are a successful woman and your life is not different from an Italian woman’s life. Was it always like that? Have you experienced any difficulties to become who you are now?

When I came here my life was very different! I was a young woman and probably I wasn’t prepared for the reality I was going to meet.  I had a Czechoslovak diploma  and it wasn’t recognized here in Italy, but I was in love and I got married, so I started doing some different works: at first I found seasonal jobs in hotels, cleaning rooms and room service and then I was a waitress in a cafe and in an ice-cream parlour. I was well-integrated and I spent my time with Italians. I didn’t feel the need to look for other foreigners and meet them.

Nevertheless, at work the situation was different, because my employees often made me sexual proposals, because they believed in the stereotype that “Eastern girl = bitch”, and soon after I signed my employment contract, I  signed my letter of dismissals because I cound’t stand the situation and had to quit the job.

An episode pushed me to restart studying: at the town hall, I had been recorded as an illiterate because I had not studied in Italy. For a year I had attended some lessons at science high school in Breno (BS) as listener, paying particular attention to the subjects that would have been useful to be admitted into Health Professions University, where the choice was between becoming a midwife, a nurse or a physiotherapist. In 1999 I passed my admission text as the first out of 394 other candidates and three years later I was graduated as midwife with the top mark, 110/110 with praise. I started to work right after that, but in 2008 I decided to complete definitively my studies and got a Master Degree. My studies and my business success represent my redemption against racism and stereotypes!

How is living in Italy different than living in your country?

Actually Slovakia isn’t really different from Italy, as it’s a member of the European Community and yes, life is less expensive, but also salaries are lower. If I have to find some difference, in Slovakia corruption  is widespread  and you need recommendation for everything . In Italy, the harshest thing I had to get used to has been the lack of respect between people.

But both of them, Italy and Slovakia, are really different from the Czechoslovak Republic at the Socialist time. There, nobody was poor, work wasn’t a claim, it was a duty. The State protected his citizens. Of course, there were a lot of limitations to human freedom, as we were obliged to join the Communist Party, or it was impossible to go to church. Generally there wasn’t customization or individuality.

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?

When I left Slovakia my biggest concern was the language, but actually the biggest challenge has been the culture, as the way of thinking and living. There are some habits in Italy that were difficult to overcome: lack of punctuality, approximation, selfishness and complaint just for the sake of it, without any will or attempt to change the situation.

I often wonder what I would be if I had studied in Slovakia; when I was a young girl, I would have liked to become a genetist; but now I have found my way here in Italy.

I don’t miss a lot of things of Slovakia. I’m really used to Italian life, but I miss my family very much.

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community?

I can’t really say that I perceive the European Community. The thing I’ve definitely noticed and that has really made a difference to me has been the entrance of Slovak Republic in the European Community, because now it’s easier for me to go from Italy to my family in Slovakia and return. But it’s obvious that in Europe there are some states which are considered differently than others, and also in some decisions I cannot see the existence of a community. I’m thinking about the decisions concerning help for the immigrants, quotas  on food production or sanitary system based on refunds. In this sense, Europe doesn’t work as a Community.

Italy, Slovakia, Europe: name three words for each of the previous.

ITALY:  esthetics, rudeness, good food

SLOVAKIA: waiting for the new generation, cordiality, education

EUROPE: class division of states

What would you say to someone to convince him to move abroad? What’s the best thing you’ve got/you’ve learnt by your experience abroad?

Moving abroad is always a resource – by travelling you can open your mind and discover a new world and new ways of thinking. But I think that everybody has his own attitude and has to decide where to go, where to live. Italy gave me a lot of things and experience, but it’s not an easy place where to live in, as there is a lot of racism here. That’s why I’m not sure whether I can convince someone to come here.

Eva, a sweet girl half Spanish and half German

Hello EVA! Could you introduce yourself to Pequod’s readers?

Buenos días! My name is Eva I am a 24 years old girl who does not know how ended up in Tilburg. Sometimes when I’m walking along the streets it seems surreal living here.  I am totally into sports, I used to practice karate and now that I have moved to Tilburg I go to the University gym very often. I am always looking for justice and a new way to broaden my horizons which is the main reason why I am keen to become a good journalist.

Eva during the Camino de Santiago
Eva during the Camino de Santiago

Why did you choose the Netherlands?

I did not choose them but the MA program chose me.

Tell us about your life in the Netherlands…

My life in the Netherlands is mostly influenced by the international students around me. In the everyday life I try to adapt to the Dutch lifestyle, I interact with international students and I talk to my Spanish dad, my German family and friends. My social life is related mainly to my housemates, who are 7 girls from Italy, Spain, Albania, Czech Republic and Germany, we are sharing feelings and gossiping about relationships and our life experiences here. It surprises me the fact that I get on so well with girls because generally I do prefer to stay with boys.

Eva with her lovely housemates
Eva with her lovely housemates

How is living in the Netherlands different than living in your country?

LUNCH ! Here in the Netherlands it’s very common to have a toast or yoghurt for lunch but I am used to have more varieties when it comes to food! I need a proper meal, for example some proper vegetables or a delicious main course. Another difference here is that some people like to dress clothes with strange colours like light blue, green, yellow and orange – I have to say I like it and I respect their brave choices even though sometimes they’re not perfectly in shape!

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?          

Adapting to the lifestyle is itself a big challenge – having supermarkets closed at 7 pm, finding out how to register for a doctor, getting registered in the Town Hall, even having a mobile phone contract requires some effort, but everyone here speaks English, and this makes it easier. In addition, once I had to ask police for help and it was not easy because I had to set an appointment with the National Police and then get an appointment with the local police, they were very kind but I had to pass through far too many steps to get some assistance.

Yes, I have one regret, I could have gone to Cadiz on Erasmus for one year and I did not , especially during winter time when it was rainy and cold I blamed myself for not having chosen the sun and beach. I miss calling my friends in Germany at any time I would like to, I mean, there are several ways to stay in contact, like skype, but it requires to set a specific appointment with your friend.

Eva with international students during the beer cantus in the Top week
Eva with international students during the beer cantus in the Top week

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community? Do you feel part of it? Do you feel European?

For me Europe means to have the freedom to travel and work with all these wonderful neighbours. I totally perceive Europe as community, I know that there are some obstacles at the moment, such as the current crisis which seems to damage the community, but I still believe in its existence. Yes, I totally feel part of the European Union and I consider myself as a European citizen because of my heritage and the other experiences I gathered in this community called Europe.

Olga, from Siberia to Italy

Today Pequod talked with Olga, a graceful young student from Russia, who lives and studies Communication Science in Bergamo.

Olga, tell us something about you. Where do you live now? Which is your current occupation?

My name is Olga Vasilyeva, I’m 23 years old. I’m Russian, from Russian Federation (Novokuzneck). I currently live in Bergamo, I’m a student.


Why did you decide to leave your country?

I like travelling and new making new experience. I think that in this way people can really grow up. In my city I could not imagine my future life and carrier, that’s why I thought to change it all and I did it.

Why did you choose Italy? 

I was thinking about one of the leading European country and I was considering Germany and Italy. In Russia, Italy is renowned as a beautiful, friendly and happy country. I visited it in 2010 first and since then I have loved Bergamo and Italy in general.  

Describe your life in Italy (your occupation, your everyday life, social life, etc.). Tell us something about the city you live in and the top 5 places to be, where to go, what to do – be our tourist information center!

Well as I said, I am a student, I’m attending the third year of a bachelor course and I am about to write my dissertation here. I love my University (Università degli Studi di Bergamo). It gives me a lot in terms of knowledge, social life, and motivation to move forward and build my carrier. I met many nice, friendly, open-minded, brilliant people thanks to the UniBG, I went to Germany for my Erasmus and I consider doing my Master here. I actively participate in different seminars, conferences and cultural events (like TEDx, University seminars etc.) to widen up my horizons. My everyday life is closely connected to UniBG, but it is not everything, of course. I work part time in Milan as interpreter at different exhibitions.

Besides friends and colleagues from UniBG, I have some others from completely different fields. Sometimes I go out to some bars in the city.

I would say that my top 5 include: 1. Città alta – to walk and get some inspiration, to go jogging, 2. Bobino – perfect place for aperitivo, 3. Clash Club to throw a party without leaving the city, 4. Edonè is good for big and healthy hamburgers, 5. Aegee-Erasmus party to socialize + Bonus: valleys  (Val Seriana + Val Brembana) mountains, lakes near.

Olga's Italian life
Olga’s Italian life

How is living in Italy different than living in your country? 

Well the cultures are not that different but the environments are. Here I feel at ease. I have more chances to meet people from all over the world and to learn from them a lot.

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?

Integrating is the biggest one I think, but I was lucky, I am quite well adaptive and communicative and I learned Italian fast. Bureaucracy can also be an obstacle, but when you want something obstacles become just a challenge you can overcome. No regrets, but of course I miss my parents and my close friends from Russia.

Olga's Russian life
Olga’s Russian life

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community? 

I have actually changed my mind a bit. At first, I thought about the EU as a whole, but after I have been here for a while (since 2012 more precisely), I realized that it is hard to unite such different countries and their interests. However, of course from the political and symbolical point of view it is a community (just with its small downsides).

Italy, your country and Europe. Use three words to describe each of the previous.

Warm, “a lot to fix”, “center”
What would you say to someone to convince them to move abroad? What’s the best thing you’ve got/you’ve learnt by your experience abroad?

As I mentioned earlier, travelling opens your mind, moving abroad teaches you to be independent, responsible and to live your own chosen life. To me it was enough.

Peta, a student – and a free spirit – from the world

Hello Peta! Could you introduce yourself to Pequod’s readers?

Hey my name is Peta, I am 23 years old Australian-Swiss-Belgian student in Communication and Information Sciences and I am currently studying in Tilburg, the Netherlands. I love moving around, discovering new people and places (and food!!) and I would describe myself as being a free spirit, as cheesy as that may sound.

Why did you choose the Netherlands?

I always wanted to study in a different country for my master because I did my bachelor in Geneva and Sydney. I like discovering new places, and I knew that Dutch universities are good. I speak Dutch and my grandpa was from the Netherlands, so moving here was an opportunity to discover a part of my heritage. In addition, I was looking for a country with a relaxed attitude, which I thought I might find here. 

Describe your life in the Netherlands (your occupation, your everyday life, social life, etc.)

I guess that most of my time is dedicated to University because I want to do well and I am very interested in what I am studying. For the rest, I spend time with my new friends, I try to discover some cool new places around the Netherlands and enjoy special beers way too often. At the moment my social life is a bit limited because of University deadlines but I always enjoy having a laugh around some beers!

How is living in the Netherlands different than living in your country?

I grew up in Switzerland which is a very quiet and conservative country, which honestly does not suit my outgoing personality. When I lived in Sydney, I found a country where the relaxed and fun-loving atmosphere really suited me and I guess the Netherlands is somewhere in between both countries. I really miss the Australian weather and the beach, and this country is really, really flat compared to Switzerland. But when I move someplace new I try not to compare it too much to the previous place I lived in because I think you have to try to discover the new aspects of every new place and try to enjoy the best of them.

Which is the biggest challenge of moving to a new country? Have you had any regrets so far? What do you miss the most?          

I think the biggest challenge is not being able to take my friends with me because they are spread out across the world and having to make new friends.

I enjoy deep friendships which are difficult to find when you move somewhere new. I try not to regret the things I do, because I firmly believe that, in the end, you regret most what you do not do. I am not particularly attached to places so if this does not work out I will just move again. I really miss my friends and family obviously, as well as some aspects of the cities I lived in previously (Tilburg is really quiet) but someone told me not to hang on to the past and to enjoy the present, so I try. And who knows what tomorrow brings!               

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community? Do you feel part of it? Do you feel European?

For me Europe is mostly the geographic definition of it. Having grown up in a country which is not European and being born on the other side of the world I do not particularly feel European. I actually do not believe that Europe should be one big community and I know that is controversial . I feel that by focusing on Europe we lose the individuality of the member countries . For me Europe is an agreement or a collaboration but countries should not disappear under the “European Umbrella”.

Young, Spanish and European. What’s next?

Having finished (or almost finished) your studies in a European country like Spain can mean different things. Which are the perspective of a newly graduated Spanish girl in 2015?  Which opportunities are offered by Spain and Europe? Today on Pequod a special focus on Spanish youth and its point of view.

Your name, age, nationality, where are you from? Where do you live now? Which is your current occupation?

Violeta, 26, Spanish, from Zaragoza but living in Reus (Catalonia). Student – writing my final project of Architecture.

Waisaly, 25, Madrid living in Madrid. Graduated in Pharmacy, just passed the concourse to work in public hospitals in Spain.

Monica, 23, from Caseda living in Pamplona. Graduated in Management. Finish a Master Degree in International Trade Management.

Ane, 23, from Errenteria living in Errenteria. Graduated in Social Work and unemployed.

Ane, Waisaly, Monica and Violeta
Ane, Waisaly, Monica and Violeta

Best and worst things of your country.

Violeta, Ali, Monica, AnePositive things are definitely Public Health Care, solidarity among the people – in such a period of crisis our people are really showing their will to cooperate and help each other. An example is Banco de Alimentos – people donate food for those who can’t afford to buy it.

Bad things are the cuts to health care, education, social service. Also, a lot of corruption, among politicians and also everywhere else – banks, for instance. Ley Mordaza – a law to reduce your freedom of expression, against public demonstrations for example. The cost of culture – they’re putting taxes on cinema and books. Public transportation is quite expensive – it works well, but not everybody can afford it.

Why are you living building your future in Spain? Do you think that maybe you’d like to go abroad to look for a job?

Violeta – because I’m from there! I’ve never thought to studying abroad. But I will go abroad to look for a job!

Waisaly – I’ve never thought to go abroad to study. Maybe I’d like to have some work experience abroad, but just for some time, then come back to Spain.

Monica – What I wanted to study was in Spain, so I didn’t feel the need to move abroad. But actually going to university for me has been quite a change – I moved from a countryside village (1000 inhabitants) to Pamplona – a real city!

Ane – I have no money to go abroad, so I’m staying in the Basque Country and trying to look for a job here. Of course if I won’t find anything I might go abroad for a period – actually it would be a great life experience, not just a matter of work or career.

Have you had any significant experience abroad? What? Why did you decide to do that and what’s the best you got from that?

Violeta – Last year I went to Poland for Erasmus and before that I had been in Glasgow (Scotland) to study English for one month. I decided to go to Poland because I wanted to know a new culture, language, new people. Also, I was really interested into how university works abroad – for architecture it was actually quite challenging to go to Poland – it was the furthest as possible from Spain – quite the opposite!

Waisaly – I went to Poland last year for six months to do some practise in a university laboratory. Poland was my choice because it’s so different from Spain. I also wanted to live alone.

Monica – When I was 17 I went to Canada, then I spent summer abroad for three years – in England and in Malta, to improve my English. Last year I chose Poland for my Erasmus because it was the furthest as possible I could choose within Europe (I didn’t want to leave Europe even if I had the possibility to go to Asia for example). Also I wanted to experience independence.

Ane – When I was 17 I went to Ireland to study English, stayed with an Irish family. Last year I went to Poland for Erasmus because I wanted to have an experience alone. It was a challenge – you don’t know the people, the language – you need to find a way to survive!

What does Europe mean for you? Do you perceive the existence of Europe as a community? Do you feel European?

Violeta – Europe for me is something that controls Spain – not only controls, but actually tells it what to do and how to do it. That’s why I don’t perceive the existence of Europe as a community and I don’t feel European – well, I feel European as a Greek or an Irish may feel, but not as a German, for example.

Waisaly – Europe is something positive for me. Second World War meant fighting – after that we needed some unity and the creation of European Community was like a fresh start. Together we’re stronger, this way we can even challenge some bigger entities, like the United States for example. And also we shouldn’t forget the economical advantages (no taxes for commerce). Right now I feel European, earlier I didn’t.

Monica – I’m studying International Trade, so I think Europe has advanteges for business and economics. If you stay in your country, you can’t really perceive the existence of Europe as a community. To feel it you need to have an European experience, like Erasmus. I do feel European.

Ane – In my daily life Europe doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t influence my life at all. But when I go abroad it means health insurance, possibility to study in a different country. Well, I don’t really feel European.

Aegee VS Europe

This week Pequod meets Aegee had a chat with the members of Aegee Bergamo. They’re students or former students who are constantly involved in organising activities for Erasmus students and in promoting Aegee spirit in Italy. We asked one of them some questions, very similar to those we usually ask Erasmus students.


1. Describe your country in three words (or phrases, or ideas, or places, or people…).

Enchanting, multicultural, self-defeating


2. How would you describe Aegee?

Aegee is not just a student association, it’s a new world of friendship and great experiences that you couldn’t try out if it!

3. What does AEGEE mean for you?

New skills, speaking foreign languages with students like me in my town, travelling around Europe.

"In our togetherness (as a team), castles are built" Irish proverb
“In our togetherness (as a team), castles are built”
Irish proverb

4. First three things that come up to your mind when you think about Europe. Do you consider yourself European?

Freedom, opportunities, travels. I consider myself Italian and European.

5. What’s Erasmus for you?

Actually, a lot of friends and parties in Bergamo, I have not been in Erasmus yet!

Reg. Tribunale di Bergamo n. 2 del 8-03-2016
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