The wind of change: two voices from inside the Italian emigration phenomenon, by Elena Damaschin and Giuseppe Gesualdi

It is not difficult to find articles and surveys in the press about young Italians who decide to leave Italy. One of the latest is a comprehensive study carried out by economist Maria De Paola who explains the reasons why Italians choose to leave their country. She also refers to research carried out by Massimo Anelli and Giovanni Peri in 2016, whose figures show that since 2009, the number of young Italians going abroad to look for opportunities has considerably increased. Clearly, for many of the most talented Italians, the land of opportunity is anywhere but home.

Why is Italy’s young generation so eager to leave? Because Italy is an old country, they say. Actually, many say that Italy does more for its older generation but very little for its youth. Neither the political nor social context is gratifying, and the opportunities for young people are insufficient. Moreover, apparently Italians like to complain. If you ask young Italians how things are going in Italy, they will probably answer that the situation is terrible and there is nothing they can do about it. It is not hard to find drawbacks to living in Italy; it’s much harder to try to do something to solve these issues. Despite the difficult social and economic situation, the young generation seems to have two opportunities: to bring about changes in their country or to leave Italy. They are choosing the second of these, which is the easier option. Abroad, their new life becomes exciting: they rediscover their enthusiasm, becoming proactive and creative, in other words they start doing things. If only they would start doing something in Italy, too… Yet, is the grass greener on the other side?

Well, perhaps the situation is not as hopeless as it might seem. Many Italian university students still choose to stay and get a university degree in Italy, and both EU and international students keep on choosing Italy as an ideal place to study and live. Why? Two Sapienza students decided to share their own experience.

Giuseppe Gesualdi, from Basilicata (a region in the south of Italy): “Maria De Paolo’s article stresses the condition of the south of Italy, reporting that many people migrate from there to the North. In doing this, they somehow replace those who migrate to other countries. Well, this concerns me a lot since I come from a small village in Basilicata. In 2013 I had to leave my hometown to study Modern Languages at Sapienza University in Rome. Sadly, I’m not the first and won’t be the last either. However this experience has a double implication. Firstly, it may be a shock (for me it definitely was). I had to leave my nearest and dearest, going back only for public and bank holidays. Why? Because my hometown couldn’t give me the opportunity to build my future. It was frustrating. But on the other hand, leaving could be a happy solution: it’s an opportunity to grow up and become independent, having new experiences, making new friendships and improving the chances to find my path. I wouldn’t change my village with any other, but I have to admit that the differences between the South and the North of Italy are huge (especially in finding a job). Rather than going abroad, I decided to stay. Still, I had to move to another city, but who knows what the future will bring: maybe new job opportunities in my beloved village?”

Elena Damaschin, from the Republic of Moldova: “How do foreigners see Italy? To begin with, my first contact with Italy was with its fascinating image. I had a feeling of admiration and curiosity, the same you have when browsing a colourful magazine. I fell in love with Italy even before seeing it with my own eyes. Why did I choose Italy? Like many EU and international students, I was keen to see how people live in other countries. I had studied Italian language, literature, culture and civilisation at university. All I had to do was to come here. I should mention that I belong to the generation which witnessed important and historic periods such as the dissolution of the USSR and perestroika. This means that traveling was no longer a dream as it had been during the communist regime. Even though I’ll never have the Italian temperament, I have got used to the Italian lifestyle. I love Italy, with all its faults and contradictions. I consider it my second country. It bothered me when once one of my co-workers said that if he were me, he would go to another country because in his opinion life was better elsewhere. That was the moment when I understood that just talking and doing nothing can bring no change to the country.”

It’s high time to stop whining. All Italian young people have to do is to roll up their sleeves and start to make changes.

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