1st Student Forum: Under 24
By Nicholas Signoriello
In my opinion, Florence is an ideal place for a study abroad student. It has a rich history, beautiful buildings, and great food.
Nevertheless, if there was one thing I would change about Florence, it would be the lack of interaction between Italian and American students. In an attempt to do just that, Fairfield University in collaboration with the University of Florence’s Department of Political Science hosted their First Student Forum to unite students from the U.S. and Italy.
The forum was called “Italy: From a country of emigration to a country of immigration”. Three Italian students did a presentation in English to a group of American students on Italy’s history of emigration and their current problems dealing with immigration, followed by aperitivo for open dialogue about the presentation.
This was the a great topic to break the ice between the students from two different countries because not only was it informative about current events, but it opened up a discussion about the stereotypes Americans have historically had about Italians during their years of heavy immigration in the 19th century and vice versa.
Sebastiano Mori, a student of Political Science at the University of Florence and the first speaker, hit the nail on the head when he introduced actor Alberto Sordi to the American and students, by showing a clip of his famous “Americano a Roma.” This is a famous humorous Italian film that elucidates the ideas Italians had of Americans in the 1950’s during the mass emigrations from Italy to America. It is important to understand the way in which different cultures view immigration because as Sebastiano put it, Italians have historically seen outsiders as invaders and enemies for centuries whereas Americans are used to the idea of immigration, as it is a country founded by immigration.
This is a key idea, because as the next speaker, Claudia Liberatore, discussed, immigration is a new idea to Italians and many are not yet comfortable with it.
Liberatore talked about the current immigration situation in Italy, especially in light of the current uprisings in Africa. She used visual images from the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa which she deemed the symbol for immigration for all of Europe, given its proximity to Northern Africa. Liberatore was also very adamant about pressing the idea of a new Italy and emphasized how the children of immigrants are the start of a new generation of Italians and there is no use fighting the inevitable. She cleverly used the Kebab shops that have sprouted up around Italy as an example of the new age entrepreneurship that is being seen among this new generation of “Italians.”
The last speaker was Leonardo Pierini, a pre-law major who discussed the law and direction the European Union are Italy are taking to deal with refugees and immigrants in light of the extremely high increase in immigration from the Arab world. This poses a huge problem for Italy because given the extremely close proximity of Lampedusa, and Italy in general for that matter to N. Africa, Italy may not be a final destination point in Europe for all the refugees that are coming here. Pierini mentioned how Italy’s problem with refugees is also Europe’s problem because many of them will move on to countries like France, Spain, etc. This is also poses a major calculation problem for Italy because it is impossible to measure the effect in numbers these immigrants will have on Italy’s economy if it is impossible to know how many will actually stay.
In short, this forum was a great way to unite the students of Florence and Fairfield University and the topic choice was superb. The speakers emphasized how American students can be crucial to helping the Italian students understand the effects of mass immigration which in turn can help the Italian students figure out ways in the future when it’s their turn to create an immigrant-friendly Italy. Not to mention, for all the American students who aren’t informed of Italy’s economic and immigrations challenges, these types of forums can be very informative.