As I continue my Italian Studies at Dickinson College, I love to immerse myself in my Italian culture any way that I can. I have been particularly interested in the differences between Italian and American life for young people, with particular attention to COVID, education and social life. Recently, I interviewed some of my Italian friends to discuss these differences.
Isotta Vignocchi is a 17-year-old student who lives in Northern Italy. Francesca Eskina is a 21-year-old. Both were eager to share their daily lives with me.
We first talked about jobs. Is it normal for teenagers in Italy to get jobs and balance work life with academics? Isotta told me that it is relatively normal for teenage students to work smaller, lower maintenance jobs only throughout the summers. And that Italians typically wait until adulthood to find a “real” job. This highly contrasts what we see in American culture, with most high school and college students picking up part-time jobs to earn money throughout the entire year.
I went on to ask about their lives outside of academics and employment, the social sphere of life. Isotta described her social life as very “active.” She goes out with her friends quite often and takes mini vacations on the weekends. She said it is important to do this because her scholastic commitments fill up her weekdays. She often goes into the historical center, shops or goes to restaurants with her friends. Francesca also used the word “active” to describe her social life and went on to mention grabbing “aperitivo” and “caffè” with her friends. This is extremely similar to how American teenagers live their social lives, although it appears as if Italian students are more limited in their time that they spend with friends, as they can rarely do this on weekdays.
We then spent time focusing on education in Italy. I started by asking about internships and how they tended to work in Italy. Isotta told me that internships were offered in different fields for different universities but are relatively easy to find and apply for. Francesca mentioned that it is hard to do during the academic year because she is a full-time student. She mentioned how it would be perfect to have a summer internship, but they are rarely offered during that time. This is relatively similar to America, as internships are very easy to come by, especially when you establish connections with different professors.
We then talked about life after university. Upon graduating in America, people tend to stay within the states, either returning to their hometown or finding a new state to live in. Occasionally, people will travel to other countries to find work, but I would argue the majority of people remain within the U.S., as it is easiest to use a degree in the country in which it was obtained. Both Isotta and Francesca told me that after university they would love to travel and explore new places, but not indefinitely. Isotta wants to “construct a stable future” for herself in Italy so that she would have the opportunity to travel around whenever she pleases. I think a lot of Americans also have this mindset of creating a safety net in America to allow for more opportunities to travel the world.
I was also really interested in hearing about their lives during the COVID pandemic. Within the U.S., responses to COVID varied from county to county and state to state. I was enthusiastic to hear about how a country all the way across the Atlantic handled the pandemic. Isotta shared that her life changed drastically because of COVID. The curfews that were imposed by numerous European governments were hard for her to adjust to as she never experienced anything like that. Not only did her social life change, but also her academic life. This parallels how most American teenagers felt during the pandemic, as almost all schools transitioned to online learning, proms and graduations were cancelled, and no one could socially interact with anyone outside their household. It is interesting to hear about curfews as only a select handful of bigger American cities enforced these during the last nearly year and a half.
We wrapped up by talking about the country of Italy as a whole. I was curious to hear about how they felt about living in Italy. Isotta told me that although Italy may have political or economic disorganization like dozens of other countries, she adores the “Italian aesthetic.” She said that she loves how no matter where you go, architecture such as the Medieval style will allow you to find pieces of a story. The food, the atmosphere, and the culture are all things Isotta loves about living in Italy. Francesca absolutely loves the monuments that are scattered around and the people that she finds around her.
It was such a great opportunity to conduct this interview with Isotta and Francesca and I am so grateful for the privilege to be able to learn about the beautiful Italian culture with such ease. It was so interesting to me how simultaneously similar and drastically different the Italian and American lifestyles and cultures are.