Interview by Marcella Zandonai
Edited and published by Lina Mansour
From Cultural Studies to teaching in Latin America, to going back to Italy and building up new opportunities
Present yourself and your university career in a few words
I am Francesca Brandi, I am 29 years old and I am from Brescia, Italy. Since I was a teenager I had a passion for languages, traveling, and discovering new cultures. Therefore, I decided to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Bergamo. The second year I applied for the Erasmus grant and I went to Spain where I studied for a whole year at the Complutense University of Madrid. Once I got my degree, I did an internship in Argentina, where I taught English to pupils and I collaborated in different activities with teenagers from disadvantaged areas. Before starting my MA, I took another year to get to know another country: a full year in New York City working as Au-pair. After that, I flew to Göttingen where I started my MA in Euroculture. My second university was Deusto, Spain, followed by a research track in Mexico City and then the final semester in Göttingen again. Once I completed my MA in Euroculture in 2017 I came back to Mexico where I lived until February 2020. Right now, I am living in Italy, I am working for an NGO and at the same time, I am studying for another MA in Translation and Publishing.
What brought you from studying Euroculture to start a job in Mexico as an Italian teacher? What is the connection with your previous studies/working experience?
I have always liked the idea of teaching my native language to foreign people and during my research track in Mexico, I applied for an internship at the Dante Alighieri Society in Mexico City. By doing so, I was able to combine my studies and my work experience. Since I liked what I was doing, I decided to stay in Mexico and develop my working career. This allowed me to find great opportunities such as becoming an Italian Teacher at the Embassy of Italy and at the Iberoamericana University. I see being a teacher as a profession connected with my bachelor’s degree and also with my previous work experience.
How did you find the job offer? Were you also positively influenced by the location of it?
As I was already in Mexico it was easier to obtain my job. I sent my CV to the Dante Alighieri Society and I was invited for an interview. Some months later, a friend of mine told me about the position at the Italian Embassy, and therefore, I sent my CV and after some interviews, I was selected. One year later, I applied for a position at the Iberoamericana University, and thanks to my studies, my experiences, and the fact that I am a native Italian, I obtained the job.
Would you advise others to learn the language of the place they work/study in? Why?
Of course, knowing the language of the place you work/study in is the way you can communicate with local people. Understanding the language is the first step to understanding an entire universe and a different “cosmovision”. As a linguist, I am against the idea that there are hegemonic (like English) and secondary languages because it reproduces the colonialist experience. Therefore, I feel that when you live in a place, you have the moral obligation to try to learn the local language.
What do you like the most about working as a teacher?
What I like the most is the interaction with people. I never get bored and I have a lot of fun. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied because I helped other people to achieve their objectives. Moreover, I like the fact that I am independent because, at least in the classroom, I am the boss of myself.
Recently you decided to go back to Italy to start a Civil Service project in your hometown: how did you feel going back? Do you think that going back means giving up?
Going back does not mean giving up because I see life as a continuous “going back and going forward”. To me, the important thing is not to freeze, both mentally and physically. I am glad to be back to my hometown, especially having the possibility to be close to my family.
How come you decided to go back to studying for a MA degree in languages? Would you advise other people to re-start studying even after some years of work?
I decided to go back to studying for a MA degree in languages, in particular Translations and Publishing to open a new life path. In Mexico, I helped translate some books – one by Dacia Maraini – and I think that a MA in Translation and Publishing may help me for future projects.
I believe that re-starting studying after some years of work is a smart choice and, at least for me, it is working quite well. I feel more motivated, passionate, and determined because I finally know for sure that I want to find a language-related job. When I first started Euroculture I thought that my dream job was working for an NGO, possibly in Europe, and related to human rights.
Today, after having worked as a teacher, a translator, and now finally for an NGO, I am more aware of my passions, I can finally compare job experiences and see things clearer.
Is there anything you miss about being a teacher?
I miss everything, especially the dynamism and the contact with people. Right now, I am working for an NGO: I am in charge of designing workshops to promote social and educational inclusion of foreign minors. I am always in the office, sitting in front of my computer and although the task is quite challenging, I am not completely happy with the working environment.
And what about being back in Italy? Advantages and disadvantages?
Of course, there are many advantages, like enjoying my grandma’s lasagna 😊
Jokes aside, I am happy to be here because I can spend time with my family and friends, as well as travelling and discovering wonderful places. However, I miss the challenge of living in a foreign country, discovering a new culture, and speaking a different language. Moreover, looking at the job opportunities, I feel that Italy is not investing in young people, in my case, I feel that my background is not valued as much as I originally thought. As I said previously, I am open to changes: today I am in Italy, but that does not mean that I will be here forever. Actually, I am already daydreaming about possible life surprises.
Do you think Euroculture has given you some useful skills/some new chances? If yes, which ones?
Euroculture gave me useful skills, such as intercultural communication, public speaking, time and stress management. Moreover, it gave me the opportunity to study and live in three different countries and make good friends. This is something that I always value since for me it is very important to have human connections.
Image credits: Francesca Brandi