For my project, I interviewed two men living in Chicago that came from Genoa, Italy. What was so amazing about my experience was that I met Giovanni and Mateo at their apartment, which is located in one of my favorite parts of Chicago. Since Giovanni and Mateo live right by Millennium Park, we were able to walk around and see some of the famous architecture in Chicago, such as the bean, and all of the pretty Christmas trees. Giovanni moved to America recently, he has only been in Chicago for 2 months. On the other hand, Mateo has been living in Chicago for six years. What was interesting about my interview is that I was speaking to two different people at different language levels. Since Mateo has been here for 6 years, his English was very advanced and he was accustomed to the American Culture. Giovanni has only been in America for 2 months so his English was very great, but I was able to tell that a lot of his Italian customs and culture were still fresh in his brain. Giovanni was able to fill me in on the music, art, literature, and the food aspects of his culture and Mateo was able to describe the struggle of coming to the United States. Since Mateo has been here longer, he was also able to tell me about the differences between being in America and being in Italy. Both men were my age, 24, and were super excited to hear that the interview was going to be about their country. At first I could tell that they were very nervous. As soon as I sat down Mateo said, “I was so nervous about what you were going to ask me, but I am ecstatic that it is going to be on Italy.” At the end of the interview I could tell how happy they felt to talk about their country. Mateo said that the interview was nostalgic because he is returning to Italy over Christmas time. They played music from their country all night, while we sat around and had a good time and laughed.
Background Info about Interviewees
Mateo and Giovanni gave me a brief description of the history of Genoa. Genoa is a historical city located on the Northwest coast in Italy, which borders the Liguria sea. Genoa has one of the main harbors in Italy. According to my research Genoa is has the largest seaport in all of Italy. The harbors were very important back in the day because old commerce was coming to Genoa and Genoa then became rich. The population of Genoa is about a half million people. Mateo and Giovanni described Genova as a medieval city. There are many towers looking over the sea and very old houses. The city is little and compressed, but it was made this way to keep enemies out. Genoa is known mostly known for its art, music, and food. One interesting fact that I did not know is that Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa.
Coming to the United States
I first started off the interview about asking Giovanni and Mateo about their journey to America. The first question I asked them was why did they come to America. Mateo said that the most difficult part for him was getting the visa and being allowed to stay in United States. He also said that learning the language was a little difficult. Mateo also told me that when he was in med school in the United States he was recording every lecture and focusing a lot on translating with Italian dictionary. Another struggle that Mateo had was finding a place to live. Mateo told me a story about how he finally found a place to live and he was in an uber on the way to the apartment and his uber driver said, “Are you sure you want to go here?” Since Mateo did not know anything about the neighborhood he didn’t realize he was getting dropped off in one of the most dangerous places to live in Chicago. The owner even advised Mateo that he should move out of the building because one of his neighbors was robbed and another was stabbed. Mateo said that this is the most terrifying thing that happened to him and that the neighborhood reminded him of the ghettos neighborhoods shown in American movies. Giovanni that he came to America to learn English and study acting in the United States. He believes that America is the best place for acting because it is a big production place. He also said one reason he came to America is because it is another world with more opportunities. Giovanni stated, “if you aren’t lazy in America you have a lot of possibilities.” Giovanni’s biggest struggle coming to America was and still is learning English. In fact, he was actually very sad to hear when I told him I had to go back to San Diego after Christmas break. He said that he really enjoyed having conversation with me and he wish I could stay and help tutor him. Giovanni dropped out of his English class because it was hard for him to learn English with other foreign students and he said he dropped out because he wanted to just hang out with Americans and learn the correct way to speak English. Both Mateo and Giovanni agreed that one of the hardest things about moving to America was being far from family friends and home.
According to my research, poverty was the main reason Italian Immigrants moved to the United States. The Italians were motivated to come to America to make money so that they could go back to Italy with enough money to buy land. Buying Land is important to the Italians because 80 percent of people are farmers. Another reason Italians came to America was to find the appropriate farming tools because their technology was not very modern. Giovanni and Mateo supported this fact by telling me that technology comes first in America then travels over to Italy, but on the other hand fashion trends start first in Italy and then come to America. The farmers in Italy wanted to come to America for a better life because they were living in harsh conditions and were not getting paid well. A year round farmer in Italy would only make 16-30 cents a day.
Schooling in Italy
For this part of my interview I talked to Mateo mostly about the school system in Italy. He told me everything that I needed to know about how classrooms in Italy are managed. First Mateo told me that in Italy elementary school is 5 years and then you move forward to middle school for 3 years. One thing that I learned is that in Italy high school is 5 years, unlike 4 years in America. One interesting fact that Mateo told me was that entering high school you have a choice between going to a scientfical school or a classical school. The scientifical school is for people who are interested in science and fiction and classical is for people who are interested in literature. There is also a school for linguistics and art. Mateo also explained that there are special schools in Italy, such as technical, boating, pilot, and trading. After researching I have found that schools in Italy are divided into five stages:
Pre-school (scuola maternal)
Elementary school (scuola elementare)
Middle school (scuola media)
High school (scuola superiore)
I have also found that what Mateo and Giovanni said is true, students in Italy have a choice of what kind of high school they intend on going to. The three different high schools are:
Lycèe System (Liceo)
Technical high schools (Istituti Tecnici)
Vocational high schools (Istituti Professionali)
Within the Lycèe system there are five different types of schools which are, classical studies, scientific studies, foreign languages, arts, dance and music, human sciences.
The average class size for Mateo was 22 people and he said that most people went to public schools. He also told me that private schools are not a big deal in Italy. Private schools are only located right next to churches. According to my research, private schools only educate 10 percent of Italian children. Most private schools receive state funding, but there are private schools called scuole di ricupero, which means recovery school, that caters to students who have to repeat another year of school.
Next I asked Giovanni and Mateo about what languages they learned in Italy. I specifically asked when they started to learn a second language and they said in middle in school. I was surprised to see that English wasn’t the language they learned in middle school, but Latin was. Unlike most other countries, English isn’t really seen as important in Italy. In Italy, students are required to be able to read fluent Latin by the end of middle school. They told me Latin was very important because Italian language comes from Latin. Latin is also important in Italy because most medicine is written in Latin. in When the students learn Latin they have a better understanding of Italian language. Although the main focus in schools is Latin, English is taught a little in elementary school. Mateo and Giovanni shared that it is really difficult to find Italians who speak fluent English. As far as homework, Mateo and Giovanni said that they received a lot of homework especially in Math and Literature.
Differences between Italian and American Schools
Unlike the American Monday-Friday school system, Italians go to school Monday-Saturday. American schools have many sports teams like football, basketball, soccer etc. and in Italy there are no sports in school. If you want to play a sport in Italy you have to play for a private club, which is very expensive. Like I stated before, Italy is the only country you have to go to high school for five years. An interesting fact that I have found is that you stay in one class all five years, so classmates start to become friends and are comfortable with each other. According to my research, the learning environment in Italy can be very stressful because they have oral and written tests every day. Students in Italy get an excessive amount of homework and they are at least studying for three hours a day. I have also found that students in Italy do not take multiple choice tests, they are tested by long speeches and oral essays. In order to graduate high school, they have an exam that lasts four days that tests them on everything they have learned during their whole five years of high school. If a student does not pass this test, then they have to repeat the last year.
Values and Beliefs
When I asked Mateo and Giovanni what was the most important thing to them they said “la famiglia” which means family. It is very important to be loyal and committing to your family members, especially because it is very common to run businesses with your family. I have read that maintaining family unity is a must and that several generations live under one roof. Mateo and Giovanni explained that weekends are spent with their family members eating very large meals. Research shows that Italians are more concerned about the inner circle of their family members rather than the issues of society. The Italians believe that issues in society are the government’s responsibility.
Next I asked Mateo and Giovanni about trust and respect in Italy. They said it takes a little while to gain one’s trust in Italy. They said once you gain someone’s trust they will trust you forever and they sort of become your family member. Since Italy has been repeatedly conquered and controlled, Italians have a hard time trusting people in authority. Mateo and Giovanni said that although Italians have trouble trusting authority, there is still a hierarchy that needs to be respected. It is also hard to earn someone’s trust if you don’t respect them because it goes hand in hand. Mateo and Giovanni further explained that having manners and dressing nice is a good way to earn respect.
When I asked Mateo and Giovanni about politics they said that “politics make Italy an embarrassment.” They told me about how their government is organized. They informed me about Sergio Mattarella, who is the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic is seen as an icon and doesn’t really make decision. The person in charge is the president of advisors, who is Matteo Ranzi. Italians are not allowed to vote for the president or prime minister, but they can vote for the Parliament (congress). Once the Parliament is chosen, the Parliament chooses the President of the republic, who is elected every seven years. The Parliament has the right to overthrow/ change the government because they are higher than any institution.