I am back in the States, back at Northwestern. And the culture shock is back, too. As I said in my first blog post, being Italian I wasn’t expecting to go through any major struggles in Germany, and, indeed, I felt just like at home there, aside from minor cultural differences I highlighted in my second blog post. Here in the US, however, it’s a different story, and, after spending three months in Europe with the perspective of a local university student, I realized it’s a story I might not want to keep writing.
Let me explain.
2008: The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression reaches Europe. Italy is hit particularly hard. Our economy never fully recovers.
2018: Our debt is through the roof at 130% of the GDP, youth unemployment sits close to 40%, the banking sector is in huge troubles, and the government is in the hands of the populists and the far-right.
I love my home country, but you can easily understand that the future there is looking very uncertain at the moment. Hence, students have been leaving Italy en masse for the past few years. I was one of them when I came to America for college. I picked the United States for reasons that should sound obvious to everyone: great education system, strong economy offering exciting career prospects, diverse, multicultural society, excellent international connections,… the list goes on. A complete enumeration would be extremely long. However, it will always lack many aspects of the European way of life which I so love, aspects which I had always overlooked and whose deep impact on my personal development I just began to realize. I’m talking about things like being able to experience a wide array of different cultures within hours of distance from my house, living very close — and feeling very close — to my extended family, spending an entire morning strolling around the city center without ever encountering a single car, dedicating two or more hours each day to having great meals full of social interactions,… . Many of these aspects might sound like a complete waste of time to the average American, much more of a Stakhanovite than the average European, and, thus, totally irrelevant. I, instead, believe that they contribute to a much more balanced lifestyle, which I noticed is very much lacking in the United States. And… here’s the catch: after spending so much time in Germany and in Switzerland (I visited ETH Zurich after my program in Berlin ended), I believe that most, if not all, positive aspects of living in America can be found there, as well. The German-speaking countries of the EU seem to me to have the perfect blend of the American and the European lifestyles. In my first blog post I said that I have been considering studying at ETH Zurich for a long time. The realization that my experience in Berlin led me to did nothing but strengthen my desire to actually do that. My parents, who’ve always tried to convince me to go study in Switzerland, will be very happy to hear that. “Isn’t America maybe too far from home?”, they would keep asking me. And, yeah, it may very well be.
View of Zurich from ETH