Orvieto – Patris

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This is Umberto, he works at Patris with his friend. Umberto makes lamps out of olive wood while his friend makes utensils and other cool trinkets. One of them works at the store, while the other stays at the workshop, and they switch spots every day. Umberto has been woodworking for 20 years and was a designer in NYC prior.

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Coming to America: Giulia

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Place of Origin: Merate, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America on August 5th, 2013. Right after I finished high school.

What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?

I miss the way of life and my family. Even though things are changing, in Italy, people still pay attention to having a balanced life. People still cook with good quality food, they walk a lot, they simply enjoy hanging out in a park or on a bench in the main square. The contact with nature in most of the country is still very important. Moreover, my entire family is still there: my mom, dad, sister, niece, brother, everyone! During holidays and festivities is when I miss them the most, but I also miss even just having a good chat with my sister on a regular day.

What were some challenges, if any, that you faced?

My family’s disapproval. I was in the country completely alone and I was lacking of their support.They were not thrilled of the fact that I was going to leave for the U.S. for an entire year, and when I extended for an additional 12 months they were very upset.

What’s the one thing you like the most about America?

I like the intercultural exchange the most. I love that I can meet people from all over the world, get to know their stories and their culture, and, if I’m lucky, a little bit of their language. I think it makes me richer as a person and teaches me on so many different levels. I also like that, at least in my experience, everyone seems approachable. For example, if you are introduced to a person that has quite an important job or is a “big shot,” and you later send them an email, you have pretty good chances that they answer. It does not really work like that in Italy.

What do you dislike the most about America?

I don’t like the falsity with which people tell you, you have all the opportunities in front of you. I have been looking, and it has not been easy, especially for an immigrant, to see all the opportunities they are talking about. The American dream is just a dream, unless you have a couple of degrees, no students loans, and quite some money already. There are opportunities if you are willing to work for free mostly. Sometimes I really understand why people decide to come here illegally or just work under the table. Sometimes it is the only way you can have some of those opportunities.
 
Due to your situation, if you had the choice, would you rather live in America or Italy?
 
I think I will want to live in Italy, and this is why I think I am moving back. I just enjoy the lifestyle better there. Also, for me to get another visa or to start the application for the green card costs just way too much money. I do not have the resources now to stay here.

Coming to America: Silvia

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Translated by me.

Place of Origin: Recanati, Marche, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America exactly on January 3rd 1999 on a scholarship.

So you came here to study?

I came here right after graduation, which was December of 1998, from the University of Urbino, where I studied Foreign Languages. And I won an exchange student scholarship and I immediately came for the spring semester in 1999 to the University of Columbia in South Carolina for one semester. From there, on another scholarship, I earned my masters in Mass Communications from the University of Miami. The first scholarship I received was only an exchange program to help me adapt to the United States, to help me improve my English. My plan was always to return to Italy either after the exchange program or after my masters and to find a job in a multinational company.

Are you still thinking of returning or would you rather stay here?

Well… It’s different now. My situation is a little more complicated. At the time, I thought of returning to Italy because I didn’t think it was possible having a life in the United States and to get a work visa, plus things just happened one after another. During my master’s degree, for my scholarship, I had to teach Italian and I started pedagogical courses. Instead of returning, when my study visa would have expired, I went for a doctorates degree at the University of Pennsylvania. And after my doctorates I immediately found a place to teach and… here I am! [Adjunct professor at Montclair State University] But now it’s different, with my husband and two kids, every now and then we think, “yes, maybe it would be nice to go back to Italy” but at this point we already have a life here. I would only think about moving back to Italy for my children to be able to be close to their family, because here they don’t have any, because we’re alone, it’s just my husband and I.

What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?

I’m still very close with my family and friends. Going back to Italy at least twice a year is vital for me. But now we’re not even sure if we should go for Christmas anymore because it’s too much, it’s only for ten days, and it can easily become stressful for the kids. There’s so many people to see and things to do that it becomes more stressful than an actual vacation.

What were some of your struggles when you first came here?

I did and didn’t have struggles, but I mean, everyone does. But I’ve always been a person that likes to adapt to different cultures. I’m not too strict and… I can’t think of anything that was a bit challenging for me.

What’s the one thing you like the most about America?

It’s probably cliché, but there are many more possibilities for people here than there are in Italy, or all of Europe in general. In terms of your career, you can do much more here, especially nowadays.

Coming to America: Carlo

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Place of Origin: Milan, Italy

Where are you from?

“I was originally born in Milan, Italy. I came to the United States when I was 3 years old. I grew up in predominately-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I attended school there until my sophomore year of high school. I then moved to Florida with my godparents because it gave me the opportunity to play baseball year round. After High school stayed in Florida, I went on to play college baseball and then played minor league baseball. All together, I lived there for 8 years then came back to NY.”

What do you like the most about America?

“I guess the freedoms you have here … uh… I also like football, I like the sports that they have [laughs] No seriously, I like that you have a mixture of different cultures, especially in the north east, where you have the opportunity to experience these different cultures. A little different from other countries including Italy. You have a great diversity of people and culture here in America. I like the fact that it’s a melting pot and you have the freedom to do whatever you want and be whatever you want with hard work.”

What do you hate the most about America?

“What do I hate? Politics. Politics suck everywhere. It’s not any worse than Italy, Italy has far worse problems in regards to politics and the political system that is broken. I don’t like how much it has become ‘I’m on the left side’, ‘I’m on the right side’, and we can’t come together, and compromise on what is best for the people of this country instead of the special interest groups. I’m hoping that changes soon.”

What are some challenges you faced growing up?

“I didn’t really have many challenges that I faced growing up. I mean we came here when I was very young. My parents spoke English and so did I, my dad was actually here for a job, he’s was in banking, and he worked in banking in Italy and they asked him to come here on a three year contract but they then decided to stay. I feel that I am more America than Italian.”

Did you have problems adapting to the culture?

“I think since we had moved to Brooklyn, where just about everyone was of Italian descent or practically right off the boat, it made things easier. Again I was very young but I’m sure it was more difficult for my parents. For me it was just very easy to ‘mesh’. Everybody came from the same background, I had many things in common with people around me, my parents spoke Italian and English, and everybody in my neighborhood spoke English or Italian so that helped. So I didn’t really have many challenges adapting. I can’t complain, my parents worked hard and provided us with whatever they could, it wasn’t a lot, but we were happy with what we had. I had a great childhood. Sometimes I feel like we get away from that happiness of the simply things in life – instead we want more, more, and more things – When is ‘too much’ too much?”

Would you ever move back to Italy with your family?

“Absolutely, I just love the Italian culture, architecture, the warmth of the people, and of course the food. My whole extended family is there. My brothers, sister and parents are the only relative I have in America. I’m one of 6 kids. I would definitely move back and I would take my parents with me… [Laughs] ‘Cause they probably wouldn’t like it if I moved back there, they would miss us. My daughter is four and I plan to try to take her to Italy every summer to visit. Even though, right now, she does not want to speak Italian. She tells me, ‘I wanna speak Spanish’ and I’m like, ‘really? why?’ and she says, ‘Cause I love Dora and Diego’ come on seriously!? I’m Italian and has the opportunity to learn to speak Italian’. I try to speak to her but she just does not want to learn yet. I will have to keep trying.

It is funny thing in my family, there are six of us siblings and none of us speaks Italian to each other, we all speak English when we are together. That is just the way we grew up. Nevertheless, when we are around my parents, we speak only to them in Italian, within the same conversation my siblings will speak to each other in English. We have this awkward thing where we do not speak Italian to each other. Seems awkward to me now. We are so used to speaking English to each other. Must be that when we were young, my parents wanted us to speak English to assimilate better and wanted us to speak as much English as she could at home. She didn’t want us to fall behind and it helped out a lot, I guess.”