Naples, PhD and then what?

So, I packed my bags and left

If you’ve read my last post, you may know I had not much choice when I decided to leave Italy for a PhD abroad.

In some ways, during my whole life, I felt I was going to leave and become one of those brains escaping the country (the brain drain is a massive problem in Italy). What I had not known was that prior to that, I was going to fall in love with Naples and leave heartbroken. That was one of the hardest things I had to do, and to this day, I have not made peace with the idea of not living there.

But I left. I packed my bag with plenty of winter clothes, some Italian pasta, Neapolitan coffee, my Moka, and I left.

I picked the University of York in the UK: I really wanted to move to England. That had been a dream of mine for some time – since I visited London in 2007, so my choice was easy.

A rare picture of me in London in 2007

York had nothing to do with London, but that’s a story for another post.

During my first year, I lived on campus. In a college dorm. 10 minutes and a beautiful walk away from my department. Sometimes I would see swans on my way to the lab. During very cold mornings, the lake would freeze and birds would sit on it. And the spring, oh my. It was so beautiful!

It was pretty. But it was difficult. The cold, the food, the language, the cultural shock.

Coming from the South of Italy I was accustomed to very specific things: food, weather, coffee. I was also used to people interacting with me in a certain way. So far, it has been impossible to leave all of that behind.

With time, I understood, painfully, that whatever I was used to was not the universal truth. That a pizza could be tasty when not cooked in a wood-fired oven. That my Moka was not the only good way to prepare a coffee. (However, I was never able to renounce that specific coffee brand). That it was wrong to complain all the time about this stuff, because, again, that was only my truth. Also, I found so much more new food I loved.

In a way, I am glad I moved abroad for the PhD. It taught me what it meant to be a foreigner. It showed me the world from different points of view and a new form of love for my home.

Oh boy, if it was difficult. But I feel so good now when I realise that despite everything, I started – and completed – a PhD.

That’s something I will never let myself forget.

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