Multicultural is my world!
My name is Giulia, but since my first year at university, when I moved from my small central-Italian town to the big, shiny capital of Rome, I have gone with my second, non-Italian name, Zoe. It's been almost 10 years since I decided to "go multicultural", I found that my being 100% Italian, surrounded by people who spoke the same language, knew the same places, had the same skin colour was too boring for me.
I have always loved and studied languages; when I was 6 I went to France for 10 days and spent the whole journey trying to read French signs everywhere (note: I was barely able to read in my own language at that time), at the ripe old age of 8 I discovered the English language and decided that when I grew up I wanted to "attend the linguistic high school"! I fulfilled that dream and many others: I can speak fluent English and even read French now, and I indeed attended the linguistic high school, though I soon discovered that my adult life would involve so much more than that!
My first experiences with multiculturalism, however, really did happen during my high school years. Italian schools offer educational trips at the end of each academic year, usually 2-5 days long. I always decided to skip these trips in favour of other, more independent experiences, namely study-trips abroad. I went to the UK 6 times in total, and I had a cultural-exchange experience in the Netherlands where I had the chance to actually "work" in a primary school for special children in a kind of "internship" for 4 days.
I would later go on to study Chinese language and culture at Rome's "La Sapienza" university. My faculty building was located in the ethnic neighbourhood of Rome, which is sometimes considered Rome's Chinatown. My multicultural perspectives broadened even more, when I met people from all nationalities and heard languages spoken in every corner of the world in the space of four streets and a square.
As I mentioned in my previous journal, I also had the chance to go to China for two study-trips, and that is when I decided that going back to my boring, "mono-cultural" life in Italy was really not an option anymore.
In this moment, I am enrolled at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, where I keep studying East Asian Studies with a focus on China. I juggle everyday 4 languages: Italian at home, English at university, Chinese for my language classes and my thesis, and the little Dutch I know in everyday life. The Netherlands have always been a melting pot for all cultures of the world, the greatest artists come from here or have been here for a reason or another. Dutch people have always been involved in cultural production, and I have discovered how they have sometimes even been the first to discover some kind of artistic/cultural production from far away (the Dutch explorer and diplomat Von Siebold was the first to bring back Japanese pieces of art to Europe, for example). Even unlikely productions such as the music of a Mongolian folk-rock band based in China and influenced by European punk and metal music have a space in the Dutch conception of culture, to such an extent that the band known as Hanggai was famous in Europe and in the Netherlands even before being a known act in the PRC.
All in all, I couldn't think of a more multicultural place than what I am experiencing now, neither do I regret the choices I made that made it possible for me to find myself at this place in life, where I am able to experience so many different cultures in my everyday life in such a small area.