Laura's university.

Family is Important

Laura recently finished her education and began working as a landscape architect. Our Italian friend in Odense Paolo is her uncle. We met in Laura’s fine Milanese apartment, which she shares with a roommate. She works long hours and most of her family live elsewhere, but family bonds are important to her.

Laura at her window.

I usually get up around 8.30 and start working by 9. We are many people in the office and still work from home except on Thursdays, where we meet. On Mondays, we have a stand-up meeting online. Normally I try to stop working at 8 or 8.30 in the evening. On Saturdays and Sundays, I relax a bit if there is not a deadline. I graduated in April and immediately started in the firm, where I earlier had an internship. I have changed my routines from the university a lot, but I am used to long hours now. We are working on a competition in Germany and a project in Cinque Terre, but the hierarchy in our office means, that I don’t get to travel yet.

In weekends, I clean the house, buy groceries, and meet my cousin, who studies architecture in Milan. I also see close friends, who have moved from the city, sometimes we connect online. I am always sitting in front of my computer and would like to do some sport activities, but don’t find time for that at present. Milan has many fine places that could be nice to visit on bike rides.

A big family
I am part of a big family. We lived in Rome, but three months in the summer I, my younger sister and my youngest cousin went to San Vito in Abruzzo and stayed there with our grandparents. My grandmother’s house lies between the sea and the mountains surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and orchards. We had a very fine time; our only job was to find the biggest cricket in the fields and things like that. My parents worked, but they came in the weekends, and other members of our family also joined us. We stayed on different floors and rented another house nearby. I think that strong family bonds have formed me a lot as a person.

A good student
Our house was in the centre of Rome, and I always went to schools within only 15 or 20 minutes walking distance. In elementary school from I was six years old, we started at 8.30 a.m. and finished at 4.30 p.m. with a 1 hour 30 minutes lunch break. I used to eat lunch at school, but you could also go home. We normally had two teachers one for literary and another for scientific subjects, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I still remember them, and they remember me. In the break after lunch, we played hide and seek and other games in the school yard. My parents worked long hours, so in the beginning my grandparents took me home from school, later my sister and I had a babysitter.

I was a good student and liked elementary school, it was kind of a second family. The big shift came in middle school when I was eleven. It was a kind of transition period, where your body and everything changed. In the third and last year, I found some good, new friends there.

When I began high school at 14, I was more used to change. I chose classic studies and loved the different subjects. Our parents worked, so my sister and I had a lot of freedom and invited friends to our house after school. At the end of high school, there was a big exam in among other things written Latin or Greek, an Italian essay and an oral exam with questions on the entire year. I studied night and day the last week and just wanted to sleep after the exam.

A difficult choice
Being 19 I had to decide what to study, this was difficult, because I more or less liked everything. I however passed the national test to enter medical school and started on medicine in Rome but didn’t really like it. After one year, I changed to architecture. It was a compromise, I like all aspects of art, but my parents were worried that studying at the art school wouldn't give me job opportunities. My aunt and uncle are architects and have a studio in Rome, so the profession is part of our family tradition.

I studied in Rome for three years, in my Bachelor, choosing the curriculum in landscape architecture. Then continued my Master studies in that direction applying for the university in Milan. I wanted to move from Rome and experience the freedom of living on my own, in a new place. When I first arrived here, I lived with six other people and a roommate from India. Rents in Milan were expensive and the house I was in had many problems. So, my parents decided to buy the apartment where I am currently living, as an investment.

I finished my exams in February 2021, after that I spent a year on internships in Berlin and Milan and on writing my thesis. One theme of the thesis is that of recycling demolition materials in the landscape project. We wanted to recover the "spolia" concept of reusing earlier building's elements in the construction of newer ones. This was very common in Eastern Mediterranean cities in the past, but more complicated now because of what we consider, and therefore protect, as cultural heritage.

A more sustainable life style
I would like to try working in other countries, Germany, Netherlands and perhaps Denmark. The firm I work in has departments in several European cities, that I could perhaps move to.

I am also applying for Ph.D. positions my hope is to study and research how to make our cities and landscapes more resilient, addressing the issues of climate change, further developing my skills in GIS (geographic information systems). The complexity of the problem and the fact that it involves several subjects and competencies it is something I really like. In Milan there are already many initiatives of this kind, the studio I work for, for instance, has many projects regarding the re-greening of the city.

Although people identify with what they know and usually want to keep everything the same, we live in a world which is constantly changing and I feel we cannot stop things from evolving, we must accept it. If in the private sector money often makes the decision, in the public sector people should get more and more involved, as those decision affect the entire community.

Your cultural identity depends on your life story. I love my country even though it has problems with work, economy, administration, pollution, integration etc. I have many friends who are not Italian, many from India and China, (I love Asian food), who faced many challenges to obtain a residence permit, find work, etc. here in Italy. People invented boundaries; they don't really exist. We can't just stop people from moving, as our right only is being the lucky ones in terms of birthplace. Refugees are usually fleeing their country for good reasons and governments should find a way for integration, even though it is a difficult topic to deal with.

I like the way Italy adopts to everything in the end. We have a government, but for some reasons, everybody finds their own way to deal with what is non-functioning in the system. It is a kind of constructive anarchy to me. The present government is quite popular, and I hope they will have another term in office. Silvio Berlusconi is old and probably out of the story, I am more afraid of people like Matteo Salvini, or somebody else from Lega or the far-right wings now.

Family and traditions are important to me, and I want to get a family of my own someday. But working from home and being very busy makes it difficult to find places to socialize and meet people. I strive to find a better work life balance. I would like to study another subject or two and continually develop, I have the tendency to easily get bored in the routine, I need to challenge myself with something new.

We should of course change our lifestyle to a more sustainable one, I try to be more vegetarian/vegan. Even though I’m trying my best to leave a lighter footprint, with my current way of living I would need more than one planet to survive, and that makes me think. We have to be aware and act wise cause we have no planet B to go to. Society will be different in the future, and some jobs will disappear. Some people are extremely rich and a vast majority lives under the poverty threshold. We must find ways to fill the gap and create social justice.

Finally, I of course hope for peace in the world. The war in Ukraine is meaningless and for this reason unjust like all the other wars that happen and happened in the past, but we must remember that not all Russians are bad people. We have to find better ways of living together.

May 2022

Laura in her kitchen.

To Italy.