“My name is Carlos. My name might not give it away, but I’m Indian. I come from Goa, which many people think is an island and in some ways it is - Goa was a Portuguese colony for almost 500 years so it is a cultural island of sorts.
I arrived in Italy on 21 September, 1980 to enroll in a journalist course at university because my college back in India had given me a small scholarship to study abroad.
I chose to come to Italy because my uncle was serving as the Portuguese ambassador in Rome, so I would have had a family member to rely on. However, three months after my arrival, my uncle was transferred to Turkey and I was left completely on my own. I was the only foreigner in Milan, the only dark-skinned person around the city.
I didn’t speak any Italian, but I knew Portuguese and that helped a lot. The journalism course I was interested in only had 15 spots available and you had to be interviewed by one of the professors to get in. Of course, the interview was conducted in Italian. I still remember that day, it was November 23, 1980. I struggled a lot because I couldn’t express my thoughts in Italian, and I even started to tear up a little. But they chose me! There were 15 spots... and they chose me.
One year later, while studying at university, I met Isabella, who is my wife now. I was 21 years old and she was 18. She felt like she was dating some kind of pirate because I had long hair and all, but it was only because I couldn’t afford to go to a salon and get a haircut!
I was 20 years old and had never even seen a TV set before. A few months before I got there my brother had been in Italy for vacation and experienced the 1980 FIFA European Championship which was hosted in the country that year. I later asked him, “How does filming a football game work? Cameramen chase football players around to get footage?” He said yes so I asked, “Doesn’t it bother the football players?” Neither of us had grasped how football could be aired on television.
In a way, I am a migrant but Italy gave me so much that, at this stage of my life, it is impossible not to feel Italian more than anything else. This is not to say that I didn’t face many hardships - I struggled with money and bureaucracy.
In Italy I always felt more than welcome. People were intrigued by my differences, I was “the Indian” and they treated me like a mythical figure. I have my own company now, where I work with my wife on several language programs financed by the European Union and the Lombardy region.
After 35 years of living here I definitely feel at home.”
Photo credit: IOM/Florence Kim