Part 1: About the Person – Romano’s Path to Her Academic Adventure

Ms. Romano, your profession means that you are always traveling the world. Was it always your dream to become a scientist?

Academic career was not my first choice. In Turin I followed an equivalent of “Development Studies” and then a master in European Studies. At the time I was interested in a career in international cooperation and I wanted to join a European institution. However, when I completed my studies, it had recently been decided that these institutions would not accept candidates from old founding members, as they wanted to prioritize recruitment from countries that had recently joined the EU. I hadn’t considered applying to other institutions, also because at the university they made us understand that in NGOs it would be difficult (too many applicants for too few jobs), while in the Italian diplomatic services … well, you needed a lot of “vitamin B”, as you say here in Germany. Some of my colleagues had done unpaid internships in UN institutions to then find themselves jobless back home, so somehow I found myself with various information (surely incomplete) that discouraged that kind of career. I therefore decided to continue my studies, encouraged by the example of my brother, who is a tireless physician with two specialist degrees.

What happened next?

I decided to move to France after an Erasmus experience carried out between 2007 and 2008, and I initially enrolled a BA in Chinese studies at the Université de Paris 7 – Denis Diderot. The following year I was then accepted to Sciences Po Paris as a PhD candidate, and this is how my academic adventure began. I studied Chinese, worked as a research assistant and then as a consultant and think tank researcher to support myself financially, and managed to complete my studies. At first it was very hard, but after a few years I got somehow “enlightened” and I found myself passionate about what I was doing. And here I am.

Why China of all places?

I have always been interested in East Asia, and I was particularly fascinated by the Chinese characters. They are so beautiful and unite a whole world within themselves. I’m also a child of the 1980s, which means – at least in Italy – that I grew up watching Japanese cartoons. So in the beginning I was mainly interested in Japan. Then a good friend advised me to study Chinese because China was becoming more and more important in the world and because many of the things I admired originated there – including the characters. I also wanted to study European cooperation with China in the field of climate and environmental protection in my doctoral thesis.

What is your favorite place in your new hometown Duisburg? What do you think about the Ruhr region in general?

I particularly like the gym on the Duisburg campus: before the pandemic, I trained intensively twice a week with a very dedicated trainer and a handful of people, and despite the physical exertion, I always kept a smile on my face. I cherish those moments.

In the city of Duisburg – it is difficult to say. I lived for about ten years in Paris – when I was not in China. I can’t hide that it was a shock to move here. Sorry for my honesty, but this is how I felt once I came here. However, over time I discovered some nice places and learnt to appreciate life in Duisburg. Not having a car, I move a lot on foot, and this gives me the opportunity to look up and down, and calmly stare at the details. I particularly love the colourful residential buildings, with lots of decorations and stuccoes. I also discovered a street in Hochfeld, full of Turkish shops. I often like going there because I can find flavours that two very dear friends from Istanbul made me try years ago and also products that you can find in the Italian cuisine.

What is particularly important to you in your life?

Perhaps it would seem obvious that I say this, being an Italian, but I put my family first. I wouldn’t have done what I did without their support and I wouldn’t be able to go on like this if they weren’t with me. Even if they are distant, they are the most important source of encouragement and love. Then of course there are friends. The problem is that they are all distant, they live in other cities. This makes contact very difficult, especially in times of pandemics.

The questions were asked by Jennifer Meina.
Status: 11/2021

Picture credits: © UDE / Frank Preuß

Im Porträt & Interview​

Part 1: About the Person - Romano's Path to Her Academic Adventure

Interview

Part 2: Research - "Painful Pandemic."

Interview

Part 3: Diversity - More than one life lived

Interview