Interview with EMA Global Campus Europe students representatives

The Press Office had the opportunity to interview the two EMA Global Campus Europe students’ representatives Chiara Mongello and Vasil Ivanov about their experience in the Global Campus headquarters and about a sustainable future not only for Venice but for the world.

-Could you tell us more about yourself and your roles as EMA student representatives? Could you describe the experience of studying in Venice during the first semester of the Masters?

CHIARA: I am Chiara from Germany and I started studying at the Global Campus of Human Rights in September 2023 and became student representative of the class shortly after.

As a student representative, I see myself as a connection between the students and the EMA staff which mostly translates into communicating about technical questions regarding schedules and assessments but can also include conflict solving and mediation. Being one of the student representatives surely has intensified my experience in Venice. I feel like it has enabled me to form connections I would not have had otherwise, and it again highlighted the importance of transparency and communication for me. I am grateful to have had this experience.

Besides that, my experiences during my first semester were different than anything I could have expected. This master surely makes for an unforgettable journey that starts with getting to know 90 new people from all around the world in a monastery on a small island. These people ended up being my closest confidants and biggest help during the last months. But not only the people, also the content and the classes have left an imprint on me and there is no chance I will ever forget the past months.

VASIL: Hello, I am Vasil Ivanov, I come from Bulgaria, and I did my Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Leeds, UK. My role as an EMA student representative has been a great experience for me because it allows me to contribute to tackling various issues that arise during the course of our studies. It is also very satisfying when changes happen as a consequence of our work because the overall experience of our fellow students is improved.
Living in Venice during the first semester of the Masters was an immense privilege. I never lived in a place that can take your breath away a few times every single day. Furthermore, it was often that beauty of Venice that kept me going through the academic challenges associated with EMA, for this I am very grateful.

-What could be a possible future for the city in terms of hospitality of foreign students, academic offers, quality of living and ways to improve the current conditions you have experienced? Do you think there is a way for Venice to become more efficient, innovative, attractive and well-prepared to host important events and course studies? What could students like you need?

CHIARA: Living in Venice was a once in a lifetime experience for sure. Not having visited Venice before, I was unsure what to expect but was positively surprised whilst overwhelmed by the masses of tourists at the same time. I personally would see room for improvement in the integration of students in Venetian civil society. We mostly stayed within our EMA bubble, also because we lacked the time to fully immerse ourselves. Many people in Venice surely are tired of foreigners coming to their region, but unlike tourists we were generally interested in everyday life and more than the usual tourist sights. The student-led film festival that takes place annually in December created a good starting point for connection, but I would have wished for more opportunities of that kind.

Furthermore, finding housing was surprisingly difficult. Specifically, during the off-season when apartments are not used for tourists, students could inhabit these. Structural agreements and platforms for this would be a huge help, not only for EMA students, who are searching from a distance.

I think the city itself is very attractive which cannot only be seen by the masses of tourists every year. It also in the reaction of people when they find out that our study programme takes place in Venice. The idea and picture people have of the city surely is positively shaped. Nevertheless, when coming to Venice, people are faced with transportation as a major cost factor as well as general high cost of living. I think when organizing important events Venice has many challenges to face solely based on the location and the spatial limitations of the main island. I think the city has found unique ways of managing the special challenges.

One thing I would like to add as a student who has spent 5 months in Venice would be the atmosphere and interaction with the Venetian people. When visiting new places, getting in touch with society is one of the most impactful and insightful experiences one can have. In Venice, people are tired of tourists who visit for a weekend to drink Aperol and eat Cicchetti - understandably. For students who are actively moving to Venice for several months, it would be nice to have the chance to engage with people and be able to take away more than pictures of tourist sights. Networking events and conversation classes or intercultural exchanges, even with other students would be a great opportunity. As for efficiency and innovation I think the city is trying to be very creative and find its own individual solutions to combat climate change, the effects of tourist masses and challenges of geographical location.

VASIL: I think that Venice is mostly known as a tourist city and not as a study destination. If more is done for the local students, such as the establishment of more places to socialize, student events (festivals), sports facilities, venues etc. (especially in the historic center) I believe that more and more young people will start seeing Venice as their future study destination. In terms of academic offers I believe that increasing the number of courses taught in English will see more and more international students coming to Venice as Italian is not of the main languages which are taught in school. Lastly, I think building more student accommodation, or turning tourist hostels into student dorms, will be beneficial as well. The reason for this is because often the demand for student housing exceeds the supply, which can discourage many students from applying.

-How do you envisage the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being integrated into the sustainable future of the city of Venice and the Region of Veneto? Do you have any specific concrete ideas? How might EMA students continue to help at the local level in the possible sustainable future scenarios?

CHIARA: I would love for EMA students to have a practical class once a week where they would go do active human rights work in Venice. Be it information campaigns, environmental activities like beach cleanups or interactions with the local community in culture centers or schools. Together with experiencing different forms of working with human rights it could also highlight the SDGs. This could also help with my previously mentioned aspect of students being immersed within the city's society.

VASIL: I believe that quality education is crucial for a city to be considered sustainable. In my opinion the recommendations mentioned above could boost the ranking of the universities in Venice, which could attract more talent from across the world. Furthermore, another area to work in is residency, and namely encouraging a program of residency and services for those individuals that are interested in living permanently in Venice. This would hopefully decrease the current depopulation of the City of Venice, which occurs as many local people feel like their daily lives are disrupted by the tourism industry. However, a good way to counter this as well is to promote a sustainable tourism model, which sees the management of the incoming flows of tourists to protect the cultural and environmental heritage of Venice, its residents and improving the value of the experience for the visitor.

-Which topics could be interesting to address in relation to your human rights and democracy education during these times of war conflicts, economic, environmental and health crises? Which will be the most important challenges in relation to promoting human rights and democracy in the years to come?

CHIARA: I think one of the biggest challenges that strongly impacts these times is how we interact with differently minded people. It is easy to treat people with kindness when they share the same views and live a similar lifestyle. But to overcome challenges of the present and the future and to address crises, we will need to engage with the “opposing team” and understand that they are humans who are fighting for what they believe is the good cause. Populism and social division will challenge us and our human rights work, but I am hopeful that we will find ways to overcome these. After all, the work of human rights is built on hope for the future.

VASIL: For me an interesting topic to look at would be success stories when it comes to resolution of previous conflicts and disasters. By that I mean what worked well when societies tried to overcome them. I believe this is important because we often tend to focus on the issues itself without trying to consider different successful solutions and practices that were implemented in similar scenarios in the past.

When it comes to future human rights challenge I think that the rise of far right parties across Europe may threaten the democracy on which the EU is founded. We are already seeing anti-immigration, anti-EU, and other populist narratives by the political entities, which can threaten fundamental human rights.

-Could you share a message with the Global Campus of Human Rights Community (professors, experts, alumni, staff) and to their students in particular?

CHIARA: Most of us come to the Global Campus of Human Rights with the goal to stand up for human rights in big ways and with the best intentions. I think sometimes we forget that our actions, the way we treat people around us, our honesty and interactions are our daily chances to live human rights and create positive impact. So, I guess my message to the Global Campus Community is to approach others with openness and kindness.

VASIL: Nowadays I see many people from my generation that are very good at outlining criticisms towards various things, however I wish more people started offering solutions as well. The reason for this is because the world nowadays more than ever needs answers about how to tackle multiple current crises instead of hearing the criticisms that the majority of people are already aware of.

For more information contact our Press and Communications PR Offices:

Elisa Aquino – Andrea Cammarata – Francesca Sante -

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Stay tuned for the 12 th issue of the Magazine coming soon in March in English and Italian.




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