Viewpoint: Paola Oggiano of Italy


For 30-year-old Paola Oggiano of Italy, “Together into the Future” is an opportunity to interact with people on a personal rather than a professional level.

A native of Sardinia, she has lived in Switzerland for five years, and works for an Italian trade union “in the department that protects Italian migrant workers in Switzerland”.

“In the beginning actually I would have liked much more to work with young people than old people,” she says. “And then I found myself in this job, and after all, I really like it.”

Oggiano studied a variety of languages, including English (for 14 years), Arabic (for a master’s degree), Spanish, French, and some Swedish.

“The job I have right now doesn’t have anything to do with languages,” she says, “but in a very special way I didn’t expect, I’m really doing the thing I studied for, which is intercultural mediation.”

Oggiano already has a great deal of experience with old people, and with social insurances, one of the main topics of the course “Together into the Future”. She also volunteers as an activities coordinator for ageing members of her church. She sees the course as a way to gain knowledge "that can help me do my volunteer job much better than I can right now."

Old foreigners in Switzerland face many challenges, she says. The pensions of Italian seasonal workers are very low. “Especially for people who didn’t have a proper working career, it can be really, really tough.”

In addition, many Italians would like to go back to Italy “because life would be easier for them, because maybe they never integrated completely [in Switzerland], but they have their kids here. So in the end they decide to stay, or often they also split. There is one that decides to go to Italy and one that decides to stay in Switzerland for the kids.”

Finally, socialising with the Swiss is difficult for ageing Italians. Even after so many years in the country, Italians mainly stay among themselves, according to Oggiano. One of the goals of her volunteer work is to help them integrate, but “it’s almost impossible”. Partly due to the language differences, “it’s really hard to make activities that involve the two groups.”

Oggiano has just begun the training programme, and hasn’t yet had to lead a roundtable discussion. “I’m extremely nervous,” she says with a laugh. 

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