Mika Launikari


INTERVIEW PART 2: Italian actor Daniele La Leggia – Roots in Rome, career in Hollywood

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Daniele La LeggiaFor many of us, Rome represents an experience overflowing with historical brilliance, artistic beauty, architectural advancements and military achievement. The Romans are proud of their city’s ancient history, though the contemporary Rome with its corruption, political intrigues, economic problems and chaotic traffic leave them often unhappy.

Old cultural traditions, various age-old customs and norms are still kept alive as part of the every-day life of Rome. “Rome has to change. There are so many things in Rome and in the whole of Italy that I would like to change, if only I could”, Daniele bursts out.

“But one person cannot change the whole society or the mental system of people, the way they think, the way they are and behave. I do respect my countrymen. I only wish they would not resist change so much, but would be more world open and interested in learning from other countries and cultures.”

Exploring the world

“As I myself did not want to get stuck with this stagnant way of life in Italy, I decided to move to Hollywood and make a living there. The American lifestyle is much more easygoing, relaxed and less controlled … at least this is my experience.”

“When I am in Los Angeles, I do not miss Rome as such, but I do miss my family here a lot. I am always happy to come for a visit to Italy to see my mother, sister and nephew. They mean the world to me. We are extremely close with one another, and my greatest wish is to find a way for us all living together in Los Angeles in the future.”

Daniele himself loves exploring different countries and he is well travelled for his young age. He speaks proudly of the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of us at the Piazza Navona. The fountain designed by Bernini (1651) features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent - the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata. This strong symbolism of water, the fluid and liquid world of the unconscious, the supernatural, means a constant rebirth and awakening for Daniele.

Life is a journey

“Movement, flow and change are important for me. I am open to life and to constantly learning new things through personal exposure and experience. I am not afraid of throwing myself into new adventures all the time as that is the only way to learn and grow as a human,” Daniele describes his approach to living and co-existing with other people. “I’m my own worst enemy, he declares and explains himself by saying that for him everything is possible, and the only thing that can stop him from being successful is he himself.  

Altogether Daniele makes a modern and mature, yet modest impression on other people. His absolute strength is that he is very likeable and has excellent manners. He does not only sound smart and sensible, but as somebody who is fully in charge of his own life and definitely knows what to do with it. Meditation and spirituality provide him inner stability and calmness and that helps him achieve his goals in life.

Reflections on free will

“Free will is a deceptive image” reads in a tattoo on Daniele’s body. The meaning of this statement for Daniele is that ultimately he knows he has no choice other than to watch the choices he thinks he is making, but he is merely a watcher, a witness of what is happening in front of him.

“Whether it is a matter of a deceptive image or not, one day soon I would love to see the Northern Lights in Finland”, Daniele says and brings the interview towards an end by asking: “By the way, did you know that the effect known as the Aurora Borealis is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas?”

Read also the first part of Daniele’s interview.

Text: Mika Launikari based on an interview with Daniele La Leggia (Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy on 19 December 2015)

Photos: Daniele La Leggia


We stand for unity in diversity

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Let’s imagine for a moment that D.I.V.E.R.S.I.T.Y stands for Dignity, Inclusiveness, Variety, Equality, Recognition, Self-awareness, Identification, Tolerance and Yourselves. What kind of mental images do we associate with these words in the context of diversity?  

D Dignity can be defined as an individual’s quality of being worthy of esteem or honour. It means showing respect for oneself as well as for all the others. It helps us to see and treat other human beings as unique and equal to us regardless of their background and personal history.

I – Inclusiveness is an ambience of letting people in, making them feel genuinely welcome and helping them create a sense of belonging within the given environment. Maybe there is a way to make our countries a more inclusive place for all the refugees that have been arriving in the European Union member states in the past months.

V – Variety means an absence of sameness and monotony. It is the state of having many different things together at the same time. The harmonious coexistence and wonderful blend of various groups of people are considered as an important condition for a society to thrive.

E – Equality is when things are the same in some particular way. It is the condition of being equal in quality and esteem. Equality means that individuals or groups of individuals are to be treated fairly and equally on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or worldview, sexual orientation and age.

R – Recognition can be understood as the act of acknowledging someone for his/her knowledge, skills or competences. For instance, in relation to arriving migrants, many countries have already procedures in place for the assessment, verification and recognition of their professional qualifications obtained abroad.

S – Self-awareness is an individual’s conscious knowledge of themselves and their worth as a human being. It means having a clear perception of one’s personality (e.g. strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, attitudes). Intercultural encounters are often useful mirrors for us to realize, who we actually are and what we stand for.  

I – Identification is defined as the act of finding out, who someone or what something is. It is also a matter of identifying with someone and feeling that one eventually shares and understands the situation or experience of another person (e.g. a newly arrived migrant who does not yet speak the language of the host country).

T – Tolerance is being understanding of anything different and respecting the beliefs, values and worldviews of others. Yet, tolerance does not mean that one should automatically accept everything that is different; especially not, if it is something morally or ethically ambiguous, inappropriate or wrong.

Y – Yourselves refer to those ones identical with you. Knowing who you are makes it much easier to understand who the others are. That way meaningful, supportive and empowering relationships with other human beings from across the globe can be established and fully enjoyed.  

Photo: thefederalist.com

Working abroad increases self-awareness

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In the past weeks and months I have worked hard on sorting out the data collected earlier this year for my PhD research through 20 in-depth interviews with staff members at three European Union agencies (i.e. Cedefop in Greece, Eurofound in Ireland, European Training Foundation in Italy). Parallel to this I have been in the process of creating a theoretical and conceptual framework for my doctoral dissertation. In broad terms, the aim of the research is to gain a better understanding of how working at an international level influences professional competences and personal perception of life.   

What gets filtered through from the interview data is that the respondents described working and living abroad as a life-changing experience. Many of them were using expressions such as “I would be a totally different person had I not moved abroad” or “I’ve learnt so much about myself and about life during these years outside of my own country” or “It has not always been easy, but I do not regret that I took the step to go abroad”. Somehow all this gets crystallized in a heightened sense of self, in an increased level of self-awareness as becoming exposed to a different reality often redefines us human beings in one way or another.   

What we learn with difficulty, holds on longer

If we consider self-awareness as a meta-level competence, then it becomes the key to learning and developing other important competences. Following this line of thinking, we could propose that the clearer our sense of self is, the better decisions we are able to take in the professional and private spheres of our lives. Knowing that we are constantly creating, re-creating and co-creating our reality (or our multiple realities), it is therefore essential to take time to reflect on who we are and what our personal and professional preferences are. Doing this enables us to construct a broader and deeper view of ourselves.

As regards a professional career abroad, it is of course not only about self-awareness, but about a wide range of skills and competences that are required for good performance at work. Yet what becomes critical here is that moving to another country and being uprooted from one’s own well-established network of social contacts back home, normally means a loss of safe and validating private and professional relationships. This fact was emphasized by many respondents upon entering an international working and living environment for the first time. They placed a high value on having solid learning-to-learn and career management skills as a way to tackle and overcome numerous challenges simultaneously. In summary, the difficulty coefficient usually increases, when the foundation of life changes and our adaptability to new circumstances becomes a critical success factor.  

Validating and differentiating oneself

The way we see and identify ourselves with other people and phenomena defines who we are as humans. Much of our self-identification is rooted in our past and present experiences, but not only as also our future aspirations contribute to the person who we are and who we aim or wish to be later on. Also speculating about who we could have been, had we chosen differently in the past, is an additional dimension in our self-evaluation.

It lies in human behaviour to constantly look for finding validation for oneself and that way situate and justify oneself in relation to all the others. For instance as some of the interviewees reported, going back home for holidays was seen as a most self-validating experience after struggling with an unfamiliar culture abroad. Simply having the opportunity again to be among “one’s own folks” was psychologically something empowering and mentally soothing. It seems, though, that through chaos and confusion within oneself and with the outer world, more self-clarity can be obtained in the end in relation to getting more insight into one’s personal values, beliefs and attitudes.

Finally, living in another country and working in a multicultural setting also seem to make people discover how complex they are as human beings and how many different and distinct layers of being human they have. For many interviewees exploring one’s own self-complexity within a new context has been a fascinating and rewarding learning process. Several respondents also indicated that while they have been exposed to interaction with new people from diverse backgrounds, they have introduced and created behavioural patterns that they did not necessarily use in their own country. On the one hand, this has been a way to survive, on the other hand, through such self-differentiating experiences a more evolved sense of oneself has emerged.

See also: Working in an international environment Short article by Mika Launikari (Euroguidance Insights Newsletter Nov 2015)

Photo: www.philosophy.school.nz