8 October 2017

It's time to get back to classes

During the MEDEAS workshop at Summer Academy of the Club Of Rome, held in Florence last September, I met several amazing students.  I looked at them with a bit of envy: I really feel like a student, even today I'm 45 yo. I'm only more aware I have less time to chase the countless things I have left to know.

Anyway, while I was speaking with them, some looked very conscious about what they wanted from the Summer School experience and they told me about their nice projects for the future. So glad to feel such an enthusiasm! 
Others, instead, looked more wondering about the role of the School in their life and in their futures, they looked to have more questions than answers, they were looking for something and one said to have the sensation of wasting time. These words invite me to tell a short personal story...

In the far 1994, I was already attending the University classes in Chemistry but the study went slowly, several thoughts crowded my mind: what did I really want my future is? Did I do the right choice with that chemical stuff? 
Therefore, I decided to take a look at the labour market and, at that moment, a competition notice as an engine driver was published. The access requirement was to hold a technical high school degree that precisely I have. I won 'the job' and in October 1995 I was employed with a training contract in the Italian Railways company,  Ferrovie dello Stato SpA.

The experience showed up incredible, at least for me:  in 2 years of a full-time salaried training and provided that I passed 3 enabling exams (theoretical and practical), I would have been a licensed engine driver, gaining also a permanent contract. 
I met very nice colleagues, we had classes with instructors(see pictures 2 and 3, not very esthetic, but with privacy) alternate to practical training, driving a real train with real people on board, under the supervision of more expert colleagues. And the job was also well paid, let's say, fortunately, because it is really a challenging job... and so exciting! 

My preferred engine was the Caimano, so versatile and powerful, you can see a picture of me (figure 1) in driving it on the railway between Florence and Rome.
Figure 1. Here is me, driving a Caimano on the railway between Florence and Rome.
Figure 2. Engine driver mates and instructors during a lunch break at Chiusi railway station.
Figure 3. Engine driver mates and instructors during a lunch break at Vernio railway station.
I felt relieved, I achieved also a good economic independence, a milestone of my life.
But after the first year, I realised I didn't want to do this job for the life. Hufs! Crisis again....but it has been not so bad as the first one because I realised I really wanted to go back to study Chemistry, I realised how that world, the world of Science and Research, was and still is really fascinating for me.
But...Could I leave that job to renounce at my economic independence? I couldn't...so that I went on with both, working and studying chemistry.

Today I'm no more an engine driver, the things changed further short after my contract became permanent at the end of 1997. I found another full-time job to sustain myself and to pay my fees and in 2001 I obtained my  Master's Degree in Chemistry...but this is another story. 

Today I earn quite less than an engine driver but, fortunately, the opportunity to manage scientific stuff, in particular, 'to Research' is still in my life. I have never given up and I would like to thank all the people that trusted me and encouraged me in to do it: now I'm enjoying all this as never before and I will do it while it lasts.

Thus...Students, of any kind and age, make up your mind to follow your instinct and passions, even they look confused. Any road you decide to walk, leading far from what you planned or closer to it, will clarify what really you are and you want, and this will be never a waste of time!

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