A Drexel University freshman has started an Italian club to serve as a vehicle to express Italian heritage and pride across campus.
Mario De Lorenzo, studying computer engineering, started the “Italian Pride” club after realizing that the university lacked an organization dedicated to Italian culture, which made it challenging to stay connected to his treasured roots.
“I want to give a voice to the Italian students,” he said.
De Lorenzo, an Italian native who has lived in the United States for three years, managed to stay closely linked to his culture when he lived in New York City, which has Little Italy in Manhattan and Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. However, he consistently observed an absence of Italian-American appreciation in the Philadelphia area and specifically at Drexel, so he was inspired to make a change for Italian students.
“The goal of the club [is] to show the Italian pride even if we Italians are far away from our hometown and even if we are approaching new cultures,” De Lorenzo said, explaining how he hopes that the club will prevent Italian students at Drexel from feeling homesick.
He is currently waiting for the university’s approval to become formally recognized and to have the club’s potential advisor, Nadia Magnanini, an adjunct professor of Italian, formally accepted into the role. Once officially accepted, the club will join heritage clubs at Drexel including French Club; German Club; Spanish Club; and the Chinese Folk Music and Culture Association.
A kick-off meeting was held in April at which students baked pizza, but consistent weekly meetings will begin in the fall term.
According to De Lorenzo, these meetings will immerse students within Italian culture, such as food, music and theater.
While the structure of the meetings is still undecided, they will feature activities such as cooking, screening movies, playing card games and munching on free food that celebrates the Italian legacy. Further down the road, De Lorenzo is hoping that the club can get access to Italian festivals, such as “Ciao Philly” in Philadelphia and possibly others in New York such as the “Festival di San Gennaro.”
But it’s not all fun and games; De Lorenzo wants to build a stronger Italian community at Drexel so that students can find their home away from home and communicate with peers who are like them.
He is hoping the university will also gain an interest in this particular population of students and begin sponsoring Italian-related events to make a more “Italian Drexel.”
He also wants other universities and organizations to know about the club so that they can organize events together.
Even though the club is focused on cultivating Italian values and traditions, De Lorenzo said that all students are welcome to join.
“I really hope all the Italian students can come and to start to form a strong Italian community like other cultures already have, but the doors of our club will be open to everyone; everyone who is a little bit open mind can come and share his or her culture with us,” he said.
In fact, he wants non-Italian students to submerge themselves in the culture so that they can gain a deeper appreciation for the Italian culture in a less superficial way.
“What bothers me so much is that a lot of people learn Italian culture from the internet, especially social networks. What they learn is mostly fake and does not represent the Italian culture at all,” he said. “I want to show to other students how it was to live in Italy for real — something that no museum or documentary will never do. I want to show them effectively what is true and what is false on what they have learned about the Italian culture,” he said.
De Lorenzo himself didn’t realize how much Italy meant to him until he left, and now he wants to preserve the culture that defines him — and he is hoping that all Italian students at Drexel will want to do the same.
“I don’t want Italian students feel to be a minority, but an essential group of the university,” he said. “Without a platform where other Italian students can continue to be Italian, we could lose ourselves.”