For Emily Venturi, international education began the moment she set foot on campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A native of Trieste, Italy, Venturi came to Carolina on a Morehead-Cain Scholarship with the goal of pursuing a double major in political science and economics.
“My dad is Italian, and my mom is British, so my whole childhood was an interaction between two cultures,” Venturi said. “I’ve always had an interest in international relations and the interactions between different cultures because that was my experience.”
During her sophomore year at Carolina, Venturi returned to Europe on a semester study abroad program at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, where she had the opportunity to study economics, law, and political science in French. While not in class, Venturi spent some of her time working in the refugee camps north of the city, which sparked her interest in learning more about responses to the migration crisis in Europe and the European Union. The following summer, Venturi designed her own independent research project around that very subject.
“[My independent research project] was one of the most challenging times of my life, with nine weeks on the road between Dakar, Senegal; Brussels, Belgium; and Rome, Italy,” said Venturi, who graduated in 2018. “I studied the role migration plays in EU foreign policy, and how new agreements being signed into law are affecting EU relations with other countries like Senegal.”
Venturi compiled scores of data and direct accounts that fueled her senior honors thesis by conducting interviews with ranking officials in organizations such as the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Embassy in Dakar, the EU Delegation in Dakar and the EU offices in Brussels. After spending the past year back in Chapel Hill writing her thesis, Venturi notes her research and experience abroad played a very significant role in her subsequent coursework.
“UNC-Chapel Hill is a great place to start looking beyond North Carolina and to do so in a supported, structured environment,” Venturi said. “I learned that you should never be afraid to just email someone and talk about the ideas you have — you’ll be amazed at the resources you can find.”
Despite cultivating a robust international education during her time at Carolina — she even served as senior editor for The Internationalist,the undergraduate international affairs research journal — Venturi believes that immersion in the North Carolina community is an equally fulfilling and important component of the college experience. “A global education needs to be coupled with local engagement. That comes first, and when you’re able to connect that local experience to global opportunities, I think that is the ideal combination.”
Venturi volunteered weekly with the gang prevention program at the Durham County Detention Facility as part of her involvement with the campus group Criminal Justice Awareness and Action. Her ultimate goal after graduating is to pursue a career at the intersection of law and international relations with a focus on human rights.
“Especially in times today that are politically uncertain, it’s easy for people not to make the effort to understand different cultures, but that’s also why it’s so important,” Venturi said. “At a school like Carolina, you can meet so many different people and have the opportunities to understand different ways of thinking.”
While Venturi doesn’t have an immediate plan for post-graduation, aside from moving back to Europe to live in a major international city, she isn’t worried about not having a set course.
“My independent research summer taught me to be okay with being in foreign places without a plan,” she said. “Because of my experience, I know I can just trust myself.”
This story is featured in the 2019 edition of UNC Global’s Carolina Passport Magazine.