Prague / 18th December 2017 / Alex Kurki
During my first semester in Prague with the European Politics and Society Programme, I’ve had the pleasure of attending lectures and speeches given by a variety of experts. From former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta to Michael Žantovský (a founding member of the Civic Forum), each speaker provided a unique view on European issues. They reminded me why I find political science fascinating in the first place.
However, of all the seminars and question/answer sessions, the session with Aldo Amati, the Italian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, would be the one I will recall the most fondly in years to come. It was a given that he would have many interesting perspectives on topics relating to Italy and the Czech Republic. He most certainly did. He answered question after question about economic policy, the migrant crisis, and the current political climate in Europe. As time went on, students’ questions became more complex, more convoluted—trying to be the smartest one in the room. To be the one to stump the ambassador. It didn’t happen.
Towards the end of the session, someone asked the Mr. Amati to discuss day-to-day life at the embassy. In addition to his current post in the Czech Republic, he has served at embassies in Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, among others. If there was one person able to answer the question, to provide some sort of semblance of a Platonic, ideal truth about life in the foreign service, it would be him.
Mr. Amati detailed meeting with figures from government, business, and civil society; organizing cultural events; and trying to advocate for his country’s interests in a changing political landscape. This was no surprise.
I was not expecting what came next. The ambassador opened up, briefly telling us about the pros and cons of life in the foreign service. He talked about the logistics of balancing “real life” and work. About the personal strain and sacrifices, having to relocate to a completely new country every three years.
On the other hand, he concluding by remarking that being in the foreign service is “living the fullest life,” and that taking a negative view of his job would be foolish.
Normally a man with Mr. Amati’s credentials would stick to discussing the “easy” topics of his job. Students would listen, take notes, and go home having learned something. However, his candid answers about the less romantic aspects of his profession brought up bigger topics for me to consider.
Where do I want to live? What kind of lifestyle do I want my job to permit? How will I gauge my success in life? What concessions am I willing to make for that success?
These are not the thoughts one would expect to have when leaving an academic discussion. Yet, they are important for students to contemplate in between all the seminar papers, articles, and book reviews.
In conclusion, I think our discussion with Mr. Amati is illustrative of the benefits of this programme: receiving many different perspectives on politics. You never know what new insights you’ll get week-to-week. All are beneficial, but some, of course, are more expected than others.