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Profile – Daniele Lauro

Area of Study:
Doctoral student in Japanese history and a Graduate Phillips Ambassador

Prior degrees:
I have a bachelor’s degree in comparative languages and literature from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” and a master’s degree in Asian studies from the University of Rome “La Sapienza.”

Where are you from and what is your country known for?
I am from Naples, Italy. My country is known for many things, especially for its history, art, fashion, food and nice cars.

What languages do you speak?
Italian, English, French and Japanese.

Why did you choose to study in the United States? And why at UNC?
I chose to study in the U.S. because of the many possibilities that I wouldn’t find in my own country, especially because my field is such a niche and it is difficult to find a good program that deals in Japanese pre-modern history. Before coming to UNC, I had some experience in the U.S. working with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in the Asian Cultural History Program at the Natural History Museum. In addition, I really wanted to work with UNC researcher Morgan Pitelka, associate professor in the Department of Asian Studies and director of the Carolina Asia Center.

What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to your classrooms as an international student?
When talking about history, students make a lot of references to present-day society. Most UNC students are American, so they tend to talk most about American culture, but as an international student, you end up talking about your own culture and traditions. It makes the discussion more interesting to have perspectives from another country.

Which course at UNC have you enjoyed the most and why?
I took Public History, which refers to historical discipline performed outside of academia, such as in museums and archives. Since I hope to work as a curator, the discussion about the curatorial career and what it means to write and research history outside of the university was very interesting to me.

Which professor has motivated you or helped you the most and how?
My advisor Morgan Pitelka has been a source of inspiration, both as a scholar and as a human being. I wanted to work with him because of his scholarship but I’ve found that as a person, he is very down to earth, flexible and understanding. After two full years at UNC, I have developed a solid relationship with him. If you are able to build such a relationship with your graduate students, you are doing well, I think.

What do you like best about UNC, and how is it different from universities in your home country?
I studied in both Naples and Rome, at prestigious schools in the center of really big cities. Once you are done with classes, you have your own crowd of friends that are not necessarily related to the university. In Chapel Hill, most of the city life revolves around campus. I love the sense of belonging to this huge institution, in which there is a sense of pride when people say, “I am a Tar Heel.” It is a big community, which makes me feel at home. I also really appreciate the emphasis on education that UNC has, valuing education so much and giving so many chances to students.

What do you like best about living in Chapel Hill, and how is it different from your hometown?
It’s very safe and so I never feel in danger. Naples is a beautiful city, but a big city. With all big cities you have problems. Here I can walk home at any time. I enjoy that it is a very quiet place, so it’s ideal for research. This area has many important universities close by such as Duke and N.C. State, so there are a lot of important connections with other scholars. The collaboration has fostered academic life.

What have been the biggest challenges adjusting to life in Chapel Hill and as a student at UNC?
I come from fairly big cities, so at the beginning it was a challenge to adjust to such a small town, especially in terms of entertainment. I always go to the same bar and see the same people. There are pros and cons of living in a small city. In terms of student life, I work as a teaching assistant for very large survey classes for undergraduates. This is a new experience, as I have never taught before. Therefore, it has been a challenge to find a way to be an effective teacher and to convey knowledge in a clear way that students can relate to.

Why should international students consider attending UNC? What advice would you offer an incoming international student?
I have three main reasons why an international student should attend UNC. The first is because of the very high academic standard and the array of resources in terms of books, libraries and fellowships at UNC. The second reason is that UNC is in the Research Triangle, which is a safe and convivial environment where education is valued. If you have a good idea or a project, you can find someone who is willing to listen to you. And third, UNC has created an international environment with people from all over the world.

You can also enjoy great basketball games! My advice would be that school here is a community experience and grad school is only five years or so, so try to immerse yourself as much as you can in this time of life. It’s really exciting.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a novel by Haruki Murakami, IQ84, along with many papers and books for my classes!

Daniele Lauro