When I was born, my father wanted to call me Antares. For the uninitiated, Antares is a star, in particular a red giant, the brightest star in the constellation of the Scorpio and one of the brightest in the entire celestial vault. My name is Erika because my mother opposed to it, but Antares remains my second name on the baptism documents, and I like to think that my boundless admiration for the celestial vault comes from there.
My dad always took me to the planetarium since I was a child and I remember that I liked it so much I wanted to have a private artificial sky in my bedroom. Therefore, I asked Santa Claus for the star theatre I saw in a shop and it was one of the best gifts I have ever received. I was so excited to have the opportunity to watch the stars in my bedroom, but I was extremely disappointed to discover that the voice explaining what you were seeing only spoke English. For an elementary school child, it was practically impossible to understand and so, after a few observations, I put my planetarium in the closet. I lost it when we moved up to another home, but the memory of a little Erika who closed the window and listened to that voice while stars were being projected is still so alive and I believe that it was a sign that night sky was my way.
Between the end of childhood and adolescence, this interest was a little left aside, probably because I was very involved in sports, but I remember the happiness when at school, during science lectures, we finally studied the stars and planets and I was amazed by how much stuff I already knew.
After middle school, as Italian students, we decide which path to take for higher education. I had thought a lot about which high school would be best, I reviewed them all, and with science being my favourite subject I was convinced that I would end up at a liceo scientifico which could be translated as scientific high school. I was so sure I didn’t even want to go to visit the scientific high school in Modena, but my parents took me and… I definitely didn’t like it. I don’t know what got into me, but it no longer convinced me. Gut feelings if you want, but I didn’t want to go there and those who know me, also are aware of how stubborn I can be. I saw all the other scientific schools in Modena, but I didn’t like them. Since I didn’t know where else to turn, I decided to please my mum and visit the Liceo Classico Muratori. I had said that I didn’t want to study at Liceo Classico, because I was sure that my professional career would be in the realm of science so why should I spend five years studying Latin and Ancient Greek neglecting Maths?
There weren’t many people at the presentation, as there were only a few days left to apply and ordinary people had already chosen their path. A Maths professor introduced the school and told us about her experience. She had studied at Muratori and then enrolled in the faculty of Physics. She said that even if you study Greek and Latin, in the future you can move on to more scientific subjects by putting efforts and determination and the result will be a very open mind, able to study whatever is placed in front of it and with very good and developed linguistic and verbal comprehension skills. She spoke in a beautiful Italian, so fluent and grammatically correct that it was a pleasure listening to her. It was evident that she was highly educated and that she deeply loved what she taught.
After the presentation, I enrolled at Muratori. I thought it would be a great challenge to study Latin and Ancient Greek and then move on to Scientific subjects, but at the same time it would be a shame not to develop more language skills. I wanted to learn to speak as well as her, to express myself clearly and at the same time be cultured. I knew that later on at university, I could fill the inevitable gap in scientific knowledge, while I would never have the opportunity to improve my language and writing skills, or at least not as much as I could have done by studying at that high school. And so, I enrolled at Liceo Classico, shocking myself as well.
My High School adventure began and I soon made another consideration that no one tells you when they convince you to study humanities despite your evident scientific predisposition: not only you will have to recover the scientific gap in the future, but well before that you will also have to recover a lot of shortcomings in your language skills! Damn me and my desire to test myself!
Oh, that teacher was then my Maths and Physics teacher for all five years.