Why did you decide to move to Italy?
I came to Pisa in 1992 to finish my maths studies, with the intention of going back to Somaliland after four years. It was not actually difficult to get a visa. I chose the city because of the University of Pisa’s international relationship with what was then the Somali National University. But in no time I fell in love with the city and made it my home.
Was there a big Somali community in Italy when you arrived?
Yes, almost all were students. When I arrived more than a couple of hundred Somali students were enrolled, although by 1994 there were less than 10. Within a couple of years almost all the students had left for Canada and the US.
Since then Italy has become a passage and a gateway for Somalis to access northern Europe and other western countries.
How difficult was it to find a job after university?
I had no scholarship when I was a student so I had to work at the same time. I was a maths student but I was also interested in IT. The early 1990s saw an IT boom, so it was not hard to get a job. I started to work as a programmer in my first year at university and when I graduated my contract changed from temporary to permanent.
Why did you decide to stay in Italy?
The city of Pisa. If I was in another city I would probably have left. I got a job in a small city and could continue to work within the university atmosphere, collaborating with the Scuola Normale Superiore and the University of Pisa, initially as a researcher and then as a technical contractor. I continue to publish my own works while I do my job. It was, and still is, intellectually stimulating work.
Do you work in an Italian or international environment?
Mostly an international environment. I am currently a senior analyst in NNT Data, one of the leading IT companies in Europe. Although my job is still in the Pisa laboratory for the telecommunications sector, which may seem to be an exclusively Italian club, I have my connection with academia which is a very international environment.
At the same time, I am the publisher and author of several books; this is another task which keeps me working in an international environment.
How has Italy's view of foreigners changed over the years?
It's deteriorating. It is really hard to defend being an Italian citizen outside of Italy.
While Italians do not like to be labelled as racist people, the current legislation on immigration and recent behaviour by some politicians create the worst image of Italians.
Are there still job opportunities in Italy?
Whether you are Somali or Italian, looking for a job in Italy is a big challenge.
In a normal situation there would be the need for young and dynamic people in this country to overcome the crisis. But unfortunately Italy is not in a normal situation; there is a possibility to find work but it is not enough to be young and determined.
What advice do you have for foreigners thinking of moving to Italy?
Consider what opportunities you have in your own country before you move to Italy. Double check this and then decide. The Italy of today is not the Italy of 20 years ago, it's not as attractive. However, if you decide to come to Italy you should make sure you arm yourself with plenty of patience and persistence.