Let's continue our journey to discover the members of the Board of ESN Italy for the year 2023 with Stefano Gualtieri and Marilù Fortino.


Stefano Gualtieri is the new Events Manager of ESN Italy for the year 2023, but surely you have already heard about him: after three years in the Board of ESN Napoli, the organisation of two Napoli Spring Breaks and a National School in his beloved Naples, he is a reference point in ESN Italy.


Marilù Fortino, National Representative for the year 2023, with her energy and curiosity, after earning her place in the section of Milano Statale, carried out various roles in the Network, growing mainly in the CIA commission, and then taking the big step at the national level.


Let's now get to know a little more about the two roles and the people who carry them out, between ambitions, plans for the future and anecdotes.


Introduce yourself briefly for those who do not know you and tell us what role you play in the Board.


Marilù: Hi! I am Marilù, I am part of the section of Milano Statale, which has always been my great love. 


I have committed myself a lot to my section and I was immediately intrigued by three things: the role of Local Representative, the national counterpart of the NR and the CIA (Committee for International Affairs). In this section I slowly earned my place; first paying my dues, and then, as soon as there was the possibility, the outgoing Local Representative took me under his wing, probably because of my strong curiosity he saw my interest and potential. I wanted to know everything, I was curious to discover every detail, I wanted my Galaxy account to read all the reports on the wiki, I wanted to understand how the dynamics worked and everything that was behind ESN. So as soon as the role of Local Representative was available, I applied for it and took it up for two mandates and then I was part of the Audit Commission, until recently, for my section. 


In the meantime, I took small steps towards the national level, first of all with the CIA, whose international and diplomatic side had always fascinated me, and it was also related to my field of studies. Firstly, I became sub-coordinator of one area, then another one, then coordinator of the Commission. 


Thanks to ESN I discovered new passions and for this reason I applied to the role of Liaison Officer, since I had a strong interest in the themes of higher education, mobility, and relationship with institutional partners. 


Subsequently, after thinking about it, I was ready to take the big step and run for a position in the National Board. In fact, the NR in my opinion is a beautiful role because, like the LR, it puts you in contact with many other different realities and you have to be the link between International, National and Local levels. You have to be a calm person, I am not really but I try, you have to understand the needs and the points of view of others…in short, it is a role that puts you very much to the test, especially through contact with many different people.


Stefano: It's my turn now! I have been a member of ESN Napoli since September 2018, and since January 2019 I have become a staff member. I subsequently held two years of presidency and one year as a LR. 

Today I am the Events Manager of ESN Italia. 


My turning point in ESN was the Incontro Culturale Erasmus 2018. I was brand new, they brought me as a staff member and there love blossomed. If before I was slightly in doubt, and wondered if I liked ESN or not, with ICE there was the spark. 

The part that has always interested me is the organisational and management one and also during the presidency I gave priority to this aspect. 

Then I am lucky to come from a beautiful city that organises a wonderful event, Napoli Spring Break, and, although in 4 years I could only organise 2 because of COVID, it put me so much to the test, together with the National School last year. 


These were the milestones of my path, which made me understand that with my passion for organising events, for which I believe I also have a certain inclination (despite my background as a mathematician), I could give something else to ESN and they pushed me to take this step.


My role is divided into two parts: one is to manage and coordinate the sections that organise events for ESN Italy, in particular the National Platforms and the National School; the other consists of a supervisory work and bridge between the sections and ESN Italy. I prefer the second aspect, because I think it is the one that allows me most of all to put myself at the service of the Erasmus students. In fact, having to organise the National Erasmus Games and the Incontro Culturale Erasmus as Head of the OC, the two great events of ESN Italy for Erasmus students, I will have the opportunity to be closer to Erasmus students in a direct way, doing something that they see and live firsthand.


How was your first period as a Board Member?


Marilù: They have been beautiful months. I feel great working with them, we are a team, we work a lot and we all get along very well, we are a very close group. Even with the Network it went very well, we can easily show what we are doing and it seems that everyone is happy with it. 


One downside: the EGM has tired me so much, this year our delegation is very large. For the rest, these months are going very well.


Stefano: In these first months of my mandate, I am totally aligned with Marilù, we immediately managed to create a good group and with the entry of Marta and Federica we created even more cohesion. They filled in the missing pieces of the puzzle, there's even more desire to do and work together. We are full of energy and we would like to do a lot of things, but we only have a few months ahead of us and we will do everything we can. 

I have not had any particular difficulty, but perhaps, other than the effort of the NEG, alas, the relations with the international side are very difficult, I have had the opportunity to see it both with the SWEP and with the EGM last year, and I also see it with the IEG. Perhaps the relationship with International is the greatest difficulty of what we do. 


A ritual question: tell us about the handover with your predecessors. How did it go?


Marilù: The handover with my predecessor was pretty good. In fact, being already the CIA Coordinator and therefore the person who is mostly in close contact with the NR, I already had a solid relationship with Alessio. I remember when he first applied; we talked about it a lot and I gave him a lot of advice. In fact, there was a very open relationship from the beginning that was then deepened. To this day I can say that, in addition to having a predecessor, I have a friend in him. Having worked closely with him for the last two years, I already knew many things and the transition was based more on practical things, which he showed me immediately, in fact, he was looking forward to fobbing me off with emails and various things. Even now, if I need advice, if something does not add up, if I need an opinion, we talk.


Stefano: The handover with Massimiliano went well also for me, we immediately got in touch to see the parts of the things which are a little more technical, we dealt at 100% with everything there was to tell us. Besides, we are still very much in touch having to work on the National Erasmus Games 2023, where he is head of the OC and I am Vice-Head of the OC. This was also part of the handover, because despite having finished the real one and me being in charge in all respects, this allowed us to continue interfacing. We talked every day about every topic. I did not know Massimiliano as a person, but only as an ESNer, and in the last three months I discovered a super helpful and super kind person, whom I learned to appreciate very much.


I don't know for how long you've known each other, but tell me a quality and a flaw as Board Members.


Stefano: I have always remembered Marilù's name. I've known Marilù's meme since I joined ESN, even before I got interested in ESN Italy.

The first interaction she and I had was when we took the same plane last year to go to the EGM, I think it was the first time we started talking and interfacing. Among other things we arrived very early at the airport, we waited two hours for the plane and in that time we talked a lot, and from my side there was immediately harmony, alignment on the stories and on the things. A quality of Marilù is that she is super nice, cheerful, available, ready to make herself available to give advice (at least with me) since she is making this surprised face.


Marilù: Cheerful? I'm always pessimistic.


Stefano: Yes, but you're pessimistic in a nice way, it's not real pessimism, you're not a downer.

A flaw, and it's something we tease her a lot for on the board, is that she's a bit sleepy and late, she is the one we wait for during board meetings, she is the "Marilù are you there too? Are you here with us?”. A real flaw does not come to my mind, perhaps the fact that she is always late, but I am too, so I cannot express myself about it.


Marilù: All true. 

At first glance, Steve may seem a bit rooted in his own positions, a bit convinced of his own things and unwilling to discuss. On the contrary, I have found in him a person with whom you can safely discuss everything, in fact, even when he disagrees with you, he always wants to try to refute your things but always with politeness. He and I always get along very well in terms of opinions, but even when we don't get along, I found in him a person with whom we can argue and who leads to super stimulating interactions. He always tries to put a bee in your bonnet, he wants to be the devil's advocate, he wants to make you see things from another point of view. This is a quality and a flaw, from the outside it can be perceived as a somewhat grumpy person, but, except for a few times during the NP, he is not.


Let's play a game: if you had to associate your role with an animal based on the characteristics and temperament it should have, what animal would you associate it with?


Stefano: Premise, it is how I see my role and not how I see myself, so it is more a peculiarity of my role: that of the wolf as leader of the pack. I was thinking of the parallel of the speech of the Organising Committee, where as Events Manager you are in charge of the Organising Committees, and therefore you have to lead a group of people in “survival”, where survival is the organisation and success of the event, and as such the Events Manager is the wolf who is at the head of the pack. 

I don't feel like a leader of the pack at all, but I try to fill that role when I'm leading a group and carrying out a project.

The wolf then as an animal has many characteristics that are not mine, such as the growl and traits of the kind, and those who know me know that I am not a wolf, but as an Events Manager I have the duty to be someone who pulls and carries the group forward.


Marilù: My role could be identified in that of a spider, because the spider is there, weaving the webs, the patterns and creating contacts, bridges between one part and the other, which are often invisible and imperceptible but they are there, and you run into them without actually realising it. I don't find myself in spiders because I don't have 8 legs and I'm not scary, so I would say no, but I like to imagine my role like that.


You have told us so much, let's conclude by summing up: describe your role with three words.


Stefano: As a first word I choose organisation: because you have to organise and supervise the whole part of communication with the OC, especially in the cases of NPs in which you are not the one organising but you are the one supporting.  

The other two words are in fact availability, as you always have to be there for those who follow you in the project and have doubts and questions, and trust, as people have to trust you and your organisation because otherwise, you are not the leader of the pack that I talked about before.


Marilù: I have to steal a word from you because I had already thought about it! 

First of all, as a first word I say trust, because for the position of board member trust is always fundamental, but in my case, in a role in which you are a messenger and spokesperson, trust matters even more. As two other words, I choose ambassador and cunning.


Last question: favourite dessert from your region. Besides, you're both from Campania, so let's see what you can tell us.


Stefano: I am undecided between the zeppola of San Giuseppe and the Raffiolo a cassata. But, since the Raffiolo feds up, I will say the zeppola, which with cream and sour cherry on top makes me crazy.


Marilù: I am actually from Calabria, so, despite living in Salerno, on special occasions we always have Calabrian sweets at the table. In any case, Neapolitan sweets, I learned to know them from an older age and my favorites are the graffa and the zeppola, the one made in Salerno, but between the two I think I prefer the graffa.


Translation by Elisa Contarino and Solange Brumat