TWO members of the same Italian family are making their graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light an affair to remember.
Mum Rita Castrogiovanni and daughter Nancy both donned their cap and gown at the University of Sunderland winter award ceremonies after successfully completing their Masters degrees.
Rita, 63, and Nancy, 30, both completed their English MA together, but the family connection with the University of Sunderland doesn’t stop there.
Rita has two other children also studying at undergraduate level –Valeria, 21, is studying a degree in Drama, while Gilda, 40, is in the final year of a Fine Art degree.
But it was Nancy who started the Italian family’s love affair with the university when she arrived in the city and worked as a croupier at the Gala Casino, where she met Czech-born husband Jan Vanzura, and gave birth to twins Carlo and Sabrina in 2002.
By 2007 she had begun a foundation course at the university in Art and Design, moving on to a BA in Fine Art, then beginning her Masters.
Inspired by Nancy’s experiences, the family, who hail from Piacenza in Northern Italy, have now made Sunderland their permanent home, and plan to continue their studies and association with the university.
Nancy, who completed her course, despite being pregnant and giving birth to son Leonard just three months before the graduation ceremony, said: “I have loved every moment of my course. I began by studying a foundation course in Art and Design, then went on to the degree in Fine Art, but I have always had a passion and love for English which is why I was delighted to start the MA alongside my mother.
“It’s been great being able to study with her; we’ve shared ideas and thoughts and have had some great debates. Graduating alongside her and my brother is a very special day for us all.”
She added: “I have embraced all the university has had to offer, even becoming a student representative, and have encouraged my family to study here. We all loved Sunderland, the people are great and we don’t even mind the weather.”
Rita, who retired from her job as a headteacher in Italy after 30 years, began her education again when she arrived in Sunderland in 2005 to support Nancy and the twins.
Unable to speak English, she began a course at Sunderland College and was hooked. She completed an English BA at the University of Sunderland, before completing her MA. She now plans to study her PhD thesis on Italian poet Dante, in October at Durham University.
She said: “It’s wonderful to be graduating alongside my daughter. I have always encouraged my children to do what makes them happy and Sunderland has given us all a wonderful education.
“The lecturers have supported me personally from start to finish, and really helped me progress.
“I’m so proud that my children are doing their degrees at Sunderland. It’s a wonderful place to study.”
Nancy will now begin her PhD thesis at Sunderland on Czech author Milan Kundera. Her husband is in the first year of his English and Creative Writing.