Migrazioni al plurale (Migrations in plural)

07 April 2022

Educational project

Migrazioni al plurale (Migrations in plural)

This Community Engaged Learning project aimed to contribute to a reduction of the isolation of Italian migrants in Utrecht during the Covid-19 pandemic. For this purpose, the students made video interviews with first generation migrants on their material experiences with emigration to the Netherlands, which were shared with the Utrecht-based ACLI community. These interviews and videos also served as linguistic material to be analysed by the students for their research papers in the course. Teachers implemented these activities in 2020/2021 as a pilot project in the Italian bachelor course ‘Migrazioni al plurale’ (Migrations in plural).


The Covid-19 pandemic has a tremendous impact on our social life. This affects specific vulnerable groups more than others. This project concerns elderly Italians, who migrated to the Netherlands in the 1950s and 1960s. Since Utrecht is a vibrant student city, we asked the following question: How can students help to reduce the impact of isolation on the lives of these Italian migrants through the community-based experience of storytelling? The CEL project in the Italian BA course Migrazioni al plurale turns this research question into practice.

Project description

Migrazioni al plurale in block 4 of the second year is the final course of both the linguistic and the literary tracks in the major of Italian language and culture. In the pilot course in 2020/2021 eight students participated. Three teachers, one project assistant and one guest lecturer were involved.

During the course students collected migration stories with visuals and sound. The ca. 10 minutes videos of these stories were shared with migrants who are part of ACLI Utrecht. Furthermore, the delivered audio-visual material has been used for students’ papers on linguistic and cultural analyses of Postwar Italian emigration.


The goal of CEL education is to connect the academia with partners in the social field. Through a cross-disciplinary dialogue about societal issues, students, teachers and external partners can learn from each other and can exchange their expertise. In this specific project, reciprocal learning for students and the community of Italian migrants in Utrecht has been reached through the shared practice of audio-visual storytelling.

Another important learning goal of this project is that students are able to integrate their scientific knowledge of Italian language and culture with the practical material offered by migrant storytelling. They were asked to make these cultural and linguistic insights visible in a research paper. What’s more, they also needed to acquire digital literacy and to reflect on the media (oral storytelling and digital literacy) adopted in the course.

The pilot course in 2020/2021 serves as an exploration of best practices, which can be used as input for a follow up. This follow up will start in block 4 2021-22.


The results are presented in three phases.

Students attended a couple of practical workshops aimed at teaching them the required skills for interviewing and documentary making. They also attended two classes (provided by a colleague-expert from the University of Amsterdam) on ethical issues around documentary making. As for the curriculum-part of the course, students learned theories and practiced with research tools in the fields of linguistics and culture around ‘heritage speakers’ and migration.
After a first (online) meeting with the Italian migrants in order to familiarise and present the project, students planned the interviews and the filming sessions that were hold in the community gardens of ATV Utrecht-Zuid.

Editing of the audio-visual material to create four short documentaries. The results were presented to the interviewees and to other members of the Italian community in Utrecht at the ACLI-centre on June 24, 2021. The documentaries can also be found on the webpage of the course Migrazioni al plurale.

Lessons learned: CEL experiences

The project was a great success as it was a unique chance for students to meet societal partners and to become aware of how their competences and skills in the fields of Italian linguistics and culture can be used to address (and possibly help solving) societal issues.

From a practical point of view, the project team also learned that CEL education (involving different actors with different backgrounds) not only requires organisation and flexibility, but also technical assistance and financial support.

From a pedagogical point of view, the project team learned that this new form of Community Engaged Learning requires the activation of new/different skills in students, particularly the capacity to reflect on their work in progress and on their results. Teachers have to find the right balance between academic content and practical experiences and they have to provide adequate instructions and feedback to enable students to reach these goals.

The question remains how to properly assess and grade the practical side of the project.

Further reading



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