Crowdfunding: How this student from Italy ignited the national pride of his compatriots

Italians are not known for being patriotic.

Crowdfunding: How this student from Italy ignited the national pride of his compatriots

Italians are not known for being patriotic. National pride can actually only be seen in football. The national sport actually consists of badmouthing your own country. Potholes on the roads, overflowing garbage containers, unreliable buses and rampant bureaucracy are all a big issue. You almost look in awe at a country like Germany, where, the Italians think, many things work better.

But the dream of a student from Puglia sparked something like national fervor among his supporters online. Andrea Troise wants to become a space explorer. He is a doctoral student at the Polytechnic in Bari and was selected from 120 competitors worldwide for the Space Studies Program at Johnson's Space Center in Houston, Texas. He received a scholarship of 12,000 euros. But that wasn't enough - because the training costs 20,000 euros.

In order to be able to start anyway, he posted an appeal on the Internet asking for someone to help him out financially. "Ciao a tutti, I am Andrea Troise, engineer, 25 years old, with a passion for space travel and all technical, ecological and economic issues related to it." That was two months before the end of the payment period. “I thought it would take some time to raise the missing money for my place at university,” says Andrea. But his message on “GoFundMe” went viral. He raised 8,225 euros within two days and then stopped crowdfunding.

A total of 242 donations were received, most between five and 50 euros, the largest donation was 300 euros. His fans not only sent money, but also encouraging comments. Andrea Bianchi, 10 euro donation, raves about “Italian excellence”. Valentina Micchetti, also with 10 euros, calls on him to “uphold the name of Puglia in the world”. Chiara Di Renzo, 50 euros, thinks “You are already our national pride”. Ilaria Girone, 100 euros, says it in Roman dialect: "Daje. Fortissimo". Come on, you do it.

"I didn't sleep all night to answer everyone and thank everyone," says Andrea on the phone, still seeming surprised by so much national enthusiasm. He hopes that others will be inspired by his experience. You can see what you can achieve with crowdfunding, he says. "If we support each other, we can achieve ambitious goals in a short time," he says. By this he also means the encouragement that he received. “I’m taking them all to Houston,” jokes Andrea. "I thought I would bring space center gadgets to the donors. In any case, everyone can count on getting regular updates from me on LinkedIn and Instagram."

The gates of the Space Center are now open to Andrea. It should start in June. Is this now the jump into an international career far away from home? Will Andrea, who sparked so much national enthusiasm, now leave the nation, will he follow the "brain drain", the departure of the brightest minds?

Italy is particularly badly affected. In the past 20 years, around 500,000 Italians between the ages of 18 and 39 have emigrated abroad, mainly to northern European countries and the USA, where working conditions for ambitious academics are better and wages are higher. "I want to refute this trend," says Andrea, "we are at the forefront of space research in Italy. It's just that the budget is smaller than elsewhere. We have fewer investment funds and fewer private donors who believe in us." But that has changed recently. Space travel is becoming increasingly important. In its home region of Apulia, the Rea Space in Fasano is very successful. The space suit for the Italian astronaut Walter Villadei was made there.

How does he imagine his future? "I want to make a contribution to space research in my region. This way I can show that you don't necessarily have to emigrate to achieve something. I'm an engineer, but I'm particularly interested in the field of space economics."

So where will Andrea’s career path take him? That remains open. But one thing seems certain: his fan base on the Internet will follow him every step of the way.