Luca Gabbiani

Interview with the Director of the Maison des étudiants de l’Asie du Sud-Est

Tell us about your background and your arrival at the Cité internationale.

A historian of late Imperial China (17th-19th Century) I had the chance to stay in East Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan) for a long period of time over the last 25 years thanks to my studies and professional activities. This international dimension was always present since a young age: my mum is French and my dad is Italian, I was born in Canada and grew up in Geneva where I was thrown into the study of Chinese language and culture before specialising in Chinese history in Paris. I had the chance to spend three years living at the Cité during my time in Paris. This experience taught me a lot and it was natural that I applied for the management position at MEASE when the opportunity arose in 2019 in order to contribute, to the extent that I can, to the development of current residents in contact with this rich and diverse cosmopolitan universe.

What do you think it is that makes the Cité internationale a unique campus in the world?

The Cité internationale is unique in the world in all regards. The mixing of cultures, the diversity of resident experiences and the heterogeneity of their backgrounds make for a richness that has a thousand faces. The green setting of the different residences, even in the heart of Paris, make the site exceptional. The services offered to residents, from sports to culture, as well as numerous artistic and intellectual events, nourish both the body and the mind, all whilst profiting from unparalleled opportunities to interact and learn.

How does living in your house allow residents to have a different outlook on the world and how is it a spring board for their futures?

The MEASE is a medium-sized residence that facilitates contact between its residents and their integration into the Cité and Paris. The large communal kitchen, the tea rooms on each floor, the large lounge, the library and the garden offer multiple opportunities for meetings, exchanges and for contact that is further reinforced by the numerous activities organised by the residents’ committee. The house also welcomes students from partner engineering schools and students and researchers from all over the world working in research institutes, universities and other higher education establishments in Paris. The diversity of people offers the chance for rich and varied interactions, allowing everyone to broaden their horizons and to develop their personal and professional networks in a friendly and respectful atmosphere.

If you had to sum up the Cité internationale in one word, what would it be and why?

Plurality: the term covers the richness of personalities that cross paths and cohabit in the Cité, the multiplicity of experiences and opinions, as well as origins, languages and cultures. It attests to this openness to others that is one of the identifying characteristics of the Cité and designs an essential dimension of our lives that can allow us to hear and understand ourselves beyond our differences. It represents an ideal that the Cité has contributed to for almost a century.