She’s a young, self-financed entrepreneur who started her own language school before she was 30. Meet Maricla Amoriello, teacher, director, and founder of Koiné Centre.
Her appearance is unconventional for an Italian. Taller than many men, she wears her hair cropped short, with a single plastic earring dangling over her bare left shoulder. Her gaze is direct, and she gets to the point quickly. Maricla Amoriello has a mission that extends from her newly relocated language school to changing the future and maybe even character of Italy itself.
“Koiné is a project,” she says. “I want to promote Italian language and culture in an environment unlike other language schools. At Koiné there’s passion to be together and share our differences.”
The school offers intensive month-long courses for foreigners in Italian, French and Spanish, as well as evening courses in English. Movie nights, tours of Rome, and weekly aperitivi give students the chance to practice conversation informally but also to make friends. “I want Koiné to be a family,” says Maricla.
“It’s important for Italians to discover another world. We hear repeatedly that we have no future, no possibilities.” Koiné brings people together, inspiring them to create a new kind of society in Italy—one not based on fear and pessimism but on ambition, teamwork, and open-mindedness.
The road has not been easy. After working for an NGO and many language schools Maricla became disillusioned with their money-mongering attitude. “A school is not good because of the director, it’s good because of the teachers.”
As for the NGO, she believed in its message but she says, “NGO’s by nature are forced to be part of the same capitalist and consumerist system” that she wants out of. “It’s a system financed by banks,” she says, “not values.”
Unsatisfied, frustrated and with a seven year relationship coming to a cataclysmic end she did what any self-described “idealist and dreamer” would do. She sold her furniture, left home and moved to London where the idea for her own school was born. “In London, you feel you can do whatever you want to do, be whoever you want to be. In Italy, that feeling doesn’t exist.”
Many Italians share Amariello’s sense of frustration with Italy. Limited career options has made motivation, not to mention innovation or entrepreneurship, extremely low. Most Italians live at home until they are in their 30s or beyond and complacently taking up jobs from within the family is the norm. Youth unemployment is up to 30%.
But rather than stay abroad, Maricla returned to Rome and after opening as an itinerant school, Koiné finally has a location, right off Piazza San Giovanni.
“Nothing will change in Italy if my generation goes abroad to work. If I’m against my system, I have to fight it from inside. Italy is not theirs, it’s mine.”
Koiné is Amoriello’s personal answer to Italy’s current generational challenge of what to do in a stagnant economy with an older generation that is afraid of modernization and change. “The key to being a good, healthy, world-wide society is not to make a melting pot, but a mosaic of different pieces,” she says. (Even the name of the school comes from the language created by Mediterranean merchants in the Middle Ages in order to trade together.)
Maricla herself is untiring in her efforts, doing publicity, networking, attending all the school extracurriculars herself and teaching classes daily.
“Maybe I’m missing something,” she says, “I’m 30, I could travel. Someday I want a family of my own and children. But I know that what I’m doing is important and I know that I am brave.”
I can’t help thinking that if Italy had only a pinch of Amoriello’s confidence, tenacity, and bravery, it would be in a much better place than it is now.