Andrea Vestrucci

Andrea Vestrucci

Course completed in Australia: Visiting researcher (Philosophy)
Institution: Monash University
Current position: Member of the Institute Eric Weil (France) and Researcher at the University of Geneva (Switzerland)

An interest in the work of Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller led Andrea Vestrucci to Australia. The globally respected Dr Heller migrated to Australia in 1977 to escape the Communist regime of her home country, taking up a teaching position at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

“She influenced, and has been influenced by, Melbourne academic reality, so there are now Professors and Research Centres at Monash University, La Trobe University and Melbourne University that study the same issues that I was researching,” explains Dr Vestrucci. “Consequently it was very interesting for me to work with these people.”

The philosopher-turned theologian found that studying philosophy in Australia was unlike his previous European experience.

“These scholars were not in the Department of Philosophy, but in the Department of Communications or Sociology,” he says. “It gave me the opportunity to know colleagues who had different scientific approaches. It opens you up. In Australia I met some of the most competent and certainly the most kind academics – and I have worked in many different universities and countries!”

On top of that, he thinks his Australian colleagues are “brave”. “They dare to make questions about topics that are considered too edgy, too wide here in Europe,” he says. “We have a very strict historic approach which can be a pro because it is very focused, or a con because it narrows the field of research. Australia helped me to be more daring with my own research.”

“The research I had the luck to undertake, the contacts and relationships I made, and the publications that followed after this, contributed to making my CV top class.”

Andrea’s desire to alter the nature of his future research was supported by contacts in Australia. “I had been planning since 2011 not to leave philosophy, but to integrate theology into my philosophical research,” he explains. “Some encounters in Australia, especially with Emeritus Professors at Monash and the University of Sydney, helped me to clarify my position.”

His current research focuses on the 16th century German theologian Martin Luther, the concept of freedom, and Immanuel Kant.

Andrea says he easily settled into his life in Australia, quickly finding a place to live. “It was perfect,” he says. “I was very lucky. When I started to look for a house, I was immediately contacted by a landlady who had a room in a beautiful home. She was very welcoming. The university was very welcoming. I had no problems at all.”

Linguistically, he admits, it was more of a challenge. Researching in English was relatively straightforward for him, but understanding spoken English was sometimes problematic, although he is quick to add that it did get easier.

When asked to pick his favourite thing about Australia, he chooses the quality of life. “Usually I don’t like living in big cities, but Melbourne is like a huge little town,” he says. He describes the settings in which he and his Monash and La Trobe University colleagues lived as “green, calm, private and peaceful, the ideal environment to work and write.”

“While I was there, Melbourne won the ‘most liveable city in the world’ and I was not surprised,” he laughs. “I lived very well.”

Andrea advises anyone considering studying in Australia to be “curious and open to exploration”, adding that one of his most beautiful memories is a short trip to Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem National Park, a wild and remote alpine area featuring peaks, valleys and lakes formed thousands of years ago by glaciers.

And while it is important to concentrate on work, he counsels the need to take the time “to enjoy and to fully profit from this unique experience”, both academically and personally…and to remember that Australians not only drive on the left-hand side of the road, they swim on the left-hand side of the pool lane!