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  4. Margherita Stancati ‘03

Can you describe your experience at St. Stephen’s? What are some of your fondest memories of that time?

I had a great time at St. Stephen’s; it was probably one of the most formative experiences of my life, and that set me on the path to do what I am doing today. [St. Stephen’s] played a key role in shaping my interest in the world and my curiosity both in terms of my studies but also my professional career. The key was the teachers who really inspired the students, like Mr. Ullman, who shaped multiple generations of St. Stephen’s students and made us interested in, for example, the Middle East, and that’s one of the things I focused on in my life and career. I think that [interest] stems from the Islamic studies [course] we had with him. We also went on a field trip to Istanbul, which was very memorable; others went on a trip to Syria, all things that were possible when I was a student but that are now hard to imagine. And of course, the students: it was great to grow up with such a diverse group of people. I feel incredibly privileged for getting to spend four years at St. Stephen’s.

After you graduated from St. Stephen’s in 2003, what came next?

I graduated, and I went to Oxford in September, I did a degree in history and politics, and then I stayed on for an MPhil, which is between a master’s and a Ph.D., in middle eastern studies. I focused on Iran at the time. Then I took a year off and spent much of that time in Iran.  I started working for The Wall Street Journal in Rome for a year in 2009 as the news assistant of the correspondent in Rome. Before then, I had limited experience in journalism; I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do; I was exploring different career interests.

In October 2010, I moved to New Delhi with The Wall Street Journal. I was mainly in charge of our online blog in India; I was both writing and editing for the blog. I did that until early 2013. Then I became a correspondent in Afghanistan. I was in Kabul from the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2015, and that was probably one of the most defining experiences of my career so far because it was so intense but also rewarding. In Kabul, there is no separation between work and life. You literally live in the office. I worked with two colleagues from the international staff and two Afghan reporters. Our social life and our work life were one and the same thing. Life in Kabul became increasingly dangerous while I was there, but it was also incredibly inspiring to meet and report on people who wanted a better future for themselves and their country. I obviously covered the ongoing war, as well as early attempts to start the peace process and also the social repercussions of a conflict that has been going on for decades. I did a lot of work on women and gender inequality in Afghanistan, and on the very slow progress being made in the years since the US intervention. I wrote about Afghan widows and Afghanistan’s first female pilot, a very inspiring story that turned dark because she was receiving death threats from members of her extended family who were unhappy with her career choice. Afghanistan was and still is a place where foreign powers vie for influence and that extremists can exploit - and that’s partly what continues to make it so interesting and relevant globally.

In late 2015 I moved to the Middle East, where I mostly covered Saudi Arabia; I was based initially in Dubai and then in Beirut, but I also rented a room in Riyadh. At that time, Saudi Arabia was going through a period of profound change, both political and social. The rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was key to that change. He pushed social reform - for instance by lifting the ban on women driving -  but also cracked down on real or perceived dissent. Many female activists who had campaigned for the right to drive were among those arrested. Just as he was allowing women to drive, he didn’t want the women who pushed for that right to speak about it. My time covering Saudi Arabia also coincided with the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi [in 2018], who became a symbol of the Saudi government’s repression of dissent.

While I mostly covered Saudi Arabia, I occasionally reported from other countries in the Middle East. I had a few memorable trips to Iraq, including during the liberation of the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. I remember the busloads of women coming out of Mosul during the military offensive wearing the full ISIS abaya - with double face veils and black gloves - and discarding their black gowns as soon as they stepped off the bus. They accumulated in a big black pile outside the camp for displaced people. I was so touched I actually picked up a couple of veils and gloves to remind myself of what they went through and how liberating it must have been for them.

I moved back to Italy in late 2018,  a couple of months before my son was born. I wanted to have the baby here.

Has it been a straight path for you, or do you feel you have been tested along the way to achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself?

It’s a good question. I never knew what was going to happen. After I graduated from university, there was this great sense of uncertainty. I think almost everyone has that after university. Up to that point, everything is a straight path, but very little prepares you for what happens next. A lot of it is down to luck. But it’s also about raising your hand at the right moment and not being afraid to pursue what you think you would enjoy. I never assumed a career in journalism was something I could actually do. I tried to make the most of the opportunity. After I spent a year in Rome at The Wall Street Journal, essentially as an intern, I was lucky enough to find a job for the Journal in India. I’ve been blessed to have this career path, but in a sector like journalism, you never really know what’s going to happen next, and that’s part of what makes it great.

One big challenge has been that I work in some of the toughest countries in the world to be a woman, such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. That means you have to work harder to be taken seriously. Although not as hard as local women, since Western women are sometimes treated as honorary men. And being a woman has the advantage of being able to access a world that is off-limits to men: the world of women.

You have written several articles for  The Wall Street Journal on how COVID-19 is changing the way we work, from Italian women dropping out of the workforce to the phenomenon of foreigners moving to Italy to work here remotely. Do you think COVID will have a lasting impact on the way we work?

I think the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact in ways we can’t predict.  But I think one of those impacts will be on the way we work.  For instance, I think there will be more flexibility in terms of where we work. There are benefits to being in an office, and I think people will go back, but there will be more flexibility in general; lots of jobs we thought had to be done in person are now being done remotely.

The pandemic is also an opportunity to press the reset button. It has made some flaws that were already there more obvious. One example is women dropping out of the workforce during the pandemic. Women in Italy are often on temporary contracts, meaning they don’t have the same kind of stability and protection that people on full-time contracts have. With schools intermittently closed, the burden of childcare has fallen much more on women than on men. There aren’t enough affordable nurseries in Italy to allow working moms to continue working.

I hope the pandemic will be an opportunity to fix some of these structural flaws. A big priority should be to make Italy an attractive place for young people not simply by creating jobs but also by making the country more dynamic. Young Italians shouldn’t be forced to leave their country to have a fulfilling career.

Any advice to graduates of St Stephen’s, those who will be graduating this year, facing this climate of uncertainty that you’ve been describing in Europe and Italy in general?

My advice is to do what you like to do, don’t assume that because a particular career path seems out of reach that you can't do it. If you enjoy something, you are likely to be good at it, too. Don’t be scared to raise your hand and to ask people for advice. For potential future journalists, curiosity and empathy are important. It also helps to be a little subversive - don’t be shy to question those in positions of authority. That’s something I’ve learned on the job, and that didn’t entirely come naturally: I was quite shy as a child.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today; this has been fascinating.

Thank you.


You can find Margherita Stancati’s work in The Wall Street Journal, and you can find her on Twitter @Margheritamvs

Chapter 1: The World Around Us | A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Revenge of the Fringe

Is internet culture driving America to extremes?

In December of 2020, historians in The Washington Post weighed in on whether 2020 was the worst year ever. Materially, the answer is clear: even in a year of tumult, we live in an era of superabundance. Since the turn of the last century, Americans have added decades to our lifespans, easy-to-source food to our tables, and secured health outcomes that, even in a bad year, remain better than anything our ancestors enjoyed.

By Jen Hollis - Former Teacher of IB History, St. Stephen’s School
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Understanding the Origins of BLM and the World’s Outrage Over George Floyd’s Death

"I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter... Our lives matter."

- Patrisse Cullors, Founding Member, BLM

By Tatiana Lima '15
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: George Floyd’s Killing and the Black Lives Matter Protests Against Police Brutality

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested and killed by Minneapolis Police after being accused of stealing from a store. Outrage followed when footage of the arrest revealed one of the officers--Derek Chauvin--placing his knee on Floyd’s neck during the arrest for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and ignoring Floyd’s desperate pleas of “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…” 

By Sofia Ghilas '21
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: The Rise of Anti-Asian Sentiment

After the recent fatal shooting of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia, last month, there is increasing alarm about the proliferation of anti-Asian racist memes, posts, and other online activities that may have set the stage for real-life violence.

By Lixuan Du ‘23
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Bloom Where You Are Planted: How and Why We Persisted During Covid

“They won’t let you board the plane?” I responded on my mobile phone, rubbing sleepy sand out of my eyes. It was 6 AM on a Sunday in February 2020, and half of our school was at the airport – or soon to be -- for Spring Trips, heading out to destinations like Oman and Morocco (the other trips had gotten out the day before).  So began my intimate relationship with the virus. Though we had been tracking the virus for weeks prior, that moment is the moment it all really began for me.  (And, yes, those trip participants literally pulled their bags off the airline conveyor belts, redialed the rental van, and returned, despondent, to their homes in Rome.)

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Reopening After a School Closure and Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Dateline: 25 January, 2020

On January 18th, St. Stephen’s students and teachers returned to the classroom for the first time since late October. At 8 am on Monday, a line of excited students wound its way down Via Aventina, each student waiting their turn for morning temperature checks. All around them, teachers weaved in and out of the line, stopping to greet groups of students and remark on how surreal it felt to be back.

By Vittoria Giusti ‘22, Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

At War With an Invisible Enemy

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging issues the world has collectively faced in recent history. We are essentially waging war against a silent enemy--one who has no national borders, knows no social bounds, political systems, nor cultural norms or values. This silent enemy of ours has inflicted harm on whoever crosses its path, upending life as we have come to know it, surreptitiously taking lives, decimating industries, and destabilizing the world economy.

By Xara Al Said ‘23
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

The Disproportional Impact of Covid on Black Americans

 Last year, as we watched the United States attempt to tackle the Covid-19 virus with mixed messages from the former President, spotty stay-at-home orders, at will mask-wearing, and widespread Covid testing, we observed a great divide between those catching the virus and recovering and those catching the virus and dying.

By Tanesha Alexander - Assistant Librarian, EAP Teacher, and DEI representative
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

Teens and Bullying

Bullying occurs a lot more than one would expect. Injuries, abuses, humiliations, threats, teachers offended while the class videotapes them, kids kicked, teenagers arrested for serious acts against peers.

By Emma Jansen ‘24
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

A Social Media Guide for Teens

The use of social media has become an inevitability of modern-day life. Whether you’re following your school’s Facebook account, chatting with your family on Whatsapp, or sending your friends pictures on Instagram.

By Sofia Ghilas '21
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Service

In the Spirit of Service

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama

By Dr. Helen Pope - Former St. Stephen’s Teacher and Director of the Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

IMDB Rating: 7.6

‘You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.’ Words from the great activist for black rights, Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party from 1966 to 1969.

By Luca Vanderson '22
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: What We Started

What We Started on Netflix is a beautiful documentary about the history of electronic music that follows its origins from the early 1970s until today. The film explores the genre through interviews with DJs and music producers.

By Matteo Scarfini ‘24
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: Seaspiracy

The newly released Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, explores the damage the fishing industry is causing the blue planet.

By Gustav Franklin ‘21
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Gone with the Wind: A Film Review for Our Times

I saw this film for the first time three years ago, and it is one of those movies that you cannot only watch; you have to think and read and write about it to understand it and its impact on you.

By Benedetta Bosco ‘22
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky, starring globally known actors Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, and was released in 2012.

By Anita D’Alisera ‘21
favorite online
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching | Digital St. Stephen's

Our Favorite Online Events

This past year has challenged us to move our events online, from Zoom olive oil and wine tastings that transported us to the Tuscan countryside to gallery openings that brought us to the heart of the New York City and Roman art scene; we have made the best of this pandemic, seizing it as an opportunity to experiment with new mediums and new activities.

Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing


As the school's only student-run literary and artistic magazine, INK provides the grounding for your creativity to thrive.

By The INK Team
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Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing

A Selection of Creative Writing

You’ve probably seen that meme: a child in a big armchair, cozily reading a book. All around her head are thought bubbles full of knights and dragons, maps and mountains, ships and seas. And below, the caption: “Reading Takes You Places.”

Chapter 4: Departments | The Lyceum

New Initiatives at the Lyceum Take Off During the Pandemic

"All men by nature desire to know." (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.980a22).

Nevermore than during the last seventeen months did these words from Aristotle ring true for me. We are so fortunate that through the Lyceum, we are able to create special opportunities for our students to learn about the ancient world, whether it’s through weekend trips and lectures or by inviting scholars, writers, and poets who through their workshops, lectures and readings enhance our classes and broaden our students' horizons.

By Inge Weustink - Director of the Lyceum, Classics Teacher
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Chapter 4: Departments | Exploring City of Rome II Class

Exploring the New City of Rome 2 Class

Between 1400 and 1700, Rome was reborn as a global city, capital of a growing world ‘empire,’ so to speak, for the first time since antiquity. The city today owes much of its historical appeal, its most eye-catching artworks, and monuments, to this, the Early Modern era (c.1400-1700 CE).

By Dr. Rebecca Raynor - Art History, Dr. Paul Treherne - History
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Chapter 5: The Arts

The Arts

This year our students have embraced the digital world, moving their drama and art shows online.

Image: Credit in here mentioning that the art work was selected for the cover

Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Nicola Formichetti ‘96

Fashion Designer / Stylist / Creative Director

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
M. Stancati photo
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Margherita Stancati ‘03

The Wall Street Journal reporter

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Galen Druke ‘08

Host and Producer at FiveThirtyEight.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Diva Tommei.Photo credits Ilaria Magliocchetti
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Diva Tommei ‘02

Investment Director Information Technology ICT at ENEA Teach

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Elizabeth Blackwell ‘86


By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Rachel Sadoff
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Rachel Sadoff ‘15

MA Candidate in Public Health at Columbia University

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Healthy Campus team
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight

Alumni serve as our Healthy Campus Team

With Italy’s many COVID restrictions, we’ve needed additional staff to greet and temperature check arriving students, walk the campus for compliance, assist classes if the teacher is working remotely but the students are here, and various other activities to keep us safe.  To our great fortune, four alumni came forward to help us for the year: Michael Alonzi (2013), Tatiana Lima (2015), David Rosales (2016), and Alessandro Cosmo (2017). We asked about the experience, and they had this to say…

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Digital Alumni

Alumni Events Online

From alumni trivia and virtual reunions to happy hours and afternoon coffee breaks, our digital alumni events have enabled us to bring together alumni and current and former faculty members from around the world.