With Italy’s entry into the Second World War, Anglo-Egyptian authorities repatriated Italian diplomats from Egypt, arrested around 5,000 Italians, and sequestered both personal and business accounts. Italian institutions were indefinitely closed, including the Italian state schools. Hope for a future in Egypt among the roughly 60,000 Italian residents faded. The Salesian missionary schools, whose goal since the late nineteenth century had been to inculcate nationalist-religious sentiment in Italy’s emigrants, remained the only active Italian educational institution by claiming Vatican protection. As such, the missionary schools assumed a central role in the lives of many young Italians. After the war, these same young Italians began to depart Egypt en masse, in part driven by the possibilities opened up by their vocational training. Building on diplomatic, institutional and private archives, this article demonstrates how the Salesian missionary schools attempted and failed to integrate Italian immigrants into the Egyptian labour force through vocational training. This failure combined with socio-economic and geopolitical changes to propel Italian departures from Egypt, making emigrants out of immigrants.