I rarely say that an experience has changed my life. Often, experiences broaden my perspective, expand my comfort zone, or expose me to novel ideas and people. Rarely, though, does an experience do all of these things; this exchange program did.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the family I made through this exchange program. Chicco (Federico), my exchange student, was a stranger when I first messaged him, but after living together for more than 20 days, we became brothers. We became extremely close and I can undoubtedly say I love him like a brother. Similarly, after living with his family for ten days I was ready to call them my family. I found sisters and brothers and best friends in all of the other exchange students, and in the Italian friends I made who were not participating in the exchange too, and I will continue to miss them and keep in touch with them.
It was not just the Italians I grew close with, though. I found myself closer than ever to my American companions, bonding with students who I never thought I would be close with. I feel it is also important to highlight the beauty of both the culture and the physical landscape of Italy. The mountains, sunsets, rivers, and even the simple scent of the country was breathtaking, and I know that I will return soon.
As I reflect on this experience I find myself coming to two conclusions:
1) I have made life long friends and family through this exchange and
2) I love Italy.
The Italian exchange program was the best experience of my life. I made so many new friends from both America and Italy. I spent time with people from BHS who I normally do not and met many amazing people from the school in Cles. We have all become such good friends and it seem as though we are one big family. Although it was hard to say goodbye at the end of the Italians’ stay here in America, I now have people I can talk to from across the world. I hope to see them again someday because they are some of the best people I have ever met.
I have dreamed of going to Italy since I was a little kid so I am very glad that I finally got to go. Getting the opportunity to go to with my classmates was such a positive experience. I got to experience everything in Italy with my friends, which was a lot of fun. The places that I enjoyed the most were Venice and Verona. Getting to ride in a gondola was my favorite part of Venice. Going in the shops and seeing the center of the city was also a lot of fun. My favorite part of Verona was climbing up the stairs and getting a view of the whole city. I also enjoyed going in the stores and seeing Juliet’s balcony. Going to Italy tied everything together that I have been learning since seventh grade. I got to try to have conversations with people in Italian and experience the Italian culture. Italy was such a beautiful country and I hope to go back someday. When the Italian exchange students came to America, it was so much fun to host my student. We got along so well and became such good friends. I really hope that I will be able to see her again someday because she is such an amazing person. Getting to be around all of the other exchange students was also very fun. They are all such kind and funny people. It was cool to be able to show them around America since they have never been and were so excited to see everything. The Italian Exchange Program is something that I will never forget. I am so lucky that I had this opportunity and was able to be apart of it. It is a once in a lifetime experience that I would not trade for anything. Everyone who gets the opportunity to be apart of this program should take it.
Taking part in the Italian Exchange was the best decision I could have made. The experience that I had both in Italy and at home were unforgettable. At first, I was scared to go live with a new family in a different country, but after the first day there I did not want to leave. I really enjoyed learning about the daily life of an Italian student. Since I lived in Madrid, I knew what to expect during the school day and how the students stay in one class all day, but being in their classes after attending school in the U.S. was really different. I liked that they could build really close friendships since they are with the same people in every class, but I do not like how they do not really have the opportunity to meet new people in different classes like we do. My favorite part of being in Italy was the food. My Italian’s name is Angelica, and her mom made the best tiramisu. Although it was a bit awkward meeting this new group of people at first, through my time in Italy I developed amazing friendships with the Italians.
I would definitely recommend the Italian Exchange to other students. Not only was it a lot of fun, but my Italian speaking skills also greatly improved. I feel like going to the country, and being almost forced to speak the language is the best way to learn it. The Italians coming here was just more of an opportunity to get closer to them. Angelica is now like a sister to me. Some of my best memories from senior year have been times with the Italians. In Italy, they took us to Venice, Verona, Trento, Cles, and Bolzano, and we took them to Boston, New York, and Plymouth Plantation. Visiting those places in Italy, and taking them to places in the US was a lot of fun. Anyone who has the opportunity to take part in the exchange, definitely should.
Traveling to Italy this past September was my first time leaving the United States. I remember being nervous and excited all at once to be able to finally experience the culture I had been learning about for so many years. It was nerve-racking to be living with a family I had never met before, but it ended up being the best way to fully experience Italian culture. Not only did I get to eat home cooked Italian food from scratch three times a day, but going to school with my exchange student Giulia and hanging out with her friends in her small mountain village was a lot of fun. It was fascinating to see how similar our lives and mannerisms were, even though we lived separate lives on the other side of the world. We did the same things with our friends, and learned similar things in school. I also found it funny that we had watched the same shows on Netflix!
What I was most excited about during my time in Italy was traveling to different cities on our field trips. I was most excited to see Venice and Verona. Venice was as beautiful as I always imagined it to be, and I even got to ride on a gondola. However, after visiting Verona I decided I liked it much better than Venice, as it was the epitome of what an ancient, romantic Italian city should be. I also liked how it was less crowded than Venice.
After leaving Italy I anxiously anticipated the arrival of our Italian friends in America. I was very excited to show Giulia around Burlington and show her what a typical day looked like for me, as it was significantly different than hers. As she had just been in America this past July, she had already been to Boston and New York City, but seemed excited to experience America once again. I took her out with my friends, out to dinner, to get ice cream, to the Burlington Mall, to the beach, and even a Red Sox game. Her favorite day was when my family took her to the beach on Plum Island in Newburyport, MA, as she had never seen the ocean before. She explained to me that in Italy they only have seas, so she was fascinated by our vast beaches and how cold our ocean water is! It was fun to be able to see these cities and towns through her eyes, as for us it is not that special but for them it is a whole new world.
Overall, I had a wonderful time on this exchange and would not trade my experiences for the world. I discovered that staying with a host family is the best way to experience a different culture and country, since you are doing it with people who live that way each day. I enjoyed these experiences more than doing the touristy aspects of the trip because I got to experience real life. I also think it helped me gain a greater appreciation for the language and culture as a whole. I would recommend this experience to everyone, as this is not something you can do anytime. While you may be able to travel abroad, you may not have the opportunity to live with someone and really see what the culture is all about.