PROGRAMMI SCOLASTICI ALL’ESTERO
ACCOGLIENZA STUDENTI STRANIERI
HIGH SCHOOL PROGRAM TO ITALY
SOGGIORNI STUDIO-LAVORO ALL’ESTERO / ASL
GITE SCOLASTICHE ALL’ESTERO E MINISTAY
VACANZE STUDIO DI GRUPPO ALL’ESTERO
Le esperienze dei nostri Exchange Students e Famiglie
I’m Martina from Italy and on August 8th my life has completely changed. I left the Italian land, my family and my friends to live my American Dream for 9 months. About 2 years ago I’ve found out how to be an exchange student and I immediately thought I wanted to be one. At first my parents were very worried, but after a while I’ve convinced them to let me do this experience and on January I’ve got my scholarship to go to America. The procedures to be an exchange students are very long and stressful, I took a psychology and English test and I’ve been interviewed by a psychologist to know what were my expectations, my thoughts and my motivation to make this important decision. Me and other 60 guys of my organization met several times during the year to do orientations that prepared us for what we would have faced. They helped us to be more self-confident and taught how to solve big and small problems and how to behave to enjoy our exchange year in the best way. The departure day seemed so far until the beginning of the summer. I really enjoyed spending times with my friends and family but I couldn’t wait any longer.
It was so hard to say goodbye to the people you love most, hug them while everyone was crying. But finally I got on the plane to NYC, in 9 hours you have a lot of time to think about your fears but the excitement prevails over everything. In 5 days I’ve been to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, the best way to start this experience.
It has been really hard for me at the beginning, I missed my family and friends and in October I’ve changed my host family and the town, now I live in Lamar. I was afraid to start all over again, a new family, a new school and new friends but everything is fine now. Americans are really nice and I like the school. I love my host family and I’m really thankful for everything they do for me. They welcomed me into their family from one day to the next and they made me feel loved from the first moment. Everyday there is something new, I’m so happy to be here and live this amazing experience.
It’s hard to imagine before you have done it what is like to leave your entire life behind, hop on a plane to a place you don’t know, and make that place your new home. This is exactly what we do when we choose to go on exchange. Before leaving, I tried to prepare myself as much as possible, I tried my best to study Italian, I read articles and watched videos on exchange, I carefully thought out everything I would need for the next 10 months and packed it all into two suitcases. But of course, there is no way to be completely prepared for what you will find. I remember distinctly that when I arrived in Italy, I said to my host family, in Italian, “I like your house”, probably the most complicated sentence I had ever said. That was a very proud moment for me.
Yeah, so basically I knew nothing.
And so, the adventure began. Learning a language is a roller-coaster of frustration and joy. There are days when you feel like you are back to square one, and there are days when you think to yourself “I’m practically fluent!”. But what makes it worth it are the small moments, when you realize that you’ve been carrying on a philosophical debate with your host brother for over half an hour, or that you just ordered a pizza without any confused “whats” or “sorry but could you repeat that”, or when you see someone for the first time in a couple months and you remember how you spoke the last time you saw them. The moments when you realize that all you hard work has been worth it, and how much you have learned and changed through the months.
If there was one piece of advice I could give to exchange students, it would be to just speak, even if you are self-conscious of your accent or you don’t know the right word, remember that you are learning a new language! So there is nothing to be ashamed of, because the fact that you trying to learn is already better that never trying at all. For me learning Italian has been the “key” to my exchange. I arrived here knowing practically nothing and as I’ve learned I’ve been able to connect with people better, form bonds and express myself. I do truly feel now that Italy, or more specifically Cagliari, where I live, is my second home, and my host family a second family. And now that I’m nearing the end of my exchange its hard for me to imagine what it will be like to return to my family, friends, and life in America.
Though at times it has been hard, and I know I will miss this place very much when I return to America, the places I’ve gone, the people I’ve met, and the food I’ve tasted will all be experiences that I will treasure forever, and even though I haven’t left yet, I’m already excited for the day when I can return to Italy.
I remember the first day I woke up here like it was yesterday, I looked out of the window thinking that finally what I was waiting for months had come truth. I was feeling a mix of emotions that I can’t explain, only in that moment I seriously realized what I was doing. I felt that fear that makes you wonder why am I doing this, only 16 years old, leaving your life for months to go across the world and live in a world completely different with people that are completely strangers. But all of those strangers now are people that I can call family, my big American family.
During this experience I learned things that I would have probably not learned if I hadn’t done it. I learned that people that are on the other side of the world do things differently than me but that doesn’t mean they are weird, they are just different and I think that’s even better because if we all were the same in this world that would be so boring. I learned that even if things aren’t going right that’s always a chance to look at them in a different way and keep going because life goes on anyways. My year in the U.S. helped me grow up so much, this experience was way harder than I thought but amazing at the same time. In some moments I thought I wasn’t gonna make it but I always did and now I look at it like a success, my success which I am proud of. I made friends that changed me so much inside and left a footprint in my heart that will never be erased for ever, I had an host family that was the best thing I could ever ask for and I know I will always have a second home, Georgia.
Now that I am back I kinda feel the same feelings I was talking about at the beginning and I would have never thought that was going to happen, feeling lost in my own world that I left for just one year. Months ago I remember crying and asking my host mom “how am I gonna do without my family and friends for 10 months? ” and now I ask to myself, how am I gonna do without them ’till I will have the opportunity to see them again?