The foreign exchange student experience: Italy to America (Commentary)

There are many differences between schools in different countries


Blake Kline

My experience in American schools has been different than those in Italy.

Chiara Puccia, Writer

Moving from one country to another, I believe, is the most challenging thing that someone could do. It doesn’t matter if it’s just for one year or if it’s forever: it’s just difficult.

You don’t know the traditions, and most of the time you don’t even know the language very well. Culture is the most difficult thing to understand and change. When you come from a different country, you grow up in different contexts with different families who have different traditions.

This is a typical classroom in Italy. (Chiara Puccia)

The most different thing that I noticed as an exchange student is the school.

In many countries schools are not the same, but I think that one of the most unique schools is the American high school. 

In Italy, we don’t start school until September, while in so many states in the U.S. (though not all of them), school starts in August. We only have five hours of school, but we need to go on Saturdays to retrieve the hours that we don’t complete the other days. Usually we have one subject per hour but it can happen that you have two periods of the same subject.

Chiara Puccia

One thing that is really different between the U.S. and Italy is that right after middle school in Italy, we need to choose a type of school. This signifies that we don’t go to the school of our district. For example, I’m in a linguistic school, which means that my school is focused on studying languages and it is away from my house. But there are so many types of schools that focus on different subjects like science, sports, tourism, and more.  

Another difference is that we do five years of high school, and at the end we do a really big exam where you need to bring a thesis for an oral test. After that you have four written tests: English, math, Italian, and one of the subjects that your school is focused on. We have many different types of tests, but the most popular are the writing test and the oral tests.

Chiara Puccia

During these five years you have the same classmates, and you all have one class per year where you stay for the rest of the year — the professors go around the school to their next class. You can decorate your classroom, but only during the holidays, because when they’re decorated it’s difficult for the janitors to clean.

This is the front of my school in Italy. (Chiara Puccia)

Sports are not as important in Italy as in America. Here there are teams for a lot of different sports, such as soccer, dance, football ,and baseball; however, in Italy we just have two hours of physical education per week and we don’t have any team of any different sports.

We don’t have iPads that the school provides and we’re required to buy textbooks. Honestly, I think that is really inconvenient, because we don’t have lockers and sometimes buying books is expensive.

School has been the biggest challenge and change to adjust to after moving from a different country.