Meet Andrea from Italy, our Student Ambassador for the month of December.
Tell us about your high school exchange year!
I changed high schools at the end of September, so I had the chance to experience two different kinds of American high school! I first attended Hanceville High School in Alabama, which was quite a big high school. My favorite part was probably the people there: my classmates were really friendly and helpful with me, so it had been easy for me to make a lot of friends since the first day of school. Also the teachers were really caring, nice and patient. Even the Principal and Counselor were very nice with me, because they love exchange students. In HHS I was part of the varsity basketball team. Moreover, I was in the FFA club and in the Math team of the school, because everybody used to say that I was super smart. I honestly loved everything, from the hallway with the lockers, to the classes and labs, from the gym, football and baseball fields to the people! Football was a really big thing, every Friday was a lot of fun cheering for the team, also during pep rallies and assemblies! Before changing schools, we had homecoming week, and the homecoming dance was probably the highlight of the time I spent in Hanceville!
At the beginning of October I started attending Marshall Christian School in Alabama. As you can tell from the name, it's a private school and it's way smaller than the one I used to attend! My favorite thing about my school is that we're like a big family. I literally know everybody and I know who to ask for help if I need to! Basketball is the biggest sport in this high school and I'm very excited to be part of the boys varsity team this year, because we have a really good chance to make it to State Championships this season!
I have never loved going to school so much in my life before and the high school spirit is one of the reasons why I'm in love with American high school.
How does life in Italy compare to life in Alabama?
Life in the US is so much different from my life in Italy. One of the biggest differences to deal with here in Alabama for me was probably that there's no public transportation here. In Italy I used to be really independent (also because of the fact that everything was very close together compared to how it is in America) while in the US you always need a ride whether from your host family or your friends. Also the school is really different, in Italy it is more about learning theoretical notions and getting prepared for college or university, so studying is much more challenging than in the US, while American school is a lot of fun: I really like the atmosphere with joy and laughter, I love the fact that you can practice sports at school and the school spirit is amazing!
Anyway, although there are many differences between Italy and the United States I'm learning how to appreciate and enjoy all of them. And I think that experiencing and learning about a new culture can only help me to grow as a person.
Why did you decide you wanted to go on an exchange year?
The main reason why I decided to go on exchange year was not, as a lot of people would say, improving my English level. For me it was mostly about meeting a new culture, which means living in a foreign country, becoming part of a new family, attending a different type of high school, experiencing things that you've never tried before, trying new foods, learning new traditions, getting in touch with people and making friends from all over the world. I would say that for me it was about living a new life! The American life, that has been my dream since I was a little kid, growing up with movies, TV shows and books that were showing me how cool it was living like an American boy and that were feeding my desire to try to be part of that reality one day, is literally a dream come true for me.
Also I thought this experience would help me to grow as a human being, to become more independent and to get away from my certainties, habits and routine, because we all know how hard it is to be so far away from home for such a long time and how courageous we had been to decide to leave for this adventure. But I think getting out of our comfort zone is part of the game, and it can become so much fun if you really get involved in it!
Why did you want to become an EF Exchange Year Ambassador? What kind of things do you do as an Ambassador?
I wanted to become an EF Exchange Year Ambassador because I liked the idea of sharing my exchange year story with other teenagers who were having the same experience as me. I thought that sharing our experiences was not only a way to reflect on our exchange year and to help each other to deal with the challenges that could have manifested along our paths, but also to try to inspire future students to go on exchange year! Another reason was that I created such great relationships with the Class of '19 Summer Ambassadors (with whom I'm still often in contact), that I'd been thinking since the day I left Welcome Days that I wanted to apply for the Summer Ambassadors Program...and well, the first step was becoming an In Country Student Ambassador!
The Exchange Ambassadors family is a group of exchange students sharing their lives with posts and stories, helping and giving tips to current and future exchange students, inspiring future students to take the leap of faith to go on exchange year as well, growing as individuals with leadership trainings and gaining a global community!
We have very exciting monthly projects, such as the EF State Pride and EF Give Thanks ones, and we attend webchat meetings lead by our mentor Nicolas once per month. The projects have the purpose to make us reflect on our host family, school, and community, to show people from our home countries how it's like to be living this journey and to develop a new awareness of ourselves. Another thing that I loved doing were the takeovers on the EF Instagram account, through which I was able to show my American life 360°, answer questions and doubts, and possibly inspire future exchange students!
What advice would you give current or future exchange students?
My advice for anyone who is thinking about being an exchange student is absolutely go for it, because it's the best thing somebody could ever experience and it's something that will be with you for the rest of your life! I know that making a big life change like this could sound pretty scary to some of you, but do you know what is even scarier? Regret. What I can tell you is that you don't want to look back in a few years and wonder what would have it been like to step into this adventure!
And while you're here, always be and believe in yourself, but at the same time be open-minded and flexible enough to learn from the mistakes and the bad choices you will make in order to grow as a person. There will be ups and downs for sure, but don't ever give up, remember that you are stronger than what you think, look forward for the next challenge to face, because it will make you become a more responsible, independent and even stronger version of yourself, and embrace everything America can offer you.
Remember...all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. So don't be scared, ask as many questions as you want to and good luck on your journey!
Our Ambassadors embody the spirit of exchange. Want to learn more about the EF Ambassador program? Click here for more information.