reporting by Ashti Tiwari and Sofia Sterbenk
For exchange student Pietro Columbo, life in Corning is very different from life in Italy after spending his senior year at C-PP
“I lived in a small city called Cento in North Italy and I went to a scientific high school called ISIT Bassi Burgatti. The exchange program is a program where you can choose a country and decide to go there to study and be in a host family. I decided to take part in this program for different reasons, like to improve my English, to become more independent and responsible, and to explore a new culture, since American culture is really different from Italian culture. It's just living in a new country with different traditions.
When I found out about this exchange program, I thought it was cool so I signed up. It's not for everyone because you go live in another country for ten months without anyone you know. You can choose the country like I chose the USA, but then they have to find your host family so when they find your host family, they tell you where you're going. I didn't know which state I was going to because it depends on the family that chooses you.
At the beginning, the host family was a little awkward because you go live in their homes and they are practically strangers. You get to know them while you live with them. They have different customs, like they have dinner at 6 p.m. and they don't have a set time for lunch. In Italy, we are really organized like we have lunch at 1pm and we have dinner at 8 p.m. Here, it is a little more disorganized. Now, we are really close and have established a good relationship.
In Italy, we don't choose the classes that we want to take every year but before we start high school we decide the type of high school that we want to go to. There are different types, like scientific high schools that focus on subjects like science and math. There are also linguistics high schools or classic high schools and we’re put in a class with usually 20 people and we have the same classmates for all five years. I think it's really cool how American school is organized so that you choose the classes that you want to take. Teenager life is also different because we go to school six days a week in Italy, and school ends at 1 p.m. every day so we have lunch at home instead of at school.
In Italy, they started to teach English in elementary school, but actually they don't teach English really well. You will learn a lot about grammar and how to write, but you don't learn how to speak. At the beginning, it was hard with the languages because I was not really good at English.
My year was different because there was COVID, so I didn't even know if I could leave until they gave me my host family. I signed up in November 2019 and they gave me the family by August 3, 2020 and then I left on August 21. I was really mad and sad because I was expecting these exchange years for a long time, and then when COVID hit I thought ‘Oh my god, I'm not going to leave.’
I want to come back because this was my first time in America and it was with COVID so I would like to come back without COVID. I would come back here to visit my host family but if I ever come here to live in the USA, I don’t think I would plan on living here in Corning.”