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The Reflection

The not so secret life of a foreign exchange student

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All countries around the world have different customs and cultures and each gives someone the chance to learn and understand a whole other group of people in the world. One of the first interactions people may have with foreigners is during school, because like Americans, students from around the country will travel and participate in something called a foreign exchange program. There are many different programs people can go through like AFS, and they will host an array of students from many different countries. Greta Schirmann is one of these exchange students and is currently a student at Gull Lake from Italy.

Schirmann, a junior at the school, grew up in Italy in a small town in a valley close to the Dolomite Mountains. The population of the town has around 2600 inhabitants. Since the town is so small, most people know each other, and her Italian family live nearby to her.

I live right across the street from my Italian grandpa,”  Schirmann said, “and my mom’s side of the family lives very close. In Italian families we generally are very close. There is a lot of love. We’re touchy and like hugs and cheek kisses and we open up to each other. I love my family a lot. We’re family, but we’re also friends. We share everything. I couldn’t imagine not being so close to my family members. I grew up in a loud environment. We talk a lot, very loudly. A thing that we always do, is eat together. We always have meals around a table, all together.”

In Italy, Greta says a normal day on school days is to go to school at 8 a.m. and get home at around 1pm. After getting home her family has lunch, and she does homework. Later on she goes out with friends and returns home at 8pm for dinner. Greta says for meals they usually meats, vegetables and a variety of other things while they usually only have pasta and pizza once a week.

On weekends Greta said she usually sleeps over at someone’s house.

“We go to the club or do something together like going shopping to the nearest city,” she said. “Summers are different because my parents sometimes don’t even know where I’m at sometimes.”

For school Greta explains “We have 5 years of high school. There are different kinds of high schools (for example language, science, art, social studies, ecc) that focalize on different things. There are grades (1st through 5th) but they don’t determine what subjects you study. Every grade (I don’t mean test grades, I mean like you have juniors and seniors and stuff) has several classes. The whole year around we have the same 12 classes (we call the subjects) and we have different subjects every day, but every week repeats itself (so every Monday we have the same subjects, ecc).”

Greta says her parents are artisan carpenters (which means they build furniture for people) and she says all of her family works there.

For fun Greta says teenagers will “have parties in cabins up in the mountains. We go to clubs, we go for walks, just hang out at someone’s house, watch our friends play soccer. It depends from what you like to do.”

Greta explains that teens in Italy, unlike Americans, can drink earlier in life. Greta says most teens can drink at 18,which is three years earlier than american teenagers can. But Greta comments that most Italians are introduced to wine at an early age and “that every grandpa/grandma gave their italian grandson grappa once, when they were like 5 years old.” One thing Americans do get is earlier is get their driver’s license, which is at 16. Italians can drive a motorcycle with 11kw at age 16, but must wait until they are 18 to drive a car or more powerful motorcycle.

When talking about movie and television in Italy, Greta replies that they are pretty similar. Greta explains that “Italians like to make funny movies that are either really good or cringey. We also have a lot of mafia related movies/tv shows. But they are similar.”

The last question asked was what cultural differences are there compared to America, Greta says, “America is a huge melting pot. So many different people, it’s amazing. Back in Italy, if you don’t consider the immigrants, the population is mostly caucasian. There is not a whole lot of diversity. The diversity in Italy is between the different italians. Back home we have a lot of different traditions in every region and many dialects. One big difference that occurred to me is that in Italy we are very touchy and open about our feelings.”


Samuel Tilbury
About

Hi, my name is Samuel Tilbury and I'm a Junior at Gull Lake High School. This will be my second year on the newspaper staff and I primarily like to write reviews or opinion articles. My favorite topics to talk about are movies, television, politics, and the environment.

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