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Italian Exchange Student Adjusts To Life At Taft

Jazzia Barrios, Reporter

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     Moving is hard, especially when it’s from one country to another. Elisa Benedetto, an exchange student from Calabria, Italy made the move and she is adjusting to life at Taft well.

     “First day in the school was very odd because the school is too big and it is difficult to make friends, especially when you do not know the language,” said Benedetto.

     As a result of the move, Benedetto has experienced quite the culture shock and describes the many differences between the two countries.

     “In my school, we have 300 people. So this school I think you have 3,000. You don’t have to move from a class to another class. We do not have lunch period. We don’t have lockers. This school is very different,” said Benedetto.

     In Italy, Benedetto enjoyed kickboxing and previously participated in volleyball. Since joining Taft, Benedetto has participated in marching band and plans on joining guitar club, as well as other clubs.

     “My parents are so proud of me. They support me in everything I do. They encourage me to do this experience because I know this experience opens my mind because I am in a different culture,” said Benedetto.

     Back home in Italy, Benedetto lived with her mother, father, and her 15 year old brother Espedito. However, a small part of the exchange program is to keep communication with family to a minimum. It allows one to spend more time learning, observing the surrounding and adjust to the new environment.

     In order to come to the United States, Benedetto had to take an exam to determine whether she was eligible to participate in the exchange program. Not only did she have to take an academics exam, but she also took an exam asking about her interests in order to assign her perfect exchange program location.

     Benedetto will be attending Taft for the whole school year along with her host sister Tiffany Pena.

     “[Elisa] has been teaching me some small words. When we have holidays coming up, she tells me something she does for the holidays in her country and I tell her how we do it here,” said Pena.

     During the short time Benedetto has been living with the Pena family, she has already felt very welcomed and has gotten along with Pena, as well her other 11 year old host sister.

     “It was strange. It was definitely a new experience. My sister did not take it very well,” said Pena.

     It took some time for Pena’s 11 year old sister to warm up to Benedetto, but she eventually came around and have created a sisterly bond.

     “She was mostly mad that we did not consult her because when my mom asked, she only asked me. my sister wasn’t part of the decision and then she threw this tantrum saying she was not going to like her. But then when [Elisa] came over, my sister kind of got adjusted and actually started liking her. They do each others hair and nails,” said Pena.

     As Elisa continues to adjust to life at Taft, she has made friends who have helped her transition from life in Italy to Chicago.

     “When I first met her, she was kind of more shy and didn’t understand some colloquial terms that some of the other students use, but since then, she’s been catching on to different American expressions and has been using them well. I think now she feels more comfortable entering conversation with other students and she is a great conversationalist.” said Giorgia Cozzo.

     Benedetto plans on going to as many places as possible, exploring every inch of the city including taking a trip to Millennium Park with other exchange students for a picnic.

     “I’m really happy to be here and have the opportunity to learn more about your country, about your culture, and about all this stuff because I really want to know all about this place,” said Benedetto.

     As Benedetto continues to experience and enjoy life in the United States, she still looks forward to returning to her home land after her junior year

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Italian Exchange Student Adjusts To Life At Taft