The student news site of McPherson High School

The High Life

The student news site of McPherson High School

The High Life

The student news site of McPherson High School

The High Life

Italy and the United States: a tale of two nations

Exploring the USA as an exchange student
The day of my departure, July 26, 2023, from Milan Malpensa Airport

The United States of America is one of the most powerful countries in the world and every year, millions of people visit its beautiful cities and countryside. This country is one of the most desired destinations for international students.

I myself am an exchange student. I come from a small town in Veneto, a region of Italy. I am spending a whole year studying abroad, in the United States. I am living in McPherson, KS.

Being an exchange student has so many advantages, from becoming more independent to learning better English. Yet, I think the most important benefit is the chance to live the reality of two worlds: my home country and the United States.

In Italy, there are a multitude of movies from the United States. It’s important to understand that being an exchange student doesn’t mean to live life like it’s portrayed in those movies. It’s the opposite, I’ve become part of the American culture. I tried to embrace every part of life because I think it’s the only way to fully live this experience.

By embracing American culture, I was able to understand all the differences, small and big, between the United States and Italy. One of the major ones is definitely the school system.

In Italy, students have to decide the high school they want to attend by the end of 8th grade. There are three types of high schools: liceo, technical institutes and professional institutes.

Liceo is then further divided into six specialized schools: arts, classical studies, sciences, languages, music, dance, and human science. In a liceo the main focus is theoretical knowledge. These schools are five years long and to graduate an exam, called maturita, is required. 

Technical institutes are always five years long and there is the maturita. These schools focus on manual work and internship as well as a theoretical knowledge of the subjects. There are a multitude of technical schools to choose from.

Professional institutes are normally three years long and at the end of the school program students have a professional diploma. In this kind of school, students will have a lot of manual work and working experience. The main idea of these schools is to “learn a job”.

So high school in Italy is definitely very different compared to the school system in the United States. Personally I prefer high school in America because I feel it’s less stressful and students have the opportunity to choose the electives.

Another reason is the importance of high school sports. Obviously in Italy there are many sports but they are only clubs, so there is no sport in school. In the United States, the school season is very important, even though it’s only a couple of months long, because students can be proud and fight for the school’s colors.

Although I like school in the United States more, I think students in Italy have a broader knowledge, especially those who attend a liceo. In my opinion the school in a perfect world should be in the middle, not as strict as it is in Italy but with school sports like in the United States. 

Italy is well known for the delicious food and everywhere in the world restaurants try to replicate those dishes. Americans love Italian food but I have to admit that what they cherish so much is not truly Italian.

In the United States, restaurants have changed the essence of Italian cuisine. The key of Italian cuisine is simplicity, just a few fresh ingredients can turn into an amazing dish. No sauces or weird seasoning is needed.

After all the months I’ve spent here, I have noticed that the most rudimental concepts of Italian cuisine are not really respected. In my opinion, Americans don’t have the ability to appreciate simplicity. 

I don’t think it’s entirely their fault, they are born in a culture of fried food and sauces. People are so used to eating that kind of food with very strong flavors, that they don’t have the ability to appreciate something more simple and genuine.

So Italian restaurants, in the United States, have been Americanized. The Americanization happened to some dishes such as fettuccine Alfredo. No, it’s not Italian!

Well, the origin might be Italian but I assure you that Italians don’t eat fettuccine Alfredo, especially with chicken on top of it. What’s crazy to me is that Americans think this dish is Italian and they expect to find it in Italy.

The “Italian” food I’ve been eating in the United States, it’s 5% Italian and 95% American. I think the only way to find real Italian food is to fly to Italy and 

Being an exchange student is giving me the opportunity to have a more open mindset and know other cultures and reality. In my personal experience, unfortunately, the average American doesn’t have this possibility.

To be completely honest, everyone could be open to the world but Americans don’t feel this necessity. They think that the United States is the whole world. They don’t need to know or explore anything else.

I understand that the United States is such a massive country and the closest foreign countries are Canada and Mexico but the most surprising thing is that the average American doesn’t care to know more about other cultures.

Americans think very highly of their country and I respect and admire that but they also think that the world is nothing else other than the United States. This hurts my soul. 

I’ve always been very curious, since I was a little kid. Knowing more and more about what’s around me and the world I live in, is something that has always fascinated me. Not everyone is like me but don’t we live in the same world? The world is way more than a single country.

I think becoming a citizen of the world is the greatest benefit that this exchange year has given me. My hope is that every single person on this earth will understand the importance of being curious and open minded. That is the key for a better world.

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About the Contributor
Chiara Lovadina
Chiara Lovadina, Journalist
Chiara is a Junior and this is her first year of journalism. Chiara is an exchange and she is from Italy. Chiara plays volleyball at McPherson High School and she is involved in the International Club and KAY Club.