Italian foreign exchange student Matteo De Marchi introduced himself in his native language, “Ciao, sono Matteo De Marchi e sono uno studente straniero dall’italia.”
Having arrived in Maryland early this year, De Marchi plans to spend six months here in order to complete a semester of studies at Middletown High School.
When De Marchi arrived in the United States, he soon noticed definite differences between the Italian culture and the American culture, especially the way people carried themselves.
De Marchi had the most difficulty adjusting to the differences in “human behavior” among Americans versus Italians. “…the people are so nice but at the same time, they’re so different from Italian people,” said De Marchi. Along with that, De Marchi added that one may “face some difficulties meeting new people” in the beginning.
At home, one of De Marchi’s most valued activities is sports. Tennis and water polo have become two of his favorites. De Marchi said, “I play tennis and I hope to be on Middletown’s tennis team.” Considering De Marchi has been participating in the sport since the age of nine, he has become comfortable with tennis. De Marchi recently started playing water polo as well, which is a popular sport in his home country.
Regarding education, De Marchi said that MHS is “totally different” from what he is used to, especially in terms of their daily schedule. “We have seven hours [of school] a day and we don’t have lunch at school, we don’t have any breaks,” said De Marchi. One of the most noticeable dissimilarities De Marchi added, was the fact that there are no high school sports teams or any extracurricular activities.
Although the school system is worlds different than what is is accustomed to, De Marchi’s favorite part of being an exchange student has been attending MHS. “I like the school, it’s very different but at the same time very cool,” said De Marchi. In De Marchi’s hometown, school is viewed as “jail,” and “a place you go because you have to.” MHS has been enjoyable for De Marchi because it is a place where he has been able to “make friends, play sports, improve yourself, and improve your skills.”
Another aspect of life in the U.S. that De Marchi had to become familiar with was the meal times. In Italy, De Marchi and his family would dine around 9pm, whereas in America, his host family eats dinner around 7pm. Eating lunch at during school hours was something else De Marchi was uninformed of, as Italian students would normally eat lunch at their homes.
Despite the fact that De Marchi has had to greatly adjust many parts of his life, he would not trade this experience for anything. “They [Americans] have different ways to live, but I think that’s the point of the experience… you have to be open-minded and appreciate the experience,” added De Marchi.
Since De Marchi adjusted more to life in Maryland, he has had no trouble making new friends. De Marchi said, “I met as much people as possible, they were nice people.” Before one can meet new people, De Marchi emphasized the frame of mind one must be in. “If you are open to new experiences it is easy, it depends on you,” added De Marchi.
De Marchi’s choice to enroll in the exchange student program was not originally his idea. His grandfather recommended he explore the program while he is eligible. “He suggested me to do this experience because this is full of adventures and new people and opportunities to have fun and meet new people and create bonds,” said De Marchi.
For those who are unfamiliar with the foreign exchange student program, the student wishing to study abroad in the U.S. chooses three states in which they would like to study in. As De Marchi was unsure of his best options, he consulted his mother during the process who gave him valuable suggestions. After selecting Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida as his top three choices, De Marchi ended up at MHS. De Marchi’s mother said Maryland was a “very good” state and “full of services” in case he was in need during his stay.
While many schools seem to have the option of studying abroad, De Marchi said it is “not very common” at his school in Italy. De Marchi added, “You’re gonna lose, for the italian program, a lot of time, so not a lot of people do this experience.”
De Marchi has high hopes of studying abroad once again in the future. “…maybe with university. With high school I will not have another possibility,” added De Marchi.
Regarding his appreciation for the opportunity, De Marchi said, “I’m very happy to be here, and i’d like to thank my parents and my host family for giving me the possibility to stay here… I hope to continue to stay here with a good mind.”