Elisabetta DiBartolomei, or as her friends call her “Tita”, arrived in Wabasso in late August.
Despite the fact that rural Minnesota is a drastic change from her hometown of Turin, located in the northwest of region of Italy, DiBartolomei is embracing the change.
Turin may sound familiar to some readers as the city hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics.
“I wanted a change, and that’s why I entered the exchange program,” said DiBartolomei. “It was a total gamble.”
Having an older brother who was an exchange student and lived in Virginia, Tita took a chance and entered the program herself.
Growing up in a large city center like Turin, with a population nearing 1 million people is as different as many in Wabasso would expect. Tita was used to commuting for an hour on a bus to attend school which she describes as very “formal” compared to school in Wabasso.
“School in Italy is difficult,” said Tita. “Many of the teachers are not so kind, and here in Wabasso teachers have passion to teach."
Tita is amazed at how students and teachers at Wabasso Public School interact in a very friendly and informal way.
Speaking with Tita one learns just how different life and the education system can be from country to country.
“In Italy we actually buy our textbooks,” said Tita.
The emphasis of learning English is very important as one can typically only advance in their career by speaking, writing and knowing the English language, as it’s the dominant language in the business and commerce worlds.
“If you know English, it’s the first thing you list on your resume, added Tita, and she has been learning English since first grade. “Yes, learning English is challenging, but education is actually better here in the U.S., one can actually learn from their educators versus being scared of them."
Before arriving to Minnesota Tita arrived in New York, N.Y., which she describes as “too busy,” before settling in with host family Brian and Jenn Timm on their farm outside of Wabasso.
Yes, life is very different in Wabasso and at Wabasso Public School where Tita is in 11th grade, but she is embracing this life experience with an open and positive attitude.
Tita has actually studied in England for several summers in a summer school program. The differences between two countries are as extreme as one would imagine.
Several big differences that Tita has observed is how youth here in Wabasso do no participate in “Fridays for Future”, where students take time off from class to participate in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change which began after Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg staged a protest outside the Swedish parliament building, holding a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for the climate”).
Another difference observed is how differently Americans eat their meals than Italians. Tita mentioned that Italians have a saying, “Family & Food."
Here in the United States meals are always rushed and are over quickly after they have begun.
“In Italy we will eat an enormous plate of food for lunch and spend an hour talking with those who we are sharing a meal with,” said Tita.
These differences don’t bother Tita. She’s simply amazed at how every aspect of life can be completely different throughout the world.
Tita looks forward to the remaining school year and will be in Wabasso until June before returning home to Italy.
For the next few months Tita will embrace what it is like to be an American and will continue to enjoy this important life experience that she has embarked upon.