Anna P. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Exeter High School in New Hampshire.
My first reaction to spending an entire week in an Italian school was filled with mixed emotions. Of course I was excited to not go to my regular classes for a whole week, but I was apprehensive because I knew there would be a definite language barrier between me and my new classmates. I was also worried that I was going to get lost between each of the classes and not know where to go. Though, I was most concerned with the social aspect to this week. I would be sitting alone in a class with a bunch of other students who don’t speak my native tongue. It’s not as if it was required for them to talk to me, needless to say this experience was going to have it’s uncomfortable moments.
The first day, I arrived at school and was happily surprised by how much my classmates wanted to interact with me. I didn’t really have to struggle with trying to speak Italian on account of the fact that they were all so excited to try to speak English to me. I also was relieved when I found out I would be in the same class as one of my SYA friends, so we could endure this completely new environment together.
Here, the schools are separated by subject field such as art, science, humanities, and so on. Even though each school focuses in on a different subject, the students still must complete classes in each of the basic topics, including a required class in English. Since I was there for a whole week, the English teacher wanted to use me to help teach the students interactively. I was placed in the center of the group and their assignment was to ask me questions in order to have a full conversation (if only I could be as good at Italian as they are at English!!) I learned about what each of them wanted to be when they grew up, and what Italian teenagers do on the weekend. They asked me about my life back in the states, and if I was enjoying Viterbo so far. At the end of class, three of the girls asked if I wanted to go out to lunch with them after school. This left me feeling welcomed and proud that I had already made friends!
Another interesting aspect of attending these Italian high schools was that my experience at the art school was completely different from my friend who went to the scientific one. When I would have a two hour graphic design class, my friend could’ve been sitting through a coding class. I was surprised when multiple teachers didn’t show up for class and the children acted as though that was completely normal, while my friend said that the teachers were very strict and punctual at her school. We would compare the subject material they were learning, how they acted when the teacher was present, and how the school dynamic felt like in general. Every time we came up with differing responses to how our week had gone overall.
I definitely think we all enjoyed getting out of school by one in the afternoon and being able to go home to have lunch with our host families. Afterwards, I then had the whole afternoon to sleep, do homework, or just spend time with my family. Getting up for school on Saturday was a little rough… but after the last bell rang that day, each of my new Italian friends gave me a huge hug before leaving the classroom which made it completely worth it. Needless to say I was somewhat exhausted from this week of classes, taught in complete Italian, and was ready to go back to SYA, but I had also made new friendships and was able to see an entirely different school atmosphere than the one I am so used to.