My journey into the world of cultural exchange began four years ago when my brother decided to participate in one of these programs and spend two semesters as a student in a high school in Vancouver, Canada. From that moment my destiny was sealed, I had practically no choice, my parents had already decided that I would also do a year abroad.
The research started about two years ago and after one year almost everything was defined. My destination was Santa Cruz, California. We already found the host family and the high school I was going to attend.
At the beginning of 2020, however, covid hit, first in Italy and then in the United States. Gradually certainties disappeared and became questions, borders began to close and with them schools and embassies, families were no longer convinced they wanted to host. More disconsolate than ever, but still with hope, in August 2020 I went to the American Embassy in Milan to get my visa, in case things would have changed. Unfortunately, a few days later, my organization told me that my exchange program had been canceled because of the sanitary emergency. I fell apart.
In December 2020, a few months had passed, convinced that I would have spent my fourth year of high school in Italy, my organization, SAI, sent me an email. They gave me two possibilities, stay at home or the opportunity to leave, no longer for Santa Cruz, but for a destination not yet defined. You all already know what I decided.
Wanting at all costs to have my experience in the United States too, I decided to leave. I decided it was worth it and therefore I left my country, Italy, during a global pandemic, to go and create a new life on the other side of the world, in a city, family and school that was communicated to me only two weeks before my departure.
And now I am here, at the end of this journey that began two years ago and which will end in less than three weeks. After every possible unforeseen event, moments of disconsolation, fear and happiness, I can say that I made it.
This experience, which seemed so big, frightening and far from me, is almost over. Five amazing months, in which I saw the United States with the eyes of a citizen, rather than with those of a tourist. I learned what it really means to be American. A new life, a new routine, with new people and habits, completely different from the one I had on the other side of the world, in Italy. Two parallel lives flowing simultaneously, to which I will be attached forever. That’s what being an exchange student means.