Searching for an adventure

Exchange student yearns to stay in America for graduation

Story by Jhovany Perez, staff writer

She hugs her babbo, father,  for the last time on her home soil. Their hug seems to be eternal but it is broken by the word.

“Addio.” Goodbye.

She walks away from them and gets on the plane to the place of opportunity, “the land of the free”.

She stares in tears as the only place and life she has ever known slowly fades from view. A new language, culture and world awaits on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Junior and foreign exchange student, Elena Rossi, is from Rovigo, Italy a city between Venice and Verona. She came in hopes of expanding her horizons and explore the world.

“I [have] always wanted to come here to the United States,” Rossi said, “Because I always felt like students had more opportunities and I just wanted to experience how life is here.”

Although Rossi is not the only one in her family to be a foreign exchange student, she still struggled to leave the place where all her memories were.

“It was like eight months ago, it was August 20th and I was at the Airport and I have a big family. My parents are divorced and I have a stepmom and two stepbrothers and so they all showed up along with my sister,” Rossi said, “My mom happened to be at the airport also but she was there for another reason. It was hard, but saying goodbye to my mom was easy because I don’t have the best relationship with her, but it was really hard to say bye to my dad. I am use to not seeing my sister much because she was a foreign exchange student last year. It was bad when I said bye to my dad. I was crying everywhere and couldn’t stop hugging him.”

With school being the main reason why she moved to the U.S. she has experienced and seen many differences between the two school systems.

“It is so different; here the school is huge. I remember my first day when two STUCO kids gave me the tour around school I thought ‘I am never going to remember where my classes are,’” Rossi said. “School in Italy is really small, we have like 200 students at most from 9th grade to 13th grade. Classes are much longer here than in Italy because there you go to school from 8 to 1. Everything’s bigger in Texas. ”

When it comes to the standardized test that everyone dreads, the two school systems take different approaches.

“Our tests are actually pretty different,” Elena Rossi said, “We have open response questions rather than multiple choice and it’s also up to the teacher to make the test rather than the school board.”

Foreign exchange programs are nearly left unnoticed by many students but Rossi is one of the many other students that decide to study abroad through the American Scandinavian Student Exchange (ASSE) program.

“My sister was a foreign exchange student last year in Dallas and she traveled with that organization and so I knew of it because of her,” Rossi said, “The school I went to in Italy they pushed us into going out for an exchange year. My English teacher in Italy recommended me to the program. With the program I could choose any country and I chose the U.S. and I had to write a letter introducing myself in english and a family from Texarkana picked me, but I could’ve been put anywhere in the U.S.”

Although Rossi lived in one of the most popular touristic countries in Europe, she has fallen in love with the small town of Texarkana.

“I love it here. Since I got here I thought that the people here are so nice and polite,” Rossi said, “All I hear in the halls is ‘oh I hate Texarkana it’s so small.’ I think it’s so great because back home people don’t hold the door for you or any simple kind things like that.”

Within the schools even the educators are different in the manner they teach and the relationship they have with their students.

“When it comes to the student-teacher relationship I like it here better because  here you actually have a friendly relationship with the teacher,” Rossi said, “In Italy it’s work, homework, study, ‘you learn, I teach.’ Here you are friends with your teachers so I really like it here.”

Aside from Texarkana, Rossi has also visited various other cities throughout the country.

“When I went to California  I was expecting to love Los Angeles but we didn’t go because we went to San Francisco,” Rossi said. “But San Francisco was my favorite; it was beautiful. It was kind of European looking. The food at New Orleans was so good, I loved it. New york is really big and out there, but it is a lot of fun.”

Most people are accustomed to bilingual students, after all Texas is one of the states with the biggest spanish-speaking population. However, Rossi not only speaks two but four languages.

“I have always liked english and my parents always pushed me to studying it. I started in kindergarten and so now it’s been like my entire life studying english.” Rossi said. “I’ve always thought that it is so important to learn english. Aside from english though I can speak French, Spanish and Italian. I have been studying Spanish for about eight years now and french for about four.”

With everything she has experienced, Rossi has decided to stay in Texarkana and graduate from Texas High.

“I am staying in Texarkana until the 4th of June but I am going to Florida to meet up with my dad and staying there until the 10th,” Rossi said. “I am trying to get all the paperwork and stuff to come back for my Senior year and so I am really working on it because I really want to come back. I really want to graduate from Texas High. I just want to stay here and I don’t want to go back to Italy. People ask me all the time ‘Why do you want to stay here?’ because they think Italy is so great and beautiful. Italy is beautiful, but the problem is the people there. People there aren’t like here, they are so close minded and there’s not as much freedom as there is here.”