Across the globe

Foreign exchange student adjusts to life in America


Photo by Braylen Garren

Junior Beniamino Soffietti wanders the hallways with a friend. Beniamino is getting used to life in the United States as opposed to Italy.

Story by Sara Havel, Staff Writer

Junior year of high school should be a breeze with freshman and sophomore year life lessons under his belt, except when it’s a new school in a totally different country.

High school is hard enough for teens trying to fit in while keeping their grades up, but for junior Beniamino Soffietti, one of his many struggles is understanding his classmates.

“I learned English in around a month,” Soffietti said. “It’s easy to talk to teachers and adults, but students talk differently.” 

Soffietti is from Turin, Italy, where he has played on a volleyball team for five years. 

“There’s always more girls than boys in volleyball, but at least there’s a boys team in a few schools [in Italy],” Sofietti said. “Here, they give so much importance to so many other sports, but they don’t have a [male] volleyball team.”

While Soffietti thinks the importance put on football is impressive, the actual game isn’t.

“It’s boring,” Soffietti said. “Watching the highlights is fine, but watching the entire game — the change between offense and defense — it’s boring.”

Because his brother is a professional photographer, Soffietti wanted to try to gain some photo skills, so he enrolled in the commercial photography class. 

“Here, I am hoping to learn at least the basics of photography and how to use the machine’s [equipment],” Sofietti said. “I’ve learned it’s better to shoot in manual mode than just click a button.”

While planning his year abroad, Soffietti had to choose between the United States and New Zealand. Although he had visited New York City before, he chose to come to the U.S. Because of COVID-19, he wasn’t allowed to travel to New Zealand, and his options were limited.

“To become a foreign exchange student, you have to talk to your school and teachers and let them know you’ll be gone,” Soffietti said. “Once you let the [International Student Exchange Association] know you’re interested, they will do all the work for you.”

One of the biggest differences Soffietti has noticed about America is the reliance on vehicles for transportation.

“On the weekends, everyone here uses cars, and their cars are like the center of their lives, but in Italy, you don’t need them,” Soffietti said. “You can walk everywhere or take the bus.”

Soffietti enjoys simple things, like America’s cheeseburgers and Italy’s pizzas and has one main goal for the rest of his time in the U.S.

“I want to experience all the normal things a student my age would do here,” Soffietti said.