If you see an unfamiliar face on campus, be sure to say “Ciao.” In affiliation with the Education First (EF) foreign exchange program, Elisa Rosella (12) touched down in San Diego and was welcomed by her host family mid-August. Rosella is from Viterbo, which lies 65 miles north of Rome. When choosing between Ireland, England, and regions spanning the U.S., Rosella was set on the west to spend her year of exchange.
“Everybody loves California. When I tell this to people here, they’re like, ‘What do you find so exciting here?’ For you, this is your home. For me, it is a dream to come here. The landscape, the weather, it’s a very beautiful place,” Rosella said.
San Diego is as picturesque as Rosella had dreamed it would be, in part because she kept her imagination in check before departing from Italy.
“I told myself not to expect anything big because expectations do not always match reality, Rosella said. “I knew this is a beautiful place, and I came here with no expectations, so I’ve been so happy.”
Rosella gives a lot of credit for her positive experience to her host sister, Aliyah Gardea (12), whom she met in January.
“I am very, very, very lucky. We became very close, and I consider her my sister, my best friend,” Rosella said.
The students of MC have also contributed to making Rosella feel as welcome as possible.
“It’s great to be a Sundevil! I really like the atmosphere in this school. The people here are so kind,” Rosella said. “I’m not a shy person so I just go and talk to whoever, and in classes we work in pairs and groups so I made friends. If I see somebody that I don’t know, I just say ‘Hi!’”
While Rosella is ecstatic to be here and says that she feels very accepted by the school, San Diego cannot offer everything that Italy does.
“I miss Italy in general. I really miss the people there and my friends, but this is okay. It’s normal. But my family, I really, really miss them because I’ve always had them beside me when I needed them. They’re always here with a phone, but it’s not the same,” Rosella said.
Other than the absence of her hometown friends and family, one of the greatest contrasts between Italy and America is in the mindset of the distinct cultures.
“Here, people are more free to wear whatever you want. In our culture, we care about what we wear, what we think, what other people think about us. It’s not a negative thing, but it’s just different. Like here, you can go to school in pajamas! In Italy, you would never do things like that,” Rosella said.
The distance from these societal views of Italy may span an entire ocean, but Rosella views the U.S. and Italy as not much more than two nations comprised of people.
“Americans think that Italians are very welcoming and happy and always having parties, or other people think that we are mean. I don’t know which is correct because you try to talk about a population in general and you can’t because every person is so different, so I don’t ever trust stereotypes,” Rosella said.
This venturous spirit and exceptionally open mind is exactly what first sparked her interest in EF, along with courses in English, Latin grammar, French, and Spanish.
“Before knowing that there were programs like this, I always had the intention to travel and take every possibility I have in my life. You start filling out papers in your third year, but I decided in my first year,” Rosella said. “There was a moment where I thought I wouldn’t come because it was so unreal, but my parents did everything to get me here. My parents said that if I have the opportunity, just go. My family supported me and my teachers too.”
Rosella’s immediate future is already abounding with more opportunities to travel. During her stay here, Rosella will see the rest of California, Arizona, Seattle, and Victoria with her host family, who is as thrilled to explore unfamiliar land as she is. Further down the road, Rosella envisions herself embarking on new adventures, with South Korea and Australia topping her travel list. Her joy in traveling, however, is not dependent on what specific country she ends up in. Rather, Rosella advocates traveling for the purpose of developing new perspectives and opening doors, which she believes can be discovered in any part of the world.
“I just came here with an open mind to have a new experience. So if you have the opportunity to go somewhere else, in Italy or another country, I would recommend it. Not because of the country because yeah– you have to learn their culture, their history, and everything– but to build your life and just to experience something new,” Rosella said.
Rosella should not be mistaken for being unpatriotic or disinterested in her home country because of her desire to venture outside her borders, however.
“I don’t want people to think I did this exchange year or want to go to university abroad because I don’t love Italy. I mean, Italians love Italy. Everyone loves Italy. I absolutely love it, but I think that traveling would be more useful for my future,” Rosella said.
Thanks to her awe for the world and what its many nations and peoples have to offer, Rosella’s worldliness will onl
y expand, impacting herself and those she encounters.
There is one aspect of Italian life she would like to carry with her on her travels: Italian food, which, according to Rosella, just “Isn’t Italian” here, even in Little Italy. What San Diego lacks in true Italian fare, Rosella is sure to make up for in her extroverted and bubbly character, further diversifying MC in nationality and personality.