Sydney Moore, a 2017 New Buffalo High School graduate, spent most of the last year in Italy as an exchange student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Harbor Country (Michigan, US – D 6360).
She talked about her experience (from Aug 24, 2017, to July 10, 2018) during the club’s July 20 meeting in Lakeside.
One of the photos she showed was filled with the nearly 300 Rotary exchange students visiting Italy at the time.
“The biggest group of kids was from America, which was surprising to me,” Moore noted.
Moore said her lengthy flight to Italy was her first — and it was a sleepless trip.
She was greeted with cries of ‘Ciao! Ciao!” by members of her first host family.
“And I say, ‘Oh, it’s nice to be here finally’ in English. Everybody stops. And my host sister, she’s the only one who speaks English and she’s going to leave in a couple days for her own exchange said ‘You know they don’t speak English, right?’”
Moore said everything worked out fine — “We’d use Google Translate back and forth, we got there somehow.”
She later said the two younger siblings helped a lot to bridge the language barrier.
She did note that her “Italian grandmother” would just yell at her in Italian sometimes, apparently thinking if she did it enough times maybe she would understand.
“She was from Rome, and she made the best food ever.”
Moore said food is a big, big deal in Italy.
“Italian culture equals food! … That’s about all I did the first four months was just eat,” she said.
She said multi-course meals were the norm during special occasions, and some food that we think if as Italian isn’t.
“Spaghetti and meat balls? No, that’s not Italian! You do not put your meat balls in the pasta! That’s the second course.”
On New Year’s eve, Moore said she discovered that hot chocolate in Italy was literally melted chocolate.
The first town she lived in was San Ferrato (a tiny town on top of a mountain).
Moore said she took a bus every morning to nearby Fabriano — “from the medieval time period” a town famous for being hot in the summer and for creating watermarks on paper (so famous there’s a museum dedicated to them).
Moore said many families in Italy have a country house, even it’s nearby, because their apartments tend to be crowded.
“Everybody goes to the sea in summer.”
Her host father for the first part of the trip had a flying company, so Moore said she went from having never been in a plane to actually spending a few moments flying a small aircraft.
She moved in with her second host family in the centre of Fabriano after Christmas break (noting that she could literally walk everywhere in town).
Moore said she took “any opportunity I could to travel” — and there were many.
During a visit to Pisa “it was actually New Year’s according to the Roman calendars so they had this whole party going on with the fireworks and everything — that was my Fourth of July.”
Between the two families she spent some time with another exchange student from France who liked to travel and they visited Pianello (according to Wikipedia “a commune in the Haute-Corse department of France on the island of Corsica”) where the French student’s parents lived (and where an uncle ran expeditions — she “may or may not have set off explosions in a cave” during one).
She also visited a castle in Milan, Florence, Rome (a trip organised by a well-liked language teacher), Turin, Pompeii, Tuscany, and the independent microstate of San Marino.
The traveling continued as Moore went on a two-week Eurotour with 50 other exchange students (three from Michigan) aboard a bus that visited 12 different European capitals.
She said the tour began in Milan and ended in Venice, by which time everyone who had spent time in Italy were desperate to eat pasta and sang a lively song to that effect — so much so that they startled a group of students from comparatively sedate Switzerland.
Moore attended a social economics school while in Italy (she said Italian students decide which type of focused school to attend around the age of 12), which met six days a week, but ended at 1 pm so students could go home for lunch “because eating is super important.”
“They have five years of high school. They take their exams after the fifth year … and then they start looking at colleges. So they decide like a month before they’re going.”
Moore said people in Italy think students in America schools “don’t do anything.”
She took English lessons, which proved to be a good way to make friends because she could help them learn the language.
Moore said she will be moving to the University of Michigan at the end of August to be part of a living learning community that’s focused on the writing and the arts. Her long-term plan is to study behavioral economics with a minor in Spanish.
“This exchange has completely changed me. I have perspective, a viewpoint of the world now, I don’t just live in my little area, And I can appreciate where i came from and all of you for sending me abroad. I just see all these opportunities and a whole new world has opened up for me. I’m not afraid to try things anymore.”
Rotary Club member Leslie Wood said a video of Moore in Italy that was shown during the Ideas Fair held last May at New Buffalo High School seemed to help draw attention to a July 13-15 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) session in Battle Creek that was attended by seven local students from New Buffalo High School and River Valley High School.
Source: Harbor Country News