Benedetta, a 17 year-old from Italy, arrived to Santa Barbara, CA on the PSE program with several goals:

  1. Improve her English language skills
  2. Become part of an American family
  3. Learn new cultures
  4. Achieve good grades
  5. Try new things

According to Emmy, Benedetta’s Local Coordinator, she has achieved these goals plus some during her five months on the program.

“Benedetta accomplished many of her goals in the United States, like having a great host family, making lots of friends, and being a straight-A student. She is so friendly, so everybody likes her. All of the kids at school are her friends now!” she shares.

Not only has she had an opportunity to learn about American culture, but she has been able to learn about Mexican-American culture from her host family as well. Her host sister, Patty, with whom she has built a strong relationship, shares:

“It has been a pleasure getting to know Benedetta. She is very down-to-earth, mature, and respectful of the two cultures in our home. She has adapted well to our multi-cultural home environment. She is not afraid to try new things, and she’s open to many different types of experiences. She is very independent yet understands that there are rules that must be followed in the house for her best interest.”

Benedetta has enjoyed opportunities she has been presented with at school, and has remained busy with her host family and friends.

“I like trying new sports and going out with my friends. I enjoy discovering new places and new cultures. The things that make me happiest are going to concerts with my friends. Also, spending time with my family makes me feel really glad and grateful,” she shares.

Joining the cross-country team was exciting for Benedetta because it gave her an opportunity to try a new sport, meet people, and make friends.

“Doing sports is important!” she exclaims. “I met special people who I’ll never forget, and we all had so much fun!”

She has also enjoyed participating in activities organized by the school. “I went to different football games, but I definitely had the time of my life when we went to the parties, activities, and trips organized by the school,” she says.

Benedetta feels as though she has benefited from experiencing high school in America and reflects on her discoveries about her school and people in her community.

“I love how teachers interact with and help students every day here in America. The kids here have time to do other things besides studying, such as sports or work. I also notice that Americans live with positivity and low stress. It’s always a pleasure to see how kind, friendly, and happy they are.”

Spending time with her host family has also been very important to Benedetta, and she has grown very close to them. They have been fortunate to share in many experiences together over the course of the last five months.

“We usually spend time going around Santa Barbara or going somewhere to eat or shop. We tried new activities such as hiking and riding around the beach,” Benedetta reflects. She continues:

“During the break, we went to San Diego for some days, and we had so much fun! We walked around the downtown area, went to a music festival for a couple of nights, had an Italian dinner in Little Italy, and went to visit other tourist attractions in town.”

She says that her two favorite memories of that trip with her host family are visiting La Jolla to see the seals and attending the Wonderfront festival.

Patty also recalls the great time they had on that trip to San Diego, among many other fond memories of experiences they have shared.

“We’ve shared many meals together and sometimes cooking. Benedetta has been on several hikes and bike rides with us in the Santa Barbara area. A few times she also volunteered with us for charitable causes. We also went camping, skiing, and sight-seeing in the Sierra during the holiday break,” Patty shares. She continues:

“Benedetta is very smart, considerate, easy-going, adapts well, and makes friends easily. She shows interest in learning about American culture and immersing herself in our family environment. She has shared stories about her Italian lifestyle, and her new experiences while in Santa Barbara.”

Benedetta is grateful for the wonderful people and great friends she has made during her semester exchange program.

“They will always be in my heart,” she says. “Every time that we go out, we have so much fun. Thanks to them, I’ve never missed home!”

Benedetta has always dreamed of coming to America. “Living the life of an American teenager has been my dream since I was a child. Moreover, I wanted to improve my language and explore a new culture.”

Although being a Semester student has limited her time here, she has experienced and accomplished a great deal. She reflects on her exchange experience and how it has changed her:

“This experience has helped me improve my English and discover a new culture. Most importantly, it taught me to believe more in myself. I discovered that I can do many things without help. I also learned what living far from home was like, and I grew up in the process.”

Hosting Benedetta has also changed Patty as a person. She shares:

“Being a host sister has been a fun experience. I have learned more about Italian culture, while simultaneously learning more about high-school life in Santa Barbara. Being around young people is important for our growth as humans, and we learn from them as much as they learn from us.”

Benedetta still has several more years of high school in Italy, but her short time here as a teenager was certainly a dream come true during which she was able to accomplish many goals. We wish her much success in the future!

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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