In the Fall of 2023, Annagiulia from Italy embarked on her PSE exchange experience with a determined mind and a heart full of vigor. As a 17-year-old senior in high school in Yorba Linda, CA, she was ready to take on the opportunities and challenges that awaited her.

“I am a creative person with a strong personality. I have always had a continuous curiosity and desire to discover all the new things that surround me,” she explains. “I am very adaptable to my surroundings. I’m not afraid of changes, in fact I always look at the positive side. I really want to live my American dream and experience personal growth!”

Having no siblings at home in Italy, Annagiulia learned what it was like to be a sister. She immediately connected with her younger international host sister, Ariadne from Spain (15-year-old sophomore), and they enjoyed a wonderful semester together. “Because we live so close to Disneyland, we both visited there in October, and it was super fun. We had fun at Universal Studios too!” Annagiulia exclaimed. 

“I love to visit iconic places that I have seen in the movies such as Hollywood and Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a city full of life! We even got the chance to see a Cirque du Soleil show.” Annagiulia has taken in additional experiences such as San Diego, beaches, and shopping malls.

Annagiulia says that she has experienced many instances of culture shock while on her exchange program and that these have contributed to her personal growth. “The culture here in America is very different than in Italy. I feel more part of a community here.” She explains that everyone is kind and willing to help in the neighborhood where she resides. 

Also, she notes how the school system in America offers more opportunities such as extracurricular activities than in Italy. “I love the school system here because it provides a lot of opportunities to everyone, and they can discover a new skill or hobby. For example, in Italy, the school doesn’t offer a dance or theater class.” 

Annagiulia’s expectations about American school life have been sufficiently met, and she reports that the best thing about it are the sports and entertainment. “I have seen multiple football and basketball games, but my favorite activities are the dance shows and theater plays.” 

While in America, one of Annagiulia’s goals was to participate in theater class, and she’s been able to fulfill it. “I love my theater class because it is full of energetic people. I am making friends and becoming closer with the other cast members.” With Annagiulia’s previous experience in dance, she can utilize her dancing skills in the production. She says that the most challenging part is singing as she has never had a lesson. However, it has been gratifying to her to see how her hard work and practice has paid off and has noticed progress in all areas of her performance.

Annagiulia shares her most favorite memory while in America has been spending Christmas with her host family. “My host parents have three daughters and a total of six grandchildren, so, Christmas was full of magic and gifts. I felt so blessed because they included me in their family activities just as if I was a blood member of the family. It was the best Christmas I have ever had in my life.”

Annagiulia’s host parents, Andy and Maria, describe her as very bright and educated. “In addition to being so smart, she is also sweet, helpful, and engaging. She is truly wonderful and is like one of our own daughters.”

They reflect on when Annagiulia first arrived in their home. Maria says, “when she entered our front door, she immediately became one of our family. After she adjusted a few days, Andy and I knew that we would never want her to leave. She has learned that in our home, family comes first, which includes her!”

Maria continues, “when our grandchildren come to visit, they run up to her, grab her around the knees, and want to play with her. She sits on the floor with them and plays for hours.”

Annagiulia is expanding her horizons with regards to trying new types of cuisine in America. She shares, “I miss Italian food because it is very different here. There are so many fast-food places. I do enjoy trying new foods especially because there are a lot of influences from other countries such as Mexico.”

Maria, being of Italian heritage herself, has enjoyed learning from Annagiulia how to cook native Italian recipes, speak the language, and about Italian culture in more depth. “Even though I have visited Italy, it is another experience having Italy visit me in America!”

Maria says, “One of my favorite things about Annagiulia, other than her rapid attachment to our family, is her Italian accent. I really enjoy her smile and witty personality. Another favorite memory is when she had her cap and gown fitted for graduation. It made us feel proud to have a young person from Italy graduating in the high school here.”

Annagiulia continues to reflect upon how her exchange experience has contributed to her personal growth. “Living far away from my parents has made me grow up. I am becoming a more mature person. Also, I am now aware that I want to continue studying languages and travel around the world. It’s so interesting to discover new cultures!”

Thinking more about the future, Annagiulia shares, “One of my dreams is to be able to travel a lot during my life, so finding a job that allows me to do that would be best.” We look forward to seeing how Annagiulia takes her personal growth to another level in life. We wish her the best success in all her future endeavors!

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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