In his home country of Italy, Gabriele trained and practiced swimming at a competitive level since he was six years old. Training for two hours a day, six days a week, he learned to manage a heavy workload as well as exuded a high level of sacrifice, discipline, and organization.

Before arriving on the PSE program, Gabriele had aspirations of being an exchange student while continuing his swim training and participating on a swim team in an American high school. His wish came true during his exchange experience in New York!

Gabriele, or “Gabe” as his American friends and host family call him, shares that he easily adjusted and connected with school.  “Usually, I don’t want to go to school, but here I wake up with some extra motivation.  I think it’s because of the teachers and all the friends I made since I’ve been here.”

Gabe’s Local Coordinator, Cindy, describes him as a wonderful young man who is smart and focused. She recounts how he faced some obstacles in the beginning which almost resulted in him not being allowed to participate on the school swim team, but he overcame them.

Gabe shares, “Yes, I joined the team one week later than the other members. But as soon as the coach presented me to the team, I felt like they welcomed me as a family.”

Gabe explains that he had to adjust to the swimming protocol in America as it is very different from what he was accustomed to in Italy. He admits that he was a little bit lost during his initial swim meets. “It was so different because in America, only two or three teams compete against each other. In Italy, there are usually nine or ten teams per meet.”  As a result, Gabe says that he had less recovery time between every race due to the fewer number of competitors. Though it took a few months of hard work to get used to the change, he eventually adapted. 

“I participated in every meet, and with my team we managed to qualify for the state championship in March for the first time in my high school’s history!” says Gabe.

“I believe it was due to his determination and support of his host family that he was able to not only achieve his goal of being on the swim team, but also exceeded it by making the state swim team,” Cindy reflects.

Gabe agrees and shares his adoration and appreciation for Michelle and Peter, his host parents:

“I think among the exchange students, I was one of the luckiest as we discussed our host families. As soon as they welcomed me at the airport, I knew they were great. When they understood I was a swimmer, they immediately and actively found a pool where I could practice.  When the school swimming season started, they helped me sign up and presented me to the coach.”

Gabe says that both Michelle and Peter cook very well, and they treat him as if he were their own son.  “I’m very glad to share this experience with them!”

In addition to being a great swimmer, Michelle and Peter describe Gabe as smart, level-headed, and kind.  “We have truly enjoyed having Gabe in our home,” they share.  “Gabe has become much more confident during his time with us.  His English has improved, and he knows his way around school and the area.” They have enjoyed the American and Italian cultural exchange experience immensely.  Peter states, “He even interpreted an Italian family crest for us! That was very special.”

Gabe and his family have spent a great deal of time creating memories together. Since joining their family in August 2022, they have enjoyed watching televised soccer games together and attending professional baseball (Red Wings) and hockey (Rochester Americans) games.  One of Gabe and his family’s favorite memories was visiting Niagara Falls.

His host family shares this special message for Gabe:
“Gabe, we are so glad that you have shared in our lives this year.  You are a calm and kind young man, and you are welcome back anytime!”

In addition to school and family activities, Gabe enjoyed participating in events with other exchange students such as an Escape Room, bowling, and fun nights. He recalls his 18th birthday in February and shares, “I also went to many parties with my friends from school including birthday parties they held for me.”

Gabe reflects on his exchange experience and explains how it changed him. 

“It made me more responsible for myself and more secure about my choices. I gained a lot of self-confidence, and each day I became less shy. I started caring about school, and I am very proud of my grades,” he shares.

Thinking about his future, Gabe says that he would like to continue swimming and competing. He is still deciding what to do after graduating from high school. “I think I will take a year to clear my mind to make a good decision on what to do.”

Cindy closes with this message:

“Gabe, although I have only known you a short while, it has been an honor and a privilege to have met you and be your Local Coordinator. I truly wish you all the best in your future!”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

One Comment

  • Gabe, as your host family’s sister from Florida, I did not get many chances to meet with you. When I did, I immediately felt like you were family! You are truly a great man with a heart of gold and a smile to die for!

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