REIDSVILLE — For Feb. 6 to 12, Andrea Stellini of the Italian private school Collegio Rotondi got a taste of Rockingham County while staying in the Reidsville home of local Carlisle School student Samantha Rourk.
Stellini, along with 12 other Collegio Rotondi students, came to visit in the United States and live with Americans as part of their school’s annual exchange program. At the end of March, the roles will flip as seven Carlisle students, including Rourk, and a college counselor fly over to Italy for 10 days to visit Milan, Verona, Venice, Rome and possibly Switzerland.
“It’s been amazing,” Rourk said. “And, for them to come over here, I feel like (I’ve made) lifelong friendships, you know? I will always have connections to Italy now.”
The Italian guests arrived in the area on Feb. 6 and made the most of their time up until they left for the next leg of their American adventure on Feb. 12.
With activities ranging from checking out museums in Martinsville to bowling in Danville to game nights in, the American hosts gave the visitors a wide glance at life in the United States.
Rourk even had the opportunity to introduce them to an American tradition that they had never experience.
“They hadn’t done a bonfire and marshmallows,” she said. “… Tuesday night, after we got back, because Tuesday was kind of an early day, we went to our friend’s house in Bassett, Virginia, and we had a big bonfire and we roasted marshmallows and had barbecue. They have barbecue over there, but it’s different.”
One hurdle the students faced was communication.
“There’s definitely been a language barrier, so we’ve had to work around that,” Rourk said. “You have to talk really slow, and sometimes you have to say stuff in Spanish so you mix three languages. It’s been wild.”
Nevertheless, the Italians were able to speak enough English to hold conversations with their American hosts.
According to Stellini and his classmates Silvia Cortinouis and Andrea Macchi, the trip was a learning experience.
“We learned the culture of another country, like American is different to Italian tradition,” said Macchi, the only one of the three who had never visited the United States.
He added that even the time spent in school is scheduled differently.
“We study seven hours a day and we don’t have a break,” Macchi said. “We have only a break of ten minutes and one of fifty minutes to lunch. In our school, we have a lesson in the afternoon, two hours, two days of the week on Tuesday and Thursday.”
At Carlisle, students have an hour for lunch, but many also have an hour long study hall in which they can work or, if they’re finished, talk among friends.
For Cortinouis, the trip was daunting.
“Ten days in America, not Europe, different things, different culture,” she said. “I have to stay in the house of people I don’t know.”
Nevertheless, they still enjoyed their time in North Carolina and Virginia.
“I enjoy very much the States,” Stellini said. “I have been there another three or maybe four times. It’s always a nice thing to share what you do with another people, with another culture and traditions. It’s all very different.”
With the hosting period over, the seven Carlisle students are now preparing for their trip abroad where Rourk will stay with Stellini in his home.
“I’m kind of nervous because—I don’t know,” Rourk said. “I love travelling but it’s going to be a lot different over there. I’m excited though.”