Pineapple does belong on pizza.
If you don’t agree, don’t judge Alby too harshly. The Italian Exchange Student, Alby, stepped off the plane in San Francisco August 1st. The 15 hour flight was filled with anxiety and anticipation for a new culture, a new environment, and a new school year.
So who is Alby?
Obviously an Italian who approves of pineapple on pizza. He also favors pasta and lasagna, but not the way his mother makes it. His family does not cook, but his favorite pasta is with tomatoes, beef, carrots, and onions.
Coming from a Mediterranean climate, where summer temperatures are never over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees fahrenheit), our hot summers are not his favorite. Alternatively, he is excited for the coming winter months, as there is not much snow in Italy.
One of the most exciting things for Alby in American schools is school sports teams. Having only private clubs in Italy, he is excited to share his talent of 11 years with the school soccer team.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
Gabriel: What was your journey like to America? How did you get ready? What did you do to get prepared?
Alby: Actually, I just spent a lot of time with my friends because I knew that I would have missed them, with my family, and relatives, a few parties, and just made moments when I found time to spend with them. I missed them as I was getting on the plane, and I miss them now. I’ve made many new friends here, so I’m happy. As for getting ready, I didn’t think too much. I kept my expectations as low as possible, so that when I came here, everything was really fun. Literally, everything.
G: So did you bring your own clothes and stuff, or did you buy new clothes here?
A: It took me two weeks to pack my luggage because I had to pack winter stuff, and spring stuff. The luggage couldn’t be more than 23 kilograms. I brought some clothes, just a pair of shoes, some t-shirts, but I got some new stuff when I got here.
G: What would you say is the biggest difference between Italy and America?
A: The whole lifestyle is different. Americans’ use their car for everything. You are much more lazy than us. (He chuckled). We walk or bike, or take public transportation in Italy. Also the food. You eat so much fast food here instead of home cooking. You are much smarter than us too. The schools are really different in their structure.
G: How are the schools different? What is your favorite difference?
A: In Italy the teachers rotate during the periods. We have the same classmates all day and the teachers rotate classrooms. I like that here in America we rotate classrooms so we can interact with more people. I’ve had the same classmates for five years.
G: What was the student-teacher relationship like back home?
A: The student-teacher relationship is a lot more professional and formal at home. Here we can openly talk to teachers about our problems and concerns and share our opinions about things. At home we can’t do that without getting in trouble. People also project their opinions publicly, which they don’t do in Italy.
G: Obviously you were coming for schooling, but what was the thing you were most excited for in America?
A: The school sports. There are sports in schools like the football game, so that is really different. There is so much school spirit, and the mascots, and it’s really exciting.
G: So you’ve been here. You’ve had experiences in Modesto. You know that most people in this town don’t like it, and it is super boring. But what do you think?
A: It’s not the best city, but for me it is a different world. I have had a lot of fun, with my host family, and the people I’ve gotten to know here. Getting into the football games, waiting in line at Chick-Fil-A, going thrift shopping with my friends, it has all been really fun.
G: Do you still keep in touch with anybody back home besides your family? How often do you contact them?
A: I still text them. The first month I was here they didn’t have school because they started September 12th, so I could facetime them a lot more, but since school started we just text. I call my family every Sunday. It’s going to be a long nine months.
G: Is your family allowed to come see you?
A: No, they can’t. It is forbidden.
G: What has been the biggest stereotype that you have either seen play out, or be not as big of a thing?
A: American people are much easier to talk to. They don’t judge you. They are much more comfortable. If you leave the house in Italy you are not wearing pajamas, and people wear pajamas outside of school all the time. In Italy you have to be more fancy or people will judge you.
Alby is very excited to begin soccer in the winter, and even though he misses his family back home, he has found many great friends, and is really enjoying his time here in America.