Courtesy of Emily Frare
Emily Frare is a foreign exchange student from Italy who has been working to integrate into American culture.
“I decided to become an exchange student because I wanted to experience something completely new. I got really bored and stressed about my life in Italy and I felt like I needed a big change,” Frare said.
Leaving your home and flying across the ocean to a country you’ve never been to alone is a scary experience for many. Italian culture and European culture in general are different, so trying to fit in at an American high school is an extreme feat.
“My experience has definitely changed me. Exchange changes every student. You have to face situations you would have never had to deal with in your home country and live into a completely different environment. No one knows anything about you, in the very beginning, no one is able to influence you in any way,” Frare said. “I had to build a second, completely new, life. That it is not easy, at all, so it changes you, completely. I’m definitely more confident and proud of my accomplishment compared to how I was in Italy.”
Frare had a rough start to her life in America after her permanent host family bailed on her. Frare stayed with the Fields, who are freshmen, before transferring to the Church family.
Junior Anna-Greenfield Church was a foreign exchange student in Ecuador in 2019, so she could relate to Frare’s experience.
“I was thinking about how if that was my situation in Ecuador, I would want someone to help, so I offered to host her,” Church said. “Emily integrated really well into the family. Me and her are really close. We always hang out and bond at night together. We will go out to dinner and talk and eventually realize it’s 11 o’clock.”
Bianca Weber, a junior who has family in Italy and spends time there each year, helped Frare figure out the ins and outs of Grady.
“Emily and I connected over being Italian at first, and then over dance and trying to show each other all the different aspects of our culture. I am Italian, but I don’t permanently live in Italy, so Italy’s teen culture is not something I’m familiar with,” Weber said. “She’s finding her way just fine at Grady. American high schoolers are different from Italian high schools, so she had some trouble at first, but she’s doing amazing now.”
One of the best parts of the foreign exchange program is allowing people to experience different cultures.
“Grady has way more diversity compared to my school at home, and this is so enriching for me. I get to see different realities, experiences and cultures in one school and it is incredible. Also, Grady gives way more importance to arts and music than my school in Italy,” Frare said.
Additionally, the program allows students to teach others about their own culture.
“The most surprising thing to me was how much freedom the kids in the US have. You guys have way more chances and possibilities to try new things and explore your passions,” Frare said. “Also, something that surprised me was how big everything is, compared to Italy. Houses, food, cars, schools, roads…everything is so much bigger.”
Church enjoyed learning how to make Italian dishes from Frare and learning to speak some Italian. She then introduced Frare to waffles and pancakes.
“My favorite thing to teach Emily about America was 2 am waffle house trips. I love driving her around and showing her all the spots I like to hang out. Having a buddy for late-night fast food runs is just a perk,” Weber said.
The foreign exchange program also allows students to correct misconceptions about certain countries and cultures.
“One thing that I expected that wasn’t actually true was bullying. Because of movies, there is this big stereotype in Europe that bullying is very common in every school in the US,” Frare said. “I feel like this is not completely true even though, of course, there certainly are situations like those ones. It is not as present and obvious as movies show it. On the other hand, I think kids at Grady are very nice and kind, especially to new people like me.”
Overall, Frare has learned how important Italy is to her and how unique her country is.
“I used not to like my country at all back in Italy. Some things were so natural and normal to me that I didn’t see the beauty in them. Ironically, I started liking my country way more while living in the US. I just started to see how unique my culture is and how much I miss it sometimes,” Frare said.