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A school year in the United States

Settembre 2011
Frequentare un anno scolastico, perfettamente riconosciuto dal Ministero dell’Istruzione, negli Stati Uniti... un sogno? No, è la realtà! Fate i bagagli e preparatevi a vivere un’esperienza indimenticabile.

di Roberta Migliucci

High School Musical 3, the Senior Year
High School Musical 3, the Senior Year
A school bus
A school bus

Would you like to spend a school year in the United States, and live like a real American student? Yes? Well, you can! Thanks to cultural exchanges, it is now possible to spend the second, third or fourth year of high school in a foreign country. For a number of reasons the fourth year is said to be the most useful. The best way to organise this is to refer to a specialised association, which will be able to guarantee safety for both the student and the host family. This year abroad will be great for students, and not only for their English: they will also have the opportunity to experience the world, and become more independent and mature.


If you are planning to study abroad for the school year 2012-2013, your application must be sent by March 2012. Scholarships are also available, but students must apply for these by November 2011. The departure will be between July and September 2012, and the return between May and July 2013.


The fundamental requirements are: to be extremely open-minded, flexible and motivated! Moreover, all your grades must be satisfactory and your knowledge of English must be adequate.


The application should include an autobiographical essay in which the students describe themselves. The essay must be written in English, followed by pictures which will represent the daily life of the student. This document is extremely important as it will be the only information that the host family will have about their guest. It is also necessary for the student to have: a report card (with all grades), a medical certificate and, of course, a passport and visa. The associations will provide students with the necessary documentation for them to obtain their visa from the American consular authorities.


Many US States require mandatory vaccinations, so it’s good to know which ones you have and which ones you might need.


The costs are flexible. They may vary from 7,000 to 10,000 euros, or even more. They cover: airline tickets, association assistance, insurance, room and board, and personal expenditure.


The American school system consists of 12 school years, called “grades,” one less than the Italian system. The high school lasts four years, and is divided as follows: freshman (14-15), sophomore (15-16), junior (16-17) and senior (17-18). During the last year, American high school students are expected to study only four or five mandatory subjects: English, American History, Maths and P.E.. Then, there are “elective subjects”, like Sculpture, Photography, Art History, Journalism, Music and Theater. As the Italian school system is very different, it is very important to discuss a good school programme with your teachers, in order to make up for any missing credits on your return. In the United States, students go to school from 8 a.m. (sometimes even earlier) to 3 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. In the afternoon students get the chance to do more sports and to join clubs. In fact, American schools encourage taking up sports and participation in student life.


Thanks to a Counselor’s help, students can plan the study programme for their American school year. They will be placed in the most suitable school year, depending on their knowledge of English, the school curriculum and their age. Schools sometimes tend to enroll foreign students as juniors. This because foreign students often have excellent academic results: they could win scholarships that are meant for American citizens.


We interviewed some Italian students who attended their fourth year in the U.S. When we asked them what they missed most about Italy when they were in America they answered food, of course!

What’s the difference between the Italian and the American school?

Silvia Poletti (attended the senior year in Indiana, with STS)

In America, there is no homework, they’re more general than our high schools. If students don’t pass a class they have to go to summer school. This way they don’t miss any academic years. There are many easy classes and there is a graduation ceremony, too!

Stefano Indaco (attended the senior year in Wyoming, with EF)

The atmosphere is different: in America you’re more involved, classmates and teachers respect you.

Then we asked them whether they studied more in Italy or in the USA. They all agreed: in Italy, definitely!

Arianna Soldati (attended the junior year in Montana, with EF)

You study differently. American classes are more interactive, personal interests are always valued and students are encouraged to pursue them through their curriculum choice. The stereotype about the American school being “easy” is totally untrue: both ways of learning are effective!

Stefano Indaco

There isn’t any class “interrogation” there. Instead you have written tests, and about 70 per cent of these are multiple choice quizzes.

Could you describe a typical school day in the States?

Silvia Poletti

I would get up at 6.30. I went to school from 8.00 to 3.00 p.m. After school I did track and field and clubs such as science and math academic teams. On the weekend I would hang out with friends, take trips around Indiana and go to church on Sunday with my host family.

Arianna Soldati

The alarm clock would go off at 5 a.m., so I could get up and do two hours of dance practice. Classes kept me busy until 3.30 p.m. A yellow school bus would take me back home, where I spent time with my host sister. Most days I went to the gym with my host mom (she taught pilates!) Then, we all had dinner together: the mom taught me how to cook typically American dishes!

Stefano Indaco

I woke up at 4.30 because at 5 I had to be in the pool so I could train until 7. Then I had breakfast at school and lessons started at 7.45…

What is the thing you miss most of America?

Silvia Poletti

The school because you get to spend much more time with friends rather than in Italy.

Stefano Indaco

I miss everything, especially the spontaneity and confidence that people give you unconditionally.
Would you like to do it again?

Silvia Poletti

Definetely! It made me more mature and I got to experience the world. I want to study abroad some other time. Just do it! It’s one of the best things you could ever do!

Arianna Soldati

I became more mature, self-confident and open-minded than before. I have two cultural methods for interpreting reality now. Believe me when I tell you that the American and Italian views of life are very different!

Could you tell us something about your experience?

Giovanni Cervigni (attended the senior year in California, with Mondo Insieme)

The first days were hard, but then everything changed! My host family was wonderful. It wasn’t hard to find friends: we Italians have a certain charm in the States! I think this experience is something priceless and unforgettable!


Here are some associations which may be useful:
AFSAI www.afsai.it
CTS www.ctseducation.com
EF www.ef-italia.it
Intercultura www.intercultura.it
MB scambi culturali www.mbscambi.com  
Mondo Insieme www.mondoinsieme.it
Rotari www.rotary.org
STS www.sts-education.it/italy
Study Tours www.studytours.it

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