The Altavista community had the benefit of three exchange students living and studying in the community for the 2021-22 academic year. One of them, Erika Buzzini, hails from Pozzuolo Martesana, a town near Milan in northern Italy. She shared her experience and impressions of her time at Altavista High School with the Altavista Journal.

Buzzini arrived in the United States on August 1 last summer and was enrolled as a senior at AHS. She remarked that the school is very different from high school in Italy.

“It’s nice here. I can compare them. Here the teachers are very nice, and we can be friends with them. I appreciate the organized school sports and activities. I like it because I can make more friends and spend time doing what I like.”

The 17-year-old played on the varsity volleyball and tennis teams in Colonel Country and enjoyed both. She was new to both sports. “There are no sports at schools in Italy,” she pointed out. She was better in tennis, so she liked it better, she noted.

Her favorite class at AHS was chemistry.

As for the community of Altavista, she commented, “it’s a very nice place. The people are kind and ask me questions” about her home country. “I really like it when people are curious about other cultures. It makes me feel important.”

Buzzini, along with several of the recent exchange students in Altavista, lived with the Hicks Family – Andrew, Sheryl, and Erin. “They are very nice people, often funny and making jokes. At the beginning they were understanding that I wasn’t good at the language. They made me very comfortable. I like them a lot.”

When asked what she would miss the most when she goes back home, Buzzini pointed to the lifestyle here. In Italy after school she studies five to six hours each day. “Here, you don’t learn as much in school, but students can have hobbies, join clubs, and do sports. Teachers care and want students to do these other things.”

While here in Altavista, in addition to family and friends back home, she missed the public transportation. “Here there’s not a lot of public transportation. I have no car, so I have to ask someone for a ride if I want to go somewhere. I feel bad” to inconvenience them, she commented.

She also misses the food.

Some of the funniest experiences Buzzini has had while in the U.S. have been the questions people ask her. “People have asked me, ‘do they have bathrooms in Italy?’ Really?!?” she exclaimed. “Or ‘how did you get here?’ I tell them, ‘I rode a shark,’” she deadpanned.

“Once, after five minutes of conversation with me, a girl asked, ‘do you speak English?’”

One of her great memories of her time here was going to New York City. “I’ve wanted to go there since the age of 10. Before coming here, if someone talked about the U.S., the first thing I would think of was New York City.”

Other memories stand out. “Other than that, winning my first tennis match, which was one of my first times playing.” She also has good memories of hanging out with friends and riding around and singing a lot.

She bought a prom dress. “I love the dress that I bought. It’s blue and very pretty. It made me feel like a princess,” she related.

Another great experience was going to Disney World with the Hicks family.

When she returns home, Erika Buzzini will have lots of memories of her time in Altavista, including her host family, friends, teachers, sports, and activities. And likely many of those people will retain good memories of their time with her, as well.