In Pasadena, Italian Exchange Student Finds La Dolce Vita

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From the mountains and villas of Varese, Italy, to the hills of Pasadena, Maryland, Chesapeake High School student Sveva Campigotto has come a long way — literally — since fall 2019.

Campigotto is studying abroad this school year, adding the United States to her list of places traveled. Also on that list are Dubai, France, England and Switzerland.

“I wanted to have a different experience, see a different culture and make my own friends,” Campigotto said.

She is staying with a host family that includes one teenage girl, two teenage boys, two “very sweet” parents and two big dogs. In Italy, she would be in her fourth of five high school years, but in the U.S., she’s a senior.

“In Italy, you have classes for math and language, but here you can choose your classes,” Campigotto said in flawless English. “There are classes for forensic science and criminal justice. We don’t have [those classes] in Italy.”

Campigotto is taking Spanish and French with teacher Grant Yinger, who also coaches the tennis team she expects to play on.

“Sveva is an especially strong language student … and we are able to contrast the language learning she experienced in Italy with how we teach in Anne Arundel County,” Yinger said. “She has been able to weigh in on everything from handwriting styles, to the size of vehicles here and even her thoughts on our version of pizza. What’s more, Sveva has been an outstanding addition to the Chesapeake family and I think the world of this young lady.”

In Italy, Campigotto’s classes were usually led by one older instructor who kept the same class of students all day, from 8:00am to 1:00pm, with no lunch period.

In school and beyond the classroom, she has been pleasantly surprised by the welcome she has received.

“People here are nice,” she said. “For example, people ask, ‘How is your day?’ I’m not used to that in Italy.” When asked about the common greeting back home, she said it is, “Hi, how can I help you?”

Before leaving home, Sveva had the blessing of her parents, Athos and Rosy, as well as her brother, Alessio.

“We have always been convinced that knowledge makes people stronger and that the comparison with boys and girls of the same age with different cultures and backgrounds is an invaluable treasure that will follow Sveva throughout all her life,” Athos and Rosy wrote in an email. “Of course, not everything has been easy. Solving the various problems in a little-known language, without Italian friends or relatives, thousands of miles away from home, must not have been simple for Sveva. Even in small, negative situations, as parents we have always tried to interfere as little as possible. The goal was not only to learn a new language, but above all, to grow and mature.”

Yinger said Chesapeake High School has hosted exchange students before. Last year, a student from Spain enrolled at the Pasadena school.

“We’ve had a number of students studying abroad here at Chesapeake and I think that the school and the community provides a good cross section of what American life and culture is all about,” Yinger said. “I’m proud to serve as a teacher in this community and I feel that, yes, the school does offer a realistic and positive experience for these students.”

While Campigotto’s future is yet to be determined, her top choice is to study medicine in France.

“I feel like I’ve grown up a lot here,” Campigotto said. “I was shy in Italy. When I go home, I’m going to be more fluent in other languages and I am going to have this experience making new friends.”

In their email, Athos and Rosy also thanked the ASSE International Student Exchange Program, the host family and Chesapeake teachers for making the transition a smooth one.

“Our daughter could have gone to any destination on the East Coast. We have been lucky. Maryland and Pasadena are fabulous places, after Italy of course,” they joked.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article said last year's exchange student was from Mexico. The student was from Spain.

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