SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – If you walked through the halls of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (SPF HS) on Friday, April 04, 2014, you were almost as likely to hear conversations in Italian, Spanish and French as you were to hear them in English.
The high school hosted a total of close to 100 foreign students, including a busload of French-speaking Canadians from Quebec, a group of Spanish exchange students who arrived for a two-week visit, and an 17 Italian exchange students from Liceo Scientifico Giuseppe Berto of Vibo Valentia, Italy.
This is the first year of exchange with the Italian students who have spent much of the past two weeks attending classes at SPF HS and visiting sites in New York City, including the Brooklyn Bridge 9/11 Memorial and Central Park. They also visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which welcomed Italian immigrants for decades, and attended the high school’s excellent production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is a bit of culture shock on both ends,” said Sam Loop, a junior, whose family is hosting Francesco Donato. “For example, breakfast is a small meal in Italy and that cars there do not have automatic doors.”
“They plan out their future differently,” Loop added. “We have many more college options here.”
This is the first year of the school’s exchange program with Liceo Scientifico Giuseppe Berto. Student Gregorio Miceli, who is the founder of his school’s English language club, set up the program with help of a fellow student who is related to one of the teachers at SPF HS.
“Our time here has been amazing. Everyone has been so polite to us,” Miceli, who attended his first ever hockey game while staying with his host, Ian Gordon, who plays on the high school team and brought his new paisan to see the New Jersey Devils.
“In many ways, Americans are similar to the people in southern Italy. What’s most different is that New York City is so focused on technology and the future, while things are more rural-based at home,” Miceli explained. “Here, everyone looks at their watches and are conscious of the immediate time. In Italy, the attitude is more domani.”
“I’ve gotten to work on my Italian and learn more about the culture,” said Ian Gordon. “My sister went away to college, so it’s like having a brother.”
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood students will likely make a visit as a group until next year.
“This is the first time we have done an exchange with Italy. In the second year, we hope to have our students both host and travel,” said Dr. David Heisey, principal of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for this program, and it opens up lots of learning opportunities for all of our students.”