By LINDA LOBECK
KINGSFORD - Italian exchange student Martina Pedersini has found being an exchange student is both "lovely and hard at the same time," as she is finishing out her year at Kingsford High School.
Martina Pedersini has participated in cheerleading at Kingsford High School. An exchange student from Italy, she speaks Spanish and German as well as English.
Martina, 17, is from a town in Italy about 15 minutes away from Brescia, which is a large city in the northern part of the country with 190,000 inhabitants. In comparison to Kingsford, the size is drastically different. "The daily routine is a little different as well as houses, people's habits and school. The school is the most different thing," she said. "This new world is not better, it's not worse, it's just different."
In Italy, she noted, they don't have different names for each year of high school, like freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. At KHS, she has been a part of the senior class. "At home, I go to the fourth year of high school. We don't have clubs or teams so I don't do sports at school in Italy," Martina said.
At KHS, she joined the cheerleading team, which is something that they don't have in Italy. "I always wanted to try it. I really liked it and was a flyer on the KHS team. I loved to fly," she said.
In Italy, she attends a languages high school. "I love languages and besides Italian, I speak English, Spanish and German."
She added that there are many different kinds of high schools in Italy in addition to languages - math, music, and psychology - to name a few. Her high school there has about 2,000 students and they don't have lockers, school teams or a mascot.
"We stay at school for five hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and we have lunch at home. If you attend a public school, there is school on Saturdays. We have five years of high school," Martina said.
In addition, in Italy, they can't choose the subjects they want to study. Every day, they have a different subject. "We have the same classmates for five years, too, unless some of them fail the year. And we don't change classrooms every hour because the teachers rotate."
Her best friend is also an exchange student this year, Martina said, and is living in Colorado. "I took three planes to come here and it was pretty exciting because I was alone."
As a Kingsford exchange student, Martina is hosted by Kate Burie of Kingsford. "She's really nice and funny. I like her and I like her parents and her siblings - all her family."
At home, Martina's family includes her mom Luisella Baldussi, her dad Giuseppe Pedersini, a younger brother, Francesco, 12; and their dog Leo. Her parents have different last names, because even if they are married women in Italy don't get their husband's last name. Her mom works in an office and her dad owns a car body shop.
As an exchange student, Martina enjoys it when people she meets ask her questions about her home country and her life here. "I love to answer these questions. Even if I have an accent, it's a big satisfaction when I can remember a new word or I can follow or do a speech easily and people can understand me," she said.
Martina also understands that being an exchange student is an opportunity that not everyone can do or wants to do.
"I have always wanted to see new places and experience the American life."
She came to KHS through the exchange program WEP, which is International Experience (IE) in the United States. Her local coordinator, Katie Waugen, lives in Niagara, Wis.
Martina has enjoyed trying some new foods during her exchange year in Kingsford. And she added she loves pancakes, peanut butter and all the sweets.
Arriving in Kingsford on Sept. 4, it was a rush for Martina to get acclimated and ready to start school in two days.
"Being honest, it was hard to get used to everything but everyone was nice. Marinda Bottesi, a friend of mine here, helped me a lot. The first days I had some issues with my locker, because it was my first one in my entire life," Martina said.
Another difficulty during her first weeks in the area was the language. "But then I got used to it like I got used to everything. Everything was different at first, like being in a new world."
She has had some opportunities to travel a bit since coming to the U.S. noting she's been to Wisconsin a couple of times and was in Ann Arbor over Christmas break and New Year's Eve because her Italian principal was there with his family.
"I went to Lansing and Chicago, too, and for spring break, I'm flying to Miami and going to the Keyes in Florida. In June, my family is coming here to pick me up. We'll spend a couple of days in Iron Mountain-Kingsford and then we will go to Chicago, Niagara Falls, Boston, Cape Cod and New York," Martina added.
Looking back on her experiences as an exchange student, Martina noted that the first months were the hardest. Now, she is only homesick sometimes.
"I miss my family and my closest friends and a guy that will officially become my boyfriend when I get home. I miss arguing everyday with my mom and with my little brother. I miss my bed even if it's just a bed. Staying such a long time far away from home, I learned to appreciate the little things that I had in my life before."
Once she completes her high school years, Martina has plans to go to the university. She added that she wanted to go to college here in the United States, but it's very expensive since she's not American.
"We don't have to pay for our university except if it is a private one and then it's like $10,000 a year. So, I think I'm going to university in Italy. I don't know what I want to study yet. I'm interested about continuing to study languages, but I also like law," she said.
Martina said she thinks she'll be going to Milan or Florence or another very big city for college. "I'd like to have a job where I can use my language skills and I can also travel. Then, I want to have a family, so I'd like to have a job without traveling a lot."
Thanks to this experience as an exchange student, Martin said she is getting to be more responsible, mature and brave and less shy.
"I now have friends from different parts of the world and almost every day, I have the opportunity to know new people. This is an experience I will never forget," Martina added.
Linda Lobeck's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.