The Lightning Letter

The Student News Site of James Lawson High School


The Lightning Letter

The Lightning Letter

From Rome and Egypt to the USA

The experiences of Lawson’s two foreign exchange students


I’m Emma Di Benedetto, and I’m an exchange student from Italy– the country famous for pizza, but I swear that is not the only beautiful thing in it.

I’ve been here in the US for two weeks now, and I live with my host family, the Calfees, who are also hosting another girl who comes from Egypt, sophomore Logyn Wahba.

Both of us decided to take part in an international exchange program, Youth for Understanding (YFU), which allows us to spend a year here in the United States, which is a unique experience for us.

Being in high school we’ve always seen only in the movies is really like a dream for us, but it also has negative aspects, such as being far away from home, parents, and friends. 

In Italy, we call high school Liceo, and students attend from ages 14-19. We have the same classes with the same people for five years because we don’t have the possibility to choose our courses. Students can choose their Liceo based on their interests. For example, my school is mainly focused on math and science. 

There are also schools that focus on languages or classical education. We all take the same classes – we don’t get to choose “electives” like in the US. In Italy, the teachers change classes, not the students. We also don’t eat lunch at school – we go home to eat lunch after school. We don’t play sports through the school, and we also don’t have festivities like homecoming and prom. Schools in Italy are boring and flat because there are not clubs or activities inside and the teachers are generally very strict.

My school in Italy starts at 8am and finishes at 2pm, and we have a break of only twenty minutes in the middle of the day. We take four courses each day, but we have eight courses total that meet during the week. Me, because I’m 17, while I should be senior here in the US, my school doesn’t allow it, so they ranked me as a junior. 

Also, Logyn told me about the difference between her school in Egypt and James Lawson. 

She said that in Egypt, she goes to a school where almost all the subjects are mandatory, except one course where she can choose between two languages, German or French. She also doesn’t change classes, but it’s the teachers who change. The teachers are very strict, and also there are not activities like clubs or sports.

“[At my school in Egypt,] we have a swimming pool, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis [for extracurriculars.] My school is very strict about studying and about the dress code. The dress code is fancy and classy – we have uniforms. Here at Lawson, I like the design of the school and the teachers a lot,” Wahba said.

So for both of us, everything here in Nashville is very different and new, but already after two weeks we can say that we appreciate the American school system because there is more activity and more movement inside and also the opportunity to choose the courses.

But there are a few questions that I’ve been asking myself since I’ve been here, like: ‘Where is my beloved bidet??’ You’re telling me you don’t have a friend near the water! and ‘Why does everyone have at least one dog?’ I mean, yes we have dogs in Italy too, but they are not as widespread as here. But the thing I ask myself the most is, “Why do they all wear slippers?” This is really strange for me–in Italy we do not do this.

Obviously beyond the differences of the school, we both have habits and ways of living different from Americans, but we are already getting used to it.  

And like we Italians say, “Grazie dell’attenzione!!” 

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