For Sequim High School transplant Irene Stello, coming to America as an exchange student is her first big adventure abroad.
While Sequim may be considered “a small town” in America, the city in Italy where Stello comes from is smaller.
“When I came here it was a really big shock,” she said.
“Everything is really big: cars, streets, food, everything.”
Stello is from a small city in Italy near Venice and said the residential areas and downtown center are located close together.
“I think it’s more compact,” she said.
“Everything is really spread out (here),” she said.
Stello arrived in Sequim last August and will attend Sequim High School as a junior for one year.
When it comes to high school, there are some major differences between Stello’s school in Italy and Sequim High.
“Everyone coming to the U.S. thinks like ‘High School Musical,’” she said.
“When I came here, it’s not like ‘High School Musical.’”
In Italy, students are able to choose the high school they attend because not every city has a school within its city limits, she said, and each school offers a different type of educational experience.
“High school is not in every city or town,” she said.
“In my town, there isn’t a high school so you must move.”
She said students can choose the high school they want to attend based on what subjects the school offers and some high schools teach trade skills for a job.
Another change for Stello is only attending school in Sequim Monday through Friday for about seven hours each day as opposed to Monday through Saturday for five hours each day, like she does in Italy.
She said back home she needs to study three hours each day after school to keep up with her school work and her classes at Sequim High are much easier than her classes back home.
“I like how the school here is less stressful than in Italy,” she said.
“And teachers want to help you.”
Stello also has a pretty full schedule in addition to her classes at Sequim High School. She plays basketball on the junior varsity team and plays the flute in the school band.
She thought basketball would be a good way to make friends and said it is the first time she has played the sport on a team.
“In my school, we do P.E. and during P.E. sometimes we play basketball but not in a team,” she said.
She has practice usually every day from Monday through Friday and occasionally optional practice on Saturday.
In her free time, Stello said she enjoys reading books — including the Twilight Series — and recently realized that many places in the book take place close to Sequim, such as Forks.
“I never thought about that because when I read Twilight the first time I didn’t know this place,” she said.
“And when I read last week I said, ‘Oh wow, I’m here!’”
Stello said while she is living in Sequim she would like to visit Forks.
Change in culture
“In Italy, I eat pasta every day almost five days a week,” she said.
Living in Sequim, Stello said she doesn’t eat pasta as much as she does back home. While she has eaten Italian food in America, she said its not the kind of pasta she would eat in Italy. “It wasn’t really Italian food,” she said.
Stello explained she ate at the Spaghetti Factory and said while it wasn’t bad food it offered dishes she wouldn’t consider Italian, such as spaghetti and meatballs and fettuccine Alfredo with chicken.
“We never have pasta with meatballs; it’s not Italian,” she said.
“They put chicken (in pasta) too and I never eat pasta with chicken.”
While the Italian food in America might not be up to par, Stello said one thing she has learned from living in America is improving her English.
Stello said she has learned English since elementary school but she has improved her ability to speak it living in America.
“I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here,” she said.
“I want to travel and I want to do something to improve my English.”
She said living in Sequim has been a nice break compared to her school schedule back home and hopes to visit other European countries when she returns to Italy.
In the future, Stello said she hopes to be a midwife and enjoys working with small children.