Foreign exchange student embraces life at Madison

Kristiana Qerosi packed up her things and left her hometown of Rieti, Italy, to study abroad in the U.S., a life-long dream of hers. She attends Madison as a junior and will stay in the U.S. for 10 months.

Elsa Scott, Opinion Editor

For many students, the opportunity to study abroad in a different country with a different language, different food and different culture, is a dream come true. Kristiana Qerosi, a 17-year-old from Rome, Italy, is currently living that dream here at Madison.

Qerosi had wanted to study abroad since her first year of middle school. One of her teachers was a part of an organization called the American Field Society, also known as AFS, which offers scholarships to students to give them the opportunity to study abroad.

“I always loved the United States and the idea of coming here. In Italy, all the teenagers are like ‘Oh, the life in an American school, like in the films with lunches and lockers and all that stuff,’” Qerosi said.

Qerosi’s school in Italy is very different from Madison. In Italy, the different high schools focus on different subjects, and students choose what school they want to go to based on what subject they want to focus on. Qerosi, for example, goes to a high school that centers around the sciences and mathematics. The differences do not stop there, though. Life for students in America, Qerosi said, revolves more around school than Italian students’ lives do. There is a greater emphasis on school sports teams and clubs, while in Italy, the sports and activities are mainly done separately from the school, run by other organizations. Qerosi played volleyball back home, but for a club not associated with her school.

In America, however, Qerosi has joined the drama club, and after being encouraged by Kelly Brents (‘17), tried out for the school play. She had never acted before, but she landed a lead role, La Paloma. Brents, when asked what she admired most about Qerosi, said that she admired Qerosi’s confidence, bravery and intelligence.

“It just blows my mind how she just picked up all her stuff and is living here for ten months,” Brents said. “She speaks three different languages, is motivated to work in school, and still manages to dress better than all of us.”

There are a lot of little differences that seem very normal to Americans that are not to Qerosi. Everything from the sizing of the clothing, to using the customary system, to the amount of school work, to the driving age, there are a million little reminders that Qerosi is not at home.

One of the hardest things for Qerosi about being in America is having her family and friends be across an ocean, six hours ahead of American time.

“I was alone, and it was really hard [in the beginning],” Qerosi said.

Going to a new country alone is both frightening and exciting. Qerosi said that she couldn’t believe she was in America until a week in, after she had gotten into a routine, and it didn’t seem like a vacation anymore. Qerosi’s year at Madison definitely will not be a relaxing vacation, but will be an experience she will remember and take with her the rest of her life.