For the past ten years, Wilson has annually hosted a group of students from Falconara, Italy, as part of an exchange program. Our partner school, Cambi High School, sends students to DC where they are paired with a Wilson student, and stay in their home for one week. A few weeks before the exchange, we were given information about about our students interests and how to contact them. We shared some instagram DM’s and snapchats, and before we knew it it was October 21, and they were arriving at Wilson.
It all happened so fast, one minute we were meeting and the next moment we were brushing our teeth together. After all, that’s the whole premise of an exchange: for a week you basically have a new sibling. As soon as Amira and Alessia walked into the double doors of Wilson to greet us, we knew this was going to be a fun-packed week.
They arrived Friday night, exhausted, and with a body clock of one a.m. Over the weekend we dedicated our time to showing them places we would normally go to hangout. This included trips to Politics and Prose, Tenley (they had never seen a CVS before!), a tour of Adams Morgan with an exciting palm reading, and Eastern Market for some freshly made donuts. However, we didn’t have much time for our own adventures, because thanks to our coordinators Kadesha Bonds, Simona Gerhardt, Tina Kaneen, and Alex Wilson, the week was extremely packed. On Saturday we had a team bonding event at Wilson, which proved very helpful, as after that we didn’t only get to know Amira and Alessia, but all their classmates. After a fun potluck on Sunday night at tenth grade host Sofia Laine’s house, and a small “Just Dance” party, the Italians were ready to take on Wilson.
We had watched “High School Musical 2” the night before, and it was great to learn that our generation’s love for this movie transcends our country’s borders. Both Alessia and Amira agreed that Wilson was a lot like more like East High than their school, in terms of size, people, and culture. Kadesha Bonds, the mass media teacher here at Wilson, and a key coordinator for this exchange, noticed this as well, adding, “they were amazed at how big our school community is and how diverse the Wilson population was.”
They shadowed a few of our classes on Monday morning, and then went sightseeing as a group while we were in school for the rest of the week. “I’ve always wanted to visit the Lincoln Memorial,” said Amira, “I love Forest Gump and my favorite scene was set there.” Alessia agreed explaining that her favorite activity of the week was, “Visiting the monuments of the mall with the bikes, it was really exciting.” Overall, it seems like they got a pretty good idea of what DC is like. “I thought that Washington was a bigger city, but it’s not. I thought it was bigger, and… busier or crowded,” Amira explained, “It is a very cozy city.”
But their journey did not end in DC! After dropping our exchange students off at the Bethesda Vamoose bus stop to New York City, we waved good-bye and watched them drive away. But it wasn’t really a good-bye, because next April, we get to travel to Italy to stay at our exchange students’ houses and experience our own immersion in Italian culture for a week. “That’s what truly makes these exchanges so important. When we go over they treat us like family, they plan some amazing things for us also and it seems like a huge family reunion,” Bonds said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ADELAIDE KAISER