Meet West Hartford’s AFS Students: Alexandra-Alissia Padurariu

Alexandra and her host sister, Estelle, in Times Square. Courtesy photo

This is the third in a our series ‘Opening our homes and minds: West Hartford’s AFS foreign exchange students and their host families.’

Interviewed and edited by Jamie Cohen, AFS volunteer (now), host sister (1980s) and returnee from Japan (1984)

Alexandra enjoying the snow. Courtesy photo

Meet Alexandra-Alissia Padurariu, from Rome, Italy. She is one of four AFS foreign exchange students at Conard this school year.

She is looking forward to making American friends, so say hello if you see her!

Hi, Alexandra! Tell us about yourself.

I am an exchange student from Italy, but I am a mix between Italian and Romanian. My parents moved to Italy from Romania when I was 3, and I grew up in Rome. I’m a senior at Conard, studying for the year.

Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?

I wanted to discover something new – to break up my routine. It was a challenge I set for myself, because I wanted to have a new experience. When I started writing the application, my parents didn’t even know about it. They thought that maybe I would go for two weeks or a month to England. But when I found out about a year abroad, I was really excited.

Did you choose the U.S.?

Yes. Because we’re used to seeing the U.S. as the “American Dream” – and we see a lot about the U.S. in movies and TV shows. I was curious to know if it was really the same.

What are the biggest cultural differences between Italy and here?

The biggest difference is the people. They seem cold to me – not unfriendly, but not warm like Italians in Rome. For example, when we had a new girl from Colombia join our class in Rome, we were all very interested in her. We asked her a lot of questions. And she learned Italian quickly and became a part of our community. But here, it doesn’t seem that people are very interested. Perhaps it’s more “normal” to have people from other places here.

In other ways, everything is bigger in the U.S. I think Americans like to do things in a big way. The first thing I noticed was how big the cars are. And that families have at least one car per household. Another thing that is so much bigger is the school. I think there are two gyms at Conard – it’s so much bigger than our school in Italy.

What have you liked about Connecticut and West Hartford?

I am surprised that I like the snow! I was so cold when I arrived here, but now I like the snow. And of course, the snow days from school! I thought seeing the football games were really fun. I didn’t understand the game very well, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the games. We don’t have anything like that at our school in Italy.

What do you enjoy doing outside of school here?

I’m doing stage crew for Conard’s musical, and I was really excited when I learned how to use power tools to build the set! This made me feel very powerful. I attend the multicultural club and will try tennis this semester.

I went to Homecoming with Ariane and Anna, two of the other AFS students. We don’t have anything like that in Italy, and we had a lot of fun.

I’d really like to meet some local high school students and see more about what it’s like to live in America. My host family doesn’t have high school-age kids, so it would be really nice to meet more people.

What would you like people reading this to know about:

Italy: Italy is not just Tuscany for vacation. It’s about the warmth of the people who really enjoy life. I want everyone to go to Italy to experience this.

Hosting an AFS exchange student: It’s really cool to host an exchange student. I didn’t speak English when I came here, so sometimes you need patience. You have someone living with you who becomes a part of your family and this represents what it means to be a host family.

Being an AFS exchange student: When you’re an exchange student, you’ll be excited, you’ll be sad, you’ll find that sometimes it’s difficult. But you’ll make friends for life, like how I met the other AFS students, Ariane, Giovanni, and Anna. And there are moments that you’ll never forget, and you’ll tell your children and grandchildren about your experiences as an exchange student.

About AFS:

If you are interested in hosting an exchange student for the 2018-19 school year, or if your high-school aged student would like to participate in an AFS exchange, please contact Jamie Cohen at [email protected] or visit afs.org.

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Alexandra (right) with Ariane (left, Switzerland) and Anna (center, Austria) rooting for Conard’s football team. Courtesy photo

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