This is the third article in the 2018-19 academic year 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)
Meet Federico Costantini from Lecce, Italy. He is one of six AFS foreign exchange students at Conard this school year.
Hi, Costa! Tell us about yourself.
Hi my name is Federico Costantini. My friends call my Costa. (But my parents call my Federico.) I’m from Lecce, Italy, which is in the South, in Puglia. I’m a drummer and I’m very into music. I love arts, I like drawing and looking at arts and museums, and I like cinema.
Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?
I chose to do an exchange year because I was bored. I wanted to change my daily routine, to put myself in a new world. Because I love to travel and challenge myself.
Did you choose the U.S.?
I chose the U.S. because jazz was born here, and I wanted to discover the background of the music. Also, I always saw America in the movies and I wanted to discover the reality of what I always saw on the screen.
What are the biggest cultural differences between Italy and here?
Everything is bigger here than in Italy. And at Conard we have more freedom in school to choose our classes and even to speak openly with the teachers.
What have you liked about Connecticut and West Hartford?
The people I’ve met are really so nice. Even though the places are bigger, there is a very big sense of community. I really like that we have more freedom in school here, and that you can choose your “own path.” I like that there is lots of competition, the food is better than I thought it would be.
What do you do outside of school here?
I am a drummer – a jazz drummer. In Italy I played in a trio all around Salento, my part of Puglia. Here I play in the Jazz Ensemble at Conard. I’m going to try out for the Northern Regional Jazz Orchestra, too. And I hope I can play some gigs while I’m here. Other than music, I do a lot of sports. I run cross country, I plan to do track and field in the winter. And I study.
What would you like people reading this to know about:
Italy: Italians are very friendly and welcoming, despite your race or anything else. We are very invested in our culture – we know our past, and our way to do things. This is really evident in our food, for example – each region has its own particular culture around food, despite being a small country.
Hosting an AFS exchange student: A good host family must be open-minded and welcoming. You should be ready to change your routine because you have a new family member. It’s a great opportunity to share your culture with a student from another country.
Being an AFS exchange student: You have to be 100 percent sure that you are willing to change your life completely – as an exchange student you’ll have new friends, new family, new routines. It’s good – and it’s different. It’s really great if you are prepared to accept all the differences. It’s impossible NOT to change after an experience like this. And I think that It’s really important to go and experience new things – to learn about what is happening in the world. A student in Scotland once told me, “If you want to change your world, you need to step away from it, and then come back.” I think it’s true, and really important for people to see.
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 AFSUSA.org.
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