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Meet West Hartford’s AFS Students: Matteo Braga from Italy

Matteo at his first U.S. football game. Courtesy photo

This is the second 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 Matteo Braga from Cardano al Campo, Italy. He is one of six AFS foreign exchange students at Conard this school year.

Hi, Matteo! Tell us about yourself.

I’m Matteo, I’m an AFS student from the north of Italy, unlike Federico [another AFS student at Conard], who is from the south. I’m a senior at Conard. I love soccer, snowboarding, and swimming. I live with the Switzer family.

Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?

I wanted to know a different culture, and my goals are to learn a new language – and to be a part of a new community. And I want to go out of my comfort zone.

Why did you choose the U.S.?

I chose the U.S. because it’s one of the most important country in the world. There are more opportunities than in Italy – where I live it’s really industrial, and there are fewer job opportunities there than I think there are here.

What are the biggest cultural differences between Italy and here?

I didn’t find many big cultural differences, because my part of Italy is pretty similar to here. But the food is pretty different – there is more meat, and a lot less pasta. The biggest difference is with the school. The school here is organized in a different way – here you have the same subject every day. But in Italy, we have different subjects every day. I like how the sports are organized here. In Italy, there aren’t any school teams – you have to join clubs outside of school. Here, when you join a school team, you feel like you’re a part of the school.

What have you liked about Connecticut and West Hartford?

I really like West Hartford. I love how green it is, with so many vegetation. And I like that there are all the stores you need. It’s a quiet city, with really nice people. I enjoy that it’s really near to New York and to Boston.

What do you do outside of school here?

After school, I’m part of the varsity soccer team. After soccer during the week, I study because I am taking four AP classes. When I don’t have to study or play soccer, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I really like seeing new cities and places. I love going to the ocean and exploring.

What would you like people reading this to know about:

Italy: Italy is the beginning of the culture of the world. We don’t just eat pasta and pizza. We eat most everything. And the best soccer team in Italy is “AC Milan!” It is a really beautiful country, even if it could be much better if the people who live there would be more respectful of what they have.

Hosting an AFS exchange student: Before hosting an exchange student, you have to know that you will have a new member of the family for the whole year. So, you need to be open to that. It’s really fun for the family and the student, because it’s like having a second family. If it’s a perfect match, you will really enjoy the year. And you will create relationships forever.

Being an AFS exchange student: If you think about being an exchange student, do it. It’s not just knowing a new language, but it’s part of being in a different culture. It opens your mind in the most powerful way. And it makes you grow.

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 AFSUSA.org.

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