Chiara Barbato, 17, is challenging her world view as a foreign exchange student from Rome, Italy.
The teen arrived in September, and is living in Dyer with Giuseppe and Angela Manfre and their son Danny, 24. She will be the first exchange student at Lake Central High School to graduate with a diploma.
Barbato is a senior enrolled in honors classes at Lake Central and maintains a 3.45 grade point average, but has some schooling to finish after returning home.
“High school in Italy is five years and here it is four years, so when I go back to Italy in July I have to finish another year of high school,” Barbato said.
“In Rome, I attend school six times a week instead of five. I also have to study a lot because the school system in Italy is a lot harder. There are a lot of oral exams and tests.”
Barbato is also adjusting to differences outside of school, like the lack of public transportation in the area and the harsh weather. “I have to get used to the snow. It doesn’t snow much in Rome, and the only way I can see any snow (there) is if I go up in the mountains,” she said.
“Another big difference is here everyone has a big house, where in Italy most of the people live in apartment buildings.”
Barbato has visited Chicago, New York and Miami, and was surprised to see larger chain stores like Target and Meijer. “In Italy, if you want to find cloth you have to go to a store that just sells that, or (for food one that) just sells groceries,” she said.
While polishing her English language skills in the U.S., Barbato hopes to learn a third language as well. “I hope to come back to America and attend college. At the moment I am not sure what career I want to do, but I hope the career I chose will be something I enjoy every day and make good money,” she said.
“Maybe by me learning three languages my career will have me travel a lot and I will get to see the world," she added.
“At first I thought that America was a bunch of fast food places and that is where people ate. So far I realized that everyone is alike - it doesn’t really matter from what country you’re from.”