Culture Shock

International transfer student comments on experience of living in America as a high school student.

“Wherever we roam” is a proud slogan Mustangs use when describing the paths of RMHS students and alumni. The slogan means that no matter where students came from or where they go, they will always feel home at RMHS. Senior Francesco Cianci has recently found his new home at RMHS after roaming across the Atlantic Ocean from Italy.

Last June, Cianci packed up his things and moved to Illinois after 17 years of living in Bari, Italy with his mom. Although Cianci has his entire mother’s side of the family in the US, the cultural differences were a huge shock and took time to adjust to.

“My language and how [Americans] live compared to me is not the same at all,” Cianci said. “You guys eat dinner at like 4 or 5 [p.m.,] we eat at like 8 or 9 [p.m.]”

Small components of life such as what time meals are, though not seemingly significant, are not the only differences. The difference in school systems doesn’t make the continental transition easier.

“[Cianci] has told me the differences between his school and [RMHS],” Italian teacher Antonio Bondi said. “The lunch rooms [are different] because no Italian school has a lunch room since they go home for lunch.”

With all these fundamental differences to adjust to, Cianci is still able to go back to his roots in AP Italian where he can immerse and familiarize himself in his native language and culture.

Because of scheduling conflicts, Cianci had to wait until his senior year to take AP Italian, but within the Italian 1 block, he is still able to connect to his roots.

“It’s actually funny [being a native speaker in an Italian class],” Cianci said. “Listening to all the freshmen and sophomores speak Italian is fun… but I’m helping Mr. Bondi when they need help.”

A native speaker presence in class doesn’t just benefit the non-native speakers, it helps Bondi gain insight into how to better teach his students.

“It’s taught me to balance [grammar and the cultural aspect of Italian],” Bondi said. “While the grammar is important, the culture piece is what ties all the students in and keeps them motivated. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I became a teacher of Italian. It brought me back to my old self.”

Having a new perspective about life at RMHS can give others a new appreciation for what they assume everyone has at school, like iPads.

“If you’ve only been here and you haven’t experienced a different part of the world or other schools, you [kind of] take what we have for granted,” Bondi said. “Even the fact of having an iPad, maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s useful, but most kids don’t have that.”

Although Cianci felt like a fish out of water when he first moved to this country, it didn’t take him long to feel like he belonged at RMHS.

“It was tough at the beginning,” Cianci said. “I didn’t know anybody. I moved from another country. It wasn’t easy, but this school is awesome. The teachers are awesome. I love being here.”