Andrea Maffezzoni has only been in the United States for less than a year but he has already lived with three different host families and experienced a variety of American traditions.

“It’s not easy to just change family and you’re attached to the first one, then you go to the second one and you’re like, ‘Oh crap, I miss the first one,’” he said.

Maffezzoni traveled to the U.S. last fall from Cremona, Italy, and studied in Mexico, Missouri, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Long-Term Exchange Program. The program is application-based and lasts for a full academic year. Maffezzoni was sponsored by Rotary District 2050.

While he was a senior at Mexico High School this year, he says he would have only been a junior back home. Mexico High School lasts for four years while his previous school lasts for five - one of several differences he has noticed.

“We didn’t have any kind of dances [back home]. It’s just school and that’s it,” Maffezzoni said.

“And after school there’s no sport. You have to join clubs to do sport.”

Schools back in Italy also follow different paths, he said, such as a scientific school and a school for pursuing the arts. He studied in the scientific school for three years and will study in an artistic school when he returns for his final year. Eventually, he would love to follow his passion for photography.

“Photography is my dream,” he said.

His host families tried to give him as many experiences as possible while he was here, including travelling and carving pumpkins during which one of his host parents, Dana Keller, said he “almost threw up.”

It’s the time spent with new friends that he’ll remember most, like the night he spent with friends in a hay barn “just playing country songs and dancing.”

“I lived one year of my life here so I had to restart everything with people and start relationships with friends, teachers, host families,” he said.

Maffezzoni plans to take a trip around the country before heading home. When asked if he would do the exchange all over again if given the chance, he said, “Of course! Why not?”

ssabatke@mexicoledger.com