Italy Exchange Program

Ghislaine DeCock
  • As part of the SSFS exchange program with Setti Carraro in Milan, 10 students from the Upper School, along with SSFS staff Aldona Joseph and Ghislaine DeCock, traveled to Italy from Nov. 14-25 to spend time with our Italian friends who were recently here at SSFS from Oct. 19-27. The students spent 4 nights with their Italian host families, visited Setti Carraro School, had a guided city tour (Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle) and spent some time in the newest part of Milan: CityLife. On Tuesday morning, the students took the Frecciarossa (high speed train) to Rome where they visited the Colosseum and walked the Palatine Hill before admiring the Trevi Fountain at night. On Wednesday they spent the morning in the Vatican museums. They also climbed the Spanish Steps before taking the Frecciarossa to Florence in the evening. On Thursday they had a city tour (Duomo, Uffizi Palace and Ponte Vecchio), and were given time to explore Florence’s many leather markets. That evening they took the Frecciargento to Venice where they celebrated Thanksgiving with Italian food. On Friday they visited San Marco Square before taking a boat trip to Murano (glass factories), Burano (colorful houses) and Torcello (where George Clooney got married). Many a bridge was admired (Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs) and crossed before taking a boat to the airport on Saturday morning. See photos and blog posts from students below!
Mackensie, Thomas, Gina, Preston, Jane, Musa, Miri

Below are some photos from the group, along with of notes from students about their first few nights in Italy, staying with their host families from Setti Carraro in Milan. 

On Sunday, Alice and I met up with Fiamma to go to Sempione Park. We saw an extravagant arch complete with columns and sculptures of horses. After walking around the rest of the park, we went to the Triennale museum of design. This museum was focused on a designer and inventor named Achille Castiglioni. He designed mostly light fixtures and chairs; some of which can be found in Italian homes. Afterwards, we went to a place I’ve been dying to go to: a gelato shop. I ordered pomegranate and chocolate and it was absolutely spectacular! Tomorrow we’re saying goodbye to our hosts families and getting on a train to Rome. I am very excited to go to Rome, but I am not looking forward to waking up at 5:00 am because I am already exhausted. 


As we walked up the stairs of the subway, the crisp air nipped at any exposed skin. The roar of soccer fans have made the hair on my airs stand up. The closer we got to the stadium the more deafening the roar became. After picking up our tickets, we made it through security and walked into San Siro. The tunnel opened up and as the curved roof above us morphed into an arch that held seats, the bright lights illuminated the perfectly green pitch. The Italian national team was warming up only yards away from us and on the other side of the field the Portuguese team passed the ball easily around the defenders in their warm up. I was in awe of the skill on the field even during warmup. The touches were nearly always perfect, moving the ball with such precision and ease. As we settled into our seats the Italian team shifted to a shooting drill that the varsity team does as well. Every time the shooter found the back of the net, a constant roar would erupt from behind the Italian goalie. The game hadn’t even started and the crowd was already on their feet. As a lifeline goalie I found myself being the only person in my section cheering more for a diving save from the goalie than when the striker was won the matchup.

When the game finally started the announcer breezes the the Portuguese roster quickly. The crowd was heavily Italian and there was little applause for any Portuguese player. After finishing the Portuguese roster the announcer simply said the first name of each player and with a communal shout that echoed around San Siro the Italian fans would supply the stadium with the name on their jersey.

As the commentator finished reading the roster he asked each person to reach next to them and hold up the colored sheet next to them. Because the 73,000 person stadium was sold out, as each person help up their colored sheet an Italian flag slowly emerged.Even though I might have been one of the few non European people in that stadium it was amazing to feel the intense pride and community that surrounded the soccer team in that stadium. The game started and the pride the fans has in their team only grew, with each fouls or shot the entire stadium reverberated with the cry of fans shouting in unison. Before long I was picking up on the cheats and before long I was shouting and screaming right along with all 73,000 people in that stadium.


I did a lot of things with my host family this weekend. First, I went to visit the painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and got a tour from one of the priests of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church next door. Then, I went to the city center and ate one of the best paninis I’ve ever had in my life. I then went to a local sports shop to buy some clothing before I went on a bus tour of Milan. We went around the city while listening to the history of each monument or street we went by. That same night, I went to a soccer game with my host family. We were in the fourth row of the stadium and I got to see one of my favorite players right in front of me. I have always wanted to go to a soccer game and being there just exceeded all my expectations of what a game would be like. It was crazy to me that my host family lived within walking distance of the stadium which was the largest one in Italy.

The next day, my host and I went to the hot springs for some relaxation. This is was very good for me to be able to get rid of all the stress of school, and I had a great experience. I forgot how hot some of the rooms were and there was even a point where there was so much steam that we couldn’t see for a while but all in all, I felt better in the end. I was extremely exhausted after the trip but I went out again for another bus tour of Milan using a different route. I was so tired that I could barely stay awake and I tried to use the French language setting instead of the English one so that I could focus harder to stay awake, but ultimately I blanked out by the time we had to get off the bus. I had a great time with my host family and got to eat amazing food as well. Although I didn’t get to see any of my friends this weekend, I had fun relaxing and enjoying Milan.

- Gina

This last weekend has been one of the best in my whole life! We’ve done so much and seen almost the whole city. We’ve seen a lot of Italian fashion shops like Gucci and Versace and have gone shopping every day. We went to the Ferrari store and raced F1 cars around a track and then got the best pizza we have ever eaten. The food here is so amazing; everything tastes so good and is pretty cheap compared to American food. All the people here are so sweet and always help you talk to other Italian people. The city is so beautiful and I’m so sad to be leaving Milan tomorrow.

- Preston

This last weekend, we spent time in Milan with our home stays. We all visited their school on Friday right after we arrived. We did a tour of Milan and saw many sites such as the Cathedral. The next day we visited Leonardo DaVinci’s Vineyard then later in the day we went shopping at all of the iconic Italian stores like Versace, Gucci, and Prada. The next day, my host family brought me to Torino, a place my parents visited together when they were younger. My host and her brother took me to a cafe that my parents stayed at for hours together and this meant a lot to me. We toured the rest of Torino and walked up a hill to see the city from above. On the top of the hill was a baptistery cathedral. I know this because of my Arts and Ideas class: thank you Bryan Seith! 

- Jane

This past weekend in Milan was amazing! I stayed with Davide and his family. Honestly, I was nervous heading into it. I went into his house and wasn’t really sure how to communicate, because his mom only spoke a little English. I quickly found out how hospitable his family was. We went to meet up with an old friend, and Sandy Spring alum, Clara. All the American students met up. Afterwards, we went back home and had some of the best pizza ever! The next day we went shopping, which truly blew me away. Store after store, it was insane. Gucci, Prada, Versace, Louis Vuitton, I didn’t know how to contain myself. I went to the biggest Zara I have ever seen, it was three levels, of just Men’s Clothing. There’s so much to describe what happened this weekend in Milan. Milan has become one of my new favorite cities!

- Musa

Over the weekend, on Saturday morning, a couple of us (Italian hosts and American homestays) went on a tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s house in Milan, and after that, we split up so that I was with a small group of Musa (and his host), Jane (and her host), Mackenzie (and her host), and me (with my host, Matilde). We went to the famous shopping center in the middle of Milan and visited really expensive designer stores, like Versace, Gucci, and Prada. After that Matilde and I went back to her house to get ready for the disco party that most of the group were going to. On Sunday morning at 2:30ish, Matilde and I got back to her house, but it would take another three hours before I actually fall asleep. Later in the midday, I woke up to meet Matilde’s mother’s side of the family for her maternal Grandfather’s 80th birthday. We went to a restaurant, had really good food, and left to go have an afterparty at her house. Matilde’s older cousin, Sara, was very nice and the three of us spoke for hours in Matilde’s room. At night, we come down to sing happy birthday in Italian, then Matilde and I went out to a cafe, where we met up with most everyone (Italians and Americans). Since we arrived twenty-five minutes late, most of the group left, but we stayed with the rest and had fun talking and joking. When it was time to leave, we all took a group photo, and a polaroid photo.

- Miri


Rome: We went to The Coliseum during a thunderstorm. It was extraordinary to all of us to be standing in an ancient wonder, which most of us had only seen in textbooks. Afterwards, we walked to a large fountain and had an hour for shopping and gelato. 

Vatican: We went to see an enormous collection of art, including the famous Sistine Chapel. There was an audio guide, but it was not necessary because the frescoes told a story themselves. 

Florence: We only had one day to spend in Florence and most of us spent it shopping. There were clothing stores and chocolate stores, but what stood out the most was the street packed with only jewelry. Shop after shop was just necklaces, rings, bracelets, and pendants. The city of Florence was beautiful. There was an outstanding church, but sadly we were late for mass. 

Venice: We woke up early to go on a boat tour. The boat stopped at three different islands. The first island was known for producing blown glass. The second island had lots of lace. When we got back to the city, we met up with Davide and Rebecca from Milan. We finished the day with a trip to a restaurant and woke up at 4:30 am the next morning.