Frongia creates exchange for Italian students, waits for approval


The Italian exchange would involve students from HHS spending two weeks at school Italy, followed by students from said school spending time at HHS.

Italian teacher Gian Frongia is pairing up with a Catholic private school in Italy to give a group of students an experience they’ll never forget. The idea, still pending approval from administration and school board, is to have a group of students live in Italy for two weeks, and in return, students from the school in Italy would come to Harrisonburg in order to experience the day-to-day life of a high schooler in America.

“A group of students [in Italy] are interested in this exchange, so what we want to do is invite some students to come here to our school,” Frongia said. “There will be host families here in the United States, [and] our students going there will be hosted by some Italian families.” 

Frongia hopes the students who participate in this exchange will be able to understand the Italian.

“I prefer to see this as an exchange more than just a trip [since they’re] not going to visit just places. This is an experience that’s a little bit deep. Students have the opportunity to meet the Italian culture, a real family and a real language,” Frongia said. “We have [many different languages represented] in our school, but it’s important to [understand that there are other languages around the world and] it’s also important for students to understand the language they are learning is not just a language in the classroom, it’s a language that has a culture, society and history.”

Students’ academic performance in all subjects is significant in choosing who will be able to participate in the exchange because of the number of school days that will be missed. With this in mind, Frongia hopes to keep the amount of days the students are missing school to a minimum by using spring break. 

“They have to be excellent students because they need to be out of school for two weeks, so they have to be able to catch up with everything when we come back. I’m thinking of having this exchange spring break and the week before so they will only be missing one week of school,” Frongia said. 

One of the first students who came to mind is freshman Nina Alabanza, who is currently enrolled in Italian 1. With an interest in traveling and a love for the Italian language, Alabanza is a top candidate to go to Italy later this semester. 

“I’ve always wanted to travel, and since the beginning of the year when I started taking Italian, I’m constantly talking about how much I want to go to Italy and live there for a while. I was the first one he told about it because he knew how much I wanted to go,” Alabanza said. “Mostly I want to go to help myself learn the language, but I also just want to experience different cultures, traditions and a different way of living and I am very excited we would be going to an Italian high school [because they] are pretty different from American high schools.” 

Not only has the possibility of experiencing education in Italy intrigued Alabanza, she’s also excited to experience the home life by staying with a family for two weeks. 

“Staying with the host family and just being able to take a chance to live how someone living in Italy [is exciting], especially as a teenager,” Alabanza said. 

Although the exchange is not finalized yet, Frongia hopes building a relationship with the high school on the other side of the world will be beneficial for future opportunities as well. 

“[The school] has around 800 students, but their interest is also an exchange. We are trying to have this relationship with the school,” Frongia said. “Here our principal is open to exchange programs, but this is just the beginning, the first step.”


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