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Alessandero Boca, a foreign exchange student from Italy, celebrates his 17th birthday. Alessandero is attending Effingham High School and staying with the Wayne and Carol Donsbach family.

Italian exchange student gets in Christmas Spirit

Waking up after Black Friday and a full day of shopping is a hard thing to do, especially when kids are eager to put up the Christmas decorations.

It’s not even the end of November and the house is completely covered in Christmas lights and decorations for everyone to enjoy. 

This is a normal tradition among families across the United States. But what is the Christmas holiday season like elsewhere?

For Alessandero Boca, a foreign exchange student at Effingham High School, Christmas isn’t as bright.

Boca is from the northern part of Italy and was blown away by the excitement of Christmas here in the states.

“We don’t put lights up on the house real frequently,” Boca said. “We have a tree and that’s pretty much it.”

Like here, they open presents and have a family lunch on Christmas Day.

Boca was impressed with all of the Christmas lights and decorations. After seeing the entire neighborhood filled with lights he knew this was something Italy missed -- community.

“Italian mentality is more selfish. In America I learned a lot about community and that’s a really good thing we miss in Italy,” he said.

Community is what helped Boca feel welcome here in Effingham.

“Honestly, we usually put up the Christmas tree by the second week of December,” Boca said. “Here, Christmas is more welcomed in a good way. People here are open-minded and I think that’s the American mentality.”

Boca has always been interested in the American culture and has always wanted to visit.

“I love basketball and have always wanted to visit to watch a game. Because I came over here to America, I was able to watch the (Los Angeles) Lakers play a live NBA game,” he said. 

After being given this opportunity to come to the United States, he didn’t know what to expect when he first arrived back in August.

One thing Boca was excited to see was how different school was compared to his home country.

In Italy, they have school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with two 10-minute breaks and no lunch break.

“My favorite thing about this whole experience is school,” he said. “Here you can have fun and hangout in-between classes.”

In Italy, they sit in the same classroom all day and learn with the same 23 students throughout the year.

“It’s very strict and the breaks are the only times you can actually talk to your classmates,” he said.

He thinks school here in America is more enjoyable since it’s more comfortable and laid back.

“I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world and I’m just glad that everyone was welcoming and willing to show me around,” he said.

Boca is staying with his host parents are Wayne and Carol Donsbach.

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