Italian Foreign Exchange Student Tommaso Stella Describes His Experience Living in Florida for a Year

Here’s how he spent the last 10 months in the Sunshine State.

From tackling Varsity football to riding waves on a jet ski, Tommaso has filled his days with adventure since he’s arrived in Florida.

Tommaso Stella, who often goes by Tom, has thrived during his junior year of high school in Florida. Moving from Verona, Italy, Tom made the daring decision to travel over 5,000 miles from his home to live with a host family and attend an American school.

Tom’s college offers!

Yet, he’s embraced every moment he’s spent under the Florida sun, making the most of his new surroundings and opportunities. For starters, he is the valedictorian of his grade, seed 4 on his high school boys’ varsity tennis team, and played wide receiver on the school’s varsity football team. He is also taking advanced classes such as AP Chemistry, AP Calculus, and AP Physics.

Below, I ask Tom some questions regarding the time he’s spent in the U.S., and the foreign exchange experience.

N: What is it like living in another country, and being so far away from your family?  

T.S.: Living in America is amazing; I have been enjoying life here a lot. Most things like my routine and activities have changed since I moved to the U.S. Living in another country can be difficult and scary but with the right mentality and an open mind it can be a fantastic experience.

Tom enjoying an American sized soda.

Living away from my family is the biggest downside of being an exchange student. For 9 months I haven’t seen my family, and I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t been hard. When you move away you realize how much you rely on your family’s support, advice, and presence, and once it is all gone you must live alone with nobody that can physically help you. Living without my family made me grow a lot. I think I’m more mature, self-confident and ready for my future. 

N: What made you want to join the foreign exchange program and come to America?  

T.S.: My mum when she was my age, she did the exchange student program and experienced the “year of her life.” Since I was little, she has always encouraged me to try new experiences abroad and made me expand my horizons. In addition, since I was a kid, I would always watch the Super Bowl and I was always interested in playing American Football, which was impossible to do in Italy. I promised myself that I would play it once I was an exchange student in the United States. 

N: How did you find out about the program?  

T.S.: My mum found the program online.

N: What is the difference between the education system here in America vs in Italy? Is it stricter or more lenient?  

T.S.: The school system in the U.S. is very different compared to Italy and Europe in general. In Italy you choose during your first year of high school what you will want to study in particular. You can choose a scientific school, languages school, or classic school (comprehension of Ancient Greek and Latin). Every school teaches the same subjects but each dives deeper into specific subject depending on which school you are attending (I am in a scientific school, so I have 5 hours of chemistry per week, unlike a classic school in which they have 3 hours a week). Moreover, we have 12 classes spread over 6 days of the week (we only get Sundays off). Another big difference is the after-school activities; in Italy a school is made only of classes and once they finish you leave; no clubs, no extra school activities, and no school teams, whereas in the U.S., clubs and sports at school are a very big thing that make students have school spirit which I believe is amazing. 

N: How does it feel to be accomplished already at your new school, considering you are the valedictorian of your grade?  

T.S.: It definitely feels good, I’m glad I have been performing very well. Italian schools are way harder and stricter, so I’m used to a much more difficult level of school.  

N: Does your current school in the U.S. offer anything different (or better) than your previous school in Italy?  

T.S.: My school in Florida provides breakfast and lunch which I have never had food provided in my schools. 

Tom practicing mini golfing with a lanyard. 😂

N: Could you describe your experience making friends?

T.S.: Making friends was definitely something that I was worried about. My strategy was to get in the football team and create friendships with the players and that is what I did. My closer friends at the beginning of the year were football players and thanks to them I met my best American friend with whom I have an amazing relationship. 

N: How is it living with another family? Do you ever feel lonely? Is staying in touch with your friends and family back home difficult? 

T.S.: I have been very lucky with my host family; my host mum is an amazing person that made me feel at home as soon as I stepped into the house. Obviously, I had to get used to the house rules and “dynamic”. Keeping in touch with everyone in Italy hasn’t been too hard because the time difference is only 6 hours which is not too bad. For sure, I was used to talking with my parents every day and all of a sudden now I talk with them only twice a week due to strict schedules.   

Tommaso modeling with a football in hand. 🏈

N: Describe the sports teams you decided to join this year. Did you play those sports in Italy?  

T.S.: During my exchange student year I decided to play American football as I explained before, because I always wanted to play in Italy, but I didn’t get a chance. I also played tennis which I used to play in Italy too and my best friend here in the U.S. was on the team, so I thought that it would have been fun playing together.   

N: Would you say there is a difference in people’s mannerisms compared to in Italy? Are they friendlier? 

T.S.: I wouldn’t say that people are nicer but American people are definitely less reserved, they would tell you everything about their life, money, and past adventures with no problem. American people are also very easy going, and easy to get along with.   

N.A.: Will you miss Florida, and your current school?   

T.S.: I will miss the school which I love so much, the stress is almost nothing compared to what I had in Italy, and I will miss this country so much, everything is just so easy and cool.  

Tommaso singing and jamming to “One Kiss” by Dua Lipa.

N: What will you miss most when you move back to Italy? 

T.S.: Probably my friends and my host mum, they have been so important to me during this year, I will never forget them.   

N: And lastly, what was your favorite memory this year? Favorite class? Did you enjoy tennis or football more?

T.S.: My favorite memory was probably going with a jet ski with some American friends which was a very funny experience. My favorite class I think is AP Chemistry because of the teacher. He is such a good person, very nice and easy going, I love that here the relationship with a teacher is very informal compared to what I’m used to.  

T.S.: My favorite is sport is American Football, it gave me so many emotions and brought so much happiness to me that I couldn’t pick something else besides it. Football season has been the best period of my life, it was like living a dream!!  

Tom’s football hype video, sporting a Bucs’ Jake Camarda jersey.

The Tampa Bay Bucs starting punter Jake Camarda even commented on Tom’s football hype video!

Dreams really did come true for Tom. Upon graduating from high school in Italy, Tommaso hopes to return to Florida to attend the University of Florida.

Here he’s met some of his best friends, explored new passions, and grew to be more independent. He’s had a memorable year filled with adventures, shared laughter, and great accomplishments.


7 responses to “Italian Foreign Exchange Student Tommaso Stella Describes His Experience Living in Florida for a Year”

  1. What a lovely lad

  2. salt life Avatar
    salt life

    What an amazing experience. America is the Greatest!

    1. ‼️‼️


  4. Arav Patel Avatar
    Arav Patel


  5. tommaso fan🤘 Avatar
    tommaso fan🤘

    ayyyyyyyyy 😮‍💨

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