Exchange student makes most of his time

June 13, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

BOONSBORO - An Italian exchange student has enjoyed dipping his cup into the Melting Pot.

America was built upon noble principles, Alex Carbone said.

Carbone, from Mantova, Italy, said he has established a strong bond with his host family and made friends at Boonsboro High School.

School is easy, Carbone said.

The least savory aspect of his U.S. experience?

The "monotonous" food.

Now that's Italian.

"I think everybody wants to come here to see how it really is," Carbone, 18, said.

Since arriving in the States last August, Carbone has lived with host parents Susan Nicol and Rick Kyle in Knoxville, Md.


America is modern, big and open, full of contradictions - and teeming with meat-eaters, he said.

"The size of this country is one of the impressive things. It is unified," Carbone said.

Yet, unlike his hometown of Mantova - also known as Mantua - U.S. cities sprawl with new buildings, and many towns lack central historic districts, he said.

Many structures in Italian towns are drenched in history, dating from the 15th century or earlier, Carbone said. Mantova is the setting for Verdi's 19th-century opera, "Rigoletto."

The visions of America's founding fathers are also contradicted by the racism, violence and hypocrisy that now run rampant in this country, Carbone said.

"I don't understand why you can be 18 and buy a gun but have to be 21 to drink alcohol," he said. "There are many contradictions here."

"In Italy, nobody goes out just to get drunk," Carbone said.

Fortunately, his flexible nature has helped him adjust to such cultural differences.

He's no stranger to change.

Carbone, who lived in Bulgaria until age 10, also spent three years in Libya. He said he liked the climate, but the air was charged with politics.

"You feel the repressive atmosphere. Europeans are treated well, but not Americans," Carbone said.

The Italian said he has been treated well in the U.S.

His host family and school experience have vastly improved his English skills. In fact, Carbone has aced American academics.

In Italy, students attend five years of high school, spending much of the fifth year preparing for a comprehensive exit exam, he said.

"There is no multiple choice in Italy," Carbone said.

Though he said his English-as-a-second-language status prompted school administrators to place him in "easier classes," Carbone lobbied for more challenging courses.

He hurdled the language barrier to place near the top of his classes, even tutoring other math students, he said.

"I didn't take any advanced placement classes because I wanted to have enough free time to really enjoy my stay," Carbone said.

He's made the most of his time in America. Carbone played on the high school soccer and tennis teams, and has traveled with his host family.

He took a bite out of the Big Apple upon first arriving in the U.S., saw an atomic bomb research site in Tennessee, visited the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., toured the Sears Tower in Chicago and viewed the flatlands of Iowa and Missouri.

Though he said he looks forward to his July 5 homecoming, there will be a longing for his American friends and host family.

"We will miss each other a lot," Carbone said.

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