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Arrivederci, Boonsboro

Student is off on a five-month Italian adventure

Student is off on a five-month Italian adventure

February 14, 2006|by JANET HEIM

janeth@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - With 64 pounds of luggage on the airline conveyor belt and 44 pounds of gifts off to her host family via the U.S. Postal Service, a year's worth of planning was in motion as Jenny Angle boarded her flight to Italy on Jan. 25.

The Boonsboro High School junior had been dreaming of this day since a visit last school year to the guidance counselor's office.

Jenny, 16, was seeking advice to boost her appeal to colleges despite average grades.

While waiting, she struck up a conversation with a student who had a copy of a magazine published by American Field Service. It's an international nonprofit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities for high school students.

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Intrigued, Jenny shared the AFS information with her parents, Mark and Jayne Angle, telling them she'd like to be an exchange student.

Her mother was supportive because her own parents had hosted numerous foreign exchange students while she was growing up. Jenny's father was apprehensive, but helped her set fundraising goals once he realized how serious Jenny was.

Anticipating expenses of about $9,000 for the trip, the Angles gave Jenny their blessing, provided she'd help raise the money.

So, while taking Italian lessons, babysitting and working at Family Recreation Center, Jenny and her family, including her three siblings, organized fundraisers.

They ranged from food stands in Washington, D.C., and Gaithersburg, Md., to selling cinnamon buns and ham sandwiches here. There were also Party Lites, Mary Kay and Longaberger parties at which the party consultants donated some or all of their commission to Jenny.

"There were many ways to support her - prayers and encouragement, in addition to financial," said Jayne Angle. She said Jenny is so appreciative of all the people who helped her achieve her goal.

As part of the AFS program, Jenny attended several meetings and an orientation session. Since neither Washington County nor Frederick County have AFS chapters, Jenny had to go to meetings in Howard County - where 10 students from one school are going abroad through AFS.

Jenny had originally hoped to go to Australia, where language wouldn't be a problem. When all those spots were taken, she chose Italy.

Many Washington County students participate in summer educational programs abroad. But staff at the county Board of Education think it's been at least 15 years since a local public high school student studied abroad during the school year.

The logistics of studying abroad and how her coursework would transfer to Washington County were an unknown. While she picks up the Italian language, Jenny might have to take easier courses than she would have taken at Boonsboro.

Jenny's guidance counselor, Amy Keyfauver, said Jenny should be able to graduate with her class in 2007, but isn't sure how the classes she is taking in Italy will transfer.

Before she left, Jenny had no trouble communicating via the Internet with her host family, who speak limited English.

Using e-mail and Web cam, Jenny got to know "Papa," Giovanni Daimania, his wife Marissa, and their only child, Isabella, who turns 16 this month. The family lives in Bari, in southern Italy.

The up to four e-mails a day from Giovanni, who refers to Jenny as his "beautiful American daughter," reassured the Angles she will be cared for well during the five months she will live with the Daimanias. They've redecorated a room for her and, beginning in April, she will make weekend trips with them to their vacation home, where they "bathe in the sea," as Giovanni described it.

Squid, turnip tops

From Italy, Jenny writes that the most unusual foods she's tried so far are squid and turnip tops, and that she loves the pizza.

There will be adjustments - such as going to school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., having lunch, studying, and then eating dinner at about 8:30 p.m.

Jenny, who wears the same size clothing as Isabella, brought clothing she's hoping to trade for Italian fashions.

The gift box she sent to the Daimanias contained American flags and travel brochures, as well as American clothing that's popular with teenagers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle.

For her host mother, she included pastel scarves. Jenny took a leather cowboy hat for Giovanni, since he was unable to buy one in Italy.

A girls' varsity soccer player at Boonsboro, Jenny is hoping to join a boys' team in Italy since girls don't usually play soccer there. She packed her soccer cleats and shinguards and was thrilled to be allowed to play - and score two goals against the boys.

As part of the AFS program, the Angles will host an Italian student next year. Jayne Angle said she's considering starting an AFS chapter here so more local students have the opportunity to travel and study in another country.

"I told Jenny I would do nothing but support it, because I'd love to have done it," Jayne Angle said of being an exchange student.

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