Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
It is always fascinating to meet newcomers to the United
States, and talking with two new foreign exchange students attending
Sycamore High School was no exception. Nana Grønlund Mohr
from Denmark and Giulia Cattivelli from northern Italy arrived
just before school started and have yet to witness a high school
football game (as of last Wednesday). Both are more familiar
with soccer in their home countries.
Nana has a younger sister at home, with one parent living in
Aarhus and the other in Randers. Her father owns a commercial
insurance firm, and her mother has worked in retail, is into
floral decorating and studied to teach special needs children.
Nana chose to enter school here as a junior because she
Nana Grønlund Mohr (left), from Denmark, and Guilia
Cattivelli (right), from Italy, met for the first time last week
at Sycamore High School Principal Tim Carlson's office. Both
are enrolled for the year at Sycamore.
by Barry Schrader)
is 16 years old, even though she has completed high school in
Denmark. To enter a Danish university, you must be proficient
in three languages - hers are Danish, English and German. She
faces seven years of college because she wants to become a doctor.
But there is no tuition as the government provides free education.
Nana said she has found peanut butter and macaroni and
cheese to her liking, but the flavored popcorn leaves something
to be desired. School days are much easier for her here. Back
home they have a longer day, with two breaks and they stay in
the same room all year; the teachers come to them.
The most famous star in Denmark? That's guitarist and songwriter
Kim Larsen. She said she hopes to visit the White House and some
national parks before her U.S. stay ends; she holds President
Barack Obama in high regard. Her Rotary host family here are
Ben and Lori Swedberg.
Talking with Giulia, I found that Italian schools also are different
than here. She is 17, so she entered the senior class at Sycamore.
Next fall she will return to her fifth year of high school in
Italy. They attend classes six hours a day with only one short
break to have a snack. Their teachers also move from room to
room and they stay with the same classmates through all five
years of high school, in classes of about 22 to 25 students.
Her father is a computer programmer for a bank and her
mother formerly worked as a secretary for a beverage company.
She has one sister four years her junior. New foods she has enjoyed
here so far are corn on the cob, pancakes with maple syrup, some
pastries and brownies.
Giulia's hometown of Monticelli d'Ongina has a population
of only 5,000 and has no high school, so she attends a boarding
school in a nearby city, commuting by bus daily. Similar to Nana's
school, they have digital "smart boards" in front of
the class, operated by computers. This is a recent innovation
in Italy, she said, and computers for students at school must
be paid for by the parents. She has her own laptop and iPod,
plus a cellphone. To keep in touch with family and friends she
sends text messages and uses Skype, which provides a video connection
Guilia said she would like to see Colorado and Alaska before
leaving the country. She said her educational and career plans
after high school are still fluid. Dan and Jody Ryan are her
host family for her Sycamore schooling, through the American
Field Service intercultural program.
I decided to save the more controversial questions - like
their opinions on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Illinois'
power politics, or American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan
- for the end of their stay here, so they will have time to hear
what Americans think as well. It will be a pleasure to chat with
them again next summer.