Benvenuto Cecilia!


Italian exchange student Cecilia Versari (right) with her sister (left) in Italy

Chloe Morbelli, Arts and Entertainment Editor

A world traveler at just seventeen years old, Cecilia Versari has come to Westford Academy from Italy to experience what life is like as an American. For the 2017-2018 school year, Versari is a new addition to WA’s junior class. Cultured, intelligent, and charming, Versari spoke eloquently about life in Italy and her experiences as an exchange student.

American Field Service, also known as AFS, is the international program that allows Versari to study abroad. Versari is not a stranger to traveling, having studied in England, Australia, and in the U.S. before. Coming from the Northern Italian town, Forlì, Massachusetts is a new destination for her. Forlì differentiates from Westford in its environment, being a city on the coast versus a suburban town.

Although Cecilia is already seventeen years old, she is a junior rather than a senior at WA due to the Italian school system. In Italy, high school is five years instead of four, delaying the college process by one year.

Her Italian school differs greatly from WA in most aspects. Her school does not offer extracurriculars like sports, theatre, or clubs. Classes are lecture-based, where students sit in the same room as teachers rotate throughout the day. Versari remains in the same class from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon and has to attend school on Saturdays.

“We don’t really talk during lessons or ask questions, we take notes and then discuss them at home […] I like the interactive classes [at WA]. I like that I can ask questions,” Versari explained.

Forlì has multiple high schools that students must decide between based on their academic interests. At the beginning of freshman year, Versari decided on the humanistic track which focuses on history, philosophy, literature, Latin, and Ancient Greece. Other options were based more on math, science, or linguistics.

At WA, Versari takes the same core classes as other juniors and ties in her interest for humanities through her electives. She enjoys her psychology and criminal minds classes, and her prior knowledge from school in Italy engages her interest.

After studying English for eight years, Versari is articulate while speaking. Her Italian accent is the only boundary between her sounding like a native English speaker. She does not find difficulty in the material or language barrier in her classes and finds her teachers at WA to be helpful and friendly.

“I understand [in my classes]. It’s more like trying to adapt to the other type of teaching, the interactive lessons, and understanding that I can ask questions,” Versari said.

Overall, Versari had a few words to summarize her experience so far in Westford

“It is different, really different,” she said.

With her host family, the Hendls, Versari feels welcomed and at home. She has picked up horseback riding from her host sister and enjoys making dinner with her host family. Versari described with a smile when she cooked her favorite kind of pasta, carbonara, for her American family.

As for her younger sister and parents back in Italy, Versari will not see them until the end of the exchange in June. AFS is strict when it comes to leaving her host family, not allowing her to visit during holidays.

“Imagine you start living a new life here. Friends, family, a new routine, and then you go back home. Then you have to say goodbye to your friends, parents, family again, and then start again your life here. I mean it’s just too hard. It’s mentally just too hard,” Versari explained.

Regarding the rest of her stay in Westford, Versari looks forward to the experience. American culture such as football games, cotillion, and prom are new and exciting for her. 

“The better way to learn a language is by going to the country it is spoken [in]. It’s not just about the language, it’s the culture, it’s meeting people and experiencing real things,”  Versari said.