Three students bring Norway, Italy to Minneota
Three students involved in the Education Foundation for Foreign Study (EF) program are attending Minneota High School this year. Sebastiano Beraldo is a junior from Italy.
His host parents are Chad and Moriah Reiss. Ida-Celine Ribe, whose host parents are Jeremy and Courtney Frie, is a junior from Norway. And Alessia Giondi, a junior from Italy, is being hosted by Joel and Jackie Skillings. Beraldo and Giondi live around 100 miles from one another in northern Italy.
The three students have enjoyed their time in the Minneota School District and all expressed gratitude at how much the people here have made them feel welcome. Jackie Skillings is the EF High School Exchange Year Coordinator.
If you would like to be a host family in the future, contact her at 507-829-2122.
When asked what he has liked best about living in Minneota, exchange student Sebastiano Beraldo split the uprights with his answer. “Football season is the best thing that has happened to me since I came here,” he said with little hesitation. “We don't have sports teams in our schools in Italy. We have club teams instead.”
Beraldo, a junior, is from Treviso in northern Italy, a city with a population of nearly 85,000 and less than 30 minutes from Venice. His host family is Chad and Moriah Reiss. Although he is only 5-8 and 135 pounds, Beraldo made a big impact as a kicker on the Minneota football team. Beraldo played soccer in Italy, but admits that he “I'd kicked the soccer ball, but I wasn't very good.” Beraldo had never watched a football game in person; only in the movies. So he got a crash course when he joined the Vikings' team this past fall. And with practice, he got better and better kicking the pointed ball through the goal posts and ended up as a solid kicker for the varsity. Beraldo has also joined the Minneota wrestling team this winter. Wrestling at 140 pounds, he has posted a 4-6 record on JV.
“Wrestling, as with anything we do here, will provide an eye-opening and a great experience for him, we hope,” said Coach Joel Skillings.
“Sebastiano has had a big adjustment in the matches because he is used to wrestling Greco.” This isn't the first trip to the United States for Beraldo, although it's the first time he has been in the state of Minnesota.
His family has friends in Long Island, NY and the Beraldos have visited them twice. Sebastiano's father, Cesare, is a cook at a restaurant. His mother, Ludovica, is a sales agent for a book publishing company. He also has a 14-year-old brother, Giacomo.
Because his father is a cook, Sebastiano knows a thing or two about food.
“Healthy food is much more expensive here,” he said. “And I don't like the way they make pizza here. It's not bad, (but) it's just not pizza.” In Italy, Beraldo's favorite thing to eat is Tortellini (small ravioli cooked in broth). “And I eat a lot of lasagna made by my grandmother,” he said.
“And we would eat a lot of pizza and Japanese food.” And like Alessia Giondi, another Minneota EF student from Italy, Beraldo has fallen in love with S'mores during his stay here.
“They are my favorite food now,” he said.
“I have never had them before I came here.” He also likes most of our hot dishes, as well as macaroni and cheese. Beraldo has been skiing most of his life in Italy, so the cold weather is something he doesn't mind in Minnesota.
“I am used to temperatures between 15 and 32 degrees (Fahrenheit),” he noted.
“But most of the time, we have warm weather in Italy.” Beraldo doesn't feel frustrated or stressed when attending school in Minneota like he did in his homeland. “School is easier here, even if you are an exchange student,” he said.
“There is less study, less homework and less stress. But school is much more enjoyable here and the teachers help students more than Italy, too.”
Beraldo is also musically gifted. He played a piano solo at the Christmas Concert here on Dec. 6, a piece called, “Comptine d’un autre ete,” a song from a French movie entitled “Amelie.”
“It was one of the most fun things I've done here,” he said. He also plays the keyboard and mallets in the high school band. When asked the biggest differences between the two countries, Beraldo said people make friends easier here, more emphasis is placed on our sports teams, and the spaces are “giant” here.
The Minneota community has had a positive influence on the soft-spoken Beraldo. “Minneota is a small town with a lot of kind people,” he said. “That is a new reality for me.”
“And (Minneota) is less stressful than the place I came from. And you have less pollution here.” During his time here so far, Beraldo listed a trip to the Twin Cities with his host family as one of things he has enjoyed a lot. Beraldo will leave the United States the first week of June, but he hopes to return again next school year for another year as an exchange student. “I completed an application,” he explained. “I am waiting for them to accept it.”
Beraldo also plans to attend college in the United States when he is finished with high school.
When Ida-Celine Ribe started school in Minneota, the exchange student from Norway was surprised by all the rules they have. “School here is more strict with rules than schools in Norway,” she said. “I’ve never been afraid of school shootings back in Norway. I’m pretty sure that it’s never happened there before. So coming here and getting informed and trained for school shootings was (different) for me.” Ribe, a junior, comes from Lyngen, a small city (municipality) in the northern part of Norway with a population of 2,877. Ribe’s host parents are Jeremy and Courtney Frie. “I’ve never been to the United States before,” she said. “Back in Norway, I am surrounded by mountains and fjords, and here I am surrounded by cornfields.” Ribe’s father, Arild, is a farmer. Her stepmother, Tone, is a nurse. She also has two sisters back home, Linnea, 10; and Ann-Marlen, 25. And she has two stepsisters, Jenny and Infeborg, and two stepbrothers, Oyvin and Tor-Johnny. Landscape isn’t the only major difference between Norway and Minnesota. “We don’t do school sports in Norway,” she noted. “Instead, we have clubs.” “Grading is also different. We do not grade by percentage, but by points.” School begins at 7:45 a.m. and is dismissed at 2:05 p.m. Each class runs 40 minutes long. And the school year runs from Aug. 20 until around June 22. Of course, one of the similarities between Ribe’s hometown and Minnesota is the weather. “I’m used to the cold weather,” she said. “But we don’t have such a thing as ‘snow days’ in Norway.” “In the winter, we get to see the northern lights, but we only get around 3-4 hours of daylight. In the summer, we have daylight all day long.” When Ribe first arrived in the United States, she spent her first few days in New York with other exchange students. There, she was able to tour such places as Times Square and Central Park. When she arrived in Minnesota, she visited the Mall of America, noting “That was something that I thought was pretty awesome.”
Another thing that impressed Ribe was then she was in attendance when Minneota captured the state championship in volleyball. “That was really cool,” she noted.
“I’ve (have) really good friends here and they have all been taking me places and showing me around. I have so far made a lot of memories with them and my family here.” While here, Ribe has experienced a variety of foods for the first time in her life. “I had never had enchiladas, Sloppy Joes or Oreo salad before I came here,” she said. “I really like enchiladas and the Oreo salad. Sloppy Joes … I must said are okay.”
“Norway is known for eating a lot of fish. Seafood is not really something I eat. I love meat; especially steak.
Ribe is not involved in any sports at Minneota, but does work out at Fit 24 when she has time. “And I hope that I get the chance to work with horses this spring,” she mentioned. Ribe plans to go back to Norway the first week of June.
Her father and stepmom will visit her in Minneota and take all her belongings back home for her. She will then travel back to Norway with the other EF students. Ribe’s future plans are to finish her final year of high school in Norway and then attend a university.
“I’m thinking about studying law, medical school or psychology,” she said. “But I am still not sure what I want.” Ribe has really enjoyed the people here and will have lasting memories of her stay.
“I like Minneota. Since I grew up in a small community myself, I don’t like living in huge towns or cities. I am really happy I ended up here,” she said. “So far, it’s been a great year. Even though I am excited to go back home, I am really going to miss this place.”
While she has enjoyed her time as an exchange student so far in Minneota, there is one thing Alessia Giondi is not a big fan of. “Before I came here, I thought only in the North Pole it could get this cold,” said the junior from Italy whose host family is Joel and Jackie Skillings.
“I’m very sensitive to the cold, so I always have to wear layers and layers of clothes.” Still, she was able to find a silver lining in the middle of our cold weather state. “The positive thing is that I get to see the snow every day,” she said. “It’s very pretty.” Giondi comes from Forli, a city of 117,000 people located in northern Italy. Her father, Davide, owns and operates a harvesting company. Her mother (“mum”), Emi, runs a daycare service. She has one sibling, a 19-year-old brother. Giondi quickly found Minneota to her liking “It’s a very nice, small town,” said Giondi.
“The people here are very nice, too. Everyone has been welcoming with me.” Giondi made a previous trip to the United States two years ago when her family and a few friends embarked on a 10-day trip to New York. And now that she has been living in the United States for several months, Giondi is gradually adjusting to a different lifestyle than she is accustomed to. “The first thing that comes to mind is food,” Giondi remarked.
“In America, you can find a wide variety of food from different countries. When in Italy, we almost always eat only typical Italian food.”
“Also, there is an infinite variety of fast-food restaurant chains here. In Italy, there’s only two or three of them.” The difference in school life is vastly different between the two countries, too. After Italian students finish middle school, they are able to choose the high school they want to attend next.
“There are scientific schools, math schools, and many others,” Giondi explained. “I go to linguistic school. That doesn’t mean that I study only languages, though.” “I still take classes like math, science and physics.
But I study three different languages besides Italian, which you don’t get to study in the other schools.” Students in Italy also go to schools six days a week (Sunday being the day off) for five hours each day. “I don’t eat lunch at school since I get out at 1 p.m.,” Giondi said. “And I don’t have the same schedule every day like I do here.
In Italy, I have different classes every day.” And while students here scurry from class to class when the bell rings, students in Italy remain in the same classroom throughout the day. The teachers are the ones that roam from classroom to classroom. “I’m with the same classmates since I started high school,” Giondi told.
“Since I don’t have to switch class, I’m always with the same people.” The school Giondi attends in Italy has approximately 800 students. “I go to school as many months as I do here, but I get more holidays in Italy,” she noted.
“I was surprised when I found out how short Christmas break is here. In Italy, it is a week longer.” Among Giondi’s favorite food she’s eaten since her time here are burgers. “That’s what I always order every time I go out to eat,” she said. “S’mores has been a big discovery, too. I don’t know how I could live without them before.” But Giondi admits that she has had developed an obsession to peanut butter. “I had it here in America for the first time and now I have it almost every day,” she said.
While Italy is known for its pizza, Giondi said her “mum” (Emi) makes the best pizza she’s ever had.
“I love pizza,” she said. “I tried to follow her recipe but it didn’t turn out like hers. She must have some kind of super power for making pizza.” Giondi was a member of the Canby-Minneota cross country team this past fall, although she notes that by the end of the season she was “struggling with the cold”.
“I was planning to go out for track, too,” she said. “But the cold weather really scares me.” Giondi also revealed several other “firsts” she has experienced so far since she arrived in Minneota.
“I watched American football for the time, even though I still don’t get the rules,” she said.
And she experienced her first traditional Thanksgiving meal, as well as walking on a frozen lake for the first time. “There are not a lot of lakes around the area where I live, so I was very excited about it,” she stated. Giondi also took a trip with her host family to Duluth this past summer.
“Lake Superior and the national parks were amazing,” she recalled. “I saw such beautiful landscapes that I’ll never forget.”
Giondi will return to her homeland a week after school is dismissed. She then plans to attend a university in Spain and likely continue to study languages.
“But I have no idea about what kind of a job I’d like to do in the future,” Giondi said. “And I have to say that makes me nervous.” As long as she is somewhere warm, she’ll do just fine.