Italy vs. Indiana

Exchange Ideas with an Exchange Student


Jamisen Halverson, Writer

Italy vs. Indiana—jump into the ring with this month’s foreign exchange student to duke it out.

Is Elkhart a “big” town? Not in Niccolo Benda’s eyes. His hometown of Padua—located just 20 miles outside Venice—is five times bigger than Elkhart, with 2,501,270,000 citizens! But, hey, Elkhart is just 20 miles outside of South Bend, and our town is often flooded like Venice!

(One point Italy; 0 points Indiana)

   Is the educational system better here? Niccolo put it this way: “ECHS is quite good and fun, but Elkhart itself is quite boring.” This is not news to Elkhart teens. When teens here, however, find out there are five years of high school required in Italy, boring Elkhart, Indiana, might seem a little better.  The school system itself, though, is also significantly different from Italy’s. The students there aren’t permitted to “choose” the subjects. They are placed on a career track that has courses already mapped out. “Mine, for example, is about Human Sciences,” Niccolo explained. This sounds like the pathway of Elkhart’s schooling system is leading into.

(Tied up. One point Italy; One point Indiana)

Travel opportunities? While many Elkhartans have never traveled outside the state—let alone thousands of miles to the coastal states—Europeans have cultural experiences within arm’s reach in any direction. “I always loved traveling,” Niccolo admitted. While here, he hopes to see Lake Michigan and possibly even the Grand Canyon. If not, Niccolo is content taking in all the Hoosier State has to offer. “This experience is making me a better person,” he adds. “I’m becoming an adult.” Niccolo goes on to say that “being far away from your home country isn’t always so easy.” But, the fact remains that Niccolo has in all probability seen more locations from world history books than most students in this school.

(Italy, 2; Indiana, 1)

   Teenage expectations?  Niccolo notes that Elkhart students’ discipline and way of dressing is different from Italy, because in Italy, they are not caught up in so many rules and regulations. Italians seem to have a natural sense of decorum that has apparently been lost in translation here. Niccolo points out that in the United States, people go out in flip flops, sweats, slides, and not care as much of that other people think on how they look.

(Italy, 3; Indiana 1)

   Speaking of the “lost in translation” aspect, what about the difficulty in learning a new language?  Learning the English language was about the hardest language to learn for Niccolo. However, he started to learn American English in elementary school and is quite fluent in it now. “The hardest thing to learn was all the past tense,” Niccolo confides. Native Elkhartans would probably also agree with that! And, they have been immersed in the language a lot longer! Moreover, their knowledge of Italian probably consists of menu item names on an Olive Garden menu.

(4-1, Italy)

   So, how does the Italian food compare? Elkhart is known for its Italian cuisine, but Niccolo insists that it’s different than true Italian food. “I’m not gonna lie—It sucks. It’s not Italian; it’s American cuisine with Italian names.” Someone definitely needs to introduce him to a few of Elkhart’s best Italian restaurants before awarding a point here!

(Score remains: 4-1)

   Well, game over. Italy wins! Niccolo can celebrate his victory with a creamy gelato, while we Hoosiers console ourselves with what we’re best known for—corn.