Henry Ford
2008-09 Outbound to Italy
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: Pedro Menendez High School, St. Augustine, Florida
Sponsor: Coastal St. Johns Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Cremona Po Rotary Club, District 2050, Italy

Henry's Bio

 Hi, my name is Henry Ford, and I’m 16 years old. When I was 5 years old I moved from East Lansing, Michigan to St. Augustine, Florida. I really don’t remember a whole lot about Michigan, but I can remember I was more excited about moving than I was sad. Now I live in St. Augustine Beach, and currently I’m a 10th grader at Pedro Menendez High School. I love playing soccer, learning new things, and going to new places.

My favorite thing to do is play soccer. I have been playing since I was 5 years old, and I have been playing on a select team since I was 10. What I like about soccer is that it takes a lot of endurance, ball skills and good ball control, awareness, strength, and speed. The combination of these makes for a game that is, in my opinion, addicting. In my free time, I also enjoy going to the beach. At the beach my friends and I go surfing a lot during the summer. I also like doing things with my family. We do a lot together, and I enjoy doing things with them like playing golf or riding bikes.

I have many goals in life and right now, aside from having a great time as an exchange student, the biggest goal I have is to go to college at the University of Florida. I really want to achieve this because I feel it will open up opportunities for me for the rest of my life. Although it is a really hard school to get into, I feel if I do my best in high school I can achieve this goal.

I’m very excited about being an exchange student in a different country. Not only will it be great while I’m there, but I’m positive that this will shape me into a different person than I would’ve become without this exchange. I’m interested to see who that person will be. This will be an adventure that will last a lifetime, and I just can’t wait for it to start.

October 5 Journal

 As I drove to the Jacksonville Airport with my family and bags, I thought to myself, why aren’t I crying or at least feeling anything. The truth was I knew exactly what I was doing in leaving my life in Florida behind and venturing to a foreign country thousands of miles away, but I really wasn’t very emotional about it. I was going from a country and town I knew so well to a country that was very different.

As I walked off the plane in the Malpensa (Milan) airport I was relieved. 18 hours of flying and sitting in airports had exhausted me and all I wanted to do was to meet my host family and then go to my new house and sleep. After I grabbed my bags at the baggage claim the other exchange students I had flown with and I walked through the doors that would bring us face to face with our host families. Even though I knew a lot about my first host family due to the fact that my host sister was an exchange student close to where I live, I was pretty nervous about seeing them for the first time. Right when we walked through those doors we walked into an area where there was about 60 people waiting for various people who had also arrived. Right away I recognized my host sister, Laura, and for the first time I saw my host dad, Beppe, and host mom, Luciana. After shaking hands with a few Rotary people we walked to their car and we were on our way to Cremona. As we drove home I was so tired that every now and then my head would tilt back but then jerk forward as I forced myself awake. I had just arrived in Italy and I didn’t want to miss seeing a single thing. We drove into town around 6 o’clock and the sun was starting to set.. My host family gave me a quick tour of the house. That night I went out with my host sister who showed me the centro, which is so close to my house. I met a lot of her friends. I was overwhelmed by everything. Finally around 12 I returned to the house. And fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. The next morning I woke up around 1.

I have now been in Italy for almost a month and I’m very happy here. I love my host family as they're incredibly nice and care about me. I also love where I live. I live about 3 minutes by foot from the centro, downtown. My host brother, Michele, has been so helpful because he always invites me to do things with him with his friends. Because of this most of my friends are his friends also. We also are playing on the same soccer team.

Because there is school 6 days a week including Saturday =(, all of the kids go out on Saturday night. In downtown Cremona there are 4 piazzas, and these piazzas are where I hang out along with a bunch of other kids. I feel that already I’ve made a lot of friends here, and just about everywhere I go there is someone I know. Another thing I really like about Cremona is that unlike cities in the United States you can ride a bike everywhere. My host parents have given me a bike to use and I used it just about every day. I ride to school, a sports club called Baldeiseo, and the centro. The only place I go regularly that I’m not able to ride a bike to is soccer training which is probably 5 miles from where I live.

As for school, currently it's pretty boring, but I even now I can see there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s close to impossible to understand my teachers right now except for a few sentences because they speak so quickly. So right now I participate as much as is possible and then in the times where it isn’t possible for me to participate I memorize new verbs and their conjugations and vocabulary.

My Italian has improved a huge amount since I arrived. Everyday I learn more and more. I am constantly asking what words I don’t know mean, and how to say new words. When I first arrived I could hardly understand a thing people were saying to me, but now I understand a pretty good amount. I am able to share my thoughts and if I don’t know a word in Italian usually I’m able to say that one word in English and the kids will understand me and tell me it in Italian. If I’m not able to do this I have become good at using various gestures to describe the word.

My biggest challenge is to use Italian when I’m around people who speak good English. For about week I got into a bad habit of talking in English with my host brother because he is close to fluent in English. I think it hindered my progress a little and I had to make a big effort to stop it. Now I speak about 90-95% in Italian during the day. In conclusion, so far I’m having a great time and I’m loving Italy.

November 7 Journal

 Ciao! Time for another update on my exchange in Italy. So much has happened this month that it's hard to believe that it has only been a little over a month since I last wrote.

Earlier this month, I went with the other 3 exchange students living in Cremona to a town near Cremona called Pavia. Pavia is bigger than Cremona but is by no means a big city. It has a very old and famous university. Both of my host parents both attended this university along with lots of other people in Cremona. Allesandro Volta, the physicist who developed the first electric cell, taught at the University of Pavia for 25 years. The host mom who took us to Pavia is a physics teacher at the university there and gave us a tour of the university. It was beautiful. The rest of the day we walked around Pavia and explored the town.

About two and a half weeks ago I changed host families temporarily. My host parents went on vacation to Argentina, and I moved for two and a half weeks to a small town called Castelverde outside of Cremona. It was much more different than living with my first host family. Every morning I had to wake up at 6:15 to take the bus to school. Also, living outside of Cremona definitely made it harder to do things with my friends in Cremona. Tonight I'm returning to my family in Cremona's home, and I'm really excited. I feel I'd become pretty close with the family and I was sad to have to leave them even for just 2 1/2 weeks.

Yesterday, I went to Milano with 2 of the other Cremona exchange students. All of us exchange students here in Cremona have become good friends with each other. We took a train to Milano and then met up with some of the exchange students there. In the morning we went sight-seeing. The duomo (cathedral) was incredible. You can see tons of pictures of it, but when you actually see it in real life it is surreal. It's enormous. Inside was equally amazing; its ceilings are SO tall and the columns inside are huge. Also, on the top of the church there is a really cool golden Madonna statue. We also saw a cool church where there was a chamber with all these skulls and bones in the walls.

After seeing the duomo and the bone church we walked around lost for a long time while trying to find a store the girls wanted to go to. Even though we were with the exchange students who lived in Milano we still got lost a few times. That day we took the subway almost everywhere, and it's hard to understand. After going to their store we returned to Piazza duomo. We were talking and sitting on the steps of the duomo when I looked at the huge TV screen in the piazza and noticed we were on MTV's European TRL. That was really cool. Then after this, we went shopping even more. We went to Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Pucci, and a bunch of other really expensive designer stores. I didn't buy anything because it was all super expensive, but I went in them all. It probably wasn't a good idea to go shopping with 6 girls in the fashion capital of the world. I was dead tired that night, from all the walking, waiting, and telling girls, "Yeah, it looks OK." It was really fun though. It was my first time in Milano even though it's only an hour away from Cremona, but it was definitely one to remember. Also, I'm going back next Thursday again!

Thank you so much Rotary for giving me this opportunity to have such a great time!

Until next time. Ciao.


 December 16 Journal

 Hey, I'm writing again to give an update on how my exchange is going. I've been here over 3 months now. It's strange though because at the same time I feel I've been here a really long time, I also feel I just got here yesterday.

Since I last wrote I've done many cool things, but the one that stands out to me as the most important is the progress I've made in learning Italian. I'm so excited because now, I feel that when I have a conversation, it's very very rarely that I don't understand what the other person said. I still have a long way to go, but when I look back on how much Italian I knew when I came here and then think about how much I know now, it is simply amazing. The thing that has helped me the most in learning the language has been studying by myself. Every single day I study a lot on my own at home. In addition to this I study at school and at the tutoring class the other exchange students and I have during the week. In the beginning of my exchange I was only studying at tutoring class, but now I study for hours everyday and I can see how much of a difference it's made.

On December 8th I changed host families and so now I'm living with my second host family. For me, the change came out of nowhere. Although I obviously knew that I would be changing families and when I would be doing so, I didn't really think about it until I was packing my bags on the day I was leaving. My new host "family" consists of my host mom because she is a single mother and her daughter is on exchange in Wisconsin. Even though I miss my first host family a lot, I'm very content with my new home. My host mom and I talk a ton and I'm glad to keep her company while her daughter is away in America. Not only is this good for her but I'm sure it helps my Italian a lot.

It's very close to the beginning of winter, and unlike Florida it's really cold. Every day for the last week it has rained. The weather is pretty horrible. This is one of the things I definitely miss about Florida. Yesterday, I talked to my parents who told me that it was in the 70's in Florida. Wow, I sure wish it was like that here. Anyways it's dinner time here so I've got to go.

Ciao, Henry

March 3 Journal

 Ciao, I'm writing to give an update on my exchange here in Italy. I haven't written for a couple of months, and so I'll try to sum up December, January, and February briefly. Cold and grey. Let me tell you, the climate here made me really appreciate the type of weather we have in Florida. The last 2-3 months were pretty hard for me at sometimes. There would be times when there was tons of snow on the ground and I had to walk about 30-40 minutes through the slush and snow to school. I would think to myself, man I wish I was wearing a hoodie and under the sun. For the first time since I arrived in Italy, I genuinely started to miss my family, friends, and overall lifestyle in Florida. Even though the winter wasn't a lot of fun for me, now that in the last couple of weeks the sun has come out, my attitude and outlook has done a 180. I need the sun! Now everyday the weather is pretty nice and the temperature has risen quite a bit. It's so much nicer to go out now!

The winter has ended here and loads of good things are coming from it. Along with the weather improving, I've been able to start traveling more, which was one of the things I was really wanting. Up until a few weeks ago I had only been to a handful of cities that are close to my town. In the last two weeks alone I have been to Venice and Milan. Milan I've been to 3 times already, but every time that I go it's a lot of fun. Venice on the other hand was spectacular. It's my favorite Italian city by a mile. I went there on a trip with Rotary for Carnivale. Carnivale is a huge holiday, and as a result, the city was packed to the limit. This just added to the fun and didn't take away from Venice's beauty. It was so cool because so many people there were either wearing a mask or dressed up in costume. Apparently, Venice is the place in Italy to celebrate Carnivale. It definitely was the most fun holiday I've celebrated in Italy. Everything from the special type of deserts, the masks and costumes, to the parties. Another thing that added to my fun in Venice, was that Rotary organized the trip for all the exchange students in the northern half of Italy. I even saw Kevin, which was a real surprise. Overall, it was a day packed full of fun. When I returned to Cremona, I looked at my photos on the computer I realized I'd taken over 120 photos. Every single canal, statue, gondola, bridge, building, and church was picturesque. Now after having so much fun on that trip, I've been informed that we'll be going on a similar trip to Florence and Pisa in the near future. Also, in two weeks my parents are coming to visit me and we're going to go to Rome, Florence, and Tuscany throughout two weeks. I'm so excited!

Everything is really starting to come together now. With a good group of Italian friends, a pretty good grasp on the Italian language, I'm starting to have a lot of fun again. One of the things that's really bugged me about life in Italy is the fact that Italian students study nonstop during the schooldays. It's not very often that Italians are able to hang out after school. Because of this, I've spent lots of time during the weekdays with the other exchange students in my town. Last week, I mentioned to the teacher at my school if she could find about some volunteering opportunities around town, and now I will more than like be spending some of my time during the week doing volunteer work at an elementary school or something similar to that. One thing that has really helped me throughout these last 6 months has been playing on a soccer team. Soccer is one of my passions in America as well as here, and where better to play than in the home of the World Cup champions. But it's not just that, being a part of a team with other Italians helped me make lasting friends and helped me spend time with Italians during the week. I would highly recommend joining a team to any future exchange student.

All in all, tutto bene (all is good) here. I'm having a really good time on exchange here and more importantly I'm learning a lot about myself as well as the world around me.