Ciao! Come stai?

Host a foreign exchange student from Italy

Find your student

Pizza, Pasta, Gelato – oh my! We know Italy for its great food, fashion and architecture, but there's so much more to explore. By understanding more about our Italian exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Italian communication, home life, education and food, as described by our program participants.

Educational system

In Italy, students attend classes Monday through Saturday. Most school days begin at 8:30 am and end at 1:30 pm. Students generally return home for lunch. Italian students can choose which type of high school they would like to attend. Traditional high school options include classic, scientific, human sciences, artistic and linguistic studies. Italian students can begin learning a foreign language in middle school. The most common languages offered are English, French and German. Convalidation, or the ability to receive academic credit for an exchange year in the US, is vital to Italian students. It allows them the ability to study outside their home country. Convalidation is guaranteed by EF.

Tip From EF: To convalidate their exchange year, Italian students will need to be enrolled in the proper grade level and may require specific courses. Check with your IEC to make sure that can be done at your high school. It will be helpful for your student to sit down with a counselor or registrar when getting set up at school to set up the required courses and electives.

Communication style

Friends greet each other with a hug or by kissing on both cheeks. It is common for Italian students to be very talkative, loud and animated when they speak. Using hand gestures when speaking is incredibly common in Italy, especially in the south. They may even communicate with their hands instead of words. Italian parents and their children talk a lot! Parents, especially mothers, are very involved in their children’s lives.

Tip From EF: Be patient at the beginning and give your student space to miss their family. Ask your student about their relationship with their parents to gain an understanding of their background. Make sure you have open and honest conversations about communication with people back home. It may be useful to set up a weekly schedule for calls. Share expectations clearly and directly with your student to ensure that they are understood.



Come stai?

How are you?

Food habits

Food is a huge part of Italian culture! Most families eat dinner together every evening. Dinner time is anywhere from 7 pm to 9:30 pm depending on the region. Italian dinner generally consists of three courses: pasta, fish or meat and a vegetable. Spaghetti and meatballs is actually not a typical Italian meal. Pizza is a typical Italian food. But Italian pizza is generally less rich and much thinner than American pizza. When Italians finish eating, they do not leave the table until everyone has finished. A meal with guests may last up to four hours.

Tip From EF: Food and mealtimes are very important to Italians. Eating dinner together as a family is common in Italy and an important part of a daily family routine. Scheduling a few meals together as a family each week can make the student feel welcomed and at home. Your student may need time to get used to the difference in meal times. Encouraging them to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation will also help them adjust.

Home life

Italian families are often very large and many have multiple generations living under the same roof. It is likely that Italian students may not be used to doing chores, as their parents usually take care of household tasks. Social interactions are very important to Italians and they will do what they can to not to miss a party or celebration. Italian parents are very involved and supportive of their children, and in turn, the children are dedicated to their parents.

Tip From EF: Shortly after arrival, make sure to explain rules and expectations around plans with friends and chores. Your student may not be used to having chores or may be hesitant that they will not do chores the correct way. You may need to teach them how you prefer to do things around the house so they feel more comfortable. Talk openly about a chore schedule and how they can help.

Sono entusiasta di incontrare il mio studente italiano!

I am so excited to meet my Italian exchange student!

Posso avere più di spaghetti?

May I have some more spaghetti?

Hosting advice from our Italian exchange students

“I wish my host family knew that I’d like to know the house rules right away. I do not have chores in Italy.”

Tip From EF: It is helpful to be clear and direct with household rules and expectations early on. If there are any misunderstandings or issues that come up, communicate with your student and IEC to ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, Italian students may not understand suggestive communication. Instead of saying “your room is looking a little messy today,” it will be easier for them to understand “please clean your room.” It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules occassionally.

“I wish my host family knew that Italian teens don’t typically spend time at home in the afternoons and on the weekends. I am used to spending a lot of time with my friends.”

Tip From EF: Italians are very social. Speak with your student about family time, and consider setting a specific day of the week for family time to help your student balance their social calendar. Encourage your student to see what extracurricular activities are available at school, such as clubs, theater or even joining/managing sports teams. Ask your IEC about any local events for your student to participate in. Also, discuss the student’s bucket list and establish realistic expectations on what they will be able to do and see while on their exchange year. Discovery Tours are a great way for your student to see more of the country on an EF guided and chaperoned adventure!

“I wish my host family knew that I like to talk to my parents a lot.”

Tip From EF: Ask your student what their family dynamic is like back home so you can better understand their relationships. Most Italian parents have a very close relationship with their children, and parents are the decision makers. Therefore, students may call their parents frequently to consult on all decisions—even minor ones. It can be helpful to set up a schedule for calls, for example, one call a week on Saturdays. If you feel that your student’s communication with their natural parents is affecting their exchange experience, reach out to your IEC so that our Italian office can speak with the natural parents directly.

Find your student

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Talk to us directly: +1 800 447 4273

Send an email: [email protected]

© EF Education First 2011-2021. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.