Finding Family Through Foreign Exchange

“It wasn’t hard at all because I’ve always felt a part of the family.”

With over 4,000 miles between Italy and Michigan, Francesca made her way overseas to experience the American culture through a foreign exchange student program. Fran 1

Francesca says, “I’m going to do it because I’m going to be more independent and I want to make new friends, meet new people and see new places…I started studying English when I was six, so I had a lot of practice before I came here.”

“I think that every family, if they’re able to, should have a foreign exchange student at least one time,” says Robin Sims, Francesca’s host mother.

Robin Sims and her family have opened their doors — and their hearts– to be Francesca’s host family.
And not wasting any time…

Robin says, “With the way her flight came in, we dropped our one daughter off at college and picked Francesca up the same day and came home with her.”

Welcoming her in with open arms.

With a smile, Robin says, “For my husband and I, we talked how Francesca’s become like our fourth daughter.”

Her host sister, Emily Sims, expresses, “Francesca has become more than my best friend, she is my sister at this point, and I can just talk to her about anything.” Fran 2

“My sisters show me their friends, so I hang out with them. And we also started sharing clothes like real sisters. They’re my new family, I consider them as a family,” says Francesca.

Francesca has had so many firsts during this one-of-a-kind experience in America– Like holidays….

She says, “The most different thing is Thanksgiving because in Italy we don’t have Thanksgiving…with a big turkey like in the movies.”

The difference between school and sports… 

Explaining, “School is very different. Here, teachers are like your friends. In Italy they are more strict. You can’t talk to them about normal stuff…I like track season because in Italy we don’t get the chance to do sports in school.”

And even trying new food!

Laughing, Francesca shares, “I never had tacos before. I never had grilled cheese or donuts, corn dogs, and I like burgers here they are my favorite food. I also tried foods that I didn’t like. I don’t like ranch or pineapple pizza, I don’t like those.”

But Francesca wasn’t the only one learning new things–

And as we laughed out loud, Robin taught me some Italian, “Ciao mi chiamo Robin. Vengo dal Michigan. So I just said ‘hi my name is Robin and I’m from Michigan.’”

Fran W FamEven introducing them to some Italian music…

“The band Maneskin. They’re very alternative rock but they do a lot of songs in English. We actually got tickets to see them in Detroit at the Fillmore.”

Although her time is nearing its end here in Northern Michigan,
It’s not the last time she’ll see the Sims family… 

Francesca says, “I’m hoping to come back this winter, and then they’re going to come visit me in Italy so I can show them where I live.”

“We’re hoping to go in September, next fall. That’s our 25th anniversary. We thought that would be a plan and go see her for a couple weeks,” says Robin.

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