Foreign exchange student Giulia Marcuccio embraces everything Michigan has to offer


Everyone has a story.

For foreign exchange student Giulia Marcuccio, her story is quite notable. The 17-year-old moved all the way from Italy to spend one memorable year in Grand Rapids with her host family, while leaving her own family behind. Her own mother visited America for college and kept telling Giulia how enjoyable the experience was. It was only a matter of time before she made it over here herself. It took Giulia a few weeks to adjust to life here, but with the support from her host family, she has grown accustomed to American ways.

“They are amazing; I mean, they are so nice,” Giulia said. “I have a host sister, she is a sophomore in this school. They are really amazing. They try to make me do as many things as possible, to make me busy and make me try everything.”

Giulia originally wanted to try skiing but decided on bowling as one of her activities. Even though she has never played it for sport, she is excited to be a part of the team and stay busy; because when she isn’t doing something, she misses her family too much.

“Of course I miss them, but I think they miss me more because they keep calling me,” Giulia said. “Usually we talk on FaceTime or Skype. I miss them in the moments where I’m not doing anything, like the moments which are not busy. But when I’m doing other things, I just don’t think about them.”

Even though she doesn’t have her family, Giulia has her teachers, which are very supportive in the transition from schooling in Italy to here. In Italy, she started her day at eight in the morning and went until one in the afternoon; learning Greek, Latin, and improving her English throughout the day. She enjoys schooling here because it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable, partially because the teachers are supportive and teach the material in a way she can understand.

“The schooling is a lot different from here– completely different,” Giulia said. “I go to school [in Italy] for classic studies, like Greek and Latin. And so it’s super hard and really impossible. Also, the teachers don’t help you at all. Here, the teachers are as friends, you can talk to them; they are open.”

Giulia finds support in her Algebra 2 teacher Tracy Will, who often helps Giulia if she isn’t understanding the particular language in story problems. Even though she has been learning English since she was six, Giulia still has a little bit of trouble really comprehending the written directions in the math problems.

Nevertheless, Will enjoys having Giulia in her class and thinks she is an exceptional, confident student who always does her best.

“I think she’s one of my top ten percent in the class,” Will said. “She has a great work ethic and great math skills. She’s definitely a leader in the class and knows her weaknesses if she has any. She gets those questions cleared up before she takes any quiz or test. She’s very confident and a great communicator.”

Having a foreign exchange student in a class is a unique experience, and Will thinks it brings a different element to the classroom.

“I love [having a foreign exchange student],” Will said. “I think it brings a lot to the classroom and I wish my other students felt confident enough to interact with Giulia more and to get to know her. I’ve certainly interacted with her a lot and grown because of it.”

Even though there isn’t much conversation in the class, Giulia still focuses hard and enjoys having Will as a teacher.

“I love her,” Giulia said. “I really love her because you can talk to her. But all the teachers, not just [Will], are really helpful and friendly.”

Along with the support from Will, Giulia finds comfort in Psychology class, taught by Brian Pierce. He thinks it’s a fun experience having her in class, and that even though she doesn’t always volunteer her opinion, she is still engaged in discussion. Pierce will never force Giulia to talk, but he knows that she knows the answer, even if she doesn’t vocalize it.

“I have about 33 students in there so I think she feels a little bit overwhelmed with how many [there are]. When we talk about things, she’ll participate if she’s comfortable in doing it. She doesn’t always participate or volunteer her two cents. If I were to call on her, I know for sure she would know what’s going on and she would give us her opinion. She’s always engaged, paying attention.”

Both Will and Pierce extended a little bit of grace in the beginning of the school year, taking into account the tough transition and the fact that she knows more than one language. If Giulia was ever struggling with anything, she knew she could go to her teachers for help, and they would offer support and assistance as best they could.

In regards to grading, assignments, and tests, Giulia gets the same amount of work and learns the same material as everyone else. So far, Giulia has found all of her classes fairly easy compared to the difficulty level in Italy. But, one main difference she has found is the excessive use of technology.

“A big difference is that here, we use a lot more technology and computers,” Giulia said. “That was pretty difficult because in Italy we don’t use technology so much; we don’t use Chromebooks or computers at school. That was hard to get used to at first, but now I’m used to it.”

As far as schooling goes, Giulia has grown accustomed to it. She has made friends and joined sports teams, immersing herself in as much as she can possibly can before her visa expires next year. The thought of leaving Michigan worries Giulia because she loves the life she is living here.

“I will miss [Michigan] a lot,” Giulia said. “Thinking about that makes me anxious because I don’t want to go back. My life here is perfect. I miss my family and my friends, but here, I am doing so many things and [having] so many new experiences. Everything is so beautiful. Just going to the supermarket and seeing what Americans eat, it’s just amazing. I feel that the time is passing really fast. It’s just amazing being here.”

Even though Giulia admires the American food, she has grown tired of eating the same things every day and definitely will look forward to going back to Italian food and schedule. In Italy, she ate a big snack after school and then an even bigger meal at eight o’clock. But here, her host family snacks whenever they want and eats dinner at around six o’clock.

“The food is completely different,” Giulia said. “For example, my host family, they eat a lot of snacks. I see a lot of chips. Usually, when I got back from school [in Italy], I eat a real meal, like pasta or rice. To eat a lunch every day, the same sandwiches, it’s really hard. All my meal times are completely different and messed up. It was hard at first, and still, now, I miss my food. Italian food I think is better.”

Along with the food differences, Giulia has found that not being able to drive herself anywhere has put a strain on her independent personality. In Italy, you aren’t allowed to drive until you’re 18, so she would always just take the train; which meant she didn’t need to ask anyone to take her anywhere.

“My huge problem is how to move from different places. I always have to ask someone to take me places. This is really hard for me because, in Italy, I used to be completely independent and I moved with trains or public transports. Here, if I don’t have a car, I can’t go anywhere, and that’s so annoying. Sometimes I feel trapped.”

Besides the food and transportation issues, Giulia has been loving life. Even though the thought of packing up her bags leaves Giulia with somewhat mixed emotions, she is grateful for the wonderful experiences living in Michigan has offered her. Giulia will move back to Italy with more knowledge and life lessons under her belt.

My life here is perfect. I miss my family and my friends, but here, I am doing so many things and so many new experiences. Everything is so beautiful.”

— Giulia Marcuccio

Her independent personality has put Giulia in a position where she doesn’t ask anybody to do anything for her, such as basic chores. Her moving experiences has really taught her to trust herself to get things done, whether that be maintaining her grades and workload, sports, or chores. Throughout it all, she has learned to embrace the significant changes, and really experience each day.

“[Moving away from Italy] is a huge experience and it teaches you how to be independent because you’re completely alone,” Giulia said. “At first, you didn’t have any person that you know or that you can really rely on, so you really need to put an effort in what you do. It really hits you that you have to do your things well. You can’t think, “oh, there’s someone else that can do things for me or, that can help you.a�� You become a lot more independent and maybe if you’re shy, you learn how to really open yourself and talk more, and try as many things as possible. And really not be scared of trying. ”