Class of 2016: Italian exchange student grows up in Bath

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BATH — It’s been an eye-opening year for Christina Cosenza.

The 17-year-old from a coastal area near Naples, Italy, has spent the school year as an exchange student at Morse High School. While she knew she’d be somewhere in the U.S., where she spent her time was up to whichever host family chose her.

As a result, she ended up in the City of Ships, trading the Gulf of Naples for the Kennebec River. She said she chose America not only to improve her English, but to enjoy a new experience, travel, and meet new people.

“I was really happy to be in Maine,” Cosenza said in an interview May 13. “I love the fall. It’s beautiful, all the trees and the colors.”

The winter was a bit more of an adjustment.

“It was really, really cold,” Cosenza recalled with a smile. “Even though a lot of people told me it wasn’t cold at all this year, (and) not as snowy.”

While she comes from a town where a dusting of snow might be enough to close school for the day, here she had to trudge to school in boots.

Fortunately, Cosenza said, people in Maine have been warmer than the weather.

“Everybody’s so open to talk to you, and open-minded,” she said. “… It’s beautiful. At Morse, everybody’s so different. I like it.”

Improving her English this past year should pay off significantly in the next step of Cosenza’s educational journey, although she may have to master a new accent. She plans to attend college in the United Kingdom, but hasn’t yet decided exactly where.

“I couldn’t go to Italy,” she said. “In Italy we have five years of high school, and this will (complete) my fourth year, so in theory I should have gone back and done my fifth year of high school.”

But having completed exams like the SAT and soon to receive her diploma from Morse, Cosenza is eligible to attend college in the U.K. which, like the U.S., has four-year high schools.

She is leaning toward international studies, because of her love of languages. Cosenza studied Latin and Greek in her Italian high school, and also knows Spanish and French.

Cosenza said the Nelson family, with whom she has lived while attending Morse, have been “a wonderful family, and I love them. … They have always been there for me during the whole year.”

While extracurricular activities are not offered through her school at home, activities available at Morse have kept Cosenza busy after school.

“I’ve tried to get involved with a lot of clubs and sports at Morse, because we don’t have that (in Italy),” she said, adding that she’s been involved in swimming and other sports, as well as the school’s drama program, its One-Act Play festival and Morse’s traditional MoHiBa variety show.

The nine months she has spent here has been by far the longest Cosenza has has been away from home, but her initial homesickness was reduced by the kindness of the people, she said.

And Cosenza will soon be reunited with her parents and brother when they arrive in time for her graduation Sunday, June 12, at McMann Field.

What they’ll find, Cosenza said, is that she has learned to be more independent.

“I think it was really important for me, for my personal growth,” she added. “I feel more grown-up now.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Christina Cosenza of Italy spent the past nine months as an exchange student at Morse High School in Bath. She will graduate with the Morse Class of 2016.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.