Oddo wears a traditional, Renaissance styled dress in a saint festival at her hometown of Sambuca di Sicilia.

Foreign exchange student Elena Oddo wears a traditional, Renaissance-styled dress at a saint festival in her hometown of Sambuca di Sicilia.

Many people would be terrified to move schools their senior year, but that is exactly what Elena Oddo did.

Oddo is an exchange student from Sicily, a small region off the coast of Italy. Her small town of Sambuca Di Sicilia is home to about 6,000 people.

“It’s pretty cool because you get to know everyone, but it also makes you feel like you’re in a cage because everyone knows who you are and what you’ve done.”

This is partly why she decided to move to America for a year; she said she wanted to learn more about our culture, her culture, and herself.

“When you go outside of your fish bowl, you can see what’s inside your own that you cannot see when you are inside.”

Oddo didn’t pick St. Louis specifically, but simply America because it has a very contrasting culture to Italy’s and she wanted to improve her English. Oddo hopes that the new experiences she faces here will help her learn more about herself and teach her new things.

When she first arrived, she said she struggled to get used to everything and language proved a small barrier, despite her fluency. In Italy, Oddo had the best grade in her English class and was even able to speak better than her teacher, so she thought she was ready. Upon arrival though, she found that it was much more difficult than she was told it would be.

“I don’t mind that it’s been hard because I think the difficulties we face will make us learn more and we will get good results from the experience.”

Despite these obstacles, Oddo has really enjoyed her stay in America.

The biggest difference she has noticed so far is in the people. She said that Americans don’t care – in a good way. Oddo explained that when Italians meet each other they are very censored and careful of what they say as to not offend the other, but Americans are very spontaneous and friendly. She says people will ask or say whatever they want to her, not caring that they’ve never met before.

“They just do whatever they want, which is a really good thing,” Oddo said. “It makes me feel a little more comfortable because I’m not the one taking the first step, and I’m glad that they reach out and talk to me.”

Oddo also said that school is very different between the two countries. In Italy, her town is actually so small that it doesn’t have its own high school, so she has to travel to another city where she attends a school of about 400 students. Oddo added that their classes are very different as well.

“We don’t change our classmates, we stay with the same people for five years, so we know everyone really well.”

Oddo said that she enjoys this system because it is very easy to make friends and build strong relationships. She stated that going from a school of 400 to a school of nearly 2,000 has been hard.

“You would like to know everyone and be friends with everyone, but at the same time, there are too many people.”

At the end of the school year, Oddo will return to Italy. She will attend the graduation ceremony at Pattonville, but will not receive a diploma. She said that in Italy, there are 13 grades, so she will have to spend another year in school before she officially graduates.

Oddo said her dream is to travel, but she also loves to learn. Oddo plans to attend a university in another country, preferably England or the Netherlands, to study and learn more about yet another culture. She is unsure what she wants to study, which is another reason she said she wanted to spend time in America.

Oddo also added that this experience will help her when looking for a job later because work is hard to find in Italy, and employers are looking for people with a good past, different experiences, and just something special altogether.

“Overall I hope this experience will open my eyes.”

Oddo has loved her stay in America so far and she said that she has met so many great people and, despite various struggles, has already learned so much about the world and herself.

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