Benedetta “Benny” Cherchi, Italian Exchange Student, comes to North Muskegon

By RIM Reporter Diane Van Epps

As soon as Jackie Fisher introduced her,  everyone just knew they’d be liking last week’s program.  Something about Benny’s smile was the tip-off.

Our current Youth Exchange student, right, opened with a geography lesson complete with pictorial of fine cuisine, pizza, fashion and fast cars.  What more could we ask for?!  Benny is Italian, from the Island of Sardinia, located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s the second largest island with temperatures averaging 52-63 °F, a little colder in the winter and a lot hotter in the summer.  But she likes the heat and humidity, no doubt due to the incredible beaches.

The language of the island is Italian, and Sardinia is the second language.  Benny does not speak Sardinian, but  >>>     >>> understands it.  It is now seldom used, and chances of it fading away seen imminent.

Benny was asked what we thought of when thinking about Italy; food and pizza topped the list… she showed us a visual of pasta, pizza and The Godfather, below.  “Did I read your minds?” she asked.  She misses her home food very much, but has
a new American favorite – peanut butter!  “I never had it before,” she chuckled, “they don’t have it in Sardinia.”  Italy is also known for fashion, and local styles in her American school were one of Benny’s items mentioned as a surprise.“Fashion is very different in Italy,” she told us.  “We enjoy all types of seafood on the island, especially at Christmas.  It never snows on the island, although it does in Northern Italy on Monte Bianco (White Mountain).  Many people are obsessed with Sports, and we are 2nd in the world in soccer.  Brazil’s first.

After middle school, we must start to decide what we’d like to study during our five years of high school.  In high school, students stay with the same class all five years.  Teachers change classrooms; students do not.  Types of high schools include Classic, Scientific, and Hotel Management.  You have more university choices if you attend a Classic or Scientific HS whereas with Hotel Management, your path is more defined.  School is easier in the US, she said.

Cagliari is the biggest city in Sardinia and where Benny and her mother, father, sister (15), and brother (12) live.  Cagliari is famous for its port and five miles of beach.  One thing she loves about Muskegon is our proximity to water. They enjoy Carnival in winter where women wear typical costumes, but men are dressed as what they call “scarecrows” to scare off the evil spirits.  Most young children are afraid of these scarecrows that resemble zombies.  She very much appreciates the time she’s spent here.  We wish her all the best as she will go back to Italy at the end of the school year and attend a university to study psychology like her mother.  Ciao, Benny!

PS – In response to a few audience questions, Benny’s sparkling personality showed thru.  She had spoken English so well, could she possibly speak Italian with the same verve?  She spoke “something” for us really well, and we can only assume it was Italian?  American television? She likes it; it’s largely what Italians watch.  Our pizza?  Not so yummy; totally different from her country’s.  Benny sweetly demonstrated Italy’s two-cheek-kiss greeting upon request.  And what about Dean Martin singing “That’s Amore”?  Umm, who’s Dean Martin? she answered.  Obviously, it’s a different, but bella world in her Italy.

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