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Ciao Bensonhurst! Italian exchange students land on 21st Avenue

Nuovi amici--new friends: Francesca Chila of Italy and Matteo Sgroi of America will spend a week buddied up at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Italians in Bensonhurst — whoever heard of such a thing?

Brooklyn Studio Secondary School on 21st Avenue in Bensonhurst — once considered the Little Italy of Brooklyn — welcomed 11 newcomers from the toe of the boot on April 24: exchange students attending the Liceo Classico Campanella di Reggio Calabria.

The European teens will shadow Studio students around the school between 83rd and 84th streets for one week, explained Italian language teacher Adriana Caruso, who organized the exchange.

Caruso said she first formed a relationship with Liceo when she was a student at Edward R. Murrow High on Avenue L.

“They used to send exchange students to Murrow and New Utrecht, and I became close with them,” Caruso said. “When I started teaching, I said to a teacher there, ‘Send them here, I work here,’” Caruso said.

Benvenuti!: Students from Brooklyn Studio Secondary School in Bensonhurst welcome 11 visitors from Italy.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Caruso said she wanted students at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School to have the opportunity of interacting with foreign-born students.

“Teaching Italian in the classroom, teaching the culture, is one thing,” she said. “Actually learning about Italy from someone who lives there, getting to hear about the differences in music and schooling and lifestyle from someone their own age, is a completely different experience.”

The exchange program also gave Brooklyn Studio Secondary School kids the chance to reconnect with their roots.

“A lot of my students are Italian-American, and it’s interesting to have them tell the exchange students where their parents and grandparents are from, and have the exchange students say ‘Oh, I know where that is,’” said Caruso, who is herself the daughter of Sicilian immigrants.

The Studio kids and their new friends will cap off the week with a visit to Ellis Island, the historic gateway for Italians coming to America.

Buon appetito!: Brooklyn Studio Secondary students at the April 24 Welcome Breakfast with their Italian visitors.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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