An American Experience for Massimo

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon

   When Vince Fressola and Dr. Michele Friday sent their daughter, Vinessa, now a Russell High School sophomore, on a trip to Ireland as part of a foreign exchange program, they didn’t realize that they had actually signed up for something bigger than just letting her go off on an adventure. Soon they would be the family who was hosting a student and introducing him to American culture.

   Massimo Notaro is a high school senior from Castle Maggiore, Italy, which is a small town outside Bologna. When he arrived in America in August, he spent three days in New York in an orientation with the foreign exchange student program. He then “hit the ground running” according to Fressola.

   His first adventure was going to Cedar Point with his host family to celebrate Russell eighth grader, Enzo Fressola’s, birthday on the weekend before school started. Fressola says that was his first real experience with American culture.

   Massimo started his senior year here with an advanced class load as well as a physical education class, but he did not complain. A big difference in culture for Massimo came through the American school system. He said that in Italy, school is about school. You study all day and then you go home and you continue to study and learn for hours into the evening and sometimes into the night. In America, Massimo explained, “school is more about fun.” You work at school, then there’s sports, then there’s some clubs, and then maybe a couple of pages of homework.

   Massimo had not really had the opportunity to play sports before but has taken a keen interest in soccer here in America. It took the Fressolas a few days to work through the paperwork of getting his physical so that he could play but he was able to join a team. The family has also engaged in other outdoor activities while he’s been here, such as tennis locally, then snorkeling in Panama City, Florida and boating on a catamaran for three days in the Caribbean.

   Although American food is different from what Massimo would normally eat at home, he did not find a single thing that he would not eat here. He did comment that he still prefers the pizza from Italy compared to the pizza here in America, even though the Fressola family took him to several different pizzerias in the area. 

   Another food difference that Massimo noticed from Italy to America is the amount of pasta eaten here. Massimo said that at home, he eats a large amount of pasta with almost every meal accompanied by a piece of meat or fish.

   Massimo shared that, at home, “grandmothers still make pasta and cookies.” He particularly mentioned that his grandmother makes fresh tortellini with meat stuffed on the inside. The Fressolas got to taste some of his family’s fresh pasta and cookies first-hand. For Christmas, Massimo’s family sent a large refrigerated package full of fresh pastas, cookies, and other treats for all of them to enjoy.

   The Coronavirus situation has not escaped Massimo and his host family, or his family at home in Italy, so his experience here has not been entirely in a bubble. Massimo’s father is a doctor in Italy where they are getting hit the worst by the virus outbreak due to their large population of the elderly. His host family includes OLBH, now KDMC, cardiologist Dr. Michele Friday who is still reporting to work as usual here locally. Although the virus outbreak has caused a serious amount of havoc in Italy, Massimo has been able to take solace in the fact that his family has remained safe so far.

   The Fressolas just got the paperwork in the mail stating that it is almost time for Massimo to head home. Soon they will say farewell, but they have done their best to make sure that he will take home fantastic

memories of his time in America. Actually, Fressola said, “we might have spoiled him a little bit.”

   If you are interested in hosting a foreign exchange student, you can contact the Eastern Kentucky representative, Kerri O’Neil at 859.533.4340.