Embrace the journey: Student from Italy takes on new adventures in Iola

Estella De Clara is an exchange student staying with Alana Kinzle and attending Iola High School as a junior. She enjoys the opportunity to travel and took a trip to the Southwest with Kinzle over spring break.

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Local News

April 16, 2024 - 2:48 PM

Estella De Clara of Italy, left, is staying with Iolan Alana Kinzle this spring through a student exchange program. The two have made the most of their adventure with a recent Spring Break trip through the Southwest. Courtesy photo

Alana Kinzle still keeps in contact with her “exchange brothers” — high school students from Costa Rica, Norway and Paraguay who stayed with her family when she was growing up. Kinzle always knew she wanted to host an exchange student some day.

She got her chance in December, when Estella De Clara of Roveredo di Varmo, a small town in Italy, arrived to spend the semester in Iola.

“It’s a unique opportunity to learn about another culture and an inexplicable experience you’ll carry for years,” Kinzle said. 

Estella, a junior at Iola High School, learned about exchange programs from one of her brother’s friends, who had studied abroad. But otherwise, in her hometown of about 300 people — where “everyone knows everyone” — no one had done anything like that. 

None of her family or friends had ever been to the U.S. Her father, who doesn’t speak English, encouraged her.

“He said ‘y’You have to study, you have to work hard,’” Estella recalled. “I like to travel and I want to try new experiences.”

Though she speaks excellent English, Estella wanted an opportunity to improve. In Italy, she has another year of school before she decides on university. She isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do but hopes to have a career in the medical industry. Being able to speak fluent English will help.

Despite her determination to embark on a new adventure studying in the U.S., a last-minute attack of nerves hit. She was afraid to leave her home and her family, which includes her parents, an older brother and both sets of grandparents. She didn’t want to leave her friends and boyfriend, Riccardo.

She almost backed out. 

“I was so scared.” But thanks to technology, she’s been able to keep in close contact with all of them. 

She and Kinzle were able to get to know each other through electronic messages before Estella arrived Dec. 30. With one week before the winter semester was to begin, the two used the frigid weather to form a bond.

When she arrived at Iola High School to pick her classes, Estella was surprised at the many choices.

Estella opted for culinary arts, art, biology and media. She also wanted to take a math class to keep up on her skills while she was away. “I want to exercise my brain,” she said. 

“My school in Italy is harder. I’m very busy because I have to study in the afternoons,” she said. Her school also is an hour’s drive away, in the larger city of Udine. Her school does not offer extracurricular activities, including sports, and she wouldn’t have time for that even if it did.

Here, she joined the track team and FCCLA. She also began volunteering at the Iola Public Library and has helped with several events such as the Valentine’s Day chocolate sale and a chuck-wagon cookout.

“I like the library,” she said. “I like books. It’s a quiet place.”

Estella will attend prom Saturday, accompanied by a friend, Jaydon Morrison. Her school in Italy doesn’t do anything like that. They have a dance to celebrate the end of each school year, but it’s not a formal event. 

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