NAUGATUCK — Although they come from two different countries, Naugatuck High School exchange students Matteo Bushi and Timm Maertens can agree on one fact: New York City is the best thing they have seen in America.
“It’s a totally different city than where I’m from, with the tall skyscrapers everywhere. That was an unbelievable sight for me,” Maertens said.
Maertens, 16, comes from Solrod, Denmark, a small town southwest of Copenhagen. Bushi, 17, comes from Ostra, which is a small village in the Marche region of Italy.
Both students are in Naugatuck as part of Education First, a cultural exchange program based in Cambridge, Mass.
Naugatuck High School has been hosting exchange students through Education First for eight years, Education First International Exchange Coordinator Lorene Steinway said.
Steinway, a Naugatuck resident, is hosting Bushi and Maertens.
In order to show its appreciation, Education First awarded Naugatuck High the Global Education Excellence Award this month.
Steinway said the school has worked with the exchange students to get them into the right classes, coordinate with the students’ home schools and accept them on sports teams.
“It’s for everything they do,” Steinway said.
Part of Education First’s mission is to provide students with an opportunity to experience a different culture. Both Bush and Maertens said they came to America to experience just that, a different culture.
“I chose to come to America because, in the little country where I’m from, Denmark, all we really hear about, all we get is America. So you want to experience it because it is a very different country from our culture,” Maertens said. “Everyone wants to see it.”
Bushi and Maertens were surprised at how different schools are in the United States.
Maertens said his school in Denmark doesn’t have as many electives.
“When they come here and find out they can choose the classes they want they are just kind of floored,” Steinway said.
Bushi said the act of changing classes differs, as well.
“We have our class and that’s it. The teachers move,” Bushi said.
Bushi said he prefers having to walk to different classes because he likes to move around, and it allows the opportunity to make more friends.