Italian Exchange Student Beatrice Berti ’24 Pursues her American Dream


Courtesy of Beatrice Berti

Posing for a picture, Bea dons a cowboy hat at a western themed school football game,. Attending games like these allowed her to experience cornerstones of the American high school experience, partaking in school spirit.

From the romanesque streets of Verona, Italy, to a city characterized by innovation, Beatrice “Bea” Berti ‘24 has gone on quite the journey. Her desire to live in America started as a young child, when Bea watched countless movies depicting teenagers’ lives in America. Upon hearing of a classmate who went on an exchange year to America, she realized a way to make her dreams a reality.

However, the process of becoming an exchange student wasn’t as easy as it looked in the movies. Bea first had to get her visa approved, maintain good grades, go through many rounds of interviews, and get chosen by a host family. Her dream finally became a reality when at the end of July 2022, she left everything she knew behind to board a plane to London. At the busy and bustling London Heathrow Airport, she practiced navigating her way around a new country alone and asking people for directions in a foreign language, all while coming to terms with her imminent departure from Europe.

In the airport, Bea met other exchange students from all across Europe who were also traveling to the United States for the first time. They connected over their shared anxieties and expectations about their future in America. This experience was bonding, and despite the fact that they live scattered across the country, Bea still keeps in touch with many of them.

“[The other exchange students and I] became really close because we all [went through] really hard moments together, like saying goodbye to our families, and going to another part of the world,” Bea said.

On the 10-hour flight from London to Austin, Bea read the letters her friends had written her as a parting gift, and knew there was no turning back. Despite the physical distance between them, she had never felt closer to her friends. As she moved to disembark the plane, the uncertainty she felt was overshadowed by gratitude and pride, as she was on her way to fulfillment of a childhood goal.

Her new life in America was laden with cultural differences, especially in school. In Italy, the relationship between teacher and student is more formal whereas in America, Bea found the teachers at Westwood to be more friendly and open. She also found more opportunities. While the Italian school day is strictly academic, the electives and extracurriculars offered in America allowed Bea to take classes such as theater and dance — something she couldn’t do in Italy.

For Bea, hallmarks of the American high school experience created space for new forms of expression. Participating in traditions she had only seen in movies, such as attending football games, encompassed the grand infectious feeling of American school spirit that she had longed for since her childhood.

“I like the school spirit [and] how people are interested in sports because I love sports. In Italy [sports] are not as important. I really like the school family.”

Combining this love of sport with music, Bea has taken dance and gymnastics classes for six years and takes both contemporary and jazz dance classes at Westwood.

“My passion since I was a child is dance,” Bea said. “Dance makes me feel free and you can [express] your [emotions] through the movements.”

After about three months of living with her host family, Bea unexpectedly had to find a new host family. The Allebe family volunteered to host her for the remainder of the year.

“I feel like she’s embraced [living in America] pretty well,” Tony Allebe ‘25 said when speaking on his friendship with Bea. “It’s like she’s my sister. She loves to cook and dance. She makes really good Italian food and she’s very passionate. For her friends’ birthday, she’ll go out of her way to make these big surprise parties [and] she just puts other people first. She’s a great person.”

This altruistic spirit is a core part of Bea’s sense of self and expands into her future endeavors. While Bea’s time in America has made her certain she wants to stay, her career plans are a little more abstract, as her interests vary from studying psychology, teaching dance, and pursuing a career as an au pair.

“I don’t see myself living in Italy in the future. I like Italy for travel and visits [but] school here is generally better. I like it here, I really see myself living here in the future so I hope that will [become] true,” Bea said.