JOHOR BARU: It was a case of love on the first visit for two Italian teenagers who are in Malaysia under the AFS (formerly the American Field Service) foreign students exchange programme.
Despite being in the country from just a month ago, the two said they have fallen in love with Malaysia and have picked up several local traits as well as the national language.
Alberto Lombardo and Carlo Tota, both 16, are among six foreign students under the AFS Malaysia cultural programme. The other four are two Americans and two Germans.
Lombardo, who is from Sicily, said the group arrived in Malaysia on Aug 2 and would be staying in the country until June 20 next year.
“I have to admit that I don’t know much about Malaysia or its culture except that it is located in South-East Asia but the experience so far has been quite amazing.
“I really like the food available here, except for durian.
“I tried it three times and each time I spat it out,” he said during the launch of the programme by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik at Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar here.
Lombardo added that he has also picked up Bahasa Malaysia.Tota, who is from the southern Italy town of Altamura, said now that he had picked up Malay, he was learning Mandarin.
“Malay is easy to learn because it uses simple grammar compared to my native tongue, which is very difficult even for me,” he said.American Sejal Kray Mayer Patel, 16, from North Carolina, said that among the similarities between Malaysia and the United States of America was that both nations took pride in their diversity.
“Over here, people from various backgrounds always come together and celebrate each other’s festivities as one and it is the same back home,” she said.
Dr Maszlee said AFS Malaysia had so far hosted more than 3,000 foreign students, where they were placed in 680 schools nationwide.He said more than 4,000 Malaysian students have also benefited from the programme, where they were sent abroad and lived with foster families to experience studying in a different environment.
“This will create a sense of cultural understanding and a deeper perspective among local students about foreign cultures,” he said.