HARTINGTON – Hartington will always be in Maria “Mavi” Vittoria Pasini’s heart no matter where in the world she is.
The 18-year-old foreign exchange student from Italy spent the 2021-22 academic year as a Cedar Catholic High School senior in Hartington
Mavi described her experience living with her host family – Matt and Susan Kathol and their children Brayden and Laney – on their farm just outside of the Cedar County seat community as “awesome.”
“The Kathols treated me like part of their family from the very first day and I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done for me, and I feel extremely blessed for ending up in such a beautiful family ready to share their life with me,” Mavi said.
Susan noted having Mavi around was an extremely positive experience for her and her family.
“We were extremely lucky to have her, as she is a very kind and sweet person,” Susan said. “She made it very easy on us. It was good for all of our family members to be able to grow and learn about a different culture and have a different personality in our home.
“I believe it made our kids more rounded individuals to be able to look at things from totally different perspectives,” she said. “It wasn’t perfect all of the time, but over the nine months all five of us have gotten closer and learned more about each other.”
Mavi noted the moments she enjoyed the most during her time in the United States were ones she spent with the Kathol family, like watching a movie or playing a board game together.
She experienced a lot of new things during her nine months in the Upper Midwest, including attending a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game in Lincoln this past September.
“We went to the Husker game, which was one of my first ‘Nebraska experiences’ and that was with other exchange students, so it gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of them,” Mavi said.
Susan noted she and her family were fortunate to be able to experience some fun little getaways with Mavi while she was living with them.
Education First High School Exchange Year, the organization that Mavi went through for her stay in the United States, planned some events that she and the Kathol family were able to attend.
In addition to going to the Husker football game, they went tubing on the Niobrara River in August and visited Vala’s Pumpkin Patch near Omaha in October.
“Our family was able to sneak away over New Year’s and go to the Black Hills for a quick skiing trip,” Susan said. “All of these little getaways were fun, but honestly just showing her how we celebrate holidays and seeing her face light up over the atmosphere of a Friday night football game or getting ready for prom were the highlights for me.”
Mavi recalled meeting part of Susan’s family for the first time and noted they were all “super nice” to her.
“We went to the Black Hills over Christmas break, which was so much fun, and it was nice to spend a few days all together,” Mavi said. “Christmas was probably one of my favorite days because I loved spending the day all together and I really felt at home.”
Matt and Susan enjoyed seeing Mavi get to know Brayden, 20, and Laney, 17. Brayden was not always home during the school year because he is attending South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., but he enjoyed having Mavi here.
“He helped her learn how to drive, which was a highlight for Mavi,” Susan said.
Laney recently wrapped up her junior year at Cedar Catholic. She and Mavi were on the high school girls basketball team together.
“Laney has been so great at helping Mavi and growing together with her,” Susan said. “They have made some amazing memories together these last nine months that I think they will forever be grateful for.”
Mavi was delighted to attend Cedar Catholic and become a Trojan for the 2021-22 academic year.
“Cedar Catholic has been a great school for my school year,” she said. “I was able to get to know a lot of people, have a good relationship with the teachers and at the same time grow in my relationship with God.”
Mavi described the differences she discovered about attending high school in Italy versus the United States. “At home, I normally go to
“At home, I normally go to school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., I eat lunch at home and then I study for the rest of the day,” she said. “We also go to school from Monday to Saturday.
“Here, I go to school till 3:40 p.m. and sometimes I don’t even have to study at home because I was able to get everything done in school,” she said. Mavi noted she was not used
Mavi noted she was not used to having extracurricular activities to choose from while attending school.
“The school system is very different because we don’t have any sports or clubs related to the school,” she said. “For us in Italy, school is just learning and studying so we don’t have the majority of the ‘fun things.’”
Mavi received the chance to take part in the 2022 Nebraska School Activities Association Girls Basketball Championships with her Cedar Catholic teammates and experience other school events she would not normally get to back home.
Mavi has had many new experiences since her flight landed in Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 19 to start her time in the United States, which she had never been to before.
She is from the town of Imola, which is located about 30 minutes southeast of the larger city of Bologna in the northern part of Italy. She speaks both Italian and English.
“Spending a year abroad has been something I’ve thought about for a very long time,” Mavi said. “I didn’t consider the United Kingdom or Ireland because I’ve already been there and I wanted to meet a new culture completely different from European cultures.”
In 2019, she started talking with her parents Fausto Pasini and Emanuela Franzoso – about studying for a year overseas and they supported her decision to do so.
Mavi signed up in September 2020 with Education First and filled out all of the information about herself to have a good match with a host family.
In June 2021, she was told a host family was trying to choose her, but their school would not approve it, so then two months later she was told she could not travel abroad anymore at that time.
“Then on a Monday night, I saw a request on Instagram from this girl from Nebraska and she texted me the same night saying she was going to be my host sister during my exchange year, and the next day EF called me, telling me I was going to go to Nebraska,” Mavi said.
Susan recalled being contacted by Christopher Uttecht, Cedar Catholic’s principal, at the beginning of August to see whether she and her family would want to host a foreign exchange student.
“Honestly, we had never thought about having one,” Susan said. “With the timing of it, we had to make a very quick decision. Honestly, we believe God totally had a hand in this and pushed us in a way that we knew this would be the right call for all of us.”
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