ENDICOTT, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – Load up the luggage and check the passports. A dozen Union-Endicott students left the high school this morning for a bus to New York and then a flight to Rome, Italy.

They’re part of an Italian Exchange program with Varese, Italy.

They’ll spend 2 and a half weeks, mostly in Varese but also visiting Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.

While there, they’ll learn not only about the language, but Italian culture, family life and the educational system.

Amalia Roma-Circensi teaches Italian at U-E.

She says the exchange program dates back to 1983.

“We have great support from the community, from the school, from the families. We have parents here today that were part of the first exchange in 1983 and now their children are going to Italy again. It is a community tradition.”

U-E Senior Celia Shafer says, “I’m really excited to see my exchange student Carlotta. I miss her a lot and we got along really well and bonded when she was here. I’m excited to see her.”

Shafer says she’s excited to learn more about the culture, visit the churches and see all of the beautiful architecture.

This will be the first trip of U-E students to Italy since 2019 because of the pandemic.

The Italian students spent 2 and a half weeks staying with the U-E kids last fall.