The friendship was formed in 2012, with the establishment of a cultural student exchange program that has involved dozens of students from both schools over the years.

Teachers at the schools organise the trips and students stay with local families during their time halfway around the world from their respective homes.

Marymede students travelled to Italy last November, while 18 of their Italian counterparts came to Australia on August 19, accompanied by their teachers, Giuseppe Lopriore and Annamaria Antonicelli.

Sydney was the first stop for the Italian students, who visited famous sites such as the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach and the aquarium at Darling Harbour.

The students then travelled to Melbourne, where they were welcomed by the principal of Marymede Catholic College, Michael Kenny, teachers Anthony Montemurro (LOTE leader), Annamaria Liggieri, Carmel Delzoppo, Carla Esposito and Carola Scalzitti, and their Australian friends who they’d already met in Puglia.

“The exchange program aims to give students the chance to use their language skills in a real-life context and experience a way of life different to theirs,” Montemurro explained.

In order to achieve this, the Italian students became familiar with Marymede Catholic College and participated in many activities and classes with the school’s Year 10 and VCE students.

“The Italian students have been very interested in our school system and lifestyle,” Year 11 student Joshua said.

“When I visited Italy last year, I was welcomed with open arms and I tried to use my Italian as much as possible.

“It was my first time in Italy.

“We visited lots of interesting cities, but I liked Florence the most because of its art.”

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Annamaria said Australian schools are very different from her school in Puglia.

“Students wear uniforms and the rules seem stricter,” she said.

“This trip is a rare opportunity to see the world and I’ll definitely continue writing to Verity, the student who’s hosting me, and her family.”

I met the Italian students and their Australian peers at the Queen Victoria Market, as they were ready to explore the city.

Aside from the market, the young visitors saw places like Federation Square, the Eureka Tower, the Werribee Open Range Zoo and the Mornington Peninsula, to name a few.

Student exchange programs like this are becoming increasingly popular as they allow students to improve their language skills and experience a completely different country and culture.

Travelling and seeing the world allows young people to venture beyond the family “nest”, experience new things and – most importantly – grow in every direction.