Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner
Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner

Italian student ready for uncertain future after Gympie stay

THE coronavirus pandemic has been a frightening time for communities all over the world, but seeing his home country brought to its knees from a distance made it all the more difficult for Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto.

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The 17-year-old from Verona in Italy’s north landed in Australia last July and has since adapted to his own new normal, living in the Gympie region as a senior student at St Patrick’s College.

Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner
Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner

But in March, when the virus began to wreak havoc on his homeland, the vivacious teen admitted it was hard to watch from afar while his family and friends faced unprecedented dangers.

Harder still with both Pietro’s parents on the front lines, fighting the virus’ sinister spread.

“My mother is a GP and my dad is a coroner, so I was a bit sad about it. I was really, really worried and I felt a bit guilty, especially for my mates over there,” Pietro said.

“Over here we’re living quite normally by comparison, they had a really strong quarantine in Italy, my friends did not go out or leave their houses for two months.

Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner
Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner

“I was worried, especially for my Mum. She had to deal with a lot of people who had coronavirus. I’ve stayed in contact with them over Facebook, so it’s made it easier.

“Every time I call my Mum we talk about when I go back to Italy I want to do this and that, and she says I have no idea how bad the situation is over there.

Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner
Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner

“It’s reopening, but the fear is still there because they are predicting a second wave.”

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His time in Australia has been cut slightly short due to limited return flights home, but Pietro said he was “really lucky” to enjoy his time here with the support of his host family, John and Kassandra Cain, as well as the staff at St Pat’s and his new-found friends.

He has found time to cuddle kangaroos and koalas and explore local treasures, as well as the Sunshine Coast and Noosa.

“Over here I’ve found people who have made me really happy and they helped me through it a lot,” Pietro said.

Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner
Italian exchange student Pietro Equisetto – Picture: Shane Zahner

“I wasn’t as worried as I would have been, I got the best support I could have gotten with my school and my host family.

“They played a really important role in helping me. I’ve made friendships that I think will last forever, it’s amazing.”

Pietro is due to return to Italy early next month. The country has so far recorded 227,000 confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 32,000 deaths.

Italy registered 99 more deaths on Monday, the lowest daily rate since early March. Bars, restaurants, shops, hairdressers, museums, libraries and churches reopened this week as the country continued its gradual move out of lockdown.