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New London — Luca Tinunin swirled Gatorade in his mouth and spat into a small paper cup.
He placed the mixture into a plastic tube and used a dropper to delicately introduce 95 percent ethyl alcohol, which would extract his DNA.
Tinunin, 17, is one of 20 visiting Italian students from Liceo Scientifico C. Salutati in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy, who participated in a biomedical class Friday at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.
The exchange students arrived in Connecticut on Sept. 30 and leave today. For the past two weeks, the students have been living with local students and their families, and have toured the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, the Hartford Science Center, Boston and Newport.
And while Tinunin learned during Friday's class that there are similarities between his DNA and that of a strawberry, perhaps the greatest experiment he participated in was immersing himself in American culture.
"It has been an awesome experience," Tinunin said. "One of the good things I learned is that we have more things in common than different. The differences are just surface. I got a deeper knowledge of the American culture."
Tinunin has been staying with fellow student Bradley Tudisca.
"We have so much in common," Tinunin said. "We like the same music. We make the same jokes."
The school the Italians attend is a form of a science, technology, engineering and math magnet school. Here, they've attended classes taught by Janet Farquhar, a science and biomedical teacher, and English classes taught by David Bridges. They also followed their host students to their classes.
Farquhar organized the exchange program. She said the Italian students did hands-on experiments during their time here, which is markedly different from the lecture-based way the students learn in Italy.
"It has been an incredible experience," Farquhar said. "I've seen them grow. They have really immersed themselves in the culture. It has also been great for the magnet school and high school. I think the students here have also learned from them as well."
Farquhar said she hopes to have the host students travel in April to Italy and learn about how their new Italian friends live and go to school.
Marcella Toni, an Italian teacher and chaperone, said she welcomes the opportunity.
"This exchange has been extraordinary," Toni said. "We expect them to come over. (It's) important to learn about American culture, the experience of seeing what it's like and not staying in our little garden. I'm sure that we will be able to give all of them, when they come in April, our experience and our knowledge."
High school in Italy lasts five years, rather than four. Amelia Zanchi, 15, who is in her third year, said her English has improved in the short time she has been here. In her school, students study English for three hours a week.
"It's an important language to learn," Zanchi said. "It's the most spoken language in the world. I've learned new words and how to pronounce them."
A farewell breakfast for the exchange and host students, their families and school staff is scheduled for this morning at the magnet school.
"I'm going to be crying," Zanchi said. "I will miss everyone. I will be sad. It has been a great experience."
Day staff writer Julianne Hanckel contributed to this report.