During my third year at ICAM, an advanced engineering school in France, my coursework required me to carry out a three-month experiment in a foreign country. I planned to do it by myself in Canada and in the United States, stopping in 21 cities between June and September 2011.
Three weeks before my departure, I still had not found contacts in 11 of those cities that could host me for a few days between legs of my cross-country bus journey. My grandfather is a Rotarian in the same club as Robert Héline, past governor of District 1670 (France) and a member of the Rotary Club of Cambria. My grandfather suggested Héline, president of Rotary’s USA-France Intercountry Committee, could help get me a few contacts in the United States.
Never would I have dreamed he would find hosts in all 11 of the cities! All the clubs he contacted were sympathetic to my plight and eager to help, reaching out to their members. Within a short period of time, couples offered to help. Almost all of them had pleasant stories to share of having visited France or previously hosted a French exchange student.
This for me was a thrilling discovery. I saw how Rotary is an international network of friendship, one which is building peace and understanding between countries. Everywhere, I have been welcomed in a warm and attentive manner. I have made strong contacts with many of the families, allowing me to discover a variety of American cities and cultures. Back in France, I exchanged New Year wishes with all my hosts, certain I will see them again either in France or the United States.
I did not know much about Rotary before this unforgettable trip, but I will certainly look for ways to contribute to Rotary in the future.
Editor’s Note: The USA-France Intercountry Committee develops connections between Rotary clubs in the two countries, which helps facilitate exchanges for adults completing an internship as part of their advanced level studies. The internships are very difficult to locate except when two Rotary districts or clubs, one in France and one in America, have a cooperative arrangement. Fanny’s story does not aim to invite requests for such interventions, but rather to showcase the effectiveness of cross country connections in building a platform for peace.