Finding meaning in life during a Rotary Youth Exchange

"Louis" Liu (right) is welcomed by members of the West Oak High School Interact Club.

“Louis” Liu (right) is welcomed by members of the West Oak High School Interact Club.

By I-Ting “Louis” Liu

In 2013-14, I took part in a Rotary Youth Exchange from Taiwan to the United States. It gave me the opportunity to see things from a new perspective, think differently, and to gain a better understanding of myself. I made many new friends.

I grew up in a single parent home with my mother, who had lost most of her left arm earlier in life. She was beautiful and strong and took care of me herself. We had no income and survived on the money the government gave us each month. I brought home part of my school lunch to use as breakfast or dinner the next day. This gave me compassion for children who don’t have enough to live on. Continue reading

Australian Rotary Youth Exchange student warms to Brazil

Courtney (left) meets the Rotary Youth Exchange safari in 2013. Photo courtesy of District 9800

Courtney (left) meets the Rotary Youth Exchange safari in 2013. Photo courtesy of District 9800

By Courtney, a Rotary Youth Exchange student sponsored by Rotary District 9550 (Australia)

Thanks to my Rotary Youth Exchange in Brazil, I now have friends from all corners of the globe. I have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had here, and it has been an amazing experience.

A little more than two years ago, I was sitting along the highway in a small town in the Queensland Outback watching traffic go by, when two members of a Rotary Youth Exchange safari tour walked by and struck up a conversation. Little did I know that simple conversation, and later meeting the entire busload of teens on the safari, would eventually lead to my own Rotary Youth Exchange, with financial support from the Rotary District that covers Queensland and from members and clubs throughout southeast Australia. Continue reading

Building peace through storytelling

Kiran Singh Sirah at the United Nations during International Day of Peace.

Kiran Singh Sirah (left) at the United Nations in New York during International Day of Peace.

By Kiran Singh Sirah, 2011-13 Rotary Peace Fellow, Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

There are moments in our lives that we remember forever. These moments become our stories and help us understand and connect with a larger global community. When we tell our stories, we inspire others to tell their stories, and that produces positive change. Ultimately, through the power of storytelling, we build healthier communities, more effective workplaces, and schools of learning that enrich our lives. Continue reading

Growing up in the family of Rotary

Gabija Trimbel and members of her club.

Gabija Trimbel and other counselors of a summer camp run by the Rotary Club of Vilnius International.

By Gabija Trimbel, a member of the Rotaract Club of Vilnius International

Gabija Trimbel

Gabija Trimbel

I have been around Rotary much of my life. My mother is a member of the Rotary Club of Vilnius International, Lithuania, and almost as early as I can remember, I have been helping with club projects.

When I entered ninth grade in 2009, I convinced a bunch of my friends to help me form the Vilnius International Interact Club, of which I became the charter president. We kept in touch with my mother’s Rotary club, which was our host club, and did many projects with them, including serving as counselors at an annual camp attended by orphans and children from day care centers that served the poor. Continue reading

Miami club reconnects with local scholarship recipients

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Marcia Brod

By Marcia Brod, a member of the Rotary Club of Miami

Ever think of finding 600+ needles in a haystack? The idea intrigued me and so I began the “reconnect” project in 2010 for the Rotary Club of Miami.

The Rotary Club of Miami awards scholarships to local high school graduates who are now attending medical school through the Thomas Brown McClelland Trust. The Trust was set up through an endowment established by Miami Rotarian Thomas Brown McClelland upon his passing in the early 1980s. It has since awarded over $6 million in scholarships. But no effort was ever made to reach out to former recipients to track their successes and explore opportunities within the network. Hoping to track the impact, I took on the task.  Continue reading

Rotary Scholar helps the homeless through art

Katie (center) with two of her paintings, held by Liz Powers and her brother, Spencer.

Katie (center) with two of her paintings, held by Liz Powers and her brother, Spencer.

By Liz Powers, 2011-12 Rotary Scholar to Edinburgh, Scotland

“You feel like you are on guard 24/7,” shared Scott Benner, a homeless individual in the Boston area.

Scott is one of the many homeless individuals who has shared with me the everyday dangers and fears that he faces. My friend Katie Hickey Schultz faced similar challenges during her 10 years of chronic homelessness. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange exceeded my expectations

Jurag Gago visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.

Jurag Gago visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.

By Jurag Gago, a Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Slovakia to the United States

I am from the Slovak Republic, right in the heart of Europe. It is a small country bordered by Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I grew up in Trenčín with my brother, Martin and my mom and dad.

I just returned from one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. The Rotary Club of Trenčín in District 2240 decided to sponsor me for a Rotary Youth Exchange to Chicago, where I was hosted by the Rotary Club of Aurora Sunrise in a suburb of that great city. I was excited about the exchange because I knew it would challenge me a lot and I wanted to see how far I could grow on a personal and mental level. It gave me all that I could ever have expected. Continue reading

Taking Rotary into the next generation

Members of the recently chartered Rotary Club of Plaza Matriz in Montevideo, Uruguay. Photo courtesy of Erin Mills

Members of the recently chartered Rotary Club of Plaza Matriz in Montevideo, Uruguay. Photo courtesy of Erin Mills

By Erin Mills, Rotary Scholar and charter member of the Rotary Club of Plaza Matriz in Montevideo, Uruguay

A little over six years ago, I packed my luggage and boarded a plane for Montevideo, Uruguay, as an  Ambassadorial Scholar from Arizona, USA, to that tiny corner of the world I now call home. It’s where I teach future English language educators at the University of Montevideo, where I teach middle school children from around the world at the American International School, and where 24 young professionals and I are taking Rotary into the next generation.  Continue reading

Interactor says Youth Exchange is unforgettable

Youth Exchange students in Europe.

Youth Exchange students in Europe.

By Augusto La Colla, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Villa Regina, Argentina, to Muenster, Germany

Through my Interact club in Argentina, I learned of an opportunity last year to go on a Rotary Youth Exchange to Muenster, Germany. I want to echo what others have said on this blog, that Youth Exchange is an unforgettable experience.

I had the pleasure of staying with two families in Germany — the Kirchhoffs and Beikers — and I consider both part of my family. Getting to know the German culture, to be a part of it, and to be immersed in it, I developed a new appreciation for my home country, and the world beyond. It made me realize just how amazing this world is, and gave me a desire to work to make the world a better place.  Continue reading

My Rotary Youth Exchange — this year has opened my eyes

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

By Victoria Alvarez, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Argentina to the United States

Most of you have probably heard of Rotary Youth Exchange, and maybe some of you have even been involved with the program. I recently completed my exchange year in the United States, and wanted to share the perspective of someone who has just taken part in one.

I come from Argentina, a little country on the edge of South America that you may have heard of recently because of the World Cup. It is in many ways very different from the United States. In signing up for an exchange to America, I stepped out alone into a culture unlike any I had experienced, in an unfamiliar environment, in a house I did not know, to live with people I did not know. Leaving behind family, friends, and most of what was familiar. Continue reading