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

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

Home doesn’t have just one name: lessons from a youth exchange

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Elizabeth, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from District 6080 (Missouri, USA) to France

I used to think that the sky only stretched on for as far as I could see, and then where my vision became blurred, the world ceased to exist.

I used to think that happiness came from surrounding myself with things that brought me comfort. I used to think the best friends I would ever have were the ones I’d known forever. I used to think that in order to call someone family meant they had to be related by blood. And I used to think that home only had one name. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange shaped my life

Denise DiNoto

Denise DiNoto

By Denise DiNoto, Rotary Club of Colonie-Guilderland, New York, USA

In August 1990, I left my hometown in rural upstate New York, for a year as an exchange student to Tasmania, Australia. The experience helped shape my adult life, as it has for many other exchange students. However, my situation was unique because I was one of the first students with a mobility impairment to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange.

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My Rotary hat is the ultimate travel accessory

Kate McKenzie meets a Melbourne Rotarian during her travels.

Kate McKenzie, wearing her Rotary hat, meets a fellow Rotarian in Melbourne.

By Kate McKenzie, a member of the Rotary Club of Randwick, New South Wales, Australia

Since joining Rotary, I have discovered the ultimate travel accessory, my Rotary hat. Not only does it keep the sun off my Celtic skin, but it advertises my connection to Rotary.

I currently live in Sydney with my husband, but grew up on a farm in the southern part of Western Australia. It’s one of the most isolated and beautiful parts of the world, but it’s also what inspired me to be interested in other cultures and what led me to Rotary. Continue reading

My mountaintop experience

Sunrise on the summit of Mt. Fuji.

Sunrise on the summit of Mt. Fuji.

By Valentina, a current Rotary Youth Exchange student from the United States to Japan who received round-trip airfare through United’s 10 Million Charity Miles Giveaway.

I have been in Japan for only two weeks, but already so much has happened! The day I arrived I was greeted by local Rotary members and my host mother at the airport. I couldn’t believe I was in Japan. Continue reading

Why what goes on safari shouldn’t always stay on safari

Courtney (center with hat in lap) meets the Rotary Youth Exchange safari earlier this year. Photo courtesy of District 9800

Courtney (center with hat in lap) meets the Rotary Youth Exchange safari earlier this year. Photo courtesy of District 9800

By Emanuel Tumino, a member of the Rotary Club of Footscray, Victoria, Australia

A chance encounter on the side of a dusty road deep in the Queensland Outback will forever change the life of one teen-ager, thanks to the magic of Rotary Youth Exchange.

In March of 2012, I was one of three leaders for our annual safari tour for 16 inbound Youth Exchange students which takes students deep into the Outback for a unique look at Australia’s remote areas. The bus stopped for a coffee break along the highway at a town of about 350 consisting of a few shops, houses, and a post office with the only cappuccino machine in “town.” Continue reading

Lessons I learned in teamwork

130912_enricoBy Enrico Giuseppe Ferro, past president of the Yale University Rotaract Club, New Haven, USA, winner of the 2013 “Rotaract Outstanding Project Award for the USA, Canada and Caribbean Districts” 

In 2009, I took part in a Rotary Youth Exchange to Canandaigua, New York, USA, which taught me many things about teamwork.

I worked side by side with Rotarians and other exchange students to develop strategies to enhance our service efforts. We held themed-cuisine nights where we cooked and sold food native to our home countries to raise money for projects and shared ideas on how to promote each other’s good works. I realized how through Rotary I could work with people from many different perspectives to tackle urgent problems in our communities.

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Using Facebook to promote Rotary

130828_wagner1By Erin Wagner, a member of the Rotary Club of Minneapolis South, Minnesota, USA

I am a product of Rotary’s youth programs, which taught me some amazing lessons. For example:

Open-Mindedness
A farm girl from Idaho, my youth exchange to France (2001-02) and the associated culture shock taught me to be aware of and question my assumptions, and to recognize that people are people all over the world. Continue reading