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
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
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.
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
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
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
By 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.
By 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:
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
Misha Garafalo created passports for her club members to fill with “visa” stamps of their service activities.
By Misha Garafalo, president of the Rotary Club of Shorewood, Illinois, USA
As a former Rotary Youth Exchange student to Sweden more than a quarter century ago, one of my fondest possessions is my beloved passport filled with sought-after stamps from countries I visited so long ago.
Although I haven’t had the opportunity to travel internationally in many years, every now and again, I would come across the passport, flip through the pages, and reminisce about the sights, smells, and sounds which stirred my global awareness, curiosity, and perspective. Continue reading
Derek Osborn addresses the third plenary session of the 2013 International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA. Rotary International/Monika Lozinska
By Derek Osborn, a member of the Rotaract Club of Norman, Oklahoma
I believe that everything Rotary does is important. However, I also believe that nothing is more important to Rotary’s future than the programs of New Generations. Encompassed by New Generations are all of Rotary’s programs for people under the age of 30. Interact is for students 12 to 18, Rotary Youth Exchange is for those 15 to 19, Rotaract is for individuals 18 to 30, and RYLA — Rotary Youth Leadership Awards — is for anyone 14 to 30 years old.
I have been fortunate enough to have known about and participated in Rotary for about 15 years. I was in elementary school when I got to participate in my first Rotary community service project, and it had a profound influence on me. Continue reading