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.

When I was 11, my mother died, and my father was given custody of me. But he abandoned me after only a few months, and I was sent to an institution for troubled boys. Although I hated being there, the place ultimately had a positive impact on my life and the director became like a mother to me. Under the support of the teachers and director, I developed a hunger for knowledge.

LIfe on a farm in America

Two years ago, I was part of a high school service club, and was looking for an Interact experience when I ended up attending a Rotary Youth Exchange meeting. I knew I didn’t have the money to go on an exchange, but the president of the Kaohsiung Lighthouse Rotary Club assured me they could help.

I traveled to America with the support of Rotary members throughout District 3510. I was excited about my new life and new experiences. I was also nervous and anxious about leaving home and the institution that had cared for me for six years.

But my experience was great. I lived with my host family on a farm in South Carolina. My host mother is a retired teacher and helped me improve my English. My host father is a retired farmer and spent a lot of time with me, talking about finding peace and meaning in life. They helped me grow so much as a person.

Serving others through Interact

While I was a student at West Oak High School, I became a member of the Interact club. We had 117 members and performed 20 community service projects. One of the projects involved raising money for children who don’t have enough food to eat, a cause near and dear to my heart.

I met exchange students from 17 different countries speaking 11 different languages. We all shared a love for the world. I think of the world as a huge laboratory where we are all learning about each other and working out our differences. When we change even one small part of our life, we have an impact on the world.

I am now a college freshman in Taipei City, concentrating on child welfare so I can continue to help children in need. I want to be a part of Rotaract to serve my community. I thank my host family, and all the people in Rotary who made this incredible experience possible. This year I have felt your love. I have set goals and found value and meaning in life.

3 thoughts on “Finding meaning in life during a Rotary Youth Exchange

  1. Good story, Louis Liu, that deserves to continue as your participation in Rotary family shall never end. Try to help Youth Exchange Program in the community you are living by participating in Orientations, Selection and recruiting host families and candidates! People like you do have such an inside knowledge of ROTARY by being a former exchange student, that surely you have a great potential for helping this Program continue operating all over the world. Best wishes!

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  2. Pingback: Finding meaning in life during a Rotary Youth Exchange | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

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