By Linda Mulhern, a member of the Rotary Club of St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
When you become a Rotary Youth Exchange student, you never imagine how it might affect you in the long term. In my case, my exchange has connected my family in more ways than one.
As a Youth Exchange student to Sweden in 1979-80, I learned a lot about what I was capable of doing on my own, my strengths and weaknesses, and what it took to overcome obstacles. I had an incredible year in Sweden, and still speak Swedish fluently. I have contacts with many friends and communicate regularly with my host parents and host sisters.
After my exchange, I met my husband in ROTEX, a group for Rotary Youth Exchange alumni. He had been a Youth Exchange student to Argentina, and we bonded over travel stories. Once we had kids, I knew our experiences might inspire them to travel.
Our son has taken part in a Rotary Youth Exchange to Turkey and our daughter is currently on a Youth Exchange in Finland. She is one of three girls on a boys hockey team and loves it. We have also hosted over 20 Youth Exchange students over the years.
I have used my Swedish in my profession, and both my husband and I have been able to reach out to people with our language abilities. Our children are able to talk about world events at the dinner table, and we have received many compliments from our children’s friends about how fun it is to talk about world cultures, languages, and politics at the dinner table. They love the laughter, but also realize that to follow the conversation, they need to stay current on world events.
I am most proud of my kids because they will find ways to be inclusive with everyone they meet, find common interests, and start conversations to learn more about the world.
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