By Emma Naas, a former Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Sweden
In the summer of 1991, 377 Rotary Youth Exchange students boarded eight buses and journeyed around the American continent for five weeks. Those weeks were for all of us unforgettable, and a fantastic end to our exchange year. The time we spent on those buses was so special, it created an unforgettable bond between us and a wonderful memory. We never thought we would ever meet again. But we were wrong.
Five years ago, we started a closed Facebook group with about 30 members. We helped each other track down and find as many members of that tour as possible. Today we are 278 strong.
On 21 July through 24 July, about 100 members of the 1991 tour met again for the first time in 25 years. The reunion was held in Spain with former exchange students flying in from 24 different countries as far away as Australia, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, USA, and Japan, to join many from the European countries.
During those four days we realized that the trust we based our friendship on 25 years ago is still there. We help each other in big and small ways. We network. We won a European Language award. And during the reunion we all signed a letter addressing the governments in each of our countries asking them to support exchange programs.
This is just the beginning of what we can accomplish together. Rotary joined us together 25 years ago, and we are still here, celebrating a year that forever changed us. We stand for trust and friendship across borders, across differences cultures, languages, and religions. We are the world, just a smaller and more peaceful one.
We say Thank You Rotary. We are eager to tell our story so Rotary knows, and the world knows, the power of Rotary Youth Exchange.
If you’d like one of us to speak to your club, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about exchange opportunities through Rotary