By Sharon Bay, a member of the Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club of San Diego, California, USA
I had only been a Rotarian for a year, and was eager for another opportunity to serve, when I was asked by the committee chair of District 5340’s MusiCamp Youth Exchange if I would be interested in hosting two talented musical students for three weeks that summer. My husband and I had hosted an exchange student from Bolivia several years prior and had enjoyed the experience. This would only be for three weeks, and we felt we knew what to expect, so we enthusiastically said yes.
We hosted two high school boys who both played violin; Jonas from Germany and Jon from Canada. Jonas spoke enough English to have a conversation, but after three weeks he was at ease. We loved having classical music in our home and our neighbors also enjoyed it. The boys quickly became friends with the 18 other members of the Musicamp, and performed in three public concerts, before enjoying the sights of San Diego – theme parks, shopping, and surfing on the beach.
Every evening we ate dinner and talked about Germany, Canada, and the Untied States. As they shared their home experiences, we found many similarities. I tried to introduce them to many different foods.
Two years later, Jonas emailed me that his sister, Paula, one of six siblings, was accepted to MusiCamp and asked if she could stay with us. We felt honored that he had had a good experience with us. Paula arrived with her cello and Isabella, who interestingly was Jon’s sister, from Canada brought her violin. The girls quickly became friends. We again enjoyed their our hosting experience.
A worldwide ensemble
Each year the program is similar. In 2016, we hosted Grace from Ireland (violin) and Sylvia from Spain (cello). This last summer Clara, number three from the same German family, played violin and Hannah from Ireland, played the cello, filling our extra bedroom.
My husband and I were fortunate to go to Germany this past summer and stay with the German family. It was great knowing some of their close-knit family before we went. Their grandpa spoke a little English while we were there; which the grandkids had never heard him speak before.
The program is now in its fourteenth year. In the past, students have traveled from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, Russia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Taiwan, Hungary, Mexico and many other countries.
We are hosting number five this summer, but as yet unsure who we will be lucky to host. This music program is breaking down barriers one student at a time. Musical friends are becoming REAL friends.
Learn more about Rotary Youth Exchange