Stephanie Witkowski, middle in blue shirt, during her Rotary Youth Exchange in Slovakia.
By Stephanie Witkowski, Rotary Club of Honolulu Pau Hana
At 28 years old, I decided to become a Rotarian, because Rotary changed my life.
I grew up in a small town in Oregon, USA, and was a young leader in my school. When I was 15 years old, I applied to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event in Rotary’s District 5110 to learn more about myself and what leadership meant to me. During that amazing week-long experience, I learned not only about how to be a better leader for my school and community, but about Rotary itself. Continue reading
Belgian Exchange Student Marcellin Niset in Alaska
By Marcellin Niset, Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Belgium to Alaska
The Italian-American author and actress Vanna Bonta wrote, “There’s no hospitality like understanding.” That quote stuck with me as a Rotary Youth Exchange student to Alaska in 2015-16. I arrived in Alaska, a wilderness filled with beauty and love, determined to make my exchange purposeful and beneficial for myself, my host community, and the world.
An exchange is not only about a student going abroad, it is about all the people that make this exchange possible, and the ones that are impacted, directly and indirectly. Continue reading
Rotary Youth Exchange students from 1991 reunite 25 years later.
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. Continue reading
The author, far right, and her daughter with a former Rotary Youth Exchange student from Chile.
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. Continue reading
Rotary Youth Exchange student Ronan Morgan holds up the South African flag.
By Ronan Morgan
I had just arrived in Denmark after a 13-hour flight from South Africa, tired, but not exhausted. I was excited and ready to face a year of surprises and challenges as a Rotary Youth Exchange student from District 9400. It was not until I moved into my new home where I would spend the first five months of my exchange that it fully hit me – I was not in Johannesburg anymore, or anywhere familiar. Continue reading
2014-15 Rotary Youth Exchange students.
By Gabriela Vessani
I spent a year in Canada as a Rotary Youth Exchange student, and I can’t believe how fast the year went by. On my flight back to Brazil a few months ago, I reflected on the experience, and had so many thoughts.
I remembered arriving with anxiety, and yes, even a little fear. The experience is never entirely what you expect and you can never totally prepare for it. I think that few students go in with a full understanding of how intense and Continue reading
Andrea Shirey speaks to her Rotary Club about hosting an exchange student.
By Andrea Shirey
On a summer day at my weekly Rotary Club meeting, a simple yes changed everything. A series of events and conversations over several weeks had led a fellow Rotarian to ask me if our family would host an exchange student. Somehow, the word yes fell from my lips as my brain lagged behind just long enough to realize I was committed. Soon, the questions formed:
What if the student is weird? What if my kids don’t get along with her? What if she won’t eat anything I cook and she dislikes America because of me? The doubts were endless, the fears considerable. Continue reading
Katherine Ward (middle) and her daughter (behind, left) in Turkey.
By Katherine Ward
Thirty years ago, at the age of 18, I started a grand adventure and boarded a plane on my own toward Istanbul, Turkey. I was headed off on a yearlong Rotary Youth Exchange.
Before I left, I attended several camps that prepared us for culture shock and gave us a general sense of some of the changes we could expect. My high school wouldn’t accept any credits from Turkey, so I had accelerated my course schedule, completing all but one required course to graduate.
I spoke absolutely no Turkish but, despite my struggles with language learning at the Continue reading
Thando Gwatyu shares the South African flag with his host family in Germany.
By Thando Gwatyu, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from South Africa to Germany
Recently, I finished my third month in Germany, and it’s already changing my life. The process has not always been easy, but I’ve made quite a few discoveries about German culture and tradition, some of which is very different from the life I’m used to.
My first host family, the Roos, were simply amazing. Both parents are architects and they have a 16-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son. The parents were eager to show me many things about their country Continue reading
Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.
By Rotary Voices staff
As the year draws to a close, we recap our top five stories of the year (based on number of views):
- During her Rotary Youth Exchange to the United States, Argentinian Victoria Alvarez met teenagers from all over the world and learned how to appreciate different points of view. Alvarez shared how her Rotary Youth Exchange opened her eyes.
- Chris Davidson, a member of the Rotary Club of Newport News, Virginia, joined 29 other Rotary members under the age of 40 during a Young Professionals Summit in Chicago to discuss how Rotary can better attract and engage young professionals. Davidson shared what young professionals are looking for in Rotary.
- Jurag Gago, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Slovakia, fell in love with Chicago during his year in the United States, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Aurora Sunrise. Gago shared how Rotary Youth Exchange exceeded his expectations.
- Bill Wittich, past president of the Rotary Club of Laguna Sunrise, Elk Grove, California, USA, is the kind of guy who hangs out in the local Starbucks. Wittich discovered that the best way to invite someone to join Rotary is to ask.
- Ron Nethercutt, a member of the Rotary Club of Mabalacat, Pampanga, Philippines, shares his reason for wearing a Rotary pin. Nethercutt was attending a large chamber of commerce meeting in New Orleans when he was approached by a young lady who thanked him. When he asked why, she recounted how her Rotary scholarship allowed her to earn a master’s degree in international banking and improve her life circumstances.