SUMMERSIDE – Local Rotarians are working to open up the world to the youth of Summerside through their exchange program.
The Rotary Youth Exchange is an opportunity to share and embrace other cultures, while gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the world.
“The way that the process works is, for example, if you were to apply right now, you’d be applying for the 2019 exchange year,” explained Angie Arsenault, local committee head of Rotary Youth Exchange.
“In the program, you’d leave late August, so you have a few weeks to settle into your country. And then you go to school there.”
An information session for students and parents will be held Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Inspire Learning Centre of Summerside.
For more than 110 years, Rotary has acted to create change across the globe.
Previous exchange student Lucas Donovan, now 21, exchanged from Three Oaks Senior High School at the age of 16 to experience life and schooling for a year in Brazil.
“What made me decide to go on the exchange, really, was that I felt that I was too familiar with the atmosphere I was in, and I wanted to go and experience a real culture shock. Experience something that was completely foreign to me,” said Donovan.
Although Donovan was nervous at the thought of living in a country with a language barrier, it did not deter him from the opportunity he was given. Especially when living with host families that are Rotary approved.
At the end of the process, it can be tough to leave everything behind, he said.
“I felt like I left my heart in another country. The people down there and the host family that I lived with, they were such amazing and beautiful human beings and to just have started a new life and to have it taken away from me as quickly as I was entered into it, it was definitely difficult.
“I left Brazil a completely different person than when I came. I was much more confident and much more in tune with myself.”
Those who are host parents gain from the experience as well, and the process is often described as rewarding.
When asked about the experience, Nelson Snow, a host family member since 1990, said he has no regrets.
“[It was] good. Exceptional actually. We ended up hosting three students over the last couple of years: a girl from Belgium, a girl from Spain and a boy from Germany. We enjoyed it immensely.
“I encourage anybody who’s even thinking about participating to go ahead and do it. It can be very challenging being in a different culture, but it will be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.”
Those interested in the program will have the opportunity to attend the information session to hear all sides involved, have any questions answered and find comfort in others experience.
“It’s one of the things that, yes it’s very intimidating to do, and yes it's overwhelming at the start, but I’ve never met one exchange student that ever said they wish they hadn't gone. Every one of them has come out such an evolved version of themselves and I am so grateful of Rotary of ever giving me that experience,” said Donovan.
For more information, go to: rotary.org/en/our-programs/youth-exchanges