• Natasha Leslie

Natasha living in Zurich, Switzerland

This report for Channel Magazine is from Natasha Leslie, Rotary Youth Exchange Student sponsored by North Harbour Rotary and currently living in Zurich, Switzerland. Rotary International Youth Exchange is one of the oldest and most recognised Exchange Programmes in the world. Students have the opportunity to spend a year living overseas where they attend school and live with host families. This year we have sent nine well-motivated students to Europe. We currently have applications open for our Class of 2019 so if you know a student who would love to spend a year abroad learning a new language and teaching others our culture we’d love to have them apply. Applications are open until 8th April for more info please visit www.rotaryyouthexchange.co.nz

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single footstep. My journey began around six months ago when I found out that I was selected to go on the Rotary Exchange. From there it has been full speed to get to the point where I am now: departure. Leading up to my flight it hadn’t really sunk in that I would be in a foreign country for a year, but on my final day and seeing my family in the airport I realised that I was terrified to leave.

When I look at back at the last six months, I have had plenty of time to prepare. Following the selection process and the thrill to hear that I had been chosen, there has been careful organisation and planning to support me through to this point. I have met with all my fellow outbounds and we have spent a couple of orientation and team building weekends together. My home host club (North Harbour Rotary) in New Zealand and in my receiving district in Switzerland have been in regular contact and provided all the information and training support, including learning the language, which has been the most challenging task of all so far.

I hadn’t really thought about what being away from my friends and family actually meant until now. We’ve had a inbound Rotary student from Belgium staying with us for the last few months and over Christmas, it has been great to have another host brother and to understand what it feels like to be away from home as well as the challenges of settling into a different country and culture. He tells me this is the best year of his life!

So why do I have such trepidation ?

Life comes down to a few key events that shape our future and this is one of them for sure. I understand the opportunities that lie ahead and just want to make the very best of them. I want to get to know my new host families and tell them about New Zealand, I want my family to be proud of me and to represent my Rotary host club well, and vindicate their choice in sending me. I want to make a year away matter.

So maybe its not that I’m just terrified, maybe I’m exicited too, I’ve been told that in order to grow, you should do something that puts you way outside your comfort zone regularly.

Face your fears and live your dreams.