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
Before I arrived in New Zealand, a Belgian Rotarian asked the outgoing exchange students “what was Rotary?”
Our answer: An organisation who helps students from a country to go abroad for a year.
This Rotarian was taken aback when he heard our answer.
Blindsided, he told us that Rotary was not a travel agency but a global network of supportive decision-makers who put their skills to the service of the most pressing humanitarian causes.
Seriously, for me, Rotary was still a travel agency.
I have been in New Zealand for a little more than 200 days and I have lived incredible experiences that only exchange students can understand. In a year, I had to rebuild a life that I took 18 years to build. Adapt to four different host families, make new friends, go to a new school and learn a new language. After five months I am proud to say I have achieved those four points and integrated myself as a Kiwi. I am now definitely part of the New-Zealand landscape and I don’t consider myself as a tourist anymore.
I do not really have the space to describe this exceptional year, and anyway, I do not think I can find the words to describe it. So I'm going to be short.
For me, Rotary is still a travel agency.
But that's only a tiny part of what Rotary does.
I will not tell you about all the causes in which Rotarians are engaged because I would not do it justice.
All I can tell you is that Rotary made me grow. Not physically, of course, but mentally. Thanks to this year of challenges, I found myself more mature than I have ever been and with a more open mind.
I left Belgium as a teenager and I am sure now, I will return as an adult.