This report for Channel Magazine is from Clotilde Fonteneau, Rotary Youth Exchange Student currently living in France. 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 highly motivated students to Europe. We are always looking for new host families to host our exchange students for more info please visit www.rotaryyouthexchange.co.nz
I chose to go a Rotary Youth Exchange two years ago. I chose New Zealand because firstly,it’s really far away from home so my parents can’t come visit. This was very important for me, because it’s MY year, a year where I’m going to discover myself, and learn to live without the help of my parents. Second of all, because I could learn English; and today, if you can not speak English, it’s harder to travel, or get a job. Thirdly, going on the Rotary Youth Exchange is going to change your life forever.
I’ve been without my family for 10 months already, and I survived !! Amazing!! I’ve learnt to be independent and thankful. I can manage my money, do things without help, go to town alone, travel by myself, etc… I’m also really thankful, because my parents let me fly on my own at 16!
Even if your family isn’t close to you, you’ll find another family, your exchange friends for example. You care about them. With some of them you’ll bond and make a relationship like brothers and sisters, and you know that you will keep contact with them as long as you can (forever if possible!).
But the amazing fact is how you change. For a year I’ve had to adapt to a new language, a new country, new culture, new families, new school, new friends… so YES, you grow up ! This year is the opportunity to learn to be more confident, to try new things, and learn another language. And it’s amazing and sometimes surprising how you can express yourself as if you are speaking in your mother tongue !! And yes, sometimes, when people say to me, that I have a bit of a kiwi accent I’m really proud of what I achieved and the efforts that I made. I’ll go home fluent in English.
When I first came, I didn’t have a lot of confidence, and was scared to fail, well, that is the old me !! Today, I can describe myself as a confident and determined woman. I live my life the way that I want, and I’m not scared to fail anymore, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to speak English or write this article!
During your exchange, you are the main character, you are the one who is making things moving, and you also learn where your limits are and how to fight your fears.
I love the person that I am today, I don’t regret my decision of going on an exchange. I’m really thankful to the Rotary Youth Exchange program for making this possible, and some members of the committee who helped me to accept the “new” me, and to push myself so far.