Travel al­ters lives

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

Par­tial to par­ty­ing like a South Amer­i­can or im­mers­ing your­self in Euro­pean cul­tures?

Se­nior high school stu­dents crav­ing over­seas ex­pe­ri­ences are en­cour­aged to ap­ply for the Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional Youth Ex­change. The Ro­tary Club of Plim­mer­ton puts for­ward a stu­dent ev­ery year and also takes a stu­dent from over­seas each year to stay with four fam­i­lies.

The ex­change is avail­able to stu­dents aged 16 to 18 who have a strong de­sire to meet peo­ple from other coun­tries and ex­pe­ri­ence their cul­ture. Kiwi stu­dents leave in Jan­uary for their 12 month ex­changes.

The Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional Youth Ex­change pro­gramme not only cre­ates friend­ships be­tween stu­dents, hosts and clubs, it also en­ables young men and women to re­alise their po­ten­tial, says club spokesper­son Wendy Bet­teridge.

‘‘It plants the seeds for a life­time of in­ter­na­tional un­der­stand­ing.’’

Sam Trist went to Brit­tany in France for his ex­change. As well as hav­ing his world view widened with new ex­pe­ri­ences he was able to gain greater aware­ness of his own fam­ily his­tory. His first host fam­ily took him to the Her­manville War Ceme­tery, to see the grave of his great, great grand­fa­ther, who was killed in World War 2.

‘‘Be­ing able to see the grave in per­son and learn more about the war and my own fam­ily his­tory was very spe­cial,’’ said Sam.

Katie Highet went on her in­ter­na­tional ex­change many years ago. It had a ma­jor in­flu­ence on her life path and sparked a last­ing friend­ship.

While in Paris she formed a bond with an Is­raeli Ro­tar­ian, Rawan, who had trav­elled from the north of Is­rael.

‘‘Hav­ing lit­tle knowl­edge of the Mid­dle East at this point, I as­sumed that her Is­raeli iden­tity meant she was Jewish and was very sur­prised when she dis­closed her Chris­tian faith. A mem­ber of Is­rael’s Chris­tian mi­nor­ity, she did not serve in the army, was Arab but not Mus­lim and had a com­pletely dif­fer­ent take on the Is­raeli state than I had heard be­fore – an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for a girl from Plim­mer­ton.’’

In the years that fol­lowed the ex­change, Katie stud­ied Mid­dle East­ern pol­i­tics, worked for Mid­dle East­ern com­pa­nies and her in­ter­est in the re­gion and its com­plex so­cial and re­li­gious pol­i­tics grew.

‘‘Rawan and I stayed in touch spo­rad­i­cally as she went through med­i­cal school, trav­elled back to Europe to study and be­came a doc­tor; but our lives were on very dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries.

‘‘When I moved my life to Is­rael and Pales­tine in early 2010, it was a thrill to re­con­nect with her, and ac­cept an in­vi­ta­tion to spend Palm Sun­day with her fam­ily in Nazareth and see the Holy Land from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

‘‘Strange but won­der­ful to catch up 10 years later and mar­vel at the global com­mu­nity that we ex­ist in and how this friend­ship has blos­somed in a way that nei­ther of us would have pre­dicted in Paris 10 years ago.’’

Rakai Parata, the daugh­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter and Plim­mer­ton Ro­tar­ian Hekia Parata, en­joyed her in­ter­na­tional ex­change to Brazil in 2011.

She says the ex­change pro­vided her with a year to make friend­ships, learn a lan­guage, ‘‘party like a South Amer­i­can, taste the lo­cal food, breathe the cul­ture, lose weight, gain weight, do noth­ing, do ev­ery­thing, travel, laugh, cry, eat, drink, sleep, sing, dance, live’’.

Rakai says she has ex­pe­ri­enced things far be­yond what she could have imag­ined, from the Ama­zon River to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Rio car­ni­val.

‘‘I feel free and changed for the bet­ter and I know that ev­ery­thing I have learnt here and all that I’ve done will stay with me for­ever.’’

Presently en­joy­ing the Porirua life­style is Peter Kongs­bak, from Den­mark, who is par­tic­u­larly taken with our golf cour­ses.

‘‘I have been able to bring my hobby with me down here,’’ says the sharp shooter with a hand­i­cap of eight.

‘‘I’m learn­ing a new cul­ture and bring­ing a bit of my cul­ture to New Zealand. On a re­cent visit to the Sev­ens in Welling­ton, I dressed as a Vik­ing.

‘‘ I’m meet­ing a lot of new peo­ple, who I know I’ll keep in con­tact with and may re­unite with af­ter my ex­change.’’

If any­one plays golf and wants to hear more about be­ing an ex­change stu­dent, give Peter a call on 027 028 40727.

To be con­sid­ered for the Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Ex­change, visit ro­tary.org.nz.

Send a com­pleted ap­pli­ca­tion form di­rectly to The Ro­tary Club of Plim­mer­ton, P O Box 54 022, Mana, Porirua, for the at­ten­tion of John Green, or ring him on 238 9358.

Photo: CAROLYN WAL­LACE

River of dreams: ‘‘Brazil is now my sec­ond home,’’ says Ro­tary youth ex­change re­cip­i­ent Rakai Parata. Com­ing ashore: Dan­ish stu­dent Peter Kongs­bak dressed for the Sev­ens.

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