Travel alters lives
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.
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.