A love of choco­late, trav­el­ling for Gaelle


Gaelle Ibar­guen might feel a long way from her Bel­gian home, but there is at least one thing in this part of the world that will be fa­mil­iar – a choco­late fac­tory.

Gaelle is a Ro­tary Youth Ex­change Stu­dent be­ing hosted by the Ro­tary Club of Tawa for a year in New Zealand.

She comes from Hor­rues, a small vil­lage 50km south-west of Bel­gium’s cap­i­tal, Brus­sels.

It has about 2000 in­hab­i­tants, a 12th cen­tury church, a pri­mary school, ‘‘one de­li­cious choco­late fac­tory’’ and the peo­ple she loves most – her fam­ily.

A far cry from the cities of Welling­ton and Porirua, but at least there is the Whittaker’s Choco­late Fac­tory to help her feel at home.

Gaelle is an ac­com­plished pi­anist, a Scout and loves do­ing Im­pro­vi­sa­tion or Theatre­s­ports, but she also has trav­el­ling in her blood.

‘‘I have vis­ited a lot of coun­tries in Europe, so the idea of an ex­change be­came al­most an ob­vi­ous.’’

Her in­ter­est in New Zealand was sparked by an English Lan­guage class as­sign­ment when she was 15.

Stu­dents were re­quired to choose an English-speak­ing coun­try, re­search it and de­liver a pre­sen­ta­tion. Gaelle chose New Zealand.

‘‘What I ex­pect with this trip is to dis­cover and to learn as much as I can - an­other way to live, meet peo­ple, learn about my­self and more about New Zealand, and have a lot of fun. I want it to be­come an un­for­get­table ad­ven­ture.’’

She has found her first few weeks in Welling­ton good and with lit­tle home­sick­ness. She has al­ready met some great peo­ple at Tawa Col­lege and in the com­mu­nity.

Dur­ing her year in New Zealand Gaelle will be hosted by three dif­fer­ent Ro­tary fam­i­lies.

The Youth Ex­change pro­gramme pro­vides thou­sands of young peo­ple across the globe with the op­por­tu­nity to meet peo­ple from other lands and to ex­pe­ri­ence their cul­tures.

Tawa Ro­tary youth di­rec­tor Mark Car­roll, said this helped plant the seeds for a life­time of in­ter­na­tional un­der­stand­ing.

‘‘You couldn’t build a bet­ter foun­da­tion for un­der­stand­ing and peace, be­cause it be­gins at some­one’s home.’’

He said an ex­change also of­fered a unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘Stu­dents are im­mersed in an­other cul­ture for 12 months, in a way that isn’t pos­si­ble as a tourist. They ex­pe­ri­ence the daily chal­lenges and the re­wards of this ex­pe­ri­ence as they make friends and get to know their new cul­ture.’’


Gaelle Ibar­guen, from Bel­gium, who is at­tend­ing Tawa Col­lege as part of Tawa Ro­tary ex­change pro­gramme.

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