By Brooke Leggat
Photo by Daniel Corneschi
As the end of this school year grows near, several Storm students have begun thinking about what classes, clubs and sports they’re interested in for next year. Meanwhile, others are packing their bags and embarking on a new type of high school experience, one overseas. Rotary International is an organization that prides itself on connecting students across the globe through exchange programs
Their youth exchange program enables high school students to build cross-cultural communication skills while immersing themselves in an entirely different lifestyle than their own. With options ranging between short-term exchanges outside of the school year to full-year exchanges that last a full academic year, students are granted the option to choose what works best for them.
Sophomores Erika Anderson and Beryl Isenberg have taken advantage of this full-year exchange program to gain a diversified perspective on the world through their travels. Going abroad will enable them to further their linguistic and cultural endeavours while spending a year with host families.
Isenberg’s motivation to travel abroad is especially powerful, and truly portrays the long-lingering power that exchange programs possess.
“I was inspired by my exchange student, Iván, from a couple of summers ago” Isenberg said. “He was from Spain, and I want to be fluent in Spanish.” Similarly, Andersen is eager to experience the unique cultural opportunity that Rotary International facilitates.
“Initially I just wanted to go somewhere for a semester, but after more research I realized I wanted to do a full year exchange program. Year-long exchange has a much more significant impact on language, culture, and the development of independence and responsibilities in myself,” Anderson said.
Though this once-in-a-lifetime experience is nothing short of incredible, many students grapple with leaving friends, family and their overall lifestyle behind. Many students have never been exposed to different cultures and a life far beyond the realm of sheltered students have ever experienced.
“I had so many second thoughts about leaving my friends and everything familiar, but I know that if I don’t go I will regret it,” Anderson said.
For both Isenberg and Andersen, the tough decision has proved to be worth it. These two outward-bound students expressed nothing but gratitude for the opportunity that has been placed in their hands.
“I think every student should go on an exchange” Isenberg said. “It’s an amazing and life changing opportunity, and the worst that can happen is nothing”.
Rotary International encourages high school students to take on these risks and immerse themselves into something brand new. Their goal is for students everywhere to expand their view of the world.
“Rotary club uses a motto about how if every teenager spent a year abroad, there would be no war. I never looked at it this way, but now it is all I can see it as” Anderson said. “Being totally immersed in another culture forces you to see all the good and truth in the world.”