For Ahwatukee Foothills high school students now is the time to see the world and the Rotary Youth Exchange gives them that opportunity to visit different countries in a safe, cost-saving manner.
Each year thousands of high school students from all over the world participate in this exchange. One of the main aspects of Rotary Youth Exchange that sets it apart from similar programs is the cost. The Rotary is run and staffed by volunteers, keeping the price for students significantly lower than the norm.
Cindy Harrison, district co-chairman of Rotary Youth Exchange, said she would recommend this program to anyone looking to study abroad. For the students it is a chance to grow and develop independence. Although they may not care now, being familiar with a different culture could be a great asset in the business world.
“As an exchange student you get the benefit of both worlds, you satisfy the need for exploration and 20 years later businesses look to you,” Harrison said.
Taryn Beus, who graduated from Highland High School in 2008, spent her senior year in Ecuador. Beus is very appreciative of the opportunity she had to participate in the Youth Exchange. She came back more independent and mature with foreign friendships that are still going strong.
“To this day, some of my closest friends I still consider being from Ecuador,” Beus said.
She met her best friend while in Ecuador; only this girl was not from Ecuador but from Switzerland. According to Beus, they were both on the exchange at the same time and ended up in the same town. They talk at least monthly, if not more.
Along with the immense benefits of Rotary Youth Exchange there is also the ever important facet of safety. The students usually live with two to four host families while on the exchange, which is a built-in safeguard, according to Harrison. If by some unfortunate chance the student ends up in a home they are not comfortable in they have counselors and peers to talk to and other host families available.
According to Harrison, the main issue students have is not fear of the host family but personality conflicts. Living and adapting to a new place can be stressful so, again, counselors are available to all students on the exchange.
Even though living in a different country is difficult, Harrison has never met a student who did not say that they would do it again.
“Students learn that we can get along with others so vastly different and discover that our differences are not as great as we once thought they were,” Harrison said, adding, “We never can regret the experiences that we have; we only regret the experiences that we do not have.”
Applications for the exchange are due to the Rotary Club of Ahwatukee Foothills by Oct. 1, for the 2009-2010 school year. Additional information about the program can be obtained by e-mailing Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandi Bell is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.