You may not recognize the names of the young people in this story, now, Gael MooreGael Moore, from Hamilton Township directs the Rotary Student Exchange Program for Rotary District 7070. Students often revisit their host country and Rotary Club, and Celine Brassuer from Switzerland, who spent 2009 on exchange to Cobourg, returned to visit with Gail this summer.but there is every likelihood you will in the future. Greece - Exchange StudentsExchange Students have ample time to socialize with other students. This photo, by Remi Mireault, shows four students from four different countries enjoying themselves on a Rotary District sponsored trip to Greece.It was almost sixty years ago when John Lennon said - "Give peace a chance". Since then, you must admit, world leaders have not done a very good job of taking his advice. Someday perhaps, the road to world peace will be better travelled by these remarkable young men and women.

Lennon also said, "The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and responsibility that we all had.  It wasn't the answer.  It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility".  The Rotary Youth Exchange program is dedicated to giving youngsters not yet 18 years of age "a glimpse of the possibility" of achieving world peace and understanding by helping them to take the first steps towards that much sought after goal.

For over 75 years, students and host families have broadened their horizons through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. More than 80 countries and over 8,000 students each year participate in the program, which is administered at the regional level by the local Rotary district, and at the local level by Rotary club. Here in Northumberland, the local program is directed by Gael Moore of Hamilton Township.  Her role is to coordinate the activities of all participating Rotary Clubs in Rotary District 7070 - an area stretching from Etobicoke, west of Toronto, to beyond Trenton. This past August seventeen Northumberland students left to spend a full year in a foreign land as part of this program.

At the same time, nine Northumberland students were returning home after spending a year experiencing the culture and lifestyle of countries from Brazil to France, Taiwan to the Netherlands and Chile to Belgium. This is the story of four of those returnees.

 Meet Vivienne Wu of Brighton.  Vivienne Vivienne WuVivienne Wu dressed in her red Rotary Exchange Student Blazer with it’s many souvenir pins and badges, each a special memory of her year in France.was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Brighton. She told GO I chose France because I've always loved history and architecture and France has so much of both. Also there is an advantage to being able to speak French in Canada, where my future is. I loved the balance of modern and rural, the romantic atmosphere, and the food was pretty great as well.  Both my host families were wonderful."

Vivienne with her MomExchange Students wear bright red blazers on their trips and collect all manner of souvenir pins and badges as a reminder of their adventures. Here, on her return home, Vivienne Wu explains one of her pin collections to her mother.

When asked about language difficulties, Vivienne replied, "I had some basic training before arriving in France and I carried a dictionary and a little note book in which to record new words. I also took some language classes to improve my grammar and punctuation. I joined the school choir and concert band to improve my trumpet skills too."

"It's an incredible opportunity to take part in the Youth Exchange Program,' said Vivienne, "but I would also clearly explain that it's not a holiday, but an exciting opportunity to broaden the student's horizon outside the traditional classroom. With your classmates and host families and learning the language is very important."

Vivienne is undecided as to where to continue her university education but she said "I am certain that with the new experiences that I gained during my year abroad I can better apply my talents to serve others and overcome future ups and downs."

 

Meet Shaun McLeod of  Camborne. Shaun's destination of choice was The Netherlands.Shaun McleodCamborne’s Shaun McLeod enjoyed his time in the Netherlands immensely but just couldn’t get accustomed to raw herring at meal time. "My sister had been an exchange student, and my family had hosted exchange students from other countries, so I Shaun McLeodExchange Students take part in many activities of their host Rotary Club. Shaun McLeod was right at home serving at a cooking school evening held by his host club where the men did the cooking and served the ladies.knew a lot about the program.  Originally I though of going somewhere in Northern Europe but I felt a Central Europe destination would give me greater travel opportunities.  I also have ancestors from the Netherlands and that was another attraction," Shaun said.

"I enjoyed the people, the culture and the atmosphere of all the people I met," said Shaun, "and the only thing I did not enjoy was raw herring. I knew only a few words of the language when I arrived, so I took extra language classes, and most people in the Netherlands can at least understand English so language was not a problem. At school, I took up to nine forty-five minute classes a day, but not every day, which left time to play soccer on a local team and I received a golf membership in Germany where I golfed with one of my host dads, a counselor and a local Rotarian.  I stayed with four different host families, two or three months with each, and enjoyed every minute of it."

"Any one having the chance to go on a Rotary Student Exchange should just jump at the opportunity.  Have an open mind, I would tell them, and seize every opportunity to try new things," Shaun said, "I have not decided on my next educational opportunity, but feel the Student Exchange has left me better equipped to handle whatever comes along."

Meet Brittany Hesmer of Colborne. Brittany chose Brazil as her exchange destination. Brit and her motherBritt and her mother Joanne share a laugh on town hall steps on Britt’s return to Colborne after a year in Brazil."I wanted a really big change, somewhere I would have a completely different lifestyle and routine," said Brittany. Brit and her motherBrittany with her mom Joanne Hesmer in the Colborne Park after her return from Brazil."I loved the weather, the simple way of living and the social side", she continued. "Learning Portuguese was difficult, but I really enjoyed a two week Amazon trip with other exchange students.  It was an unforgettable experience.

"There is a big gap between the wealthy and the poor in Brazil. This was difficult to understand, but I spent time with four different host families during my year, and enjoyed them all", she added. "I hope to study psychology at Wilfred Laurier University in the future", she concluded.

Brittany's mother told GO - "sending Brittany on exchange was difficult at times and stressful, but it is by far the best thing I ever let her do.  She became such a grown individual after her time in Brazil - more than she was before - and came home such an independent and confident person."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Remi Mireault of Cobourg.  Remi MireaultRemi Mireault took advantage of a snowfall to demonstrate to his Belgium schoolmates how Canadians dress in winter.Remi chose a year in Belgium as his destination. "I chose Belgium", he told GO, "because it provided me with an opportunity to improve my French as well as try new languages as Belgium has three official languages - French, Flemish and German. Remi and parentsReturning Exchange Students are invited to speak to their sponsoring Rotary Club. Remi and his mother, Happy, and father Marc were there to hear their son’s report to the Cobourg Club." I really enjoyed how open and involved entire communities were," he added, " all were very motivated and engaged in their culture and traditions and it was very touching to see every age group enjoying the festivities.

When asked about language difficulties, Remi replied, "I took French immersion for eleven years, and the Belgian accent is one of the easiest to understand, however the dialect and intricacies of the areas in which I resided took longer and some eluded me altogether. The school day ended at 12:40 p.m. each Wednesday, and we also had recess and over an hour long lunch period, not to mention many spares.  They also have more vacation time including weeks off in November, at Christmas, and March, plus two weeks at Easter."

It wasn't all work and no play for Remi, however.  He did find time to play soccer and attend the theatre academy as well as taking time to "hang out with friends and other Rotary exchange students". "During my stay I was billeted with three different host families and I will always remember the beautiful places I visited and the friends I made" he added.

"To other students considering the Youth Exchange program I would say - your trip is as good as you make it.  You can't just go and expect a good time.  You have to be willing to try everything and to want it.  Those who didn't make the effort, or gave up before really trying missed a great adventure, Remi added. Remi hopes to continue his education at the National Theatre School