Rotary sends students overseas
Think you’ve got what it takes to board a 12-hour flight to who-knows-where and kiss the world as you’ve known it good-bye?Each year the Truckee Noon and Sunrise Rotary Clubs select two or three students to participate in their Rotary Youth Exchange Program, a 10-to 12-month international experience through which students live with host families and attend school in a foreign country.”It was an experience that made me more confident, more independent, and curious about the world,” said Tennian Vandergriff, a Truckee High senior who spent 11 months living in Chili. “Now I want to travel and see so much more; it just broadens your world.” The Rotary’s exchange program has been in place since the 1920s and the Truckee Rotary Clubs have been participating since 1995, both sending and accepting students. The 23 participating countries include Belize, Ghana, Thailand, Australia, and Spain.This year the Rotaries have welcomed two students to the area, Emilia Skytte, from Denmark, and Nicola Hofer, from Switzerland. Both are attending Truckee High School. Hofer, who will be living with three different Truckee families, was on the high school tennis team this fall and plans on joining the ski team.Ben Bloomfield is the single Truckee student currently studying abroad. In his French town of St. Quentin, Bloomfield takes all of his academic classes in French and is also learning to fence at a local academy.”He’s uncovering whole levels of behavior that he doesn’t see in Truckee,” said Bloomfield’s father Brooks. “It’s been a real interesting shift for him.”Students interested in participating must be between the ages of 15 and 18 and complete an interview process before being selected. The average cost of the program is $4,000 including airfare, insurance, and visa costs. An allowance is provided by the hosting Rotary club for expenses such as athletic fees, prom, and graduation.”You’ve got to expect the unexpected, and you can’t be afraid to embarrass yourself, because it’s going to happen all the time,” said Alexis Aucknthaler, a Truckee High senior who returned in June from a school-year spent in Poland. Aucknthaler stayed with four different families during her visit, which she said helped her to gain a broader perspective on the culture. With a flexible school schedule, she was also able to travel extensively within Europe.”I learned a lot about global issues,” Aucknthaler said. “And it made me more adventurous. I was a vegetarian before the trip, but [the Poles] eat a lot of meat. I ate everything; I didn’t want to be disrespectful. The worst thing was some sort of intestines, and I ate that too.”But for all the adjustments to culture and cuisine, participants agreed that the most difficult part of the experience was the shock of returning to the United States.”I’m still getting back into the groove of things,” said Vandergriff. “It was different seeing my friends again. And while my best friends are still here, my relationships have changed.”
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