The Lakeland Area Rotary Breakfast and Noon clubs are offering a cultural opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and experience the world through the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program.
This year, Three Lakeland Union High School students are participating in RYE – Sydney Hayashi is staying in Mexico; Rowan Marney, Belgium; and Lauren Stine, Turkey.
“I think people may be scared to travel because of what happened to Tomas [Saraví]. They need to know how great and eye-opening it is to know another culture. Tomas knew that and we should keep that flame alive,” Hayashi said.
Though the recent and devastating loss of Tomas “Tomi” Saraví, RYE student from Argentina, is still a fresh memory, that shouldn’t be a deterring factor for the RYE program, Marney agreed. She was Tomi’s host sister.
“People need to know that it’s OK to do exchange,” Marney said. “They got to see and hear about how much fun Tomi had while in the U.S.”
RYE officer and Rotary assistant district governor of area four, Tami Schroeder, had the chance to speak with Tomas’s parents and they described the change they saw in him while he was on his exchange, even from thousands of miles away.
“They feel that through this exchange, he developed into the person he was meant to be and that this was truly the very best year of his life,” Schroeder said. “They were very happy about this and when Rowan questioned coming home, they told her not to even think about it as they knew Tomi would want her to continue with her life and make the most of the experience.”
Two upcoming events will provide information on the RYE program and a look as to what it’s like to study abroad from students’ perspectives.
World Language Assembly
LUHS will be hosting a World Language Assembly Thursday, Sept. 27, for students to hear about foreign exchange experiences first-hand from a panel of inbound and past outbound students and from those who are currently abroad.
“It’s kind of like a panel discussion where the teachers lead questions about various things, what they experienced, how they thought culture shock was. Then we leave it open to our students to ask questions,” Kathleen Peterson, LUHS German instructor, said.
The 45-minute assembly is held in the auditorium every period so that every world language class can listen to the discussions.
“It’s a great experience for the students because some of them don’t have any classes with these exchange students, so for the first time they’re meeting them, getting to know them, and then they have that connection with these students for the rest of the year,” Peterson said.
Hearing a variety of students’ personal accounts of studying abroad often inspires students to pursue an exchange themselves.
It did for Hayashi, who will be one of the Skyping with students during the assembly about her time in Mexico.
“This day is what got me started on this adventure last year and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it,” Hayashi said.
At the assembly, students will also hear from Marney via Skype. This year’s panel of foreign exchange students include Armando Cantu from Mexico; Sonia de Rodrigo, Spain; Danilo Spitti, Brazil; and Helle Bones, Norway.
The panel will also include students who recently when abroad: Miles Danielson who visited Brazil; Victoria Miller, South Africa; and Sarah Albano, Thailand.
“I think it’s great for the kids to hear about all these different experiences, not just from one exchange student but from all the exchange students – those who did travel, those who are now and those who are from these other countries,” Peterson said. “They’re hearing about it from all these different angles and it’s such a global world, it’s good for them to hear about different countries and cultures.”
If any parents are interested in attending the assembly, contact Peterson at 715-356-5252 ext. 3437 or email@example.com, or Karyn Chicka, Spanish instructor, at 715-356-5252 ext. 3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If they would like to peek in and watch and listen to the students talk about their experience, they would be welcome to come in,” Peterson said.
RYE informational meeting
The second opportunity to learn more about the exchange program is through the RYE information meeting Wednesday, Oct. 3, 6 p.m., in the LUHS long-distance learning room.
The program is open to students who will be juniors or seniors in the fall 2013 who are in the upper 50 percent of their class academically.
There’s plenty of options with over 40 different countries to choose from, and students usually are sent to one of their top five choices.
At the meeting, families can have all their questions answered by students who have recently returned from their exchange year as well as parents of former exchange students.
Cost to the family typically includes purchasing open-ended round trip airfare, insurance and some application fees. The hosting Rotary Club abroad supplies host families to provide room and board, pays all school fees and gives the student a monthly spending allowance.
An exchange year usually lasts between 10 1⁄2 to 11 months.
Interested students will need to apply, go through an interview process, and if they are selected, attend a conference for all regional RYE students in Wausau Oct. 20-21.
For more information on the RYE information meeting, email Sue Pukall at email@example.com.
Other cultural experiences
Traveling the world isn’t the only way for Northwoods students to be immersed in foreign culture. Being a host family for an exchange student is yet another opportunity to learn more about the world.
“As a host, I know it’s a fantastic experience, both for the student and for the family. My kids got to see a completely different culture and that really was a two-way street in terms of it being an educational experience,” Rotary outboard coordinator Joe Fahrenbach, who hosted an exchange student last year, said.
The students usually stay for the length of a year and move every three months to a new host family in the area. The reason for this transfer to a new family is to ensure that each exchange student experiences the culture of the Lakeland area from more than one vantage point.
Currently Rotary is looking for third host families for Armando Cantu from Mexico and Danilo Spitti from Brazil.
“We would also love to have families step forward to host the students who will be arriving next summer at the end of August,” Pukall said.
Inviting an international student into your home doesn’t mean you have to go above and beyond to provide entertainment. The whole idea behind exchange programs is to introduce them to every day life of a different culture.
“We’re not looking for you to bring the students on vacation or do something extraordinary,” Judy Jurries of Rotary said. “Just do things you normally do – like pumpkin carving, ice fishing or trick-or-treating.”
“It’s every-day for us; it’s exciting for them,” Fahrenbach said.
And the RYE program is very flexible for host families’ needs.
“If the host family has plans to be out of town, all they have to do is let us know and we will find a replacement for the student during their absence,” Jurries said.
Take it from Pam Marney, host mother of Tomas and whose daughter, Rowan, is currently in Belgium.
“As far as Tomi, I know he wouldn’t have changed anything and was having the time of his life. He would encourage others to do the same,” she said. “And as for the accident, that could happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere, so others should not be afraid to travel and follow their dreams.”
For more information on hosting international students, contact Sheila Clough, 715-356-4506, or Tami Schroeder, 715-356-2055.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.