As my first post, I feel it is only fitting that I explain what this blog is all about. To do that I must first explain what it is that I’m doing this upcoming year and how I got involved. So here it goes!
Rotary Youth Exchange
Thirty-one days from now, I will be leaving all that is familiar to me in my hometown of Englewood, Florida, to spend a year abroad in Košice, Slovakia. Thanks to a program called Rotary Youth Exchange ((RYE) (*see play-on-words above*)) I will be attending a Slovak high school, staying with host families, and taking on a completely new lifestyle all while making new friends and new family. I am beyond excited to represent America as a true Floridian with my American flag fanny pack and ironically pale skin!
I learned about this program as a freshman when I attended my district’s first Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). That first year I met two exchange students: Jonas (Lithuania) and Andy (Taiwan). I didn’t know much about the program, but there was something about exchange that had me hooked from the beginning. That next year, I was fortunate enough to be invited back to the conference where met a new group of eight exchange students, including a boy from Slovakia (coincidentally) whom I became good friends with. He told me more about the program and got me more interested, but I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to take a year out of high school to go abroad, so I came to the conclusion that exchange wasn’t for me.
I was wrong. My junior year I returned to RYLA and along with the seven bedazzled inbound exchange students pictured above, I met an outbound exchange student taking a gap year before college to go on exchange to Slovakia (another coincidence?). Meeting her made me realize that maybe exchange was for me after all. Fast forward a year and I had been accepted to become a Rotary Youth Exchange student, anxiously awaiting my country selection.
Turkey or Slovakia?
Having already graduated, I’m a bit older than the typical exchange student. With this in mind, I knew that the list of countries that I qualified for would be quite a bit more narrow than for other exchange students; some had thirty, others had fifteen, and I had five: Czechia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Turkey, and Paraguay. I wasn’t planning on being picky with which country and culture I’d get to explore for a year, so I was ready for whatever country was thrown my way. This is why I was so excited when I got the news that I’d been chosen to go to Turkey! With so much to learn, I got right to looking-up Turkish phrases and researching famous touristy locations.
It wasn’t until March that I was surprised with a call informing me that my country had been switched to Slovakia (coincidentally yet again? I think not!). Though slightly disappointed at first, I soon became just as stoked for Slovakia as I was for Turkey (plus I’ll get to see my Slovakian friend again after three years!). Since the switch, it seems as though everything has fallen perfectly into place; as fate would have it, I have actually been assigned to live in his same city! All of the things that have happened by chance reassure me that this is the way everything was supposed to work out. With the countdown started and final preparations being made, Slovakia awaits!
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