In 1967 this Berkeley girl embarked on a summer service exchange adventure in Ste. Foy, Quebec. How could I NOT go on exchange, when so many of my friends had done so? I was astounded at how enormously appreciated my group of exchange students were for the services we offered the community! The experience definitely cemented the notion of “service” into my being!
My French was passable but I was too shy to try using it. I loved that the 7-year-olds on the city playground where I worked “took me under their wings” and taught me not to be afraid to speak French (or should I say, Quebecois?)! My French/Quebecois is now nigh unto fluent!
Nobody told me at the time that I was engaging in the adventure of a lifetime, or that exchanges are forever.
But now, so many years later, my host brothers and sisters are still my close friends. Over the years my family has hosted short term exchange students from France and Germany, and I was invited twice to chaperone groups of high school students on their visits to France, where I stayed with the families of my French children. When I joined Rotary in 2008 I threw myself into RYE, enjoying so many roles that one can fill: host parent, club Inbound counselor, club Outbound counselor, club YEO, club Short Term Exchange counselor, D5130 RYE Leadership Team. All has been positive, and has lapped over into hosting for the Rotary Group Study Exchange and the Rotary Friendship Exchange.
I have met people from Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Thailand, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Italy, Paraguay, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, The Netherlands, India, but…I’m not a world traveler! I bring the world to me. I’ve seen how the exchange of cultures truly opens minds!