Posted by Allan Vester on Jul 01, 2019

Pakuranga Rotary  was treated to reports by two very enthusiastic Rotary exchange students. Georgie Chalmers who has returned from a year in Denmark and Victoria Melber our exchange student from Austria.  The Rotary Youth Exchange [fittingly initiated by the Copenhagen Club in Denmark in 1927] now gives around 9000 students a year the opportunity to live and study in another country.

The messages from Georgie and Viktoria mirrored those given by successive students and reinforces just how valuable this exchange is.

Both Georgie and Viktoria were given and took the many opportunities offered, to see and experience new cultures while on exchange. For Georgie this included trips to many parts of Europe on the Europe tour and Cologne in Germany on a school trip and Majorca [part of the Spanish Balearic Isles] on a family holiday.  For Viktoria it involved the South Island trip and visits to places all over the North Island. She recounted all of the many activities she took part in ranging from the school ball, Marae visit, Challenge Camp, Tongariro crossing, school sports teams and many Rotary activities.

Both Georgie and Viktoria found the school experience different. For Viktoria, New Zealand meant the new experience of school uniform, many fewer subjects, and basically a less demanding schedule. Georgie moved to no school uniform, a structure where students stay with the same group of students for all subjects and a system that was much less formal and rigid. Both made great friends at school and described the positive support and acceptance that they received.

For both young women, the exchange year was described as life changing. It opened up new ways of thinking, gave them increased confidence to try new things while at the same time helping them realise just how different [and in many cases more difficult] some peoples lives are. They talked about the lifelong friends they made, the incredible people they met and the generosity and sense of belonging they gained from their host families.  “A year I will never forget” and “One of the best years of my life.”