LETTERS FROM ABROAD 2017 - Read about Brighton Rotary's Exchange Student's Experience in Finland

A year away from one’s family, home and friends is a very challenging experience for anyone let alone a young person aged between 15-18 years, some of whom have never been abroad before their exchange year.

US President Franklin Roosevelt said “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.” It was with this objective that Rotary International commenced its first short term youth exchanges in the 1920s…The Youth Exchange aims of fostering goodwill, friendships, peace and understanding between countries of the world is as relevant today as it has ever been.

For many students they have a real learning experience, not just discovering about the the families or countries they visit, but facing personal challenges and their own resilience...truly life changing.

This year the Rotary Club of Brighton supported Ally Leggatt to experience Finland on the Rotary Youth Exchange program...



Experiences from Finland

Sponsor Club – RC of Brighton

Rotary Exchange is incredible. It's great, fantastic, wonderful, full of all the good things you could imagine. When I think back on my year, all I can think about is all of these amazing things that I've done. All the incredible people I've met, all of them full of this kindness that made my Exchange so great. I know, that in ten years time, they will be the only things I remember, the things I will look back on with fondness. But, even with all these good things, I do need to let you know of something very important. No matter what, no matter how good it seems to be, there will always be hard times. It's inevitable. They are different for every person, but they will happen. These low points hit at the most random of times and they don't ever make sense. I'm not going to lie, they are difficult and there are times when you feel you have no one to lean on. But, the most important thing to remember is that it will pass. It will get better. It will be okay. All you need is to learn what to do when they happen.

Ally's favourite pic from Finland

For me, the lowest point hit when I moved into my third host family. I had grown particularly close with my second host family and leaving them was very difficult. The move into my third family was uncomfortable. I really didn't feel at home and all I wanted to do was move back to my second host family. At the same time I was also dealing with difficulties with friendships and overall it was just a very difficult time. But like I told you before, it passed. Sure, it took a long time and it worried me how long I felt so low, but it eventually moved on and I was left feeling better. Everyone feels these low points differently, but I found that there are quite a few ways to make it easier. I know they won't work on everyone, so I will just tell you the one that made me feel best. Just talk. To your friends. To your family. To those in Rotary who are there to help. The more you reach out the more you will realise how much you are not alone. Maybe a friend is going through a similar thing to you, maybe your family have the perfect advice, maybe a Rotary representative knows just the thing to say. The point is you will never know until you reach out, until you put yourself out there and just honestly ask for help. It seems hard, but with all the good things it does, you'll wonder why you didn't do it quicker. Low points happen, but it doesn't mean they have to stay for long.

Friends from Finland

In the end, Exchange is about having fun. It's about learning a new culture and experiencing as many new things as you can. It's about making lifelong friendships that you will remember for the rest of your life. When I think back to all these incredible people and the memories I've made, I just feel absolutely blown away. Just to know that all these incredible things will be part of my life forever just fills me with warmth and happiness. One of my favourite memories to think back to was a night I spent with my friends on the beach. It was the middle of the Finnish summer and the sun didn't go down. We had made a bonfire and spent the entire night just chatting, enjoying each other's company. Though it may not sound like much, it is one of the happiest times in my Exchange. There was no rush, no stress, all we were was happy, content to just be with one another. This memory reminds me that even when things get bad, there will always be good things to look forward to.

Even though Exchange is going to get hard, it doesn't mean it will always be like that. The bad times will always pass, things will always get better. There are always so many good things, and that is just wonderful to remember. So just get out there. Have fun! Enjoy this fantastic experience and let the memories mould your life from then on!

Extracted from Letters from Abroad 2017. For more stories from the other Rotary 9800 Exchange Students:





Rotary Youth Exchange invites kind and caring Host Families within the community to assist local Rotary Clubs offer an outstanding exchange program to young people from all over the World.

A Host Family is a vital part of this cultural and educational exchange and typically hosts a student on a voluntary basis for a period of between 10 to 16 weeks.   In doing so, a Host family officially becomes a Friend of Rotary International.   The Host Family plays an integral role in offering the student the experience of a new culture and language, whilst at the same time learning about a different culture from a young leader.   It is a direct window to the world for all members of a Host family.   You not only share a young person’s hopes and dreams, but more importantly, you make those dreams possible.

Hosting is the beginning of a lifelong friendship and connection with a student and family overseas.   Whilst it can be challenging to help a young person transition to a new culture and ease into the surroundings, it is always fun and the rewards are immeasurable.

Host Families in the Rotary Youth Exchange program come in many shapes and sizes!   Young children, older children, no children at all, extended families and older generations – all have been successful in hosting Exchange Students.

Please consider this amazing and rewarding opportunity now.  Enquiries are most welcome.

Further information is available at www.rotaryyouthexchangedistrict9800.com.au or speak to Brighton Rotary's Youth Director stuart@mcmillan.com.au

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