The Rotary Youth Exchange program offers students the opportunity to learn about cultures from around the world.
The program is for both inbound and outbound students. Inbound students visit from a variety of countries while outbound students spend a year abroad.
Students must be in high school and maintain a certain grade-point average while participating in leadership activities at their high school to be a part of the program.
On Sept. 19, Rotary District 6360, a group composed of 12 inbound students from 11 countries, visited Chicago.
The students are from Slovakia, France, Brazil, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Denmark, Germany and Belgium.
“One young man from Germany had never been to a city with skyscrapers before,” she said. “So we came up from the train station and he had the whole looking up, mouth-open ‘Wow!’ and it was pretty cool so that was neat to me. But overall I think they really liked Chicago.”
Nova said the group walked along Lake Michigan, looked at Chicago yachts and went through Millennium park to visit the Chicago Bean, a large reflective sculpture.
Cecilie Rasmussen, a 16-year old from Denmark, said she’s gained friendship and a cultural understanding from the trip.
“Some people speak better English than others,” Rasmussen said. “None of us are really perfect so we’re used to it. But everybody has a decent level of English, so it’s fine.”
Katelyn Deitzen is a Michigan State graduate who participated in the Rotary Youth Exchange her junior year in high school. Deitzen said the program morphed her into who she is today and helped her grow up while in Poland.
“For me, the experience was amazing,” she said. “It was life changing, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“I think a big thing I learned was how to deal with money. I grew up as an individual, I learned about myself. You leave at 16 and you come back a 21-year-old.”
There will be an informational meeting for Rotary Youth Exchange students 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bestseller’s Extra, 356 S. Jefferson St. in downtown Mason. Applications for the program are due Nov. 1.