Teens Travel the World

All over the world thirteen through seventeen-year-olds have taken the opportunity to live in a foreign country for a year. The Rotary International has developed a program that allows teenagers to obtain a student visa, making it possible for them to go abroad for a year. “I think it’s a great organization. It exposes students to different cultures, new languages, and new ways to look at things,” Jeffery Carpenter, the father of a former exchange student, said. The process of become an exchange student is not an easy one. Students must go through a hard interview and depending on how that goes, they either get in or not. After long forms and letters and more interviews the student finds out where their going, and when they will leave. Benedakt Engel, a junior at Dimond who is on an exchange from Germany said, “ I always wanted to go to another country, see new things, see how you can do something better in your own country.” Leaving for a year may seem like a very scary thing to do, but it is worth it. Engel commented that he is very glad he went. “Its something that you can’t do again in your life.” Damion Fornas, an exchange student from France commented on the hardest part of an exchange, “leaving at the end of the year, leaving friends.” Fornas said that some of the people he has become really close to are from all over the world, and he might not be able to see all of them again. While on an exchange, students have to learn to adapt to a completely new culture and way of living in a place where they don’t know anybody or the language. However, the Rotary organization always is very careful with the people they send and the students always have someone to talk to in their Rotary club and have the support of all those who have gone before as well. “I was a little worried,” Carpenter said about finding out that his daughter was leaving to Brazil for a year, “she would be far, far away home, living with people I don’t know.” However, Carpenter added, after he saw the organization and care of all the Rotary members, he stopped worrying. Katie Carpenter, his daughter, said that while Rotary is a very good organization, the program has its faults. “The rules and procedures of the program are very inconsistent. It’s a lot different in the United States than it is overseas,” Katie Carpenter said. While abroad, students have many new customs to get used to. “Everything goes really fast here,” Engel said. “There are credit cards just to get things done faster. In Germany we pay with cash.” As for Fornas, he has a lot of trouble adjusting to the food of America. When the students come back they have made huge growth in who they are as a person. “I think the exchange experience makes students more independent, more self reliant. They have had to deal with unfamiliar situations, and figure them out, and these give them an ability to handle tough situations later in life,” Carpenter said. The exchange program has been going on for over 50 years and each year thousands of students travel around the world and have experiences that will last a lifetime.