When 18-year-old Maria Eduarda Spartani Ancona, known as Duda, stepped on to an airplane for the first time in her home country of Brazil she was nervous.
“I wanted to learn about a new culture, to experience life in a different country,” said Ancona. “My brother Francis had been on a exchange to Belgium and I longed for the same opportunity.”
So Ancona’s mother approached a local Rotary club in San Paolo where Ancona applied and was accepted.
An exchange was arranged with Kalamalka Rotary Club of Vernon as the sponsor club.
Today 8,000 to 9,000 short and long-term exchanges occur with Rotary Clubs each year, allowing the opportunity for students to develop international friendships and learn about and appreciate different cultures.
At Clarence Fulton Secondary Ancona studied geography, English and foods in the first term, then physical education, math and Spanish in her second term, as well as biology via an online course.
“We speak Portuguese at home. So Spanish is similar, but different,” said Ancona. “In PE we did skating, snowboarding and racquet sports. Badminton was fun and I was good at it. Snowboarding, not so much.”
Two Kalamalka Rotary families hosted Ancona.
Ancona spent the first term with Cara and Graham Mann and their teenaged daughters Sarah and Emily and the second with Darcy and Denise Chorley.
“I have loads of fun with their five-year-old twins Ava and Reiker,” said Ancona.
Ancona has especially enjoyed trying new foods in Canada.
“Poutine is pretty good, we had Beavertails at the Christmas light up at Silver Star and, of course, I love Tim Horton’s doughnuts,” said Ancona. “My favourite restaurant is The Curry Pot. I love Indian food. And, I love maple syrup. I tried a maple latte. So good. The best drink I had here.”
Local travel was also part of Ancona’s year.
“I loved going to Cara and Graham’s cabin in September, experiencing the clean, fresh water,” said Ancona. “At the Calgary Zoo I saw bears, wolves, bison, musk ox and moose.”
Closer to home Ancona went ice fishing and attended a Vernon Vipers game.
“Watching hockey for the first time felt like I was in a movie,” said Ancona “It is so different for me. I loved cross country skiing at Sovereign Lake. But, the first time I tried to ski downhill at Silver Star I was so bad.”
Ancona regularly attends Thursday lunchtime Rotary meetings.
“Kalamalka Rotary and its members have been a big, big part of my exchange,” said Ancona. “Without the club, the exchange wouldn’t be so good. They have taken me so many places and introduced me to so many new experiences.”
Ancona says when she returns to brazil she will miss her new friends, club members, host families and the weather.
Future goals for Ancona include completion of her studies at Maria Petronial High School in San Paolo and an office job doing secretarial work to help pay for university courses in film making.
“The Rotary Exchange program is undoubtedly the most remarkable experience that can be given to augment a young person’s life,” said Kalamalka Rotary President Ryan Fairburn “They leave a child from the local community and come back a citizen of the world, ready to share and give back tenfold.”
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