An exchange of cultures

Rotary International

Rotary International has been sponsoring students in the youth exchange program since 1929. About 9,000 students from around the world have a chance to experience another culture each year.

Josh Readshaw, a 16-year-old  Vernon secondary school Grade 12 student, heard about the program from an Austrian friend who was in Canada on exchange. Now he’s headed to Austria as a Silver Star Rotary Club youth exchange student.

“I love to travel and learn about different countries and cultures and see as much as possible,” said Readshaw, who has travelled to China, Hawaii, Alaska and across Canada.

He will live with Austrian families in Linz and go to a German-speaking school where he will learn the language. As a long-time minor hockey player, he had a chance to try out for a hockey team in Austria but decided he would rather use his spare time to travel.

“You become a part of the families where you stay and do what they would do. I’m open to everything,” he said. “There’s a Rotary motto, ‘Blessed be the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.’ I’m there to live life there and learn.”

Readshaw will wear his official Rotary blazer for official events and is taking a variety of local pins to trade. His gifts for his host family include maple syrup and postcards of Canadian wild animals.

Readshaw will be in Austria for a year and then return to Vernon for Grade 12 before heading to university, where he will study medicine.

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Stephanie Jones has traveled to Australia, Fiji and Nicaragua and now she’s off for a year in Brazil as a Rotary International youth exchange student.

“I want to experience school in a different culture and see how people live in a different country,” said the 17-year-old Fulton secondary school 2011 graduate.

She will be repeating Grade 11 or 12 in Brazil in Portuguese and has already learned some of the language.

“A friend of mine went on the exchange in Grade 10 but I wanted to wait until I graduated. I’m happy I got Brazil. I have been talking to my host sister and she says I will do what they do — shop, go to the beach and to clubs. And I would like to join a soccer team there,” said Jones. “I want to experience everything that Brazil has to offer. I’m going without expectations. I’m really excited about living in another country.”

She will be living in Belohorizante, a large city in the southeast state of Minas Gerais, where the average temperature is 27 degrees Celsius.

Her Canadian gifts include maple syrup and pancake mix, as well as pins, flags and pencils.

“I’m going to make a Canadian breakfast for them,” she said.

Jones plans to work when she returns to Canada and then study to be a naturopathic physician.