Why Should Your Students Take Advantage of Rotary Study Abroad?

Dr. Susan Colville-Hall, The University of Akron (Retired)

Imagine one of your students in the country of the language you teach with an 11-month immersion experience that gives them an opportunity to experience school, social activities, family life and travel in that culture.  What would be the outcome?

The returning student comes back hyper enthusiastic toward the people they lived with and the encounters and forays they made into that culture. They have grown up and matured unbelievably when compare to their classmates who remained in the U.S.  Traveling abroad, studying in a class in a different country, meeting people from all over the world, learning to be independent, yet dependent on their host family and the local Rotary club provides the returning student a sense of confidence and accomplishment.  In addition, your student speaks the language fluently.  

Take for example, Audrey, who spent her junior year in Germany.  She returned home to find that her language skills are so advanced that she can now take classes at the neighboring university as a senior.  In addition, her teachers have been thrilled with her as she has shouldered a great deal of responsibility in extracurricular activities and showed outstanding leadership in after school /social events.  Her academics are stellar.

Other students in the district, Drew (France), Elizabeth (Brazil) and Kevin (Mexico) spent a year abroad and reported that they made the “right choice.”  It was an awesome experience.” As educators it is amazing to recognize the leadership skills these young people develop while living and studying in another country.   Elizabeth, who spoke Spanish before going to Brazil, came home fluent in a new language – Portuguese! Drew came home as fluent as most secondary French teachers in the language.  And Kevin could convince you he was from Mexico. Bi-lingual and bi-cultural, plus a year’s worth of growth in personal development and leadership skills. That is the benefit Rotary offers to students.  Know someone who should try this next year???   

Or if you prefer to host students in your school, invite Rotary to bring you an international student.

Here are some of the benefits of Exchange Students in your school. Your students learn that kids have similar interests no matter where they come from.  Your students learn to be empathetic toward students learning to speak English. Your own students are tempted to learn more about the language and culture and more willing to take risks using the target language in your classroom.   

What are the fun things Rotary students do here?   Prom, high school sports, marching band, track, Interact Club, local Broadway musicals, other events like Indians and Cavs games, just to name a few.  Rotary also provides students the opportunity to participate in boating and fishing activities, swimming, basketball, hanging out on the beach, grilling hamburgers, picnicking with buddies, toboggan rides, and various city visits (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Akron). And remember that your student who chooses to study abroad has this same opportunity on the other side of the world.   

At the end of the academic year, I attended the Rotary Farewell Party for Exchange Students in northeast Ohio.   I listened to the various English accents as the students arrived at Crystal Lake (Cuyahoga Falls). It’s a very different English I heard from that at their arrival last August.  Yes, the language acquisition process while living with an American family is extraordinary. Fluency abounds! Even those whose native language is far different from English improve their skills immensely.  Immersion is sound investment.  It’s an experiment in international living, international thinking and international acting, one that really changes one’s life.   

The young people gathered at the lake were eager to see the international friends with whom they had spent many fun-filled moments during their stay in northeast Ohio because in addition to the students in their host school, Rotary Students make friends from all over the world: Japan, France, Chile, Peru, Germany, Thailand, Brazil, Spain, Finland, Belgium, Taiwan, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, South Korea, Argentina and Mexico.   After sharing a meal and spending an afternoon relaxing and having fun, Rotary exchange students were sad to say good-bye to their host families. Smiles turned to sad faces at departure times as students and host families exchanged many hugs.

Get to know these energetic, engaging, smart and fun-loving young people.  Contact your local Rotary Club or go to https://www.rotarydistrict6630.org/sitepage/youth-exchange to learn more about the Short-term Program (4 weeks abroad – 4 weeks hosting) or the Long-term Program (11 months abroad). 

If you have questions, contact Susan Colville-Hall at colvillehall2@gmail.com