My acceptance into the Rotary Youth Exchange Program was a long and slightly unique journey. I grew up hearing exciting stories about my mom's exchange year in Japan. I had known for a long time that I wanted to be an exchange student, but never thought I'd get the chance since I didn't have a Rotary club in my county to sponsor me.
It all began in September of 2011 when I stumbled across the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. This scholarship program sends college students abroad to study in their field of interest. I was so excited reading the website that didn't realize it was for only for college students. I sent emails asking if it was to late for me to apply. Three days later, I was informed that it was only for college students.
Not long after that, I received an email from the District Chairman of my local Rotary district letting me know that you did not have to be sponsored by a Rotary club in your county and that I could apply to the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program - despite the fact that the application deadline had already passed. I bounded up the stairs from my room in the basement, laptop in hand, while shouting, "Mom!" "Mom!".
My mom, who continuously talks about her exchange year, was just as excited as I was. The application was daunting from the first glance. But within minutes, I was printing the application out, making doctors appointments, and writing emails to find a sponsoring Rotary club. The most exciting part of the application was the list of forty prospective countries I could be assigned to. Under each country was a list of regulations that a student was required to meet in order to receive a placement in that country. (i.e. Dietary restrictions or language requirements). I had to preference each country in order of where I wanted to be placed.
After I filled out my country preference list, I was excited. I was too old for many of the countries, but I met all the requirements for my top two choices: Japan and South Korea, respectively. My other top countries were not the most popular choices, but for me, they were perfect. I could already see myself exploring exotic countries and learning difficult languages.
Two stressful weeks later, I was driving across the state to be interviewed by the District Chairman. The interview seemed to go extremely well. In one of the questions, I was asked if there were any countries I was not willing go to. I replied, "I will go anywhere you want to send me". I meant it.
Because I was late in applying, I walked out of the District Chairman's office as an 'alternate'. In the Rotary exchange program there are two positions a student can hold: 'primary' and 'alternate'. A primary is a student who is guaranteed a placement in a foreign country. An alternate is a student who will receive a placement in a foreign country if the primary is suddenly unable to go abroad or if there there is an extra position available. Even though I desired a guarantee that I would be sent aboard, I was content with being an alternate.
To be continued....