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From Thailand to the Coast


Twenty students from as far away as Thailand were on the Coast recently as part of a sightseeing tour organized by local Rotary clubs.

The students were on one-year Rotary exchanges from other countries or from B.C. getting ready to leave Canada on exchanges.

Seventeen-year-old Megan Fletcher was among the youth preparing to leave B.C. She is scheduled to head to the Czech Republic at the end of the school year.

"I want to travel to further my education, and this is a way to combine learning a different language with seeing the world," said Fletcher who currently attends Howe Sound Secondary School in Squamish.

Area representative for the Rotary Exchange Program, Tanya Hall, says the love of travel is usually what brings students to the program, but in the end, they get much more than just a travelling opportunity.

"Learning about different languages and cultures are the key benefits," says Hall, adding, "It's one thing to travel to a different country and stay there for a month, but to be there for a year, totally immersed in the culture is an amazing experience. You can travel to places all your life and not get the kind of cultural experience the Rotary Exchange Program can give you."

Hall was once a Rotary exchange student herself, one of the first students from the Coast to be accepted on a Rotary exchange."I looked at all the different exchanges and saw that Rotary offered the most," said Hall.

After her exchange, she got involved locally with Rotary and soon found herself heading the Rotary Exchange Program on the Coast.

All the Rotary youth exchanges are for a full year and send students to live with Rotary families in the country of their choice."Right now our district is able to exchange students with 20 different countries," said Hall.

She explains Rotary exchanges are the least costly to students with a flat fee of $3,800 that pays for a plane ticket, visa, paperwork, Rotary exchange clothing and gifts to give to host families. Then the students are given an allowance from the host Rotary club and their room and board is paid by the hosting family.

Locally four students are headed on exchanges at the end of this school year. Gibsons' Sarah Miller is going to Sweden, Sechelt's Kai Nestman is going to Thailand, the Sechelt Indian Band's Neivelina Carmona is going to Brazil and Powell River's Kevan Robitaille is going to Mexico.

To find out more about Rotary exchanges, you can phone Hall at 604-885-5822 or visit the Rotary exchange website at