Revelstoke is a busy place for exchange students, both coming and going.
Revelstoke local Maya McDowell returned from Italy last month after a year exchange in Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea and politically a region of Italy. The exchange was through the Rotary Club.
She just finished Grade 11.
McDowell said she wanted to go to Italy for the history, culture and, of course, the food.
“You can start anything with onion, garlic and tomatoes. Just the simplicity of it. It’s so good.”
The Rotary Club youth exchange program involves students between 15 to 19 years old with opportunities in more than 100 countries.
Both long term (full academic year) and short term (several days to three month) exchanges are offered. The club has offered youth exchanges in Revelstoke for more than 30 years.
The club covers the costs of room and board, as well as school fees. And in some cases, provide an allowance. McDowell received roughly $100 per week to help cover costs and she stayed with multiple host families.
English is spoken little in Sardinia. So her classes were in Italian, which McDowell said was challenging. Regardless, she learned, practiced, and by the end got 89 per cent on an Italian proficiency exam.
Some advice for anyone thinking of going on exchange: McDowell said she would recommend learning as much of the language beforehand.
“That first month is so awkward and frustrating because you cannot communicate.”
McDowell also discovered an exchange is the perfect opportunity to be yourself.
“You can start from scratch. Be who you want to be because those people will remember you as that.”
Kaeson Newsome, who also just finished Grade 11, is heading to Germany next month. In preparation, he practices German everyday.
While excited, Newsome said he is also slightly nervous because making new friends can be hard, but that’s part of the adventure. The unknown.
“I’m going in with no expectations. I just want to go in without thinking of anything,” said Newsome.
Olivia Gerber, another Rotary Club exchange student, has spent the last year in Revelstoke. However, this month she heads back home to Switzerland.
“I’m going back to my ‘normal’ life and that’s sad,” Gerber said.
Back in Switzerland she lives on an organic diary farm. And one of the cheeses sold at Le Marché Gourmet is made from her family’s milk. Small world, eh.
While in Revelstoke, Gerber was busy. She joined the high school band, hockey and volunteered with disabled students.
During the year, Gerber stayed with multiple host families. She went to hot springs, Glacier National Park, kayaking, canoeing and even caravan farm theatre. Gerber also travelled to Palm Springs and Toronto.
Whilethe travel was great, Gerber said staying with host families was the best part.
“I love my host families. I will remember the big trips, but I’m going to remember most the evenings where we were playing in the living area. Playing cards and laughing together.”
For Gerber, the exchange was more than a holiday. Revelstoke became home.
“We were in Golden and people would ask me, where are you from? And I’m like Revelstoke,” said Gerber.
If anyone is interested in participating in future Rotary Club exchanges, contact Glenn McTaggart at 250-683-9058 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be an information session this September. The club is also looking for potential host families.
“As a host family you travel without traveling. You learn things,” Gerber said.
Another student from India will arrive in Revelstoke for the year at the end of August.