Rotary International provides many services and opportunities worldwide. One is the Rotary Exchange Program, which has benefited several of Clearwater’s youth, as well as introducing our spectacular area to others from far-flung countries like Finland, France, Ecuador, India and Brazil. Every two years, in September, a notice goes up in Clearwater Secondary School to inform students, aged 16 – 18, and their parents of the date of an informational meeting about this wonderful opportunity. Watch for the notice this month. At the meeting families will learn about the process of becoming an Exchange Student and have the chance to ask questions.
Next come the individual interviews of those interested by five Clearwater Rotary members. First, parents are asked important questions about their child’s strengths and possible difficulties they might encounter like homesickness. Then, parents now outside, each student is asked about their interests, attitude, what they know about the world and our community, and very basic political questions, what they might gain and what they might contribute to the country they are visiting during this experience. Last year seven were interviewed and two were chosen to submit applications.
Those selected then download a lengthy application form and have two to three weeks to fill in the many details required. Twenty-two different countries are offered; six are to be listed in order of choice.
Clearwater Rotary is part of District 5060, and the next stage involves being interviewed in Kamloops along with students from the northern half of this District, which includes Revelstoke, Ashcroft, Merritt, Salmon Arm, Enderby and Armstrong, as well as Kamloops with its six clubs. Each club in these places can submit two candidates. There can be sharing of candidates by the clubs, but basically, just one is selected to represent each club. To date, Clearwater has had wonderful delegates, with someone chosen each time. (While student exchanges happen annually, with Clearwater being a small club, we can afford to participate only every second year.)
Next comes notification of the successful candidate – and the one not so lucky. Then she or he will learn in which country they will spend the following year, and it’s time to learn about it and our own country.
In February, a gathering at the hotel in Glacier National Park east of Revelstoke brings together all of these newly chosen Outbound Students and the Inbound Students who are already here. Where possible, kids going to a particular country are paired with an Inbound Student for whom that is home.
Finally, selected candidates (Outbound) and their parents attend a compulsory gathering in Naramata to learn more about what lies ahead and what it might be like living in a new country for a year, where you know nobody. However, the Rotary Club there will be the host – and all sorts of incredible experiences will be available to the ones who have been chosen as good candidates to represent Clearwater Rotary Club in particular and Canada in general.