Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands hosts international student exchange program

June 7, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Joshua Drakes

The Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands, in partnership with international groups, offers students the opportunity to participate in exchange programs.

These programs allow students to experience new cultures and nations while furthering their education.

The program, which has been running since the 1950s, has partnered with over 100 other countries to grant students near-global access to learning.

Students aged 15 to 19 can study abroad for one academic year, learning new languages and cultures while staying with host families.

This experience allows them to forge international connections and friendships, becoming true global citizens. Currently, the Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands is sponsoring a student from Denmark and sent a local student to Japan in exchange.

Aksel, the Danish exchange student, wasn’t initially planning on studying abroad, but when approached with the opportunity, he took a leap of faith.

“I’ve been in Canada since August 24 [of last year],” he said. “There was one spot left in the program, and they reached out to me. I thought, why not? And that’s how I got into it.”

Aksel selected Canada to improve his English-speaking skills and experience the country’s nature and landscapes, as well as develop his knowledge in biology and math.

“I chose Canada because I wanted an English speaking country to improve my English,” he said. “I also wanted to see some great nature, experience new cultures, and try new foods.”

Aksel achieved this goal, starting with his first Thanksgiving experience.

“In Denmark, we don’t have Thanksgiving. So that was a new thing for me to try. It was great, it was a very nice experience.”

As his stay in Canada comes to an end, Aksel highly recommends the program.

“I would definitely recommend it. It’s been wonderful here, and I met so many very nice people,” he said.

He is also considering entering a mentorship program to help new exchange students prepare for traveling overseas.

Mari-Anne Tate, the youth exchange coordinator, emphasized the program as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for students to step outside their comfort zones and meet new people.

“We have a quarterly gathering of all the students,” she said. “For example, the Mississauga club hosted all of the eight students and provided activities for them. Sometimes we take them to Wonderland or to laser tag. Years ago, Orangeville Highlands hosted them, and they went camping at a scout camp,”

“It really helps them get to know the students from other countries as well as Canadians.”

Despite the program’s success, the number of participating students has declined in recent years due to the elimination of grade 13 and an increasingly turbulent global reality.

“We have 52 clubs in the district, but now, only eight clubs are participating. So it has declined since the cancellation of grade 13. Students are afraid to mess up their education,” she said.

Despite these challenges, Tate remains optimistic about continuing the program and expanding its reach in the coming years. She said the program is still a unique experience to learn things beyond a classroom curriculum.

“There’s so much more to life than what you learn in a textbook,” she said. “With the world being so multicultural, this program equips students with essential skills to navigate an international world.”

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