Rotary exchange students share perspective
She is a student from Muret, France, near Toulouse in the south of France. During the year, she has lived with the Apolito, Edbauer, Mullaney and Cleveland families. She left Lockport on July 1, and traveled with other Rotary exchange students on a wrap-up tour in the United States.
Louisianne looked back on her time in Lockport and said the Rotary Youth Exchange Program met her expectations and gave her an opportunity to participate in a high school experience that is very different from the one she is accustomed to.
The Rotary program, unlike some others, arranges for the sponsored students in Rotary District 7090 to meet together on a number of weekends to share experiences and to encourage each other past difficulties. The district covers much of the Ontario peninsula and Western New York with as many as 20 exchange students sponsored by Rotary Clubs.
Louisianne, who became “Lou” in Lockport noted that applicants to the program need to have an open mind about placement since one is assigned to a country only after being accepted into the program — a country that might not have been one’s first choice.
Louisianne first started traveling with organizations when she was 11 years old, on short one to six week visits. She traveled to places like Germany, England, Australia, Ireland and Egypt. The Australian visit was two years ago and was the first she’d spent living with a family rather than at a hotel. These travels prompted her to apply for the exchange program. She said she discovered the Rotary exchange on the Internet and since family hosting had been such a good experience, she applied to Rotary in her city and that brought her to Lockport.
Lockport High School was exciting to Louisiane and she wishes French schools were more like this one.
“In France, you just go to school to study … school is different and the students act different,” she said.
She experienced activity she had only seen on TV before, including homecoming, prom, graduation and the presence of numerous sports teams. She improved her dancing at the Diane Mulvey Dance Academy while in Lockport and performed in school stage shows.
Other memories Lou will take with her was her first visit to Niagara Falls and the Rotary sponsored team bonding exercises in Northern Canada at a winter camp in Temagami. Coming from southern France, she had not experienced temperatures like those on the outdoor trip.
Louisianne hopes to have a career in medicine and use her talents to help others in developing countries. Lockport bids her a fond ‘adieu.’
Rotary club of Lockport has regularly participated in hosting and sending international exchange students 15 to 18 years old who wish to spend up to a year living with host families abroad and attending school in a different country.
Michael Robison, 18, is the son of Keith and Jennie Robison from Barker and he will be traveling to Taipei, Taiwan in August as the Rotary Club of Lockport’s outgoing exchange student.
A recent graduate of Barker High School, Michael applied for the exchange program for many reasons.
“I had always loved to travel ever since I was young and always enjoyed doing new things,” he said. “New cultures and food, as well as learning a new language have been something I have always wanted to do. While there are many reasons I applied for the exchange, I feel the most important for me is finding out what kind of person I truly am. I believe that people are defined through their experiences. However, when you've had as few as I've had, it can feel difficult knowing what kind of person you are. How I would handle situations or new experiences that I would never come across living so close to home. Having the chance to learn from these experiences is why I feel I truly applied. Now don't get me wrong, I'm very confident in who I am but I think that I will learn so much about myself through this exchange, and take that knowledge with me for the rest of my life.”
Michael wants to learn as much as he can from this exchange.
“The knowledge that I take from this experience is something that I think will help guide me through the rest of my life,” said Michael. “I feel that the language — once I understand it — will be so beneficial. Along with the language I will get to meet so many new people and have the chance to make connections around the world, which is one of the most important things you can do in this day and age.”
Michael will be near the outskirts of the capital city, but because of the size of Taiwan, travel time can be very short especially on the metro that runs throughout the city. The language spoken is Mandarin which is a form of traditional Chinese. During Michael’s few gatherings with other Rotary exchange students, he has already had the chance to meet two students from Taiwan who are from the same district where he will be living.
Coming from a small place like Barker, Michael welcomes the exchange program as an opportunity to really try to take him away from his conform zone. The transition from small town Barker to the capital of Taiwan is a big difference, but it's something he is very much looking forward to.
In the future, Michael hopes to apply his enjoyment of art. During high school, art was never something that was held in high regard. And as time passed he tried advanced classes and other courses that he didn't really enjoy. It wasn't until his senior year that he branched out into some technology and art classes that felt like a good fit. He took animation and advertising courses that gave me some direction. Once he returns from his exchange trip he hopes to go to RIT for some form of digital media.
“I think that my year in Taiwan will be very beneficial for my career choice because of how advanced Taiwan is, and having connections to such a place will help me greatly,” Micheal said.