How RYE Changed Me – Diana – Japan

wehrenbergHow RYE Changed Me

From Diana who spent the year in Japan As a Rotary Youth Exchange student I have experienced many changes in myself and in how I think and view the world. Developing the ability to see from other point of view, accepting that there are things that I cannot control, having a more mild temperament, and being more open to new people are just some of the changes my year abroad has brought about. One of the main changes I see in myself is that I have developed the ability to look outside of myself. In my everyday life, before the Youth Exchange, I made most decisions for myself without much concern for how they affected others. My first concern was myself. I ate when I wanted, went wherever I wanted, and developed my own opinions with very little care for anyone else. Having this mind set and living in a place such as Japan, which is very group-oriented, is not possible (or would be very difficult). If I had continued with my self-centered thinking while in Japan, I’m very sure I would not have completed my exchange. I had to begin to consider others around me and how they would be affected by my actions. Before I could make plans with friends, I had to consult with my host parents first, in case they had planned something. If I were to go ahead and do whatsoever I pleased I would have ended up either disappointing one or angering the other. Before expressing a bold opinion … Read More

How RYE Changed Me – Claire – Belgium

wehrenbergHow RYE Changed Me

From Claire who spent the year in Belgium My exchange year has been challenging, fun, enlightening, frustrating, shocking and interesting. For instance, I’ve learned that the bus will turn around and take you back to your bus stop if you didn’t recognize your bus stop to ring the bell in time. Also that singing in Portuguese with 200 other exchange students in the middle of the grand place in Brussels will attract Japanese tourist to try to take pictures with you. That dressing for winter means more than wearing a long sleeved shirt – but two sweaters and long underwear even though you’re going to school and it’s not below zero. That chocolate is made to spread on bread to make a quick lunch. And that fries and mayonnaise is a nutritional and balanced meal. During my exchange year I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I’m strong and capable of living through new and difficult situations. I’ve learned that I don’t need anyone else to feel comfortable nor better about myself. I’ve learned how to be self confident and proud of who I am, my family, my country and my culture. I’ve learned that the key to happiness and getting along with others is to be flexible and to understand that their world is a lot smaller than mine. I’ve also learned how to be more open with others and that sharing my deeper emotions is essential at times. Before my year in Belgium I would never have described myself like … Read More

How RYE Changed Me – Anne – Germany

wehrenbergHow RYE Changed Me

From Anne who spent the year in Germany I think back on the person I was when I arrived in this country and, well, I don’t cringe, but I do feel like that girl is a different person than the person who I know myself to be today. And then I reflect: what is it about being exchange students that changes us? The uncomfortable situations that we somehow have to deal with, the tendency to forget our mother languages, the distance from our friends and family, or the way our eyes are really opened up to the world in this year?? I still have no idea. But I know that I am now more mature, more open, smarter, less serious, less naive, a little bit crazier, and without a doubt a better person due to this experience. When I arrived in Germany I expected to have a year filled with intensive German learning, a brutal workload at school, and travelling stuffed into the spare slots. I took it all rather seriously. I think I probably scared the first people I met. But whenever you are forced into a situation where you can either a) take initiative, be proactive, be approachable, make friends, and have a blast or b) be shy and alone, you are likely to suck up your pride, put a smile onto your face (although that smile may feel fake at first), and choose choice a. In such a “do or die” situation, (not to be dramatic at all) you will probably take … Read More

How RYE Changed Me – Anna – Ecuador

wehrenbergHow RYE Changed Me

From Anna who spent the year in Ecuador I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, no idea that this year would be so life changing, no idea how hard I would have to work, and, finally, no idea how heartbreaking it would be to go home. While at the first pre-exchange orientation I was doubtful. How could one year change my life so drastically? All of the rebound students say it. It changes your life and now I know what they mean. If asked to name how I have changed I stumble. How have I not changed? I feel I am more independent, assertive, and self-confident. I am now more aware of my own values and ideals. I have learned a lot about the perception of the United States in the eyes of those abroad and I have learned that just by taking the time to speak with someone can change that. I have realized that I can be fearless, that I can face the world with a reckless grin instead of a cautious face. Looking back I see I was completely oblivious to these changes as they were happening. I believe that having to become completely independent, immersed in a new culture causes this. It is such an instant change of environment that our rapid adaptation becomes who we are. I am not entirely certain how greatly this has affected my life but I feel that being able to walk up to … Read More