Letters From Our Students

Read about the adventures of our New Zealand Outbound students and get a real feel for what it is like to be on exchange!

Returned Students:

In January 1986 I boarded an Air New Zealand flight bound ultimately for Tampere - Finland's second largest city. I was one of that years very lucky Kiwis, that experienced a life-defining 12 months in a year that, for the rest of the world, was headlined by the Challenger explosion, the Chernobyl disaster and the political rise of one Mikhail Gorbachev in the neighbouring Soviet Union. I think we were one of the very last groups of Finland-based exchange students to make the annual Rotary trip behind the Iron Curtain to the beautiful Leningrad, as it was then called.

The lessons learnt and skills acquired during a year at the other end of the world, before the today’s technology made daily contact across the globe possible, have remained with me. The cultural and intellectual challenge of university, and then a later professional career, was not the upheaval it seemed to be for many of my peers. I had already learnt to stand on my own two feet a world away from New Zealand with little family contact.

The most important thing I did learn during my Rotary International youth exchange in Finland, which continues to help me navigate through both professional and personal life today, is the humanity that we share in common with people all over the world. That humanity bridges racial, religious, political and language boundaries. It is the one single trait that binds us all into one very small, beautiful world. I believe that this is the single, greatest contribution that the Rotary International Youth Exchange programme gives to each individual exchange student and, through the cumulative experiences and friendships created by the programme, to the world as a whole.

Sign Theresa



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student 1986 sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pakuranga Inc.

As at 2012, Theresa is a partner with Tompkins Wake Lawyers. She has been practicing law for more than 16 years and specializes in resource consent applications, contaminated site management, and advisory work for the private and public sector. Theresa ‘s qualifications: BA LLB LLM (Hons) (Auckland)

 2006 Ross Germany HEADER


From exchange student to the UN

In 2006, as a young, wide-eyed high school student, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime to a little village in southern Germany. Hindsight is a treasure, as I can now look back and say I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into nor could I ever have imagined how incredible my year on exchange would be!

I had the time of my life: meeting people from all corners of the globe, travelling throughout Europe and experiencing newfound freedom and independence. There were moments of self-discovery and times when I had to grow up very quickly. It was very much a year of learning. These are experiences that have truly shaped my life since and moulded the person I am today. I cannot express enough how positive my exchange experience was. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My exchange gave me a very special connection to another country and people (in my case Germany) and undoubtedly formed the way I now see the world. I have since completed another exchange programme, the final year of my law degree in the Netherlands, which was also an incredibly beneficial experience. I am now interning for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at its mission to the United Nations in New York, and I have no doubt my Rotary exchange has helped me get here!

If I could take one thing away from my exchange experience, it would be the genuine connection to people it creates. There are very few opportunities at such a young and impressionable age to meet so many people from so many different countries, diverse cultures and interesting backgrounds while at the same time having the space to grow emotionally and socially. This experience fosters a mentality of understanding and tolerance, which I believe is of great value in today’s world.

My Rotary exchange  really forced me to grow up and become more independent - it instilled confidence and maturity in me at a young age, something I believe another year at high school would not have achieved. I have no doubt that the exchange programme ensured my university entrance, and I felt all the more prepared for university studies having experienced a new culture, learnt another language and having been so independent! It also settled my mind and helped me focus on goals I wanted to achieve, and have since achieved. The key factor for me was that although the exchange may not be a strictly academic learning experience, it is an enormous social, cultural and emotional learning experience - and that is something that sets you apart from the rest!

 It was truly life changing and most definitely gave me the life skills and confidence to go on and achieve anything I put my mind to.


Sign Ross



 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  St Johns Inc.


Outbound Students:

2017 EMILY Denmark HEADER

I was on the phone with an inbound student in NZ from Canada, who was reaching the last leg of her year and I remember her saying ‘do it, its a lifetime in a year’. I understood that I would be able to learn a million things, and at the end of it be a completely different person. Never would I have believed that lifetime in a year even existed.  

If I had to tell my 17 year old self what this meant, I would say, you’re about to go on a journey you would have never ever imagined. You will reach your highest highs, and lows of your life. You won’t have the constant comfort of a daily routine, and you will meet the craziest, friendliest people in your life. It is going to be hard the first couple days but when you truly see all the positives, the negatives just fade away behind you. 

This exchange has really shaped me into the person I am today due to being able to mature in ways I never thought was possible. This exchange to me was basically a freedom key to start afresh, figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I was lucky to have been on my exchange in between my last year of high school and starting university because this allowed me to fully experience exchange with the idea of ‘growing up’ from being a 17 year old to an 18 year old.  

I can’t explain or even try to put into words why this has been the best year for me. Reaching the last leg of my year (literally 10 days), I’m starting to realise that leaving Denmark is going to be a lot harder than I thought with all the people i now call friends, and friends who are now best friends- countries and cultures, even languages. Leaving home is different because you know that you’ll always come back, however leaving your exchange year is heartbreak due to never knowing when you’re going to be back in the same place with the same people.  

However, good luck in your decisions and remember that if you’re ready to start afresh, figure yourself out or just properly live, exchange is definitely for you.


 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Pakuranga Inc.

2017NicolaCanada HEADER

It’s amazing I’ve come this far, I never would have guessed this is where I would be right now. Looking back on the year I’ve had so many once in a lifetime opportunities and it’s the mind set of being willing to say yes to anything offered that really makes a great year.  You learn to be part of a different culture and end up with friends all over the world. Coming to Canada I had no real expectations of what it would be like, I knew it was bigger than where I was from and seeing a moose while I was here was a real motivator

Someone that I trusted suggested being part of rotary youth exchange and when I applied and met the people in the organisation I was nervous at first but I left my interview feeling confident that the big dream I had was achievable.  Throughout my year of involvement with rotary in Canada I now know that I am part of something bigger than myself and I can have really big dreams.

I did in fact get to see a moose but my confidence in myself and what I’m capable of has gone to a whole other level.  I became aware of this when Angela, my third host mum, mentioned (to her kids) that I had come all the way on a plane to Canada from NZ and I could handle myself. When the kids would question things I did like catching the bus by myself, Angela would remind them I am responsible enough to catch a plane from New Zealand all around the world, I could certainly catch a bus. It helped me see myself through someone else’s eyes.   

When I arrived I was welcomed into my first host family. While undertaking the adventure is exciting, having a family to be a part of still creates a real foundation. I can really see what a privilege it was for me to be welcomed into my families and I understand the commitment it takes to open your doors to someone you’ve never met.

There are constant emotions that come with being an exchange student and there are so many ups and downs that you always learn something from. Being an exchange student means having big dreams and being able to achieve them with the help from the people around you, especially your Rotary club.

By the end of the year it’s hard saying goodbye to everyone who has made such a big difference in your life but you know you’ll be taking the new perspective with you as you carry on into your future.

Signature Nicola

  D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Howick Inc.

2016 Grace Denmark HEADER

When I first began on my exchange journey, I often heard the quote that a year abroad with Rotary is not a year in your lifetime, but a lifetime in a year. I got tired of hearing it, because I didn’t fully understand what it meant. Now, after 9 months, I can’t help but think that quote is the perfect way to open this letter. 

If I had to clarify to my past self what this means, I would say it’s because an exchange fits in the highest highs and lows of life into one year. Life is short, and if you’re going to make the most out of it, it makes perfect sense that an exchange offers good value for time! If you’re at a point in your life where you need to switch paths, then an exchange will take you on a path filled with more experiences than you could imagine, and open up more new paths for you.

That is of course, if you value every moment of your exchange and think your way through it. Time flies by, so it’s important to pause and reflect on all the amazing things that you are experiencing. Exchange comes in many forms, but for me these amazing things have included visiting 14 countries, meeting countless new people who I can now call friends, and learning so much more than just a new language. Also, if you think having one family is enough, try having four! 

I chose to do this between finishing high school and starting university. The life experience I’ve gained from this year has made me so ready to start my degree, and while I’ll be sad to leave my new home, I’m so excited to come back to New Zealand and start my degree with new drive and a wider outlook on what the future has to offer.

I would say a Rotary exchange could benefit almost any young person, because it’s only a question of what you yourself decide to get out of it. The program is so well crafted, where you’re offered a sure and safe support system that allows you to get out there and experience everything a country has to offer while knowing you’ll always have people looking out for you. This even includes the infamous ‘6 Ds’, which I really think are an asset over other exchange programs. 

Back when I first started, the exchange committee decided to send me to a different country than what I would have originally chosen. They have been doing this for so long and they really do know where you’re meant to go, so living in Denmark has been absolutely perfect for me.

Good luck in your decisions, and remember that if you want to live a whole lifetime in just a year, then exchange is for you!

Signature Grace

 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Howick Inc.

 2016 Alex France HEADER

I still remember sitting at my computer in New Zealand at 10:30 pm on the last day for admission for exchange applications, hurriedly writing out an email to Rotary asking if I still had time to apply for an exchange. Within 10 minutes I had a reply with a reassuring yes which would ultimately be the yes that would change the course of my year and life.

On the 12th of January 2016 I boarded a plane, to live with people Id never met before, in a city I knew nothing about on the other side of the world, Le Mans France. I knew enough French to introduce myself, ask where the toilet was and ask the question what is it? A question which I would make sure not to use when being served suspicious smelling French specialty meals. Now 9 months later I am thinking and dreaming in French and walking around my city like Ive been living there all my life.

Undeniably as Im sure youve read in every other students letter, an exchange evokes a growth in character you could never experience staying another year in a NZ high school. Something I personally notice in myself is how much more open about myself Ive become and the confidence Ive gained in speaking my opinion and being myself, as well as conversing on the same level with older people. Perhaps its all the practice from speaking with the dinosaurs that roam within my rotary club. But dont get me wrong, theyre really nice people and it helps to improve my French.

There are so many people Ive met this year who I cant imagine my life without, from French and exchange friends, to my host families who are just as much family to me as my family in NZ. I have made friends from around the world who I never wouldve met if I hadnt gone on this adventure.

An exchange is a life experience I would compare to being thrown in the deep end without any floaties. Youre forced to learn a new language, adapt to a new country and culture by learning to swim yourself. But worry not because there is always a lifeguard called Rotary watching, ready to help you stay afloat in difficult times.

I cant possibly imagine my life if I hadnt done my exchange, I can hands down say this has been the best year of my life. In the space of 9 months Ive visited 8 countries, learnt a new language, made friends from all around the world and done things I never imagined I would. From running with bulls, going to the Belgian Formula one grand prix, watching the sun set over Paris from the steps of Montmartre, skiing from France to Italy, jet-boarding in the south of France and exploring castles and cathedrals all over Europe, this year has been filled with those adventures and plenty more.

Honestly I could go on for an age about all the benefits of doing an exchange and the opportunities it brings, but the truth is to really understand what all us exchange students are talking about when we rave on about our exchanges, you have to get out there, take that step out of your comfort zone and do one yourself. Have the experience, make the friends, make the memories and live the exchange life. I have been lucky enough of had these experiences thanks to Rotary, and Ive come to realise that an exchange isnt a year in a life, its a life in a year.   


 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Pukekohe Inc. 

2016 MOLLY Argentina Header

Exchange. No one understands the magnitude that this word carries for those of us who were lucky enough to complete a year abroad on a Rotary Exchange. This year is in no way easy, however it teaches you so much about yourself and the rewards outweigh the difficulties 10000000 times over. 

I have been living in a small city with 40,000 habitants called Bell Ville this year in Argentina. I could not have been luckier with all the incredible, life-long Argentinian friends I have made here, the activities I have been able to do with Rotary to help with the poverty here in Argentina, the amazing 2-3 week long trips with the exchange students I have been on, the small moments I have spent every day bonding and living with 3 completely different families and also just the personal fulfilment you feel when you begin to be able to communicate in another language. 

Argentina is an extremely diverse country with the North being mainly desert and the south, more like the south of NZ, mountains, glaciers and snow. More than that though, the people here are some of the friendliest and best people I have ever known. Anywhere you go, you get a cheerful smile and an “hola”, while everyone wants to be your friend and make an effort with you. 

I remember clearly the thoughts going through my head as I nervously walked up to the sliding doors, to meet my first host family and my counsellor. I was literally shaking with nerves and my mind was a jumble. I had various moments when I experienced those feelings, first day of school, first time I spoke in front of the class, first time I had to go to Cordoba alone, first time I had to buy clothes without someone to accompany me etc. In truth, I have always been someone who is quite extroverted and talks a lot but I can honestly say though, that every one of these moments has helped me to grow in confidence and to feel more comfortable in my own shoes. 

I find myself now, with 3 months of my exchange to go and I’m conversing in Spanish everyday with my friends and family, thinking in Spanish, navigating my town as if I had lived here my whole life and am so busy that I am booked up every weekend practically until the end of my exchange. I also look ahead and see my year next year in NZ and I can feel that I will carry so much with me from this exchange. I look to my first day of University, where I will be starting from scratch and not know anyone, without the slightest apprehension and I already have plans to return to Argentina at the end of next year! I will carry this year with me forever and I know that a piece of my heart will always belong here in Argentina, as a part of me will always be Argentinian. 

RYE Sign Molly

 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Parnell Inc.

2016 Adam Austria HEADER

Rotary Exchange has been the greatest experience of my life. To all of you who are considering a Rotary Exchange, know that I myself was hesitant. However having arrived at the last leg of my exchange, I can safely say that it has been the most wonderful time of my life.

 I departed New Zealand for Austria about ten months ago, and said goodbye to my family and all of my friends. I left the comfort of my house and everything behind. I was scared. Who wouldn’t! I arrived in cold Austria in the winter and was immediately hampered by a language shock. Everyone spoke German and only a select few of students in my class spoke English well enough for a conversation. It was challenging. My host mother Edith had limited English and so conversing became the immediate obstacle. It was also so cold that I had to borrow my host brothers jackets so that I wouldn't freeze on the way to school! I was new, shy and doubtful about what on earth I was doing on the other side of the globe. But I was not alone. In Austria there are  about forty exchange students from nations as far afield as Japan, France, Canada, Argentina and Columbia. Being all in the same boat, all facing the same challenges, we became friends almost immediately. Other exchangers contribute significantly to a wonderful and successful exchange. However now having grasped  the language I now look around my class  and realise that the local guys sitting beside me are just as good friends as my fellow exchangers. Just last night I was at a local festival with them sharing a meal and conversing in German - friends that I have made for life. It's one of the beautiful things about exchange - you learn to be a very social person, much more than you currently are, and you make friends for life from all corners of the globe.

I have also had the opportunity to travel all over Austria and a significant portion of Europe including Italy and Germany with my host families for holidays and I will soon be travelling to Czech Republic and Berlin. I have gained a much better perception of the world around me. I see myself as a global citizen and have gained a sound comprehension of  many cultures. My exchange here even prompted me to enrol at Auckland University for a degree in Politics and International Relations. In the most cliché sense of the phrase, I think it's safe to say I have 'found myself' whilst abroad and discovered who I am and what I want to be.

Austria has been good for me. I have made friends, jumped into lakes, climbed mountains and overcome some of my biggest fears. I have matured greatly and I will never be the same again. I'm not saying exchange is easy. It is indeed very challenging and difficult at times. But it is the greatest year of my life and I would never have forgiven myself if I gave in to my doubtfulness and had not stepped onto that plane back in January. For you reading this, I hope you all find the courage to venture out on the same journey that the many Rotary exchange students like me have experienced beforehand.

RYE Sign Adam

 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Pakuranga Inc.

2016 Maddie France HeaderThis year goes so fasts that it feels like just yesterday I was sitting on the plane, writing in my journal about how nervous I was to arrive in my new country. Now I am almost 10 months in, on the last leg of my exchange and I couldn't be more nervous to go back home to New Zealand. I honestly don't know where to start when it comes to writing about my experiences of being an exchange student in France, as so much has happened. 

Living in France, a country miles away from home, on the other side of the world has impacted me in ways that I couldn't have imagined, and that I know will stick with me for life. Since coming here in January I can now say, I’m more independent, confident, and happy within myself and able to deal with everything as it comes. 

Before my exchanged I tried hard to not have any preconceived notions as to what my new life would be like in France and I have to say, it’s benefited me a lot. Being able to have a fresh start in a whole new country and take everything as it comes has made me learn a lot, not just about my new culture and language but about people and the world itself. 

Coming to France and being immersed in such a new culture language and  lifestyle has really changed the way I look at things and my perceptions of life. I feel so matured as I have become so much more aware of the world. I am looking forward to passing on what I’ve learnt as an exchange student. Throughout this year I’ve been able to, learn a new language, make beautiful new friends from France and all over the world, travel to many places and make incredible memories with everyone I’ve met, and not just by doing fun things or traveling, but also by just being at school and having a laugh with friends, my amazing class and family. 

This exchange has impacted me in so many ways that i can’t all name and I strongly encourage you to take part in a Rotary exchange if you think you have the skills.

If you really are considering a Rotary exchange, I want to tell you this, always remember that Although being put outside your comfort zone can be very a scary and nerve racking thing, just think of it a an opportunity to try new things.

Signature Maddie

 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Ellerslie Sunrise Inc.


 I arrived in Germany on the 27th of January to the coldest night I have ever felt in my life (-15degrees.) I have now been here for almost 12 months and my time here is going so fast. I feel dizzy trying to remember every day of the exchange.

 I arrived in Germany age 18 finished school in New Zealand not knowing what I really wanted to do after school. I came to Germany with an open mind to the new way of life that’s on the other side of the world. I arrived here believing that it would be a cultural shock and a totally different world and all the people would be completely different to what I’m used to back home. The thing is that its not too different. It was different in some ways but they were small and I felt not at home but comfortable to live here with the families I’ve been with.

Learning the language is one of the hardest things for me but I know I have improved everyday. I arrived in Germany not knowing much German but I never found it so hard that I wanted to give up. Being on an exchange you never feel the urge to give up on things, you just keep on going through it with the help and support of people around you. With Rotary you have so much help, you have your counsellor with you the whole year and all your host families and family. Learning a new language is one of the most incredible things about an exchange. But it's not only the language its also learning about the culture. I remember meeting the exchange students in my district in New Zealand and looking back they are so lucky that they can remember everyone’s names!!! 

The German district I’m in, one has to get to know 85 people from 27 nationalities  where the exchangers from Africa, Australia, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand . It is one of things that makes the Rotary exchange program so unique. I really feel no matter who you are in this program your always part of a big and growing family. You meet so many people from all around the world that are so friendly, crazy, different amazing, a wealth of different knowledge and are always there to be supportive. As soon as you meet them you bond from the moment you say hi. If you're going to be a Rotary exchange student "RYE'er" you are not going to shake an other exchange students hands you going to give them a big hug as if they are a long lost relative. I don’t think i will ever meet as many people as I did in this year than I will in my entire life. 

The other amazing thing about being apart of this programme "RYE" is going on Europe and Paris tours. Just imagine, traveling around Europe with 140 young adults who are around your age for 3 weeks, and in Paris for almost a week with a bunch of new people from the other districts. It is something you don’t expect to happen ever in a life-time. I have no regrets, and hope you won't too and sign up today!

sign Alex



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Waiheke Inc.


Some people may ask why you would want to spend one year away from everything you know, your friends, family, school, culture, food, everything. But why wouldn’t you? You never realise how big this opportunity is until you’re actually going through the process and finally living it for one year. Personally I would never have any regrets about my year and wouldn’t change it for anything.

Being on exchange you do so many new things you might not have got the chance to do while being back “home”. For example I have taken the outdoor education class both semesters while being at school here in Canada. Taking this class was probably one of the best decisions I could have made at school! Not only have a spend about two weeks out in the Ontario wilderness I also got to see a little bit of wild life which is amazing. Doing this I experienced many typical and often stereotypical Canadian activities such as canoeing, skiing, snow shoeing and even sleeping in a quinzee which is basically a huge pile of hollowed out snow. I met some of the most amazing people in this class and will be forever grateful to the teachers and people who have made my time here amazing. There are so many other things I have done that I could wrote a whole novel on everything I have done and all the places across Canada (the second largest country in the world) I have visited.

One thing about exchange is that before you leave you always hear about what you will get out of it and how it will benefit you for your future. This has definitely happened to me; before I left I was so quiet and lacked a lot of confidence with myself. While being on exchange it took me a while to realise that I have changed quite a bit while being away. I am now a lot more confident and I wouldn’t say I am a shy person by any extent now which is great! I’m so happy and grateful I have been given this amazing opportunity to live abroad for year and meet so many amazing people and gain a whole new perspective on the world and what it is like to be a Kiwi too.

I would say if you were even considering going on an exchange you should definitely apply because you couldn’t possibly regret what will be the most adventurous, busy and exciting year of your life so far. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

  sign Sarah


 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Papakura Inc.


 It's a cliché, but like all clichés, it's true, your life can change in a moment, and for me that moment was nine months ago. Remembering the start of my exchange now seems so long ago, but at the same time like yesterday. Getting my plane to France was the real and shocking start; comparing how I felt then and now is unparalleled. Back in January it was easy to underestimate the significance of the impact that this year would have on me, and relative to my life back then, and thus far, I would say it’s fairly consequential.

There are many ups and downs during exchange; I learnt to cope with the lows, with maturity, confidence and independence that I never had in New Zealand. It surprising how much I’ve grow as a person when left to rely purely on myself, it’s amazing how much I’ve risen to the occasion and managed to handle things on my own. And as always the highs significantly surpass the lows. The language was probably my toughest challenge, coming to France with no French what so ever was difficult, but at the same time it is the most rewarding achievement.

Rotary advertises the youth exchange as a cultural linguistic exchange and initially it is just that, but with time it turns into so much more. I am not only now knowledgeable on the French culture but am so enthusiastic about sharing it, the language is now my preferred language to speak and the people have become my friends. Being an exchange student you are able to experience the culture in a different light to a tourist, you belong, it’s a sense of belonging that doesn’t come easily but feeling it is sensational. I have also grown a lot as a person, out of my shell, now I am happy to see that people see me as the girl I’ve always been underneath, but was sometimes too shy to show. I am also lucky enough to belong to the global family of exchange students, the bond I share with them is unique; they shape my exchange incredibly. What I experience with them is human, which is something that transcends country borders, racial lines, religious beliefs, that vary so much within the group of us. It teaches me every time we’re together that humanity exists where humans exist. A reminder that no matter how different the customs or the language, the people are the same. Here's to an unforgettable nine months. 

Sign Kate



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  St Johns Inc.


 Hej!   I have been living in Denmark for the past 10 months, in a small town called Vejen. Being on exchange in a foreign country for a year cannot be summed up entirely using just words on paper. An exchange is not about trying to visit as many places/countries as you can, it is not about bragging to friends about what you have done or what you have seen as soon as you return from the year abroad. It is about creating memories for yourself, and growing as a person in a different environment than what you are used to. It can also be about making lifelong friends, learning another language and understanding yourself in a way that others who haven’t been on exchange cannot relate to. The year has been a chance to separate myself from the family and friends who I have known my whole life, and instead come to a completely foreign country  and surround myself in a new mix of people whom I have never met before. It is by far the scariest thing I have ever done!

During my exchange in Denmark, I have made some great friendships and relationships with people, whether it be host families, school classmates, or my fellow exchange student buddies who have been alongside me throughout the entire year. Rotary has provided me with some excellent trips and opportunities to see many different countries. One of my favourite experiences was the Euro Tour, where a bus load of exchange students travelled around Europe for 17 days.  This trip was spent with some of my best friends, and was definitely a high light of my whole exchange. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I can’t help but think how lucky I am to experience travelling so much at a young age.

I have been surprised by how many things you cannot learn in school just by reading a textbook, or watching a documentary. Most of life's most important skills have to be learnt by experiencing and coming out of  your comfort zone. Being in a completely new environment and living with new families has not only taught me the importance of self-reliance and responsibility, I have also learnt how to adapt and become open minded, that maybe the way I have been living at home in New Zealand isn’t the only way I can live comfortably and feel ‘at home’. I have learnt how to deal with new personalities acting as my parents and a new mix of siblings to get along with. With my personal experiences, this sometimes has been hard to learn at first and can take some time to figure out. I think this is a key thing that I have learnt on exchange, and as a result has made me a lot more open minded about different cultures and living in a different way.

I feel very privileged to have had the chance to go on an exchange for a year, I do not regret anything and would definitely recommend an exchange to anyone. In this one year I have been able to travel more than some people do in their whole life, and I feel I have matured a lot in this year. It has been a life changing experience!


sign Sarah2



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Botany East Tamaki Inc.


I arrived in Nantes, France  with a head full of questions and a stomach full of butterflies. Regardless of the debriefing I’d received in New Zealand from the Rebounds and Rotarians, I had no idea what was about to come. I had moved literally to the other side of the world to live for a year in a country where I didn’t speak the language and with people I’ve never met before. I was scared, shy, alone and was thinking I had bitten off more than I could chew. Now 9 months into my exchange, so much has changed. I feel like France is my second home now. I know the customs, the people, the language, the food and the way of life. All the things that were so alien to me at the start are now a part of me and my everyday life.  Obviously it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There were times that were tough, and I missed my family and my life in New Zealand. Or there were times I would get frustrated because I couldn’t express myself with the new language I was learning, or I wouldn’t understand. But those days were very few, and would be overshadowed by the amazing days I would have.

Doing this exchange and living in another country has helped me achieve so many things I never thought I could do. It has given me a whole new level of responsibility and independence I never thought I’d had. Just the fact that I moved to the other side of the world alone made me so much more independent. Also things like finding my own way to school, or not relying on my parents every time I have a problem have really helped me stand on my two feet and not be afraid to overcome problems without the help and guidance of a parent. I have also learnt another language that I never thought I’d learn and I’m quite proud that I have. It does take a while but day after day you continue to learn and before you know it you understand then all of a sudden you can converse with your family and friends.  I am also much more self-confident. You do have to really get out of your comfort zone and get the courage to talk to new people and make new friends, and that makes you so much more confident.

Being on this exchange with Rotary really brings a whole other aspect to it. With Rotary I think you end up with multiple “families”. Your host families, your school friends family, and then your Rotary family. The Rotary family is a crazy, huge, multi-cultural, loving family who always looks out for each other. With the Rotary Youth Exchange you meet strangers from all over the world who quickly become like your brothers and sisters, brought together by this amazing experience. You not only learn all about your host country and its culture, but you learn about the culture and countries of all your Rotary friends. You realise that no matter where you come from in the world, we aren’t so different and there are a lot of things we can all relate too. You learn to appreciate others and their cultures and become much more open minded. For me that’s what makes Rotary different, and what makes it so special. Rotary offers an amazing exchange and on top of that the “Rotary” experience, and that is truly special.

I really recommend and encourage doing a Rotary International Youth Exchange to anyone. The things you learn and the amazing experiences you will have are worth so much, and all the memories you will make will stay with you forever. You create a whole new life, meet amazing people who will remain friends forever, travel to places you never thought you would and discover yourself and all you’re capable of. You will grow, laugh, cry, love, dance, eat, enjoy, learn, hurt, and above all experience. Applying for my Rotary Youth Exchange was one of the best decisions I ever made.

“An exchange is when strangers become family, foreigners become friends, a second language becomes like your first, and a year suddenly becomes days.”

 Katie Signature


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Waiuku Inc. 

2013 Laura Belgium HEADER


My name is Laura, and for the last nine months I have been living in Liège Belgium. I really do not even know how to start to summarise or explain my exchange year. This year so many different opportunities and situations have been thrown at me. I would be lying if I said that this year has not had its struggles (especially within the first few months) but it is those struggles that have helped me to integrate myself into the Belgian culture.

Before I left Auckland  the only things that were going through my mind about Belgium were that I couldn’t wait to try the typical Belgian foods such as waffles and frites, meet my cute new host siblings, and start to attempt to make Belgian friends. I had not even got my head around the fact that I would have to start using charades as a way to get my needs and wants across, because I had very basic knowledge of the language. It’s crazy to think that nine months ago I could not understand more than a sentence in French, and now, I can say confidently that I have learnt to understand the difference between the Belgian and French dialects, and that with the help of over 250+ exchange students in Belgium, I have also learnt small bits of vocabulary in Spanish, Portuguese and even Dutch.

Belgium has taught me to become a lot more self-dependant, meaning that regardless of how many times I got lost in a city, I was able to push myself to ask others for help. I am also a lot more confident in class here, as I feel that my classmates all listen attentively when I give them help on an English project, or share my opinion in an arts class, because it is so fresh to hear an opinion from someone that comes from a completely different culture to your own. Having over 250+ exchange students in this small country, means that you literally see an exchange student every other weekend, and so Belgian exchange students often think of ourselves as great big families. We say this, because the moment we all meet one another, we make instant bonds, regardless of where we are from or what language we speak. This is one of the many things I love about being an exchange student, having other people being as extremely open to meeting new people, as you are.

Living in a country in the capital of Europe, also meant that I was fortunate enough to travel to other countries reasonably easily. This year alone I have visited Luxembourg, Germany, France, Spain, The Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Russia, England, and the Netherlands. If you had told me before I embarked on my exchange, that I would have the opportunity to visit so many amazing beautiful places, I don’t think I would have believed that I could be so lucky.

This year has been such an amazingly great experience for me, and I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity. To me, it felt as though I had only been here two months, I blinked, and suddenly I have less than 90 days left in this fabulous country. I feel like the exchange motto, “It’s not a year in a life, it’s a life in a year” explains my exchange year completely, and I would not swap any of my experiences for the world. Rotary Youth Exchange as given me a whole new perspective on the way life can work if you try your hardest. Do an exchange with Rotary and let them show you, you will not regret it!  …..  A Tantôt!

sign laura



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Newmarket Inc.


 Salut! My name is Francesca and I have been living in Bordeaux, France this year.  When I first stepped onto that Air New Zealand plane 9 months ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. None of the ups, downs and complete cultural shocks were anticipated- I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The first three months were the hardest; when I arrived I spoke no French at all, had no friends and no family closer than 26 hours away by plane. I remember wondering to myself on my very first day- have I made the right decision? Being surrounded by strangers speaking a foreign language, a year seemed like an awfully long time.

When I arrived, everything was different. I was suddenly living in the middle of a bustling city, where it was socially acceptable for 14 year olds to smoke, with public transport that actually works, and a different thing happening on every corner. It took a good couple of weeks to work out that if you didn’t put an arm out in the street, the bus will not stop for you, and the importance of checking the ground where you are about to step.

 Now, in October, a year has not been long enough. Now, I speak French, which once seemed impossible. I have friends, and I have a huge family; composed of my host families, families who took care of me over the summer, and then of course the other exchange students. My family is multi-cultural and crazy and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

When I set out on this adventure, I was shy, not very self-confident, and very dependent on my family and friends. This year has taught me to be able to rely on myself and make my own decisions, to step out of my comfort zone and to take risks. No matter what situation I find myself in now, I am always sure to be able to handle it. I have learnt to put myself out there in order to make friends, and to be able to talk to anyone, no matter how different they are from me. I have discovered and adjusted to a different culture, and finally made a home in a new country, completely different to my own.

If you have the opportunity to travel, or even better, to do an exchange, take it. This has been an amazing year, and in no way would I change any of it. It has given me a taste for adventure that I will never lose, and shown me to make the most of every moment that I have.  In France, the advice I get given the most is ‘Profitez bien’ which basically means make the most of everything, and take advantage of every opportunity. I believe I can safely say that I have made the most out of my exchange, and out of my year. The choice to come here was the best decision I ever made. Leaving my home in New Zealand was not easy at all, but after this year, I know that leaving France will be just as hard. Going on a Rotary exchange is an amazing experience, and one I would recommend to everybody. So, let me give you the same advice I have had, and ‘profitez bien’ if you have the incredible chance to go on an exchange and have the best year of your life.

 Signature Francesca


 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Papakura Inc.  


Tjena! In 2013 I left New Zealand to embark on an amazing trip all the way to the other side of the world to a moderately small country called Sweden! I live in the southern part in a small town called Ängelholm which I now call  home after being here 9 months. Before I travelled here I really didn't know what to expect... I had heard all the typical 'stereotype' things like moose, it will be cold , Vikings and meatballs. Yes all were true, but once I got here and immersed myself in the culture and truly made an effort to fit in, it became so much more than that.

I have made life long friends from all over the globe and  I have gained families who I have connected with so easily. I have travelled more than some people have in their whole life! So far i have been to 13 countries thanks to the amazing trips such as the Rotary Euro Tour which was probably the best thing I have ever taken part in. I have also been to the far North of Sweden, to a place called Kiruna, in the Arctic Circle, where I got to ride a snow mobile, feed reindeer, and then ate reindeer - I'm still not sure how to feel about that. I have also seen the Northern lights  which was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Other trips I went on were to Stockholm with my friends and my host families, to my family's summer house, to France to visit my friends, and to many other parts of Sweden. The nature is so beautiful everywhere you go here its hard to take pictures of everything!

Becoming part of the Swedish culture was a little struggle at first. Being away from home, not knowing such a difficult language, quite reserved people, and so many new things, this was all a big culture shock. But eventually it went away and things became normal. I managed to learn Swedish enough to speak and understand and order coffee, which all exchange students in Sweden learn to love! It's been such a huge change from my every day life in New Zealand and definitely for the better! School is a lot more relaxed, you can wear free dress every day, call the teachers by their first names, don't ask to leave the room for the toilet,  and can even have your phones out in class! I was in utter bliss when I came.

Becoming an exchange student you find so many qualities about yourself you didn't even know you had! Since being away I have become self confident with talking to people of all ages, I have learnt how to speak in public a lot better and to adapt to new surroundings more easily than before. I have become self reliant and independent! Becoming an "Adult" is a struggle but doing an exchange has prepared me for what the 'real' world is like. To be able to take the opportunity to become a Rotary Exchange Student was one of the best decisions in my life so far!

I have not regretted anything and never will because it was such an amazing experience that I will take with me my whole life! The year passes so quickly that you have to take every opportunity and every chance you have otherwise it will slip through your fingers. After this you feel you can do anything! My mind is wide and have so much ambition in what i want to do once I've left school.

Become an exchange student and have a great year and take every chance you get with great confidence because anything is possible and you will end up having the best year of your life!

Lauren Signature




D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Howick Inc.



I spent my year abroad in a small town called Alta Gracia. My year was amazing. My main goal was to learn Spanish, probably one of the harder tasks on your exchange but I managed to achieve that with the help of Spanish classes and persistence. I travelled with over 100 other exchange students around all parts of Argentina, we did two trips of 16-20 days and at the end of the trips, I can say that those students became my family.  My exchange fulfilled my expectations and now that I'm finishing my year, I feel as though I have done everything I wanted to.

I had three families, I learnt to adapt to other customs, how to become apart of a family and how to work through language barriers. I attended school, through school I made great friends. My school class was one of the best parts of my exchange, they welcomed me into their family from the start and I really felt at home with them.

Going on an exchange is a challenge but its one that comes with such great rewards. You will go home with a bigger family and group of friends and maybe you'll return a bit bigger yourself. You will do a lot of firsts and you will most likely change as a person. My exchange made me a more open minded person, knowledgeable and confident. I use to be so scared to talk in front of an audience but now I can do that not only in my native language but confidentially in Spanish too.

I was fortunate to travel quite a bit during my year. Through travelling I got to see some of the ten wonders of the world, go to Brazil and Chile and find a passion that I hope to pursue in my life as I grow older.

I would really recommend going on a Rotary Youth Exchange, you will be amazed at the opportunities thrown at you, how your mind expands, your new view on life and all the likely minded people you meet. Its a big cultural experience.

I had big highlights during my year, seeing Iguazu falls on both Argentina and Brazil sides, travelling to surrounding countries and my two big Argentina trips. I also really enjoyed learning tango, starting dance classes and working with Rotary and Interact. I helped my community by donating resources to a poor kindergarten which made me feel as though I gave something back to my community. Working with rotary was really enjoyable for me, they were the people who really tried hard to make my year as great as possible so it was nice to gives something back.

Your year will pass quickly so make the most of it.

I came to Argentina with one family, two parents, two brothers and sisters and one group of friends, I now come back with three families, six parents, seven brothers and sisters and one immense group of friends from all parts of the world.

Say yes to all the opportunities your given and always smile, good luck, I hope you also have a great year.

 Sign Charlotte



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Drury Inc.

2013 Lauren Denmark HEADER

Hej allesammen

My name is Lauren and I have been living for the past nine months in a small town just outside Aalborg in Denmark. Explaining my whole year away is not the easiest thing to do.

But leaving New Zealand and making the crazy and unbelievable decision to come on an exchange is hands down by far the most amazing and remarkable thing I have done to date. At first Living on the other side of the world and away from the safety blankets of parents and having to deal with problems by yourself can sometimes be hard but I can easily say that the good moments always outweighed the bad moments and that’s what makes doing an exchange such a great and worthwhile experience.

Being abroad for a year has given me the chance to achieve so many things that I would never have had the opportunity to achieve back home. I have gained many skills like confidence not only in myself but also the courage to be more confident when public speaking, these are the things that I know are very valuable and I can use a lot in the future. One of the things I found most challenging was learning the language, at first it was so difficult and it sounded like they had a potato in their mouths when they talked but after a couple months it became easier and I could understand the conversations and a few more months later I could talk and keep up a conversation in Danish.

A great thing about coming on an exchange is the friendships and relationships you make with people you met on your travels. This year I have met the most incredible and amazing people. I have made such good friends not only with exchange students but also with my class and my host siblings and parents, these people helped make this year possible and I know will always be a huge part of who I am today.

Through Rotary not only have I travelled through most of Denmark and to Sweden but also have had the opportunity to be a part of a fantastic Europe trip visiting 8 different countries for 3 weeks on a bus full of exchange students, I have also been given the amazing opportunity to spend 7 days on a boat with 33 other exchange students where we sailed along East cost of Denmark. These were both definitely highlights of my year.

I really suggest and encourage going on an rotary youth exchange because it will change the way you look and see the world, it will open your mind up to new possibilities, it will make you want to travel more and experience different cultures and life styles from all around the world but mostly you will gain and have the most amazing opportunity’s and experience’s that you will never have the chance to experience again. 

At leve er at rejse- to live is to travel.

Lauren Signature




D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pukekohe Inc.


Exchange is exciting, challenging, adventurous, and at times scary. It makes you feel joyful, sad, frightened, thankful, all at the same time. These are the things that make Rotary Youth Exchange so rewarding. As there will never be a time when you look back and regret your decision for going. Indeed it will probably be on the best decisions you will ever make.

Henry David Thoreau once suggested “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” I believe it is absolutely true regarding Rotary Youth Exchange. It allows you to live a lifetime in a year. There are so many new experiences to be made, with people from all around the world. Therefore making exchange, one of the most valuable experiences you could choose.

It may seem that one is opened mind and confident, but it is only when put out of your comfort zone does one truly develop a sense of identity. I look back now, at the person who I was before exchange. I see how much I have grown, to which I will be forever grateful for. My perspective on the world has definitely changed, for the better.

Being in Germany this past year has made me realize how small the world actually is. Europe seemed so far away from New Zealand. But now I think of it as only a day’s plane ride. The sense of time has certainly altered in my brain. A year…wow it feels like an eternity. You think to yourself how can I last, not seeing my friends and family for so long. But once in your host country you realize it isn’t difficult at all.

I can say from experience that there are a few testing times, but you are never alone. Through RYE you have a Rotarian family, and exchange student family, school friends, and arguably the most important your host families. In a way it is them, that make your exchange one of the best times in your life.

I recall all the goals I set before boarding the plane, to Germany. Now I see I have gone beyond for filling all of them. This year has enabled me to mature into a confident person who really is ready to take on the world. Nothing now seems too farfetched or frightening. For what could be more challenging than a year abroad?

Coming from; in reality, no knowledge about the German language, I have ended up speaking fluently. I can go about daily life, without the need for English. This has helped me make friends and family here that I plan to keep in contact with for a long time ahead. Also the German culture has become a part of me. I have let myself be engulfed with its; customs, diet, politics, recreational activities, morals, and traditions.

I have also willing pushed myself to my limits. Both conquering fears and trying new things. Whether it is learning to snowboard in the Alps, trying new foods, going on a free fall at Oktoberfest, making a snow man, acting in a German theatre show, or even a simple thing as catching one of Germany’s many trains. It all counts and all sums up, to making my exchange a great experience.

One of the highlights definitely would have to be the many tours I went on. The Germany Tour and Berlin Tour allowed me see and further understand my host country and how it works. Also I realized how vast and different every region is. This point of difference was also very evident in the Europe Tour. We covered a total of 10 countries in the course of 3 weeks. It’s crazy to think how just a few hundred kilometers from where I live; there is a completely different way of living.

During the tours many sights were seen and we had a lot of fun. But I think the exchange students are the ones who made them that much more special. The RYE organized events, exposed me to cultures beyond the borders of Europe. I can truly say that after this year I will have a family all over the world. A comforting thought.

Rotary Youth Exchange really has given me the best of life. I have lived it to the fullest this year. And I would not change my decision for the world. No amount of words will ever be able to describe my exchange and how grateful I am to Rotary International. It is a once in a life time opportunity, and if given the chance to do so I would say hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

 Signature Sara


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pakuranga Inc.


 Hello, Bonjour

My name is Fremon and for the last 9 months I have been living in Ontario, Canada as a Rotary exchange student. First of all I want to say that getting on that plane to a destination halfway across the world was, so far, the best decision I ever made in my life. When you hear that cheesy cliché expression that an exchange changes lives, for once the cliché was right because it really does! Travelling across the world to the great white North gave me the ability to learn skills and talents that will help me for my whole life. To be honest looking back WOW time has gone fast!! I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t gone on exchange, I changed in a good way, a really good way.

You learn so much, about yourself, people, a different culture, new languages ! Nothing goes ever as you planned. That's a fact. You just can’t plan an exchange. I didn't know that this year would be as great as it has been! But that’s the thing about an exchange….It’s like a bag of different flavored jelly beans. You know it’s going to be different. Chocolate flavoured jelly beans for Belgium, maple syrup for Canada just to name a few. You know that each jelly bean will bring its own cultural flavors and experiences. But what you don’t know is what’s in store for you!!

 In Canada I have been snowmobiling, taken a boat up to Niagara falls, Gone across Canada from one coast to the other over a month, snowboarding most weekends in the winter, made my own igloo (quinzee), slept in it, and so many things that would take me years write down in this letter! I guess I got a real Canadian jelly bean! There will be so many amazing opportunities lying in wait for you, if you choose to take this year long adventure. The families that willingly open their homes for you to make it your own, will become part of your own (extended) family. I can say I have many parents and whole lot of new siblings now!

Sure I was scared before I left, about everything. It was scary to leave my comfort zone in little Aotearoa! That was because my mind was a little less broad, my confidence a little less and my vision of the world narrower. Now I feel like I can do anything!! That’s what an exchange does, you change for the better! I’ve made lifelong friends, family and connections all around the world over here and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have a place to stay almost anywhere in the world now, how cool is that!? As for the other exchange students who have taken the same leap as me, they are like my brothers and sisters. It’s hard to try and explain the bond you will make, but there’s no doubt they’re my family too! The Rotarians who make all this possible for a bunch of lucky Kiwis every year (like me) are the most amazing people. They’ll support you all the way. So to all of you who may consider this amazing experience, remember “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” . Trust me on this one, it’s a shot worth taking.

 Sign Fremon


 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Papakura Inc.



My name is Alessandro, and for the past 9 months, I’ve been living in Eslöv, a small town in southern Sweden. As expected, life is pretty different - but considering everything from language, diet, weather, friends and family all being redefined as soon as you step off the plane, it’s even surprising just how quickly it all starts to feel right.

The experiences are different for everyone, but here, for the first time I’ve been skiing, outdoor jacuzzi-ed in minus 12 degree cold, saw the northern lights, visited the ice hotel and have been able to go and see locally and internationally known and unknown bands touring through Europe.

One of the most rewarding aspects is in learning the language. Knowing only how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘tastes good’ on arrival, to when you finally understand jokes said in class and can be a part of the conversations.

The host family is huge in your life. They can range from just providing food and shelter, to caring about you so much that to change families breaks your heart, and you even miss that one stupid loud cat who would forget where his litter box is. This is a point that really needs to be emphasized, my first family is planning to come visit me in New Zealand once I come back.

It was hard to notice any immediate changes in myself, but at nearly nine months in and looking back I can now see not only how I have absorbed and learnt from the different culture of Sweden, but how I now live in it completely. Adding to this, the different lifestyle has definitely made me both more tolerant and independent.

Sending yourself across the world with just a suitcase, carry on and a name and address of a family who will hopefully be there are the airport in this new country, where you don’t speak a word of the language, is a pretty big decision to make. Leaving your life at home for a whole year (and then trying to come back and pick it up again, which I still get the pleasure to experience) isn’t easy at all, it’s an absolutely gigantic commitment you make, and it is totally worth it, I definitely recommend it and would do it all again.

Sign Sandro



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Newmarket Inc.


Bonjour à tous,

My name is Rebecca and for the last 9 months I’ve been living in Guérande, France on a Rotary youth exchange. It’s crazy to think about how quickly this year is flying by but in that time I’ve been able to do so many things and meet so many amazing people! Before I left, I never would have imagined that my exchange was going to be this incredible!

France is so different to New Zealand, the people, the food, the climate, school, and of course the language. The first couple of months were definitely a big culture shock and it takes a while to adjust, but it’s the best way to really learn, by living as the locals do. Being completely immersed in another culture you also learn a lot about other people and especially about yourself.

My favourite part of my exchange has been the people that I’ve met. I was very lucky this year to have three amazing host families who really took me in as a part of the family. Even though it was hard to move from one family to another, it’s a great way to experience more of the culture because every family is different. I have also been very fortunate to live in such a welcoming town and school, because of that I have made some really amazing French friends this year (two of them are going to do a Rotary exchange and two others are planning to come to visit me in New Zealand next year!) Saying goodbye to these friends I think will be the hardest thing for me when I leave. And another very important relationship is of course the Rotary exchange students; they are the friendships that I will never forget because they were always there for me to talk to. It’s so cool to be able say “my friend from America, Germany, Finland, Brazil, Australia, Argentina etc. “ And it’s pretty amazing to realize that I really do have friends from all over the world!

I’ve been able to do some pretty amazing things this year. Just to name a few, I’ve learnt French and started learning Spanish, I’ve eaten snails and frog legs, I’ve done a bus trip to Barcelona with Rotary exchange students and I’m going on my Europe trip in 2 weeks, I attended a Rotary conference with 430 other Rotary exchange students in France, I’ve travelled not only in France but to England with my NZ parents and to Tunisia with a French friend and her family. I’ve seen and experienced so many things over my exchange that I feel has made me grow as a person, and that’s something that I’m really proud of.

How would you know what an opportunity is, if you never took one? Rotary Youth Exchange is an amazing opportunity that will change your life; it is an adventure, yet not an easy one.  But I can honestly say that this is the best experience of my life that unfortunately has only 3 more months to go, but so far I haven’t regretted one minute of it.  I would recommend this to everyone and anyone, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Sign Rebecca



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Botany East Tamaki Inc.



I’m Lydia and I am spending my exchange year in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. The past eight months have been a ridiculous combination of the most difficult and the most incredible moments of my life, and together they have made my exchange the experience of a lifetime. Taking the leap of faith and going away with Rotary will be the best decision you have ever made! I wish I was in your place, and I still had my whole exchange ahead of me!

At the end of the day, it comes down to being proud of yourself and where you come from (yeeahh Aotearoa), but also opening your mind to the scary, crazy, amazing unknown. For any Rotary kid, it’s the same – no matter if it’s Belgium,  Argentina, Canada, or anywhere else, you will find a home away from home in your host country and fall in love with a totally new world!

 After a pretty big culture shock, I have come to adore the work-hard, party-hard Belgian way of life.  Living as a Belgian I have fallen in love with their style, humour, wonderful traditions (St. Nicholas, 100 Jours, Carnaval), music, parties, awesome cities (from Brussels to Bruges), their beautiful countryside, their 4 extreme seasons, the languages (all 3!), their tasty specialities (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate) and of course the lovely Belgian people themselves.

Another huge perk of living in a country at the heart of Europe is the opportunity for travelling. Apart from all the great cities of Belgium, this year I’ve had the chance to visit Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, the Netherlands and France – ridiculous, right?!

This year my life has become an adventure – barely a day goes by when I am not doing, eating, seeing or learning something that I wouldn’t of dreamed of a year ago. What is amazing is the way you arrive knowing no one and almost nothing about your new country, but by the time your year is almost finished you have built a life for yourself there. Now I really feel like I am the member of a big, crazy Belgian family, my best friends come from all four corners of the world, I’m a real part of my class at school, I speak a second language and I’ve had so much fun. It’s is definitely not always easy, but the hard times that push you to your limits are what give you the sense of independence and self-belief that will change your whole outlook on life.

Don’t hesitate or second guess yourself, sign up with Rotary and don’t look back!

sign Lydia



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Alfriston Inc.



I’m Lucy, and nine months ago I did the craziest, scariest and most amazing thing that I have ever done in my life. I became a Rotary exchange student and jumped on a plane headed towards Cordoba, Argentina. I had high expectations for not only this beautiful country but also for myself, but never in a million years did I think this year would be as incredible as it has been.

The first three months here were tough, but in the best way possible. During this time I learnt how to cope without my family, I managed to break through the language barrier, I met amazing people and learnt so much about the Argentinean culture. Looking back on those few months and realising how much I’ve grown as a person is just surreal. Being on exchange forces you to trust your gut, to make decisions that are best for you and to appreciate every little moment that you have.

For me, the people that you meet whilst on exchange are what make your year so enjoyable. I have been blessed with two amazing host families so far, and never in my life did I think that it would be so hard changing families. You go from being complete strangers to being a ‘real’ family member in such a short amount of time. Each family lives their lives differently so it’s a great way to experience all of the aspects of your host country’s culture. The other exchange students in my district have also been incredible. You all click straight away, and its so good to be able to talk to people who get it, who are going through exactly the same thing as you are. Its pretty cool that I can now say my best friends live in the States, Germany, France, Canada, The Netherlands and Denmark just to name a few.

With Rotary and my families I have been lucky enough to visit so many parts of Argentina. My first week here was spent on a beach in Buenos Aires, I visited the stunning Iguazu Falls during our two week tour of the northern provinces, and in just a couple of weeks time I’m off to the south for three weeks. I’ve seen and experienced so many things which would have never been possible for me in New Zealand.

With only three months to go, I haven’t had one regret about my year in Argentina. No one is saying that it isn’t hard, because at times it is, but getting through the homesickness, learning the language and culture, and just living your life is so rewarding. It’s impossible to fully understand an exchange until you have actually done one yourself and trust me when I say that it is so worth doing.   “An exchange isn’t just a year of your life, it’s a life in a year”

Saludos y buena suerte,

sign Lucy



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pukekohe Inc.


Tjena allihopa (Hey everyone) 
I’m Alexandra and I’ve spent the last 8 months  on exchange in Sweden. Everyone is always asking me why I chose Sweden to go to for my exchange, and truthfully at the time of my choice I didn’t really know what the answer to that was. But my time here everyone has certainly given me the answers to it!

As the months have passed, my Swedish has gradually improved. This has certainly been a huge challenge as I knew next to nothing before leaving New Zealand; even though I had been told several times before to LEARN THE LANGUAGE, nothing is like being immersed in the language. Now I’m able to converse with friends and family, order food at cafe’s for the all important fika (one of the best Swedish traditions involving, coffee, cakes, and a whole lot of talking), and even take part in school lessons.

Rotary has given me so many chances to make the most out of my year here, with both my host families and other exchange students. Having lived in three different families, I’ve gotten to experience a slightly different bit of culture with each one and learn how to find my way without knowing the house rules, what’s acceptable to do or say around each other .

Other exchange students are some of the best people you meet whilst on your exchange. I’ve met people from around 10 different countries; at language camp, Åre ski camp, Kiruna camp, various district camps and events, and not to mention the infamous Euro Tour. Which in short consisted of 70 exchange students, 6 adults, 1 bus, 7 countries in all of 17 days, and SO much fun. Another quick thing about the other exchange students is that no matter where you’re from, and what your background is like, you automatically have a unique friendship, because you all understand what each other is going through.

Even though throughout the year you spend several mornings waking up going, where on earth am I?! And then suddenly realizing that you are about 17000km from everything that you know; you learn to appreciate both your home and all of the amazing experiences that you’re getting abroad. Life on exchange is consistently throwing you new hurdles to climb over, and amazingly everyone gets through it. From something small as trying a new food, going through to voicing your opinion, although knowing you know you might hurt something because it is actually what is best for you.

I know it’s cliché but going on exchange is the experience of a lifetime. It is something that you will not regret, no matter the amount of homesickness or strange foods you have to try. It’s the best decision I have made so far in my life; and really, it doesn’t matter where you go, every country gives you a whole range of new experiences with each one different and amazing in its own way.

So with nearly all of my year down, I can finally answer the question as to why I chose Sweden to go to for my exchange; because of every country I could choose from, I knew that I would get to experience things that so few people have ever experienced, become fluent in one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn, live in an environment that is kind of like New Zealand in several ways but so SO different in many others, and most of all, meet the most amazing people.  The exchange, along with Rotary, has provided me with the best journey of my life so far.

sign Alex


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Auckland Inc.


My name is Kimberley  and I’m currently living the dream on my student exchange in Belgium. There are so many reasons to take the leap of faith that is going on an exchange. You learn so much, from a new culture and language, to all about yourself and your home country. Doing a rotary youth exchange allows you to go and live out a year in a completely unknown situation and often learn a foreign language. At the start you feel like a year is a long time, but rest assured that I have been here for over eight months, and I feel like I flew in last week. Time flies so quickly, you are always busy and having so much fun. Learning a new language is an experience all in itself. Of course, at the start I felt as though I’d been thrown into the deep end, but once I got a grip on things, I suddenly felt  bi-lingual and it feels amazing to actually know what they’re talking about, to be able to understand and speak in a beautiful foreign tongue. It can be a challenge at times but it is absolutely worth it.

It can be hard to leave your friends and family, but what people don’t consider is the wonderful people who help make your exchange a success waiting in your host country. The people I’ve met this year on exchange will stay with me for the rest of my life. From my friends at school, who help you integrate and teach you all the swear words are so much fun and helped me immensely. The other exchange students I’ve meet who are going through all the same things as you become your instant friends, just because you’re all in the same boat. And of course my host families who have all been so amazing, and eager to share their culture with you and also to learn about where you come from and my your life back home. The hardest aspect for me has been having to say goodbye every three months to the families that I’d really become settled in to, like I really belonged there. Another amazing aspect of the student exchange is the opportunity to travel. Whether it be the Eurotour, or travelling to see other parts of Europe with your host family or to visit your own relatives, you get to discover so many thrilling and unseen corners of the earth. I’ve been here for eight months now and I have already visited ten countries in Europe so far, and a few of them more than once! It’s a really great chance to broaden your horizons.

From a cultural point of view, a student exchange is a real eye-opener. I  realise now that being in New Zealand I didn’t fully get to understand other cultures and life-styles, so it’s a learning experience to find yourself living in another cultural world! There are so many differences but at the same time there are things that are the same. It’s doing things their way and seeing what it’s like to be part of a family in that cultural environment that is really fulfilling. You become so well-rounded (literally) and see things in a whole new light.

So, I wholeheartedly advise considering a student exchange, it is something I personally will never ever forget, nor have the chance to do again, so take the opportunity while you have it!

sign kimberely


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Papakura Inc.



My name is Nouzar and I am spending a year in Belgium as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. Just over 9 months ago I decided to leave everything behind in NZ and come her for a year long exchange. I wouldn't lie and say I wasn't scared and at times even double thinking my decision to leave but now, after all the adventures, experiences and memories I can easily say it was the best decision I have ever made.

Words just can't begin to explain what an exchange actually is. Sure, you learn a new language, a new culture and a whole bunch of awesome new people but at the same time I have seen myself mature so much as the year as gone by. It is true what they say, that you don't leave at the end of the year as the same person as when you arrived.

The first few months were the most challenging of the exchange. You turn up in a new country, new country and as in my case a completely new language, all while you miss your friends and family dearly. As I look back now, however, these were my most memorable times on the exchange. When you are away from home, you learn to adapt to different situations and learn to take responsibilities for your own actions. This is also the time when you meet the people who will stay with you for the rest of your life.

During the year I had the opportunity to change host families 3 times. You have your up's and down's with all of them but they are to me like my own families now. So now I can proudly say I have 4 dad's, 4 mum's and a whole bunch of siblings. It is definitely true what they say, that when one exchange student meets another there is a special bond formed instantly and it is something that everyone needs to experience for themselves. You have many opportunities to meet other exchange students: during rotary activities and rotary organised trips. I went on a Rotary trip to Greece and as well as seeing a wonderful ancient country, I got to spend some of my best times with the people closest to me. It seems that everyone I have met this year will somehow stay with me for the rest of my life because friends made on exchange are made for life!!!

When I leave Belgium I would not only leave my heart back here but in every single corner of the world, with all the exchange students that I have encountered. It really does not matter how much people try to make you understand what an exchange is like, no one will ever understand until you come on an exchange yourself. Thanks to Rotary I got to spend the best year of my life in Belgium and I hope you will take on the challenge and do the same.

Au revoir,

sign nouzar



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Half Moon Bay Inc.


 Salut ! 

My name is Laura and I am in France on my Rotary Youth Exchange.  It’s hard to put into words how incredible these past 8 months have been for me.  Before I came on exchange, I had heard stories of other exchange students, saying how amazing the year would be and how quickly time would go by, but never in my life did I realise that it would be THIS amazing, and that time would go by THIS fast.

Thinking back to my first couple of months in France I remember the culture shock I experienced; the language barrier, the diet change, school, the temperature, and the tiredness.  My life here is so different to back in New Zealand and that’s exactly why I love this exchange.  Being completely immersed in another culture is so mind blowing and allows you to learn so much about yourself and others.  After 3 months things started getting easier as I started becoming more and more fluent in the language, and more  aware of the French lifestyle, since then time has just flown by.

The people I have met here have made this year what it is.  I have friends from all over the world; France, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Finland, United States, Canada, Peru, and Bolivia to name a few.  All of these people that I will never forget and whom which I am so close to due to the immediate bond of friendship that exchange students seem to have.

The hardest thing I have had to do so far this year is change host families.  It is hard to believe that you can become so close to a family that is not even your own.  I think that the host family change is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the rotary exchange.  It is so amazing to be able to live in 3 or even 4 host families, I have discovered new things with each and experienced completely different lifestyles.  But at the same time after 4 months the family becomes your own and for this reason it’s not always easy when it comes time to say goodbye. 

My exchange is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.  It is something that before I could only dream about, and now it’s my life.  I feel so lucky to have been given this experience, I would recommend it to everyone and anyone, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.  If I could I would stay here forever, I’m seriously having the time of my life and have not once looked back !

sign laura



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pukekohe Inc.



I’m Sarah, and I have spent this year, as a Rotary Exchange Student, living in  Burlington, Ontario, Canada.  

From the day I arrived in Canada in -15 cold, to starting my second semester at Corpus Christi Catholic School just a few days ago, I have experienced so many things I never even dreamed of. I have made, and slept in a Quintzee – an ‘igloo’ made of packed snow. I have taken a 30 day tour across the entire of Canada, and spent 3 consecutive days and nights on a train. I have given multiple presentations about New Zealand, for friends, family, Rotarians and total strangers. I have met a whole lot of incredible people, and made some incredible friendships – I now have best friends who live all around the world, Chile, Brazil, Belgium, France, Denmark and Germany! I have ridden on the famed yellow school busses, and made a snowman in my back yard. I have been snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and seen a bear, racoon, and skunk!

As every day flies by, and I have said goodbye to some people who mean the world to me, I have had to learn not to take any moment for granted, and to make the most out of every situation. My independence has skyrocketed, I now have the ability to cope in almost any unfamiliar situation, and I have learnt a lot more about myself; who I am, and what I want to become. While my personality and who I am inside haven’t changed, I have become a lot more confident, and the opportunities I have been given, by Rotary and my friends and families, have really helped me to grow as a person, definitely opening my eyes to this beautiful country and the rich culture that makes up Canada

A Rotary Exchange is an amazing experience in so many ways

sign Sarah



 D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Howick Inc.


Hej guys!!  
My name’s Lucy and I am on a rotary exchange spending a year living in Sweden! If you are reading  this then you may already be considering going on an exchange for a year to another country just like me. Well I say stop considering and say yes to one of the best choices you could ever make in your lifetime.

My exchange has been the most rewarding year of my life. At first living on the other side of the world so far away from home was such an extreme idea for me  but now after living here in Sweden this has become my home too.

In Sweden I live in a town called Bollnäs which is around 3 hours drive up from Stockholm and has around 26,000 people. I arrived at the end of the January and here I have lived with different families while attending the local high school, Torsbergsskolan.  The town is very beautiful during all the seasons with a large river running through it and many lakes surrounding it. It also has a huge forest all around; I had never really seen so many Christmas trees!

The best day while living in Sweden was my birthday. Here they have a tradition where they wake you up on the morning of your birthday by singing the birthday song which is called ‘Ja må hon leva’ which means ‘yes may she live’ and then you usually get your presents and breakfast in bed. On my birthday I didn’t have time for the breakfast as I had school that day but still it was cool to wake to my family singing! Later at school I got a cake made by my friend’s mum and then also more cake after school with my family. The main reason the day was so cool though was because of what happened after dinner. I got the chance to go up in a tiny two person plane and fly all around Bollnäs for half an hour. It was so so so beautiful. Specially because there was still a bit of snow on the ground and the lakes were still melting. Such an awesome experience.

My favourite thing about Sweden is the word ‘Fika.’ There isn’t actually a direct translation to English but I guess it would be gathering with people and have a drink and some food, like having a snack. It is great because it is the perfect excuse to get together with friends in a cafe and eat cake I like this very much because then I get to try all the different kinds in Sweden! My friends and I are often saying ‘shall we have fika now?’

The biggest highlight of my year in Sweden was going on an 18 day tour around Europe over summer with 67 other rotary exchange students. That was the very best trip of my life. I signed the Berlin wall in Berlin, went on a gondola ride Venice, saw Paris from the top of Eiffel tower plus so many other amazing things. We travelled round on a double decker bus and just had the time of our lives. We had great leaders and I made some extremely strong friendships.

That is one of the greatest things about exchange is the people you meet. You not only get to meet some fantastic people who are from the country your living in such as your host families, your rotary club or your school mates but also other exchange students living in your country who are from around the world. I now have friends from Australia, USA, Canada, South Africa, France, Japan and Taiwan. I think when I come back to New Zealand the most exciting thing I will share with everyone is the fact that I can now understand and speak quite a lot of Swedish! It is such a cool feeling knowing that I can speak a language only 9 million people in the world speak. It took a lot of hard work and it was a struggle but I am so proud now. It is something I hope to keep the whole of my life. To able to go back and be able to say I can now speak two languages I think will feel great.

Now after reading this I know the first thing you are all probably thinking is ‘oh my gosh but a year is sooo long.’ Honestly it is really not. If you ask any exchange student the first thing they will say is how fast the year goes and how they wished they could have had more time. Going on exchange is a one in a life time opportunity. There is really no other way that you can live in a country without having a job and getting to learn all about the culture for a year. I guess you will also be thinking ‘but I can’t be away from my friends, they’ll forget about me!’ But I want you to think about this guys - A year away is nothing compared to a lifetime, therefore a year away from lifetime friends is nothing.

So come on guys take this opportunity and get out in the world and have the time of your life!

sign Lucy



  D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Papakura Inc.

2009 Emma Argentina HEADER

My name is Emma and I am on an exchange in Argentina, the  time has gone by incredibly fast! and there's not one day I ever regret this experience. I have truly fallen in love with this country. I now have mixed emotions, I feel ready to come back to my life in New Zealand to see my friends, my family, but then I have amazing friends and family here in Argentina.

Argentina is very different from New Zealand, the weather in my city is something I think I could never get used to, I arrived in the peak of summer when it hit 50º. I live in a city of around 100,000 in the northern part of Argentina, I practically live in the middle of nowhere with the sea 16hours away, but I love that— it's dramatically different from my city, Auckland in New Zealand.

The Argentino`s are known for there partying lifestyle, and of course they celebrate everything you can imagine! Friendship Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Children's Day, Student's Day, Teacher's Day, America's Day! Any reason to party for this culture

The Argentino`s are also very family orientated, In your families here you will be treated as if you are their own child. They are very proud of their meat and they should be, it's the most delicious I’ve tasted in my life.

I have been so fortunate to have had three Rotary trip`s around this breath taking country. There are 22 provinces and I have seen all of them. Each province  is like another country, offering something spectacular.

This year has truly been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I will never forget. I have made friends from all over the world (Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa and USA), who will be friends for life. This year has given me so many opportunities, and I have lived experiences that will be with me for the rest of my life. I seriously recommend applying for a Rotary Youth Exchange, It’s an experience that will be with you forever.

Chau por ahora
sign emma


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Manukau City Sunrise Inc.



My name is Shona and I’m on a Rotary Exchange in France.

I remember my first day like it was yesterday— waking up in a new house, with new people, who were speaking this foreign language that was unknown to me. At that moment that it hit me that I was on the other side of the world from my family and friends, living in a foreign country, for an entire year. It was one of the most memorable days of my life, as well as the beginning of many adventures and life-changing opportunities.

The first couple months were a challenging experience, but also  one of the most memorable periods of my life. It taught me so much about the beautiful French culture and language and myself as well. Through the year I stayed with four host families, changing every three months. At first it’s always hard saying goodbye and leaving the family who I had become a part of, but it was also an exciting experience meeting a new family and another way of French life. My year wouldn’t have been the same without my four host families as they have been a huge part of my exchange, and I now consider them as my own.

Amazing Rotary organised weekends are always so much fun! An opportunity to get to know other  exchange students. The friendships and tight bonds  between us are formed straight away, because there is a unique understanding which we all seem to share. I have made some of my closest friends on this rotary exchange, who I’ll keep in contact with for the rest of my life. Not to mention that I now have homes all over the world!

I also did the Rotary tour around Europe with around 50 exchange students. During the trip, I got to see and experience Europe first hand, which made me open my eyes to the world and look at it in a different way.

Thanks to Rotary I have been able to experience this incredible year abroad. Not only have I learnt a new language and culture, and made life long friends, but I got travel the other side of the world, whilst living some of the most incredible moments of my life. This year has been an unforgettable journey, which I consider to be priceless.


sign shona



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Remuera Inc.

2009 Chloe Germany HEADER

 I arrived in Germany on the 25th of January. I have now been here for 7 months and my time here as gone so fast. Its crazy how people tell you all these different ideas and their perspectives on what an exchange is about but  I think everyone can have a total different exchange and learn total different things. Of course I arrived in Germany not knowing what anything was going to be like. I arrived here thinking it would be this total different world and everyone would be so different to back home. The thing is, it wasn't. It was different in a way that i felt like I wasn't at home but I felt so comfortable here the day i arrived.

To be honest I did not choose Germany but I am so glad they put me here. I have had the time of my life and have met amazing friends and family that will always be apart of who I am now.

Learning the language has been one of the hardest things for me but I know I am improving everyday. I arrived in Germany not knowing that much German but I never found it so hard that I wanted to give up. Being on an exchange you never have the urge to give up on things, you fight through it with the help of people around you. With Rotary you have so much help, you have your counselor with you the whole year and all your host families. Learning a new language is one of the most incredible things about an exchange but also learning about the culture. 

Some of the things that have been absolutely insane while being on this exchange is meeting all the different exchange students. You meet so many people from all around the world that are so friendly and so crazy. As soon as you meet them you bond from the moment you say hi. I don't think i will ever meet as many people as I did in this year than I will in my entire life. The other amazing thing is going on Europe tour. Just imagine, traveling around Europe with 30 kids your age for 3 weeks. It is something I would have thought I would never get to do in my life. With Rotary I was fortunate to visit Denmark, America, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Sweden and England. 

I hope you really think about doing an exchange because it has been the best thing I have ever done and will ever do. This opportunity is a one in a life time opportunity and I tell you to take it when its there because you might never have this opportunity again. You wont regret it!

sign chloe


D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Half Moon Bay Inc.


 Hej! Jeg ledder Suzi og er en udrekslinsstudent I Danmark!

Hi! My name is Suzi and I am an exchange student in Denmark!.

Denmark is an awesome country, it’s like living in a fairytale … As a Rotary exchange student in Denmark I have been experiencing life as a Danish teenager, been all around Europe in a bus with 60 other crazy exchange students, and really seen the cultural, social and lifestyle differences between our country and theirs!

Life in Denmark is wonderful. The people are so liberal and free and talk openly about everything. They don’t have such big self-image issues as they are used to other people seeing their bodies, for example after sports class everyone showers together  in one big communal shower (girls and boys separated of course), and because everyone just wants to be clean no one bothers to feel insecure about lall the other girls looking at their naked bodies.

They have very high self-esteem, which I think is something we should learn! They’re also very good at English so it was really hard to remember to try and learn Danish, but once you’ve mastered it, Danish is a fun (but hard) language to learn! It sounds like everyone is speaking with a potato in their mouths! Speaking of potatoes, here they eat potatoes for dinner nearly EVERY night, I don’t know why, but I’ve never seen so many different ways to cook potatoes! Fashion here isn’t too special—everyone has the same type of clothing and it just gets a bit boring.

The eight months I have spent here so far have been a life changing experience. By going on exchange you learn so much stuff you could never learn in school. Not only do you have life long friends overseas, experience a new culture, but you also grow so much yourself! I would definitely recommend an exchange or just travel, there's just so much more to the world than we know!

However, as amazing as Denmark really is—NZ will always be my home

sign Suzi



D9920 Rotary Exchange Student sponsored by the Rotary Club of  Auckland Inc.