I had the opportunity to travel to La Rochelle, a city on the west coast of France, with 535 other exchange students for a Rotary Conference with the President of Rotary International. We left early Friday morning for the 11 hour bus ride to La Rochelle. Friday night we arrived and met a ton of other exchange students from other districts in France!
Saturday went to a museum in Rochefort where we learned about the first ship to successfully travel from France to the USA. We then headed over to the conference center where we got to sit in on a conference with the persident of Rotary International and hear 7 French ex-exchange students talk about their year abroad and what they’re doing now. It was really eye opening to hear how these people took the skills they learned from their exchange year and used it for their jobs, language, etc.
Now that I only have 3 more months of my exchange year, I realized that now is the time to really take advantage of every opportunity I get here in France because it will soon be over. One point the president made that I really liked was during your exchange year, you will come across a person who makes a positive impact in your year abroad and you will also make an impact in someone else’s year abroad. I’ve realized that this is so true and I’m experiencing it hands on. I have met people from literally all of the world during my time here in France and with each person I met, I learned something about their culture and that’s one of my favorite things about studying abroad. Getting to learn about other cultures and languages while also sharing your own makes is an experience I’ll never forget.
The rest of the conference, us exchange students sang the national anthem of each of our countries and dressed up in traditional clothing from our country. We then performed a talent show put onby each district of exchange students in France. My district, D1780, sang a song from Les Misérables, in French of course! It was pretty amazing watching everyone playing an instrument, dancing, and singing in different languages.
Sunday was our last day in La Rochelle so we spent it at the Aquarium! We then headed back home to the Rhône-Alpes region where we live. I am so grateful I got to go on this trip because it made me realize I’m not the only one on this journey, there are several exchange students around the world who are experiencin the same struggles and successes as me!
I also got to exchange a bunch of pins with the other exchange students, so now my blazer is full of pins from all over the world! [PS. I have a blazer with pins on it because it is a Rotary tradition. Every Rotary exchange student brings pins from their home country to exchange with the other students they meet and by the end of the year, you bring home a bunch of tiny pieces of the world with you- aka the pins ;]