When I was 15, I was chosen to take part in a Rotary Youth Exchange Student program and was placed in Rome, Italy, to live for a year. It was an amazing opportunity, and I still talk to the friends I made over there, both fellow exchange students and Italians I met in my high school. Going to high school in another country opened my eyes to the way that different countries handle education and live life. It sounds obvious, but I expected the big differences, like a different language and religion, but the small details were the ones that were the hardest to manage. Figuring out how to get from place to place using public transit and where to buy necessities like socks and underwear took considerable time!
School was hard for me, especially at first. My school was in session six days a week, and it was HARD to wake up on Saturdays and go to class. We also had religion, art history and philosophy classes, very different than what my North American high school focused on. I also had a hard time making friends at first, and I was very homesick. But as the year went on, I met some amazing people who made adjusting to a different culture much easier. I had the most amazing conversations with people all around the world, about every topic imaginable. Politics, religion, cultural differences… no topic was off the table and I feel like I learned more from my peers than I did in school.
Italy is an amazing place, and taught me so much about myself. I became more independent, acquired a new language and learned how to relate to people totally different from me. Living abroad as a teen made me more willing to move up north when I was done with High School and changed my outlook on life. When I am done with university, I hope to repeat the experience and live in Israel for a similar length of time. Traveling and living abroad is an amazing experience and I honestly believe that everyone should do it if they have the chance. Some of my colleagues at CJPAC have also lived in numerous other places and it is fun to swap notes with them about different experiences in other nations. Rotary gave me one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I am forever grateful for the journey.
All the best!