Not your typical school year

Rachel Matheson
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Rotary Traveler

As summer ends and students in Glenwood Springs either pack up for college or begin fall sports practice, I find myself reading books in Spanish and applying for student visas and a passport.

Most students dread this time of year as their late summer nights are replaced with late winter nights of studying for exams; I, however, have been anticipating this moment since I started gathering information on the Rotary Youth Exchange program a year ago.

San Sebastian, Spain, will become my new home this upcoming school year. My junior year of high school will be spent in a city of about 180,000 people along the Atlantic Coast.

Not only will I be living with a new family, and part of a new culture; I will be attending a Spanish-speaking school where I hope to excel in all subjects just as I would at Glenwood High.

My mom nearly fainted the day I came home from school and announced my interest in spending a year of high school in a foreign country. Despite my parents’ surprise by my request, I was given permission to fill out the application.

I’ve found that people learn the most when faced with a unique experience. That is why I decided to take my high school education further than just Glenwood Springs. What better way to learn than by attending school in new culture and a foreign country?

Some people may say my exchange doesn’t start until I am on the plane to my future host country. However, I believe my exchange as a Rotary student started when I filled out the application. I completed countless forms and made sure everything was done in blue ink.

Trish Kramer helped me immensely through the whole process, educating me on how Rotary exchange works and making sure all the necessary steps for applying were done correctly. After several days of answering questions involving my life experiences so far, my family, the world as a whole, and my views on America, I was accepted as a Rotary Exchange student.

As an exchange student, I hope to completely immerse myself in Spain’s rich culture and language. I look forward to growing as a student, becoming part of the culture, and seeing Spain as a citizen of the country.

I know that I’m not only being sent to Spain to learn their culture, but also to represent America’s culture in a positive way. I hope to both learn and teach in Spain and when I return to Colorado as well.

– Rachel Matheson, 16, is spending her junior year on a Rotary Youth Exchange trip to San Sebastain, Spain, sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary and Club Rotario. Her column, “Rotary Traveler,” will appear monthly.

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