Being a Rotary Club exchange student means experiencing the world from a different perspective, learning to adapt, and learning a lot about yourself, two students sponsored by the Trumbull Rotary said last week. It also means having the experiences of a lifetime.
The two students, one from Brazil spending a year in Trumbull and one from Trumbull who spent a year in Finland, recently shared their perspectives and some stories of their adventures. Both reflected on their Rotary and exchange-student experiences.
Seventeen-year-old Viviane Rocha Gomes, from Curitiba, Parana, Brazil, arrived in Trumbull last August. She’s attended Trumbull High School at the junior and senior levels. She’s had three local host families.
Viviane reflected on her year in Trumbull: “You’re seeing the world from a different view,” she said. “You have to learn how to adapt. You learn what’s different, and you learn what to appreciate about your own country. I learned to appreciate how people say hello in Brazil—kissing on the cheek."
At Trumbull High School, Viviane said, she liked the extracurricular activities, especially tennis. She said she liked the vacations and said the teachers were very helpful. In Brazil, she said, most students attend private schools and the school day is four hours long.
What has her year in Trumbull meant? “I learned about myself,” she said. “Who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. I learned to depend on myself, and the Rotary is really a big part of it. The Trumbull Rotary Club helped me a lot.”
While she was in the U.S., Viviane was able to visit Boston, Philadelphia, Disney World, New York City, Rhode Island, Arizona, Nevada and California. She also participated in the Black Rock Congregational Youth Group, Fusion, and took dance classes at the Performing Arts Center of CT.
While Viviane was in Trumbull, local resident Sophie Bolton was spending a year in Tampere, Finland as a Rotary exchange student.
Sophie, 18, left Trumbull last August after graduating from Trumbull High. She returned in July. She had three host families in Finland, and attended a high school for the performing arts. She will be attending Simmons College in Boston in the fall.
“Rotary was what made my exchange possible,” Sophie said. “And it was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Sophie’s experience as a visitor to Finland was not unlike Viviane’s in the United States. “You get to experience so many different cultures and make so many friends,” she said. “You become like family with the host families.”
Naturally enough, one of the major adjustments was to the cold—and the lack of light in winter, she said. “In the winter, it’s light from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. And it got to negative 25 degrees Celsius—and you still had to go to school,” Sophie said.
Sophie was able to visit Lapland (the most northern part of Finland, in the Arctic Circle), St. Petersburg, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Monaco and Austria. What she took away from the Rotary exchange experience was being independent. “I learned how much I can do for myself,” she said. “I learned I’m capable of being independent.”
For those who may be interested in being a Rotary Exchange student please contact Jayne Bolton, at (203)-650-0947. Anyone interested in being a local host family contact Ray Baldwin at 203-650-4208.
Want to change the world? Rotary's 1.2 million members believe it starts with a commitment to Service Above Self. Members of the Rotary Club of Trumbull participate in community service to improve life in the Trumbull community and meet community needs. For more information on the Rotary Club of Trumbull, visit trumbullrotary.org, call (203) 650-0947 or attend a morning meeting at the Trumbull Public Library every Friday at 7:30 a.m.