Saturday, October 2, 2010


I loved the idea of Rotary Youth Exchange from the start. A year in a foreign country, living with a family, learning the language, learning the culture, and making new friends and family. However the most important aspect to me know, but wasn't at the time, is the fact that I don't think I could ever do anything awful to Brasil.

My family had the Colombian exchange student over the other night and my host father (ex-president of rotary) was talking about the fact that when we participate in rotary we build national relations. If we do a good job, the people in Brasil we leave our marks on will never want to go to war with our country or make unfair business deals. Every person that we impress is one less enemy to us and our country, even if they are only acquaintances. This wasn't the first time I had heard this, and I had agreed with it the first time as well, but here it hit home. I have been in this country for a mere month and a half, yet I have made amazing friends and I have family here. I don't think I could ever want anything but the best for my new countrymen. I absolutely love the people here, I have learned so much, and to deprive someone from experiencing this culture by ruining it through war or faulty treaties is absurd to me.

With ever person I meet through rotary, be it an exchange student in my home town, or an exchange student (or person) down here, I am exposed to a new culture and I begin to think differently of the countries around the world. I have friends from all areas of the world, so now when people are poking fun at their countries I feel a little defensive. Some people don't understand other cultures and so it is easy to make fun of something that seems absurd. However what I am doing here is building friendships, opening my mind, and gaining knowledge and experience so when I return I can try and open the minds of others. It's not easy and sometimes I think things they do here are crazy and pointless, but I'm trying to understand and that's the difference. If I can understand then I can explain for other people. I find it all about making the unknown known and dealing with our differences to make our differences smaller and make them weigh less on our decisions.

In the end, the outcome is the same. I love my home, I love my friends, and I love my family. I would do anything to make their lives more comfortable, to help them deal with what is going on with their lives, and to protect them.


  1. That was a really lovely and thoughtful post, Aletha. We parents back in Northfield are really proud of you and the other young people representing our community and our country around the world.
    —Rob (Will Hardy's father)

  2. i want to echo Rob's comment above. very insightful and one of the reasons i love this program and these people.
    Rick Estenson