Rotary has been organising youth exchanges for over 60 years, providing incredible opportunities for young people to see the world, experience a different way of life, make international friends whilst acting as an ambassador for their own country.
Each year, worldwide, over 7,000 young people enjoy the experience of a lifetime through Rotary Youth Exchange.
Julie West from Pontypool in South Wales recalls her Rotary Youth Exchange to Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA in August 1978.
She remembers boarding a jumbo jet in Cardiff with 300 teenagers, stopping at Shannon to refuel, as Cardiff Airport in those days did not have a long enough runway to take planes which could fly non-stop to America.
Julie’s three-week visit to America was to stay with Rotarian hosts Stanley and Sally Drabick, together with their children Denise and Scott.
As with many Rotary Exchange students Julie’s initial anxiety of going so far and for such a long time soon vanished as the Drabicks made her feel so welcome and introduced her to their Pennsylvanian Dutch culture.
Julie and Denise greeted each other as long-lost friends, a true friendship which was created within Rotary but has lasted a lifetime.”
The three-week stay visited places such as New York and Gettysburg was unforgettable. Julie said it was an experience she would recommend to any young person who wishes to enter the Rotary Youth Exchange Scheme.
Now, 41 years have passed and the Drabicks have kept in touch over the years by visiting visited Julie at her home in Pontypridd.
But in October this year, Julie decided it was time to retrace her steps back to the USA to visit the family who hosted her on the Youth Exchange Scheme all those years ago.
So 28 years on, Julie and husband Colin returned to stay with Denise who now lives in New Jersey.
Julie and Denise greeted each other as long-lost friends, a true friendship which was created within Rotary but has lasted a lifetime.
Denise collected them in style in her Tesla car and showed them around New York and surrounding states. Stanley and Sally, Denise’s parents still live in the Pennsylvanian Dutch culture.
Julie wishes to thank her parents and the Rotary Club of Narberth and Whitland who gave her this marvellous opportunity to travel and forge a lasting friendship with the Drabicks.
How apt that the motto for Rotary this year is: Rotary connects the World.
Find out more about Rotary Youth Exchange.