That’s the question and/or sarcastic answer my parents have been throwing at me since childhood. Patience is not my strong suit, but in the case of our RYE kiddos, it has to be. To step into a culture that is so out of character can be difficult yet breathtaking. To venture into a foreign country, away from the friends and family that have been by your side since – well forever – requires not just patience, but natural instinct, optimism, encouragement, and confidence. All of our young ambassadors seem to possess this talent and many more.

Our inbound students recently ventured to Houston, TX to participate in inbound orientation. Not only did they learn about the program and rules, but they got to meet other inbound students from all over – Germany, Paris, Finland, etc. Chawin came home with so many pins and student cards. I loved watching him tell us about the teens he met, where they were from and where they were staying. His face lit up telling me the stories from that weekend and how excited he was to see them all again. He also joined band, went to Homecoming and is hitting up that Taylor Swift concert in New Orleans with us. He has formed great relationships with so many people in Bay St. Louis, MS already.


Davíd is loving his experience as well, “It was a great experience. I met a lot of exchangers from other countries, they were all different but they all were kind and special… they made us understood why all the rules existed and why were they important. By the end of the weekend we were Rotary Exchange Students prepared to have a great year, full of fun and security too.”


Serena is also enjoying her time in Covington, LA with her host family. She is making tons of new friends and even got asked to Homecoming. We’re excited to see the pictures. I’m sure she looked fabulous!


Our three outbound students are all doing fantastic and fitting in as well in their respective locations. Ruthie was given a new name in Thailand, Ma-Li (Jasmine) because the ‘th’ in Ruthie was a bit difficult to pronounce. She’s been working with her family on getting the Thai language down and school has brought her new friends and good times. She and another exchange student who will be swapping families, have attended a few Rotary events and visited a Buddhist temple where they made Thai desserts, spoke about the environment, and helped feed the less fortunate. She’s also playing volleyball after school, which is a sport close to my heart.


Sofia is adjusting in Romania as well. She’s spending some time dispelling negative stereotypes that folks over there have of us American Southerners! Hey, we may be on the bottom of a lot of lists, but that’ll change eventually. Not every list is what it seems and not all Americans are TV shows, right Sofia?! We should definitely be at the top of the lists for most exciting food and team spirit. However, I am actually guilty of stereotyping as well – I thought most Romanians would remind me of vampires. Serena is definitely not a vampire. Anyway, Sofia is studying Romanian, Geography and a Photoshop class being that she’s in an all-girls arts school all while building friendships that will last a lifetime.


Felice is living it up in Colombia. She’s enjoying all the new foods and has discovered her love for empanadas. Her Spanish is on the up and up thanks to the help of her new friends, but the Spanish chemical formulas are a little more challenging. Felice even joined a Colombian style dance class and band. “Colombians are very warm and welcoming. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for all of the Rotarians in Colombia and back in the United States who have made this trip possible. Colombia is gorgeous and full of love, and I can’t wait to get to know it better.”


I am so proud of all of our students. It takes a courageous person to just leap into new ways of life and embrace those new ways positively while growing as a person. Keep it up RYE kiddos and stay tuned Rotarians for next months update!