The Rotary Club of Ottawa has a long history of welcoming exchange students to Ottawa.  As we prepare to welcome students to stay with three families in 2022 – 2023, it’s time to catch up on what’s been happening with students we hosted in past exchanges.  It’s also time to appreciate the excitement felt by our present group of Ottawa students preparing to head out in the coming school year to adventures and an immersive learning situation abroad.
We welcomed students from the following countries: Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, Venezuela.
Without exception, all of them took advantage of their stay to try new activities which might not have been available to them in their home countries.  Many tried their hand at skiing, skating, snowshoeing and winter camping for the first time.  Through activities with Rotarians, they stepped into a canoe, helped run charity events and enjoyed cottage life. Amazingly, several of them tackled their schooling in the francophone system and were learning in a third language.
They mastered the city’s bus system, figured out how to get home when they got lost and enjoyed new activities at school:  theatre arts, interscholastic sports teams, outdoor education, additional foreign languages. They made new friends among the other international exchange students during our District’s weekend activities.  Many became like family members in Rotarians’ lives, and we’re still in contact with them and their families and have rejoiced at their successes and supported them during difficult times.
These young people have excelled in their studies at colleges and universities and are following their dreams in IT, medicine, law, teaching, university research, entrepreneurship, business management, finance, economics and graphic design.
Through activities at the District level, Ottawa students prepared themselves for a year away from home, adjusting to three families, a new culture and a new school system conducted in a foreign language during their year abroad. 
They made life-long friends among the other international students, learned how to prepare new foods and recipes and undertook thrilling activities in locations that many of us just dream of.  They also learned to deal with homesickness, the feeling of not quite belonging and how to find the courage to try new things, even if it meant failing the first time.  They learned that they are far stronger and more courageous than they imagined.  All of them gained a self-confidence that has served them well ever since.
Their host countries included Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.  Many students are still in touch with their host families and have reunited with other Rotary international exchange students years later.
They are pursuing challenging university courses in International Law, Health Sciences, Psychology, Environmental Sciences, Political Science and Urbanization.
An appreciation of the universality of the human condition and of cultural differences figures high among the students’ comments. It’s best summed up by our student from Venezuela:
“I would not be the man I am today without the experience of the Rotary exchange.”