BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Three students are leaving Clarkston to return to their home countries as the school year comes to an end.
Eva Meisl, Maria Ubilia and Aylin Cetin are going back to Austria, Chile and Turkey after their school year abroad in America through the Clarkston Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program.
“It was exciting, but also sometimes really tiring,” Meisl said of her time abroad. “You have a lot to do and you’re really into the culture and you go to a lot of events and do a lot of stuff with your friends. Then, there are times where you feel foreign.”
Ubilia agreed, saying at the beginning of the program it was hard to make friends, and it took some time to adjust.
“I had lots of American friends and they make me always happy. They were always asking me questions because it was so different,” Cetin said. “Sometimes it was kind of hard, because my English barrier. It was a little bit hard because of it, but I had fun.”
All the girls said their English improved after spending time in the states despite the language difference.
Clarkston’s own Sara Banks is now conversationally fluent in Spanish after a year abroad in Peru.
“When I arrived I really didn’t speak Spanish,” Banks said, “It’s so crazy how fast you learn a language when you’re living it.”
Banks explained she did a lot with Rotary International while she was there, including parades in different towns.
“There were a bunch of trips we took while we were down there,” Banks said. “We got to go to Ecuador and it was really beautiful. We got to see a lot of beaches and it was so cool.”
Banks also saw Manchu Picchu, Colca Canyon and northern Peru, but she stayed in the desert city of Arequipa during her year abroad.
Clarkston had two students go abroad this year and three students come to Michigan through the Rotary’s exchange program, Rotary Treasurer Jeff Lichty said.
“The norm is one but through some really nice host families we’ve been able to go to two,” Lichty said.
With this year coming to an end, Rotary is already preparing for next year, with two students coming into Clarkston, a girl from Sicily and a boy from France, and a Clarkston student heading to Germany.
Lichty said there are more students who would like to come to Clarkston, but there is a lack of host families. They’re always looking for more host families.
Youth Exchange General Chair Steve Youtz, who oversees the district program, has been improving the program to help students get over the culture and language barriers.
He has students do online work and assessments to learn the language quicker leading up to their departure. His goal is for students to feel comfortable with the language after about three months, so they can focus more on the culture. “Students are very unique,” he said. “They have a great multitasking mind, they know how to solve problems, and they deal with everything usually in stride.”
Not every student and host family is 100 percent perfect, but Youtz said the Rotary is involved every step of the way.
“We do have a great program and if we could just tell our stories more frequently then I think the community would start coming onboard even more so than they are currently,” Youtz said.
“It’s a way of developing ambassadors to go back home and if there’s anything I could think of that will contribute big time to peace worldwide it’s these kids.”