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Caledon exchange student ‘sees the world’ during European exchange

September 19, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By MARK PAVILONS

There’s so much more out there is how a Caledon exchange student summed up her year-long European adventure.

Chloe Kostynyk, 17, recently returned from her Rotary Youth Exchange to Austria, staying with three host families in all.

It was hard at times, but this immersive challenge was well worth it. In fact, that’s the whole idea behind Rotary exchanges – ringing cultures together and building connections.

Chloe, who’s attending Humberview Secondary School in Bolton, studied in Austria, learning German and a lot of independence. She said she was lucky in that she had some great host families who not only helped her along, but gave her the opportunity to travel across Europe, further expanding her horizons and gaining valuable insights.

The bottom line: it made her a better person.

Chloe said while Austria is a modern, progressive society, the “culture shock” was a bit more subtle, but very obvious in the education system. In that country, you spend your entire education career with the same peers, from Grade 1 through 12 (although they’re numbered differently). Marking, too, is quite different and schooling is taken a lot more seriously over there. Teachers are strict, but Chloe said they often made time to sit and chat with students about current issues, after the lessons ended. This informal discussion led to some amazing conversations.

While English is widely spoken, her classes were in German, which made lessons and lectures a challenge.

She spent the majority of her time there (8 months) with a family in Newhofen an der Krems, a largely rural community of just over 5,000 people.

Getting around was a breeze, because the European transit system of buses and trains is “phenomenal” Chloe observed. It’s efficient, quick and safe, and you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go in an hour or so. Cars are few and far between – ublic transit is so good there’s little need for expensive and fossil fuel burning vehicles. Many young people get around on bikes and mopeds.

Austria played a central role in European history and the capital of Vienna has a long history rooted in music, art and architecture. It’s the birthplace of many famous composers such as Hadyn, Liszt, Schubert, Bruckner, Strauss and Mozart.

Chloe found the country incredibly beautiful and clean. They’re sticklers for recycling and residents are responsibly for meticulously composting and recycling their waste.

 Learning to communicate with her Austrian counterparts posed the biggest hurdle, but Chloe did learn German well enough to get around.

The learning experience didn’t centre on geography or history, but on people. The individuals she met were simply “amazing,” from the host families to other exchange students from around the globe. Talking to others and making the effort to communicate is key, she said. Stepping out of your comfort zone is what it’s all about.

Aside from her stay in Austria, Chloe was able to visit Paris, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Budapest and the Czech Republic. She can’t wait to return to Europe, because there’s just so much to see and more exploring to do.

“There’s so much more out there,” she observed.

And this is part of the idea behind the Rotary exchange, to expose young people to the world and get them out of their bubbles.

“Building world connections and being an ambassador for Canada, that’s what a Rotary exchange student is,” Chloe said.

All in all, the program was “unforgettable” and some of her new best friends are those she met in Europe.

Chloe will be giving a few talks to Rotarians in the coming weeks and sharing her adventures and photos.

An awesome reminder, and rather unique memento is Chloe’s blazer. It’s completely covered in pins and souvenirs from her European exchange. The bulky, noisy article of clothing makes a huge statement, a human connection.

If you want to find out more about Rotary’s program, visit https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/youth-exchanges



         

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