PARKSVILLE — The Rotary Clubs of Parksville have participated in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program for 16 years.
This year, they welcomed Austrian student Elisabeth Maria Ruschitzka.
She arrived on the Island last August, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Parksville AM.
Each year, local Rotarians send a student from Parksville to another country to learn a new culture and spend a year in the host country’s school program while being hosted by different families.
A student from another country is welcomed by Parksville, several host families and Ballenas Secondary School. The student becomes an integral part of the club, participating in the club’s meetings and activities. Rotary’s primary objective for the exchange is to promote peace and goodwill though the exchange of knowledge and understanding among youth.
The Parksville Rotarians provided a question-and-answer session with Elisabeth to let locals know a little more about her, and the exchange program.
Elisabeth Ruschitzka (ER): I’m 17 years old and come from Pfaffstatten, Austria, a small town 30 minutes outside Vienna, the capital city. My mother teaches law and economics at what is the equivalent of a community college in Canada. My father is an executive chef. I have one older sister who I miss the most.
School in Austria is quite different than Canada. Students don’t choose courses by semester: but are assigned 14 to 16 courses for the whole year; including four languages.
I like the concept of team sports (not that popular in Austria) and have joined the girl’s rugby team, after trying my hand at wrestling. Vancouver Island and Austria have many of the same leisure activities such as skiing and hiking. I tried snowboarding for the first time and really love it.
Rotary Club (RC): Why did you apply to be an exchange student?
ER: I wanted to see a different part of the world, become fluent in another language and experience a different culture and lifestyle.
RC: Why Canada?
ER: Well Canada would allow me to meet my goals for the exchange. Vancouver Island has so many different opportunities and at the same time is very similar to Austria.
RC: Any surprises?
ER: Oh yes, Canada surprises me with its size and diversity. Canada is 119 times bigger!
RC: What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
ER: Well try traveling for 15 hours, on your own, to a new country, being picked up by people you have only communicated with via email and have to speak a different language. That was very tiring and stressful. After catching up on my sleep and adjusting to my new school my experience has been nothing but positive.
I’ve met many people and made lots of new friends. I got the chance to experience Canadian culture and family life. Being in a different environment away from your family and friends was a real growth experience
RC: What would you say to others considering an exchange?
ER: My advice to any one who is thinking about going on an exchange;be opened-minded and immerse yourself in the culture, activities and family life.
For me doing this exchange was one of my best decisions ever.
In August of 2011, the Rotary clubs of Parksville are sponsoring an inbound student from Sweden: our Oceanside outbound student Jade Steele will be spending the year in Poland.
— Submitted by the Rotary Club of Parksville AM.