Courtesy of Jayne Willie - Carolina Castillo is here on exchange from Chile as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Rotary district 5020 (including Parksville and Qualicum Beach) is accepting applications to join the program until the end of September 2019.

Parksville Qualicum Beach students can take their high school experience international

Rotary Youth Exchange applications close at the end of September

It’s the last call for high school students who want to apply to the Rotary Youth Exchange program.

High school students in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas have the opportunity to apply for long term or short term exchange programs through the Rotary Club.

Applications must be received by the end of September, and the application process will take place into mid-October.

The program has been running in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area for at least 30 years, according to long-time Qualicum Beach Rotary Club member Dave Willie. Willie is the youth exchange officer for the area.

His daughter went on a trip to Belgium approximately 20 years ago, which is how he became involved with the program. Willie says travelling internationally can be a hugely important developmental experience for teenagers.

READ MORE: Kwalikum Secondary student back from year in Netherlands

“It’s a life-changer for a kid. Every single one of those kids, inbound or outbound, and our kids that have gone out to other countries, they’re very different people then when they left. The power, the strength that they have when they come back, the levels of self-esteem and self-confidence – it’s just incredible,” said Willie.

“That’s what we need more of today, more international understanding of everyone throughout the world. And kids are the ones to do it.”

Carolina Castillo is from Talca, about two hours from Santiago, the capital of Chile. She’s on exchange, now living in Qualicum Beach and attending Kwalikum Secondary School.

Castillo has been in Canada for several weeks now, and she says she’s learning lots. She only knew a bit of English before coming to Canada, and after four weeks she’s doing pretty well.

“I wanted to try this experience to learn English, learn the different cultures. So I’m here,” said Castillo.

She says the best part about travelling is the connections she’s made.

“Meet other people. And have different friends, from different countries. Learn the culture,” said Castillo.

She has a message for those on the fence about trying the program.

“Try it. I mean – don’t be scared for that experience. Because, it’s worth it. Don’t be scared for being in another country, or meeting other people. Don’t be shy.”

Anyone interested in applying or learning more information can head to www.rye5020.org.

The website has a host of information, including testimonials from former students, information about host families and more.

Willie encourages anyone with questions to call him at 250-240-0201, or send an email to dave@bwparty.com.

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