Student Participant Report
Polenta and Plum Brandy
Rotary Fosters International Ties
I opened my email this spring to find the following message: WANTED: Travelers for free tour of exotic country. Must be under 40. Apply immediately. More spam? Sly recruiting by the Army?
Houston Rotary Clubs were
seeking applicants for their annual Group Study
Exchange (GSE). Across the globe, clubs annually select up to six local young professionals to participate in this 4-week program of cultural immersion. The aim of the educational program is to further international understanding and it is anything but a leisurely tour. Our team of two teachers, a technical writer, a petroleum marketing repesentative, and a psychologist spent two months preparing a presentation highlighting Houstons economy and Lone Star culture. Then we presented it to our Romanian Rotary Club hosts.
Team members also researched the culture, history, and geography of destinations on our itinerary. Rotary provided language tapes, texts, and lessons. The club realizes that the more GSE participants know before they go, the more theyll learn during the tripwhich is fully funded by the clubs. All Rotary asks in return is that participants make themselves available to speak to local Rotary clubs about the trip upon their return and consider ways of continuing the exchange through service projects.
Our appetite was whetted when we met the Romanian team, whose arrival preceded our departure. After their month-long tour of universities, museums, NASAs mission control, and a never-ending string of barbecues, they departed amidst tearful good-byes from host families and a Ne
vedem! (See you soon) from us.
Once our plane touched down in Bucharest, we too had no free moments: daily itineraries included visits to high schools, universities, hospitals, large and small businesses, concerts, operas, monasteries, and historic sites. Each afternoon or evening there was an elaborate feast at a restaurant or a Rotarians country home, with heaps of Romanian polenta and meatballs and endless bottles of beer, wine, and Romanias national home-brew, a plum brandy called tsuica.
Vocational days allow participants to spend several hours alongside their professional counterparts in the host country. Because they stay at host families homes, it gives participants the cultural exposure unattainable as mere tourist. Quite a few conversations stretched into the wee hours as our hosts asked questions about American life and regaled us with tales of life under Ceausescu.
Rotary was established in 1905 and today
has some 1.2 million members. The stated mission of this
business-oriented philanthropy is a combination of community
service and international friendship. One of Rotarys
most visible achievements is the fight against polio with UNICEF and WHO,
an effort that is expected to eliminate the disease. Rotary
has contributed $500 million and protected two billion
Rotary is also the worlds largest
grantor of international scholarships: millions are distributed
to recipients in countries yearly. In addition,
Thousands of high school students from around the world
participate in Rotarys youth exchange programs.
Regardless of where you live or what
your age, with 34,000 clubs in more than 200 countries,
likely theres a Rotary Club and an international experience
waiting for you right around the corner.
For information on Rotary scholarships and or funding for development projects go to www.rotary.org.