–submitted by John Bonsett-Veal
My wife, Jan, and I recently attended a Rotary International Youth Exchange function, NAYEN 2014. Jan will be assuming a leadership role as District 6250 Youth Exchange Chair in July. As such, Jan wanted an opportunity to become more immersed in the protocols of Rotary Youth Exchange at the NAYEN conference. While we were there, I was invited to help train the facilitators for the Multi-District Central States Youth Exchange conference this summer for the Rotarians who will be helping the returning rebound students cope with reverse culture shock. Hopefully, we can give them a better ability to act as ambassadors of their former host countries to their home communities here in the United States.
(Photo 1: Stages of youth exchanges, cultural adaptation and reaction; Photo 2: A cooperation workshop making towers out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows)
The conference lasted from late Wednesday through early Sunday and addressed safety protocols, culture shock, conflict resolution and how to improve the experience of all our youth before, during and after their exchange experience. During our time there we attended seminars, plenary sessions and workshops. We met others of the 410 attendees from over 23 countries. Social activities occupied the evenings. We also had the pleasure of connecting with the former Youth Exchange Student to Oregon, Wisconsin, from Cancun, Carlos, as well as his parents and sister. Carlos’ father, also Carlos, is the President of the Rotary Club of Cancun… It is a small world.
The single most inspiring aspect of the conference was seeing the passion that is shared around the world by and for our Youth Exchange Ambassadorial Students. We learned of many stories and shared our international cultures with others throughout the five days we were in Cancun. Rotary… A positive influence the world around!
“Selfy” photo from left: Carlos’ mother, Jan, John and Carlos.